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The RPG Trauma Unit

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Let's face it, we've all had experiences as players and GMs that have left us shocked, horrified, angry, and/or confused... maybe all those things at once.  I know that over the couple of decades of gaming I've done I have certain memories that still make me twitch when they come to mind.

 

I propose that this thread be used to share some of those memories so that we can get them off our chest and strategize with one another about dealing with these problems in case some else is experiencing them or something similar.  This thread may also be used by people currently experiencing difficult challenges from players or GMs to seek out advice on how to deal with the situation.

 

The Rules

  • No real names
  • Offer a possible solution to the problem or explain what you did to combat the problem
  • Keep feedback constructive and positive

 

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I'll start...

 

Back in the 90s in high school I was in a Vampire: The Masquerade game being run with a group of friends.  One of my friends, the GM, was a little older than us and needed to travel to Germany for school so he handed the reigns over to me.  We did a quick knowledge transfer session and went our separate ways.

 

When I started running the game I found out that one of the players had been amassing a small army of illegally created vamps.  Not only that but he had access to military grade equipment and had some personal body guards that were always hiding nearby that were serious badasses.  He started to launch his campaign to overthrow the local Prince shortly after we started playing.

 

I naively went along with all of this as this particular player assured me that the previous GM know all about this and had sanctioned it.

 

Fast forward a few terrible months and my friend returns from Germany.  We reconnect and talk about the game and much to my surprise I learn that this player had been lying to me the entire time.  I was furious at him for lying to me and ashamed of myself for being gullible enough to believe him.

 

So, I had a huge mess on my hands to clean up.

 

I think I was like 17 at the time so I didn't have a lot of coping skills so my solution was to have one titanic battle of a session that ran to 6am where I completely and utterly dismantled this player, his organization, and his lies.  

 

In retrospect, I should have just told him to make a new character or just threw him from the game but as I mentioned, I didn't have a good set of coping skills at the time.  I'd also be lying if I said 17 year old me didn't enjoy it.

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    I would have been a lot angrier at the idea that a supposed friend lied to my face than about a player trying to pull something over on a GM.

   It would be a bad thing to let myself go off on a rant about lying, backstabbers, or the general lack of morals in the games White Wolf puts out and the unfortunate situation about the people drawn to them and just say that you handled the situation as well as anyone possibly could have.

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1 hour ago, Tjack said:

    I would have been a lot angrier at the idea that a supposed friend lied to my face than about a player trying to pull something over on a GM.

   It would be a bad thing to let myself go off on a rant about lying, backstabbers, or the general lack of morals in the games White Wolf puts out and the unfortunate situation about the people drawn to them and just say that you handled the situation as well as anyone possibly could have.

 

I agree with your first line completely.

 

Creating games about decadence and immoral political intrigue by an immortal race of murderous blood suckers isn't really a ding on White Wolf.

 

The issue was squarely that one human being was willing to lie - repeatedly - to another human being to win a cooperative storytelling game.  That person needed a completely non-game discussion about ethically participating in the game.

 

I get someone pulling that at one of my tables and they are gone for good.

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1 hour ago, ScottishFox said:

 

I agree with your first line completely.

 

Creating games about decadence and immoral political intrigue by an immortal race of murderous blood suckers isn't really a ding on White Wolf.

 

The issue was squarely that one human being was willing to lie - repeatedly - to another human being to win a cooperative storytelling game.  That person needed a completely non-game discussion about ethically participating in the game.

 

I get someone pulling that at one of my tables and they are gone for good.

 

    I get what you’re saying, It’s just that when Vampire first hit it seemed like a magnet for the most unpleasant people.  

    It was a way for the biggest a-holes to passive aggressively behave in the worst manner, and if I never have to see another teenage poser with an Anne Rice novel in his back pocket, face painted white and his hair moussed to look like the lead singer from the Cure wandering around Harvard Sq. With their arms folded muttering “I’m invisible” I’ll die a happy old fart.

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45 minutes ago, Tjack said:

 

    I get what you’re saying, It’s just that when Vampire first hit it seemed like a magnet for the most unpleasant people.

 

I'll make an extra effort to not be offended by that. ;)

 

I really enjoyed the original V:TM game.  The setting was (then) fresh, I actually _enjoyed_ the mechanics, even though they weren't Champions (to this day, neither my group nor I calls it "HERO" privately), but they were pretty slick, and the idea of politics being _the_ driving force was something I hadn't really dabbled in.  I know a lot of you do in Fantasy, but I don't generally "do" fantasy, so....    (and when I do, I'm something of a murder hobo, in spite of myself  :lol:  )

 

We passed nearly two years playing it as our primary RPG.  Eventually we got sick to death of the politics, but it was a fun and novel thing for a long time.

