August 10th: Largest in-game surprise you have experienced?
Years back I played in a Shackled City AP campaign. I was playing a Lawful Good human monk names Ceres, and we had progressed through the campaign with the usual trials and tribulations. As part of the adventure, we had traveled to one of the 666 layers of the Abyss, there to break an NPC’s hold on that layer and deprive it of power. I think the layer was called Oculus? Not important. There was only one way to do this: sacrifice a living being by pushing it into the “eye” of energy at the centre of the layer, which would cut off the flow of power to the NPC. The party spent a great deal of time discussing and then arguing the merits of which NPC baddy was going to be used as sacrifice. Ceres stayed out of the discussion, other than to point out that it would be wrong to sacrifice any unwilling creature regardless of their alignment (Lawful Good, remember?).
After the discussion went on for 20 minutes or more, I finally got bored and passed a note to the DM. Ceres was going to throw himself into the eye. Better to sacrifice himself, than force his friends to make a morally reprehensible choice. I fully expected Ceres to die; nothing the DM had said up to this point indicated any other outcome. As I was a monk and way faster than anyone else in the party, I easily flung myself into the energy stream and certain death…and the DM asked me to roll a Will save. I did, and rolled a natural 20, making for a stupid-high final result (monk, remember?). Long story short (too late!), I not only survived the energy stream, I was able to manipulate it, becoming the new master of that layer of the Abyss. Which shocked the crap out of everyone, not least of all me. And that’s how a Lawful Good monk became the ruler of a layer of the Abyss. We didn’t play much beyond the end of the campaign, but I had plans for my new domain if we did. As the only Lawful domain in the Abyss? Oh, baby did I have plans. Ah, well.
August 11th: Which gamer most affected the way you play?
This is a hard one to answer, because it is safe to say everyone I’ve ever gamed with has had an impact on how I choose to play the hobby I love. I’m sure that’s true, and I hope it’s true, of everyone in this crazy, mixed-up pastime. In my early gamer days (from age 10 to early twenties), I was influenced by the folks writing and editing Dragon magazine: Ed Greenwood, Monte Cook, Gary Gygax, Kim Mohan, Wolfgang Bauer, Dave Gross…the list goes on. But they informed a lot of how I played the games, how I treated the hobby, and how I treated the folks I shared the hobby with. As I got a little older I started to depend less on written sources for guidance, and took more stock in the players and GMs around me. I watched what they did, and either borrowed heavily the things I liked, or shied away from the habits which did not equal fun. Today, I’m still most heavily influenced by the GMs I watch, either as a player at their table or by “sitting in” on any number of RPG play-through shows. Matt Mercer from Critical Roll has had a great influence on me recently, as has Ivan van Norman, both from Geek & Sundry’s Twitch stream. They each have a distinctive style, and each deliver an excellent table experience from what I can see. Definitely someones to emulate.
I did want to make a special point about a particular type of gamer that really inspires me, and pushes me to make my gaming table welcoming and fun. If you’ve been in the hobby for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve encountered them: the gatekeepers. The players and/or GMs who never want their gaming experience to change, and who actively resist anything which might move the hobby to be more inclusive. They’re the ones who tell off-colour sexist and sometimes racist jokes and then chant “SJW” at you if you call them on it (for the record, I’m a Social Justice Cleric, so shut your pie-hole before I give you a holy lance where the tanlines stop). They don’t make allowances for handicapped players, sometime actively shutting them out of gameplay opportunities. You know, they are assholes. Well, they inspire me. They inspire me to be nothing like them, to make sure the welcome mat is out and clearly visible at my table, and to make sure that my players know what sort of behavior is allowed before we begin play. Eventually, with enough conscientious effort, the assholes will either change how they play, or eventually they’ll only be able to play with other assholes and their games will collapse from the collective weight of assholery. Which I’m actually sad about. I love this hobby and I think everyone should get to partake, as long as they aren’t making it less fun for others.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow we start in on daily posts for the rest of RPGaDay month, I promise. Want to weigh in on either of the topics I touched on today? Drop me a comment.