Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pathfinder is Dead ... May it Lie Still Forevermore

Well, I did it. I tried. I really tried. Eventually selling my soul to the demon of soft GMing. An unholy pact that I would do whatever it took to help my players out. I fudged die rolls, created exits where there were none, dropped in potions of healing like rain, pulled more Gods out of more machines than I ever thought existed to save their sorry butts. I kept them from two TPKs and over 6 individual PC deaths.

But that wasn't all.

I gave into their whining about low ability scores, their cravings for prestige classes, their mad desire to play crazy-assed monster races, hyper-maxed out HP scores. I simply overlooked cheating in any form and guise. I literally told one player he could put straight 20s on all his stats for all I cared.

Eventually I felt like a cheap and tawdry GM whore. Dont just call me Monty Hall ... Call me Tracy-Freakin'-Monty-Lords-Hall. Used, spent, wasted, depressed and now with a group of players finally reaching fourth level I witnessed them make perhaps the most stupid move of their adventuring careers. Without going into the details, let's just say they all died. They made such an obvious and blatant error in judgment I was shocked, nay speechless.

My mind turned gyrations as I sat there in stunned silence. No desire on their part to check their action, to change their minds, to remedy what was obviously going to be a wholesale and tragic end to the entire party. Should I save them? It would be so ludicrous for me to do so, so clearly biased, a ridiculous attempt to keep them alive and continue the game. When something in me snapped.

And truthfully I don't know what it was. I had put up with so much over the course of this year. And the last 6 weeks especially. Why now? I don;t honestly know. But something in me reached my limit.

You'd be proud of my restraint. I didn't scream and shout, berate them, insult their playing, their intelligence or their lineage. I didn't even lecture them. I had tried lecturing and counseling before. I just closed my screen, and declared the campaign at an end.

The next day I handed out the following note:

Dear Club Members,

As many of you know I have started my summer job. Usually I cancel the club for April and May due to the extra demands on my time. This year I tried to keep going to see if I could fit everything in. Unfortunately I didn't even make it to my second job last night. This has made me decide that I have to cancel the club now. I apologize, this makes me feel bad too. I wish you all well. It has been a fun gaming year. Have fun gaming this summer!!

Mr. Jones

Not a total lie--but I was in no mood to justify. Let them think what they would. The real truth is I probably could have kept it up, but I needed a break. I was burnt out with the way we were playing and the game we were playing. I needed to get back in touch with myself.

Which actually explains alot of my absence from the blog as well. I have tried many times to start entries, but I just couldn't come up with anything. As far as my gaming went I was confused, depressed and more than a little bitter. I simply needed time to heal.

It was actually two things that turned me around. First my son bought me a renewed subscription to KODT for my birthday. After not reading the comic for over 6 months I was more than a bit out of touch. But I wasn't 8 pages in when I felt like I was back home. All of my long neglected roots were finally getting nourishment again. I laughed out loud, nodded in agreement and felt that familiar warmth of longing to game with real gaming friends once again. The second was a call from my brother, the 4e gamer. He had started a discussion on some fora or other about whether bad die rolls should kill a PC. He certainly felt like they should. That the dice were the virtual wall of gaming reality. That, in a game of pure imagination without some external physical law the game premise itself falls apart. Beyond the rules are the dynamic force that fills our games arbitrated by the chaotic and random nature of the die rolls themselves. But it went much deeper than that.

The game Is. it Exists in a very real sense apart from us. Yes, our imagination gives it life, but the course of that life, the flow of reality that stems from the game is a thing with a life of it's own. Some would say the GM has ultimate control of that reality, but this is not really true. Many variables go into the game to make it what it is, not the least of which is the structure provided by the rules and the random number generators we utilize. If you are familiar with artificial life programs you might be aware of what I'm trying to say. From simple random generators and a short list of rules a dynamic living environment is born. We can watch it unfold with little to no interaction on our part. Such is the life of the games we play. If we step in and take too much control, they cease being what they were and turn into something else. We can very literally suck the life out of them; or as had happened in my campaign allow such chaos to enter in that anything goes and noone fears the consequences.

Yes, it is all beginning to make sense again. I am also starting to understand my own motivations a bit better as well. The assumptions made before I even started Pathfinder were not as wise or as intelligent as I might have thought. What did I really want and need out of this game I love so much?

6 comments:

Brendan said...

So what was the bad decision that led to the TPK?

burnedfx said...

Brendan stole my question.

Drance said...

This was a very eloquent post. I really felt your struggle come through your words. I mostly subscribe to the theory that any gaming is good gaming, but when I hear stories like this I question that optimism I like to believe in. Well, live and learn, right? Now you can move on to something better. Good luck as always on your journey!

Greylond said...

I think this campaign is what Dave Kenzer discusses in the new HM PHB Forward.

"Certainly, playing a roving band of superheroes a la the Justice League has its place, but arguably this is far less heroic than a commoner rising to the challenge. True heroism comes from overcoming the odds and risking life and limb in a perilous situation not the faux valor that comes from defeating supervillains when the chance of failure is slim or none. Does our society not love the story of the everyday man that saves a child from a burning building or rushing river?"

In other words, SuperHero Characters do NOT guarantee success...

Tedankhamen said...

"the dice were the virtual wall of gaming reality"

THAT is a quote for the ages and sages of the OSR

Chris said...

Hey thanks everyone.

I've posted an actual summary of the encounter that led to their deaths and some pertinent background just to satiate your curiosity.

And shortly thereafter I'll link to the exact article to which Greylond referred. I just finished reading it myself and have lots to say about it.

Talk about coming home.