 

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2 hours ago, Duke Bushido said:

 

I'll make an extra effort to not be offended by that. ;)

 

I really enjoyed the original V:TM game.  The setting was (then) fresh, I actually _enjoyed_ the mechanics, even though they weren't Champions (to this day, neither my group nor I calls it "HERO" privately), but they were pretty slick, and the idea of politics being _the_ driving force was something I hadn't really dabbled in.  I know a lot of you do in Fantasy, but I don't generally "do" fantasy, so....    (and when I do, I'm something of a murder hobo, in spite of myself  :lol:  )

 

We passed nearly two years playing it as our primary RPG.  Eventually we got sick to death of the politics, but it was a fun and novel thing for a long time.

 

 

 

     Sorry if I offended,  I meant that unpleasant people who wanted to be unpleasant used the nature of the game as an excuse and disguise for their actions.  Saying that the game made people that way is like saying that Champions made every player into a hero.

   I also was pretty descriptive of the kind of person I was dealing with.  If that was an accurate description of you back then.....After much thought I have no way of ending that sentence without it turning out badly.

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3 hours ago, Tjack said:

....After much thought I have no way of ending that sentence without it turning out badly.

 

 

Don't sweat it. ;)

 

I'm halfway teasing you.  I liked the game for a bit, and jerks are jerks no matter where you're doing it.  (note my frequent call outs to Davien, a player from '79 to '84, when we just couldn't take him anymore and booted him out)

 

 

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On 9/14/2019 at 2:30 PM, Duke Bushido said:

 

 

Don't sweat it. ;)

 

I'm halfway teasing you.  I liked the game for a bit, and jerks are jerks no matter where you're doing it.  (note my frequent call outs to Davien, a player from '79 to '84, when we just couldn't take him anymore and booted him out)

 

 

 

Ooh, dish the deets on this Davien. I love me some gossip about total strangers.

 

On the Vampire attracting douche nozzels: not in my private games that I played in all those years ago. But I hear tales from friends on mine who are in the organised Vampire play (y'know the sort of thing, like Living Greyhawk, Pathfinder Society, whatever the current DND one is called.) Sounds like a giant $#!t fight of passive aggressive knob heads. People just doing their level best to crap on one another, using and abusing the meta-game rules to do so. (My friends were every bit a part of this $#!tty behaviour from what they were telling me.) Actually, now I think about it, it sounds a lot like politics.

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Trying to think of some good tales from my gaming past...

 

Long, long ago I was running a Shadowrun campaign. One day the guys were over (my house was the local drop in centre for gamers) and we were setting up to play the next installment of the adventure, a published one called Mercurial. I was wandering about looking for the adventure booklet. I eventually found it in the hands of one of the players who was happily reading it, hidden inside the cover of a magazine (just like the old cliche of a Playboy inside another magazine cover.) He was just sitting there reading the whole thing cover to cover. I was of course pretty annoyed and kicked him from the game. We were still friends, but he dropped out of gaming at this point, and since gaming was pretty much my entire life we didn't actually see much of one another thereafter.

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Not much to tell, really.

 

His last name was Davien, and-- sorry; I'm not the type to just throw away someone else's privacy without consent-- his first name was almost the same  (yeah; the weird started with his parents, apparently).  We already had a player with the same first name, and half is friends called him "Davien" anyway, so that's how that came about.

 

He was just your standard power-gamer, rules rapist, combat-monster, yell-at-the-GM, hold-himself-hostage-when-things-didn't-go-his-way game-wrecking jackass we've all known at one time or another.  He was the player for whom we coined the phrase "The Klingon Butt Hook Maneuver"  (I can't remember who put it out, but that first version of Starfleet Battles-- the one that came in the baggies?  We were totally about that game for _years_ if we weren't roleplaying) for his tendency to be able to quote strange and exotic arcana from all kinds of sources and had a nasty habit of trying to force everyone to accept that ideas and suggestions in Space Gamer and Dragon Magazine were absolute handed-down-from-God rules and were totally valid and that's the impression he had been working under from the start of the game (no matter what game, and no matter how many times he was told up-front "these are the rules we're using; here are the house rules we are supplementing with).  Another of his favorites was to quote and bemoan that what he just did was rules-legal (any game.  Seriously:  _any_ game) because of the new supplement that he just picked up and oh, damn!  I forgot to bring it with me.  But trust me; this is how it works.  I'll bring it next time.

