Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In Which The Warlock Admits His Alignment...

So, as a pseudo-GM's Day present, Kat sent me a copy of a very interesting PDF: John Wick's "Play Dirty".

At first, I had thought it was something along the lines of the eponymous "Book of Erotic Fantasy", released in the midst of the d20 System glut, but I was surprised beyond belief at what I found.

You see, Wick's articles (compiled from a gaming website) enlighten the reader on the glories of being a "Dirty GM". That is to say, a GM that uses his full creative abilities to challenge his players by exploiting their weaknesses and gaming assumptions. He contrasts this with the "Killer GM" which kills characters simply for the sake of killing them.

He then goes on to put forward idea after glorious idea, many of which were taken from his own games (mainly "Champions", "Vampire: The Masquerade" and "Call of Cthulhu"). Of particular note is his NPC, Jefferson Carter...a bastard to crown all other bastards, and a character that any self-respecting player would love to hate.

Wick's articles got me thinking about my own reputation within the Wittenberg gaming community. You see, I have a bit of a stigma as a brutal Game Master. I guess the old adage is to "never get in a car in one of Andy's games", after I had two separate TPKs (all detailed in earlier posts, no less!).

However, I've always strived for ways to challenge my players. From the illithid invasion of Saltmarsh, to the conspiracies of the Emperor's Ship Persephone, I try to keep my players always on their toes. There is, though, one game in which I really pulled the wool out from under the players:

Back at Wittenberg, I ran a game that was something of a crossover between the old 2e setting "Dark Sun" and the historical Crusades. The players took on fantasy roles of Egyptian Muslims, as their king attempted to invade Damascus. As they had proved themselves competent at court and in the field, our heroes were chosen as an advance force to try to infiltrate the city and begin to bring it down from the inside-out.

As such, after sneaking into Damascus, they began to learn about the city's defenses, which were constructed by a certain general, Mal-Erek Tsaron. Attempting to get into his confidence was Nick, playing a psychic warrior. He joined the city guard, immediately getting noticed due to his natural prowess (and the fact that he was around 12th level at the time). The group's mission? Kill Tsaron, so that the city's defenses would be leaderless.

Undoubtedly, the PCs were figuring on only a chance encounter with Tsaron, but I didn't let them off that easy. Tsaron took Nick's character under his wing, quickly promoting him. Within a month, Nick was invited over to Tsaron's home to have dinner with his wife. The entire time, I played Tsaron as a gentle, loving man who loved his country and wanted nothing more than to live in peace. Nick and Tsaron sparred in his practice room. Tsaron gave him an enchanted blade, which he had used in years previous. Tsaron's wife made him dinner.

...and when Nick's character was about to leave, Tsaron's daughter arrived. Oh, did I say his daughter? I meant Nick's love interest from earlier in the campaign. Same person.

Nick's character was invited to stay the night...during which he did the dirty deed. He killed Tsaron and his wife, then messaged the group, which signaled for the sieging army to attack.

The entire role-play took over 3 hours, with nary a dice rolled. Literally, Nick and I went back and forth, with the rest of the group rapt on our words. With each new detail, with each new "nice guy" action that Tsaron took, the group moaned their pain.

In order to take over Damascus, they would have to kill an innocent man. And, more than just innocent, he was a friend.

That's what John Wick is talking about! That's "hitting them where it hurts"! That's gamin'!

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