Monday, December 7, 2015

What Just Happened?: Shocked and Flabbergasted

So, last night I ran an impromptu game of Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox. I made an open post on my G+ feed and got some responses. As game time rolled around I only had two players, +Jason Hobbs and +Tony Bravo. Given such a small group, I asked them if they wanted to proceed and they said "Yeah, let's do something." They very quickly came up with the idea of playing two PCs each and in five minutes we had a party of four characters. Again, one of the joys of White Box's fast and light approach.

So, they enter a local village and have a conversation at a local lumber yard with the foreman of the site. After about ten minutes, a third player arrives a little late. No big thing, life happens. The guy arrived with his character already man, which is awesome and appreciated. He was playing a Sidhe from my own White Box Demihumans. The Sidhe are basically Tolkienesque High Elves or True Fey type characters with some minor magic and an aura of grandeur. So I quickly retcon that this character was present during their encounter with the lumber jacks.


The foreman (a rustic village dweller) sees the Sidhe and says "Ahh, a fey!" and spits on the ground and makes a religious sign to protect himself. I felt this was apt for a rural, working class guy who can't even read and lives on the edge of woodlands which are said to be ruled by "savage elves."

So what does the Sidhe do?

"I kill him."

The lumberjack's face mirrors the other players at
the table.
I paused in utter shock at this guy's choice of actions. The other two players clearly tense as the situation quickly becomes awkward. The Sidhe player is interrupting folks, scrambling to roll initiative, and generally itching for pointless violence. He gets the initiative and attacks, missing the lumber jack. The lumberjack retaliates, also missing.

As this exchange goes down the other two players (and their four characters) back away saying "We're not with this guy." Six other lumberjacks (remember, this is in a lumber yard full of workers) come rushing over, while several more run off to tell the town guard.

The Sidhe continues his attack on the second round, missing again. The lumberjacks attack and deal a solid amount of damage. The Sidhe PC says, when his turn comes back around, "I fall over and play dead."

OK, sure. "Are your eyes open or closed as you're laying there playing dead?"

He pauses in thought, "Open."

"OK," I say. "You see the lumberjack moving forward to raise his axe to chop the head off the mad fey."

So, laying on the ground, surrounded by six lumberjacks armed with axes he says, "I attack."

He misses and lumberjacks all attack, reducing him to exactly zero hit points.

There's a long silence. Sidhe Player finally says, "So... zero is..."

I cut in, "...dead. The character is dead."

"OK. Bye!" And he drops call. Gone in a flash.

There was a long silence between the three of us who remained and I just went "OK guys, none of that happened."

We merrily went on our way and they began to explore the village and descend into the well.

The whole night I was just in this kind of numb shock. It reminded me of gaming with an angry ten year old. The player was overly aggressive, didn't pay attention to the details around him (and didn't care when informed of them) and clearly saw nothing wrong with defaulting to deadly violence at the first sign anyone showed anything other than polite subjugation to his character. It was just mind numbing.

I would occasionally mutter about it through the night, but as a DM my job is to keep the game moving forward and give my players an opportunity to have fun. Among the OSR crowd, I've met countless gamers - all who have been respectful of their fellow gamers and not disruptive or destructive to the flow of this game. I had almost forgotten that guys like this were out there. He wasn't someone I knew well - a casual G+ acquaintance with whom I'd had a conversation or two. I just didn't expect that. 

Oh well, lesson learned. In any case, we're looking to get together and continue playing next Sunday. I'll just have to be a little more selective than an "open invite" in the future, I suppose.

Wheaton's Law, kids. Wheaton's Law.


  1. I've had players like that at my table over the years. They want nothing more than an excuse to act out their kill/rape/pillage fantasies, and gaming gives them that.

    I had occasion to watch one of them play a video game once, and he was the same way there; he was killing the first couple people he met in the video game. Those are usually the shopkeeper, blacksmith, and the person who hooks you into the story.

    What these mindless children don't realize is that their actions affect others; lost time at the table, pissed off NPCs, the party is down one player while they go off and do their own thing, etc.

    You generally can't know beforehand that they're going to be this way, so all you can do is try to recover, and ban them from your game.

    I know we get into the mindset that "any game is good game", and we're usually starving for players, so banning is a bit harsh. But it's better for you, better for your players, and better for our hobby if you nip that in the bud as soon as you identify it.

    I think you handled it well. Best of luck to you.

    1. "I know we get into the mindset that "any game is good game"

      No, actually no gaming is better then bad gaming. And that is just bad gaming. But as you say, ban the person and move on.

  2. Ouch, bad luck. Hope the next game goes better.

    I think you handled it pretty well, although I personally never give parties do-overs on anything that transpires during a session, no matter how bizarre or obnoxious. In this case I probably would have had one of the blood-splattered lumberjacks join the party for the rest of the evening (possibly carrying the head of the offending character the entire time).

  3. Sounds strangely familiar.

    I was running an online science fiction game. One player, whom I presume to be male, created a female scientist character. After their mission briefing, she decided she needed additional equipment, and went to the quartermaster's office.

    The quartermaster's mate (i.e. assistant, not his wife) told her that they did have the equipment she wanted... she just needed to take a form to her CO and have it signed.

    The player's response wasn't murderous, but it was no less incomprehensible. The PC proceeded to cajole and then threaten the NPC quartermaster's mate, essentially having a (virtual) tantrum in front of all the other players.

    Would have taken a single paragraph (maybe even one sentence) to take care of the situation as indicated. I initially saw the scene as a chance to give the players info about how the base operated... it was not intended to be any sort of challenge.

    Then the player sent me a PM telling me that his style was obviously not compatible with mine, and he left. I found another player, redacted all exchanges involving that PC, and the game went on.

  4. Hmm...I would have kept going. The idea that your 'surviving characters' were associates of a fey 'phut!' requires inclusion. A fey comes up and after being insulted by an NPC kills him only to be killed by the other NPC's. The PCs needed to be arrested and interrogated and maybe even killed for 'their part in the crime'. Sure it's a short adventure...the end. But tomorrow when the PCs are new and fresh...the murder of the NPC by a fey, and the imprisonment or pending execution of the surviving PCs will be all over the village.
    Yes the player was disruptive but the dungeon master handled it wrong. Next time get the player to roll a new pc or have an NPC that can be used by a player as a PC.

  5. Well, at least he didn't linger to cause more in- and out-of-game chaos! Good call on ret-conning the whole scene.

  6. Maybe the player was having a bad day, or misunderstood something critical because they joined late. In any case, it sounds like you handled it well.

  7. It does get tiresome when some players treat every confrontation like a fight to the death.

  8. You carried on with the game and had fun, so you did the right thing.

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  10. Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
    Robert E. Howard


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