 

Of course, that's only when it benefitted Davien.

 

He also had a "game he had been working on for a couple of years."  An action game he was just trying to work the kinks out of.  Out of courtesy (you know: before we got to know him), we all expressed interest in maybe reading it and helping him play test it, etc.

 

When we finally saw it  (I don't know-- maybe after two years of hearing about this tweak and that change, etc)-- we gamed at his house one night (actually, the _only_ time we played at his house, ever, now that I think about it) and there was a battered and beyond-well-thumbed spiral notebook on his game shelf that caught Jim's attention.  "What's that?  Character workbook?  Off-table playbook?  (that's what we called what would eventually come to be called "blue booking:"  Off-table play)"

 

Oh, that's just that game I've been writing.  I've been testing it out with my other group.  (We knew he did have another group; they were younger than us by four or five years, but we were young enough that four or five years mattered, you know?).  Without thinking-- and without trying to be rude-- Jim grabbed it up and started reading it.  At first, Davien was _frantic_ about it, but Jim said nothing; he just kept calmly reading it, nodding, making sure to stay in the neutral/positive reaction range (later he told us that this was so that he could keep reading it, because he couldn't believe what he was reading.  Understand that at the time, Jim, myself, and one of the Stevens were working on a game ourselves for a property we really liked.  Eventually we gave up and ran it on Champions legs because-- well, why not? :lol:   Anyway-- back to the story).

 

Jim continued to read while Davien, now swollen with pride and gushing about all the work he put into it, and how hard the system had been to come up with, and figuring out how to scale damage realistically, etc, etc-- just everything designing a game means, really-- and how he was having to go it alone, but he already had two publishers interested in it, but he was going to have to turn them down if they couldn't get a better offer.......

 

 

Anyway, his action game?  It was a hand-copied (in pencil, no less) rules book of Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.

 

Yep.

 

Evidently he had no idea that all seven of us (we always had a group of eight, which is how Davien managed to stay so long: we just had the habit of eight people) owned it, and were quite familiar with it, having played it extensively.  Jim knew it _cold_, and could quote it chapter and verse.  (He could do the same with Champions and D&D back then, too, but to be fair, there was a Hell of a lot _less_ of both of those back then  :lol:  )

 

 

That's just the kind of guy he was.  He fit in with us like bleach on waffles.

 

 

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The following is not really trauma worthy, but one of those things that gives me an eye twitch when I think about it.

 

I was starting up a new DnD3 campaign; I'd found players using Meetup. So a bunch of brand new people, basically all new to one another. I asked everyone to draw up their characters and, if they could, give me a little back story to play with as GM I'd appreciate it. "But keep in mind you're first level, so no dragon slaying. Hah hah."

 

Cue a couple of them writing essays on being the greatest thieves in the kingdom (the pair were a couple and the backstory read like bad slash fiction) and another guy being the most feared pirate captain in the world. None of this is that bad. I mean, I'd rather have that than no effort at backstory at all. But still I get the eye twitch when I think about it.

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38 minutes ago, Duke Bushido said:

Anyway, his action game?  It was a hand-copied (in pencil, no less) rules book of Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.

 

 

 

Man, of all the games to plagiarise...

 

(But back then I really liked Palladium Fantasy, so who am I to talk?)

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5 minutes ago, drunkonduty said:

 

Man, of all the games to plagiarise...

 

(But back then I really liked Palladium Fantasy, so who am I to talk?)

 

Hey!  I have a copy of MS&PE in front of me now.  The hardback 'Combined' version of the game. 

 

As for Palladium....

We all make mistakes :sneaky:

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Sounds like Davien and the player from my post would have gotten along nicely.  Let's call the guy from my post Wolf.

 

Wolf was a total rules lawyer and meta-gamer extraordinaire who was also a DM when he wasn't wrecking other people's campaigns.  Like Davien, Wolf had near encyclopedic knowledge of game systems and would find ways to circumvent them when it served him.  Unlike Davien (as described), Wolf was an egotistical jackass who thought he was smarter than everyone.  He was content to lie and manipulate people as his modus operandi and it was sickening to see him in motion.  I had to intervene one time because he bullied a player from the table by insulting him and deliberately pushing his buttons.

 

To be fair, Wolf was a bright guy.  Unfortunately, he was stuck being a part time janitor (Wolf was older than us by a good 5 years and out of highschool) and not the benevolent dictator he could have been.  All a little sad really, pitiable even.

