Monday, August 10, 2009

More Stormbringer Awesomeness

The literary genre of swords & sorcery fiction is a particularly gory branch of heroic fantasy, and that is what this game simulates. Inevitably, this means that some players are going to get into situations that they can't get out of, and their characters will have to die. It is important that they realize this before the game ever starts, and that they know that you bear them no personal animosity. Then, when the character's number comes up, kill him without regret. As a GM it is poor form to become so fond of some character that you let him cheat death when his luck finally runs out.

Generally speaking, a character's death should always be traceable to some decision or action that he made. A character who chooses to fight a bear and then gets killed by that bear has no gripe coming. A character who refuses to wear armor and then gets killed by an arrow when all his armored companions are advancing safely deserves his fate. A character who walks into a dragon's den to avoid a certain death outside it really can't complain if the dragon eats him anyway.

On the other hand, if the players comes up with a plausible way to survive a situation, and makes the required skill or POW saving rolls, then you really should let him survive. I once had a character who killed a monster -- a giant combination armadillo-wolf -- and then burrowed into its innards and hid inside the dead monster for hours to avoid innumerable others that were wandering around. It worked, too, and that character survived that particular trap, only to die later when caught out in the open by an aerial attack. He was happy to survive the first time, and I had no gripes when he died later because the GM was absolutely fair about it. If he had been smart enough, he wouldn't have been caught in the open.

8 comments:

  1. I'm reading "The Man Of Gold" by M.A.R.Barker. It's good times. It's also pretty morbid. I downloaded Caliban, the Arduin module, from Scribd. Yea, pretty morbid. Tomb of Horrors, I think you get my point. Back in the day 1975-198?, the game could get quite dark. It was more adult. To somebody who didn't get it, it might look pretty ugly, but here's the truth: to have true wonder, you'd better be a blade's width from terror. Not fear. Terror. The infantilization of the game removed that. Wonder and terror are related.

    Blood and souls for my lord Arioch...

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  2. Is this recent spate of Stormbringer posts maybe indication that you will be investigating other old school games in more detail? Could I 'order' some more Traveler articles? ;)

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  3. Man, when a DM kills a character or two in a session he or she becomes a "Killer DM" but when the PCs kill a small battalion of NPCs it's business as usual... =S

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  4. It's only Killer DMing if you railroad your players into it. If a PC decides to walk directly into the jaws of death, he's taking his life into his own hands. If he's got a plan, that might mean he gets first crack at the treasure. If he blunders in foolishly, he certainly can't complain that *I* killed him.

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  5. Is this recent spate of Stormbringer posts maybe indication that you will be investigating other old school games in more detail? Could I 'order' some more Traveler articles? ;)

    I'll certainly be spending more time on BRP games at least. Beyond that, who knows? I certainly did play a lot of Traveller back in the day, so it's always a possibility. Mostly, I write as the spirit moves me and right now it's moving me toward Chaosium games.

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  6. "A character who refuses to wear armor and then gets killed by an arrow when all his armored companions are advancing safely deserves his fate."

    This exact thing (well, minus the arrow and plus a laser-guided missile) happened in my mutant future campaign a week ago. The PCs, while exploring an ancient military complex, found a combat simulation chamber occupied by several active robots of various combat models. They decided to run through the room, attracting attention to themselves in the process, and go through a doorway on the far side of the chamber. There was no outlet from the room they entered, which turned out to be a barracks. They knew that when they left the room they were going to be facing several robots, one of which was a robot scorpion with a missile launcher in its tail. They also discovered racks of ancient armor (flak jackets, helmets, etc.). One character decided not to don any armor because it would interfere with his chameleon metamorph mutation - even though he knew that when he walked out into the room beyond he was going to be facing withering fire. Everyone else survived and he died a horrible, fiery death.

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