Most Instructive RPG Failures

Most Instructive RPG Failures
Part 1

I think most of my most effective teachable moments in gaming have been when I have screwed up the worst. Here’s a sampler!

* Trying to use in-game, in-fiction events to fix interpersonal dysfunction in the real world. Players A and B are making C, D and E completely bonkers? Oh I know, I’ll have the wise old man insist they set aside their differences so they can continue their journey and succeed. <- Don’t do this.

* Thinking it’s going to be so great when the characters stumble upon the fact they’re actually living within a very convincing simulation (no, you stole that from The Matrix) if only they bump into that fact right…over…just look behind the counter and…just look…they didn’t look. The reveal is ruined. Literally nothing would have been lost by just saying “and as you poke around the lab, you make the big discovery!” (h/t to Michael Prescott for reminding me of my final pixel-bitching fail, yes it’s a terrible turn of phrase.)

* Grinding through incredibly tedious procedures without really evaluating why those rules are in place. Most notably, the travel rules in Skyrealms of Jorune. Roll every day, twice a day, for a two-week journey. Lesson learned: decide for yourself how to put the rules to their best use, don’t just do them and hope it works out okay.

* Starting IRL fights between groups of friends because it’ll be “really intense” in the RPG. Don’t let them in on that manipulation. Keep secrets, single out players, make everyone an unreliable witness, basically gaslight the players. Leverage everyone’s insecurity and paranoia until they can’t do anything without a fight breaking out. <- Don’t do this either.

* Get pouty when the players don’t show sufficient gratitude for all that prep you did that they never saw. Put it to use or don’t bother, good grief, but passive-aggressive self-pity gets you nowhere.

I’m trying to remember my very latest chagrin-laced gaming memory. Honestly I don’t think I have them much any more. It might be when I quit Mutant: Year Zero before I was really ready to, because I wanted to play with a shiny new toy. That’s worth filing away, too.

0 thoughts on “Most Instructive RPG Failures

  1. Oh, and I have had the experience of stumbling thru clunky, useless procedures in some games… Sometimes you just can’t tell until you play them. Some could have benefited from me reading them and giving them more thought before actually taking them to the table…

  2. One of mine, at prep time. “Hah, it will be so poignant when the monks do this welcoming dance that shows they’ve completely misunderstood the history which elf-PC is old enough to remember!”  At play time: listen to Michael narrate for two minutes while the players all blink, confused.
    cringe

  3. “* Starting IRL fights between groups of friends because it’ll be “really intense” in the RPG. Don’t let them in on that manipulation. Keep secrets, single out players, make everyone an unreliable witness, basically gaslight the players. Leverage everyone’s insecurity and paranoia until they can’t do anything without a fight breaking out. < - Don't do this either."

    I laughed and shook my head at this one. Your gaming was srs bizness.

  4. Michael Prescott Oh that’s excellent. Yes.

    I found myself rambling for like 5 minutes during a Duel of Wits at that insane one-day Burning Empires phase at the first BurningCon. Five minutes! For a single move. Jonathan White very gently interrupted me at some point, because otherwise I would have plowed on for 20 more minutes.

  5. Holy crap am I looking forward to further issues in this series.

    I remember one game where the players were telling me they were hungry and wanted to look or food, but I kept telling them there was no food to be found here in the wilderness and let’s move on to the next location… until they forcibly grabbed me and said DUDE, WE’RE HUNGRY! CAN WE TAKE A BREAK AND GET SOMETHING TO EAT? which made me realize that, no, they were not speaking in character before.

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