 

Fun story, one time I was running this Darksun module for the guys that Wolf had lent me.  He assured me he had only skimmed it and didn't remember much, I didn't really believe that but I also didn't care because it was a one-shot.  Anyways, he split off from the party at one point to go investigate a path they chose not to follow.  It just so happened that there was a Thri-Kreen at the end of this path that he engaged.  He was close enough to see over my screen and saw me roll a critical hit that would have ended his shiznit but I instead chose to incapacitate him.

 

After the session Wolf wanted to know why I ignored the Crit and didn't do him in.  I told him it was because it was more important to me that people had fun and played together than blindly obeying the dice.  I'm a soft touch I guess but I just didn't want him all moody and down because his awesome new character that he spent more time making than actually playing would have got iced.

 

The thing about Wolf and people like him is they always get found out eventually and exposed for what they are, small and mean spirited.  It may take a long time but I firmly believe this.  Everyone knew Wolf was the way he was but no one could or would call him out on it because of some weird group politics that was a combination of apathy and fear.  Fear that this jackwagon would turn his attention to the and bully them away from the table next.  Apathy because we were all stupid teenagers in the 90s and that was just en vogue at the time 😂

 

Anyways, where Davien seemed harmless I can assure you Wolf was not.  He had a very real and very negative effect on the people around him, sometimes just because it amused him.

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Mostly correct:

 

Davien _was_ harmless (unless you count his tendency to hold up or even derail the game when he wasn't catered to), at least in our group, for the simple reason that most of us could, one-on-one, kick his butt up the street and down the highway four or five miles if he tried to get really ugly  (we had a player named Russ who moved a few months after Davien joined in who physically snatched him up one day when Davien went from condescending to outright insulting-- Russ was on a weightlifting and wrestling scholarship, so....    ) with a comment along the lines of "I'm not an English major, I'm not in the Drama program, and I don't have the most flowery vocabulary in this room.  But I have very large fists and a lot of endurance.  Comprende?"  (I should note that as a devout Jehova's Witness, Russ wouldn't actually hurt a fly, but evidently Davien didn't know that, and Russ was scary big if you didn't know him)

 

The sheer volume of laughter that exploded from the room caused him to stop playing and sulk until the game broke up, and we didn't see him again for nearly six weeks (we played twice weekly at the time).  Totally worth it.

 

However, we rather suspected he was something more of a problem to the younger group he was in-- I think the oldest of them was a high school sophomore....?

 

(though honestly, a lot of us would have been glad to stomp a mud waller in his kidneys on their behalf, too.  :lol:  )

 

 

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59 minutes ago, drunkonduty said:

The following is not really trauma worthy, but one of those things that gives me an eye twitch when I think about it.

 

I was starting up a new DnD3 campaign; I'd found players using Meetup. So a bunch of brand new people, basically all new to one another. I asked everyone to draw up their characters and, if they could, give me a little back story to play with as GM I'd appreciate it. "But keep in mind you're first level, so no dragon slaying. Hah hah."

 

Cue a couple of them writing essays on being the greatest thieves in the kingdom (the pair were a couple and the backstory read like bad slash fiction) and another guy being the most feared pirate captain in the world. None of this is that bad. I mean, I'd rather have that than no effort at backstory at all. But still I get the eye twitch when I think about it.

 

Ah yes, new players with grand ambitions that get crushed when they realize an average housecat in D&D has a decent chance of murdering them because they're level 1 and rolled crap for HP 🙄

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1 hour ago, Spence said:

 

Hey!  I have a copy of MS&PE in front of me now.  The hardback 'Combined' version of the game. 

 

As for Palladium....

We all make mistakes :sneaky:

 

I loved Rifts as a kid and even did my own OpenD6 conversion because I found the Savage Worlds adaptation not to my liking.  Don't get me wrong, the SW adaptation is really good, I just didn't like some of the things they did.

 

Palladium was not without its charms 😁

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My first ever game of Champions.

 

So the guy that introduced us to the system, let's call him Bimon,  spent a good couple of weeks haranguing us to try Champions. We finally gave in and gave it a go. I drew up a brick character, the Mad Chef of Budapest. (For some reason the game was set in Budapest.)

 

Bimon was a very adversarial GM.

 

The game opened with the characters doing whatever it was they did in their off-duty hours. My guy was making goulash, because chef. Then the screaming begins. We all rush to the trouble spot and see an Ogre crawling down the street. Not the Champions villain, nor the mythological creature, but a huge (about 100 tonnes) automated armoured vehicle from the (Steve Jackson?) mini game Ogre. The thing is firing off rounds from some of its many guns. On its side is a big ol' Hammer and Sickle, my  character's particular hot button. The heroes attack!

 

And we do nothing to it. Our biggest attacks can't even scratch it. This goes on for a turn or so, Bimon laughing smugly at us all the while. Eventually sick of this my character does the only thing I can think of; he gets in under the Ogre, flexes his muscles and tries to flip it over. He had just enough STR to lift the thing. Bimon is not happy. He says my character couldn't possibly get the leverage needed to flip the thing. I (angrily) agree that no, not in the real world,but this character isn't in the real world and what would be the point of having a character with the strength to lift a 100 tonnes if he could never lift a 100 tonnes? Bimon conceded my point. One thing about Bimon, you can count on him to play by the rules.

 

So the Ogre is upside down, it's tracks can't touch ground and it is now immobilised, and all its weapons are pointing down to the ground. Hooray for the heroes!

 

Not quite. At this point Bimon says that the Ogre opens up a missile launch silo on its top (now facing the ground) and fires a nuke. Not some pissant tac-nuke neither. A 100d6 Killing Damage beast.

 

That ended that campaign.

 

The thread rules ask for a possible solution... 

 

Bimon is a good friend, although I haven't seen him in years, as we live far apart. I'd like to say he got less adversarial as a GM over time but not last time I heard about one of his games, a DnD3.5 game. Another friend (let's call him Mr. Wobbles) who was playing had gamed the system to make the unkillable character. Every build option had gone into being unkillable. Character couldn't do much except survive. And Mr. Wobbles had immense fun running his character around madly staying alive while every other player went through half a dozen or so PCs across the course of the module. Bimon by all accounts had a great deal of fun trying to kill the unkillable without breaking the rules. Wins all round.

 

Gosh this anecdote went on a bit.

 

 

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20 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

We all rush to the trouble spot and see an Ogre crawling down the street. Not the Champions villain, nor the mythological creature, but a huge (about 100 tonnes) automated armoured vehicle from the (Steve Jackson?) mini game Ogre.

 

I remember running into one of these very early on in my Champions career. From memory, we got inside it.

One of the reasons why I don't have character sheets for my earliest Champions characters is that my earliest campaigns were ridiculously munchkinized. It was to the point that when I offered to GM, a player refused to show me his character sheet because it would expose the way he had designed his character. Apparently his awesome super design skills needed to remain secret so nobody else could replicate them. Funnily enough, that game never got off the ground.

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34 minutes ago, assault said:

 

I remember running into one of these very early on in my Champions career. From memory, we got inside it.

One of the reasons why I don't have character sheets for my earliest Champions characters is that my earliest campaigns were ridiculously munchkinized. It was to the point that when I offered to GM, a player refused to show me his character sheet because it would expose the way he had designed his character. Apparently his awesome super design skills needed to remain secret so nobody else could replicate them. Funnily enough, that game never got off the ground.

 

Might have been ol' Bimon with that Ogre. I'm a Brisbanite originally, and Bimon still lives there.

 

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Many years ago a friend (Luis) and I went to a small gaming convention on the other side of the state.  Luis had found out there was going to be a Car Wars game there, so he and I created a few cars, hoping the GM would okay one of them.  No dice (not really surprising, in retrospect -- I'd imagine some players would bring pretty abusive builds to try to slip past someone), and we had to choose from among the GM's selection of vehicles.  Not a problem, really, though IIRC they were pretty weak / dull creations.

 

Anyway, one of the players had never played Car Wars before, so Luis and I decided to take him under our wings - help him understand what he could and couldn't do, give him some advice, and generally avoided shooting at him so he's have a chance to have some fun.

 

The scenario was basically an arena battle, and was going okay... until the GM decided to roll out his *own* car.  A gas-powered high-speed rammer, that he proceeded to use to one-shot take out players' cars.  It was an extreme example of "GM-I-Wanna-Play".

 

As the GM smashed through car after car, Luis was jotting down numbers.  And then the GM finally got to the newbie's car - smashing right through it with an instant kill, like all the rest.  That's when Luis asked, rather innocently, "How much front armor does that thing have?"  The GM gleefully told him, so proud of his creation.  And Luis said, "Well, even with a ram plate on the front, by my calculation he should have take X points of damage, so this last ramming would have breached his front armor and damaged his engine pretty badly.  His gas-powered engine.  Isn't there a chance for it to explode?"  He pretty much forced the issue, and as luck (or karma) would have it, the GM's car did explode. 

 

All of the players decided that the newbie had effectively killed the big bad and was the winner of the event.  Lots of slapping him on the back and congratulations all around.  Luis managed to turn a potentially crappy experience into a good one for that player. 

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