That was the last session we had; after the cheese foundry, the game broke down. Apparently we’d “outrun the plot” and therefore couldn’t do anything at all. We tried suggesting various ways to waste time, but apparently the existence of our characters was now incompatible with the campaign. It was heavily implied this was my fault, so I left, and Marty happily apologized for not having catered to my playstyle – which, to be fair, is a valid concern.
Much as I don’t like GSN theory, the terms are handy. I am, at my core, a gamist running under simulationist logic; I look at campaigns as a series of puzzles. Sometimes the pieces are orcs and we move them with fireballs. Sometimes they’re kings, and we move them with words (or psychoactive poisons). Sometimes they’re the laws of the universe itself, and then we get creative. Naturally, results are mixed, but over years of gaming I like to think I’ve pinned down the circumstances where this is mutually enjoyable rather than disruptive or annoying. It helps a LOT if the DM’s relatively consistent with what’s unacceptably goofy/weird in terms broad enough to let me efficiently pare down my solution set, and it helps more naturally if the campaign goal is constructive rather than destructive. That’s why I thought this campaign would be okay; I’m a lot better with “make these two groups make sweet diplomacy with each other” than “go kill this list of monsters/cultists.”
Now, Ian, Darya, and Jin’s players have their optimal environments too. Bearing in mind that this is purely from my experience, Darya’s player wants to be the Determinator; he likes his character hurt, bit by bit, because he likes his victories bittersweet and well-earned. He won’t ever give up, and he gets happier the more that means. Jin’s can deeply enjoy the same kind of campaigns I do, but his skillset is such that he needs things immune to diplomacy to feel challenged. We tend to come up with complementary solution sets. Ian tends to respond well to ethical dilemmas as opposed to tactical ones.
Marty, as might be surmised, is really good at hurting his characters, being immune to diplomacy, and putting his whole campaign in this weird Blue and Orange morality. He’s not so hot at channeling my creativity in a direction he’s comfortable with – largely, I suspect, because no such direction exists. Most of his lectures to me on how to DM focused on corralling players until you can plan ahead. He wants to run a CRPG, I think; he likes giving his players multiple-choice problems. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like telling us the choices, which runs headlong into my pathological inability to determine how weird my ideas are. Then, too, I don’t think he likes being innovated against, and he usually treats RPGs as competitive rather than collaborative.
We also don’t see eye-to-eye on solemnity; I stood far back when the gravitas was handed out, and Marty likes his NPCs to have dignity, so they have constraints on their actions that I usually don’t pretend to. I try to exploit that, and we’re back to square one, only now I’m very much in my element: about the only thing I can reliably create is a farce, because I’m so cynical I think I already live in one. Besides, they’re just so useful. Marty naturally sees this as making fun of his NPCs OOC, and he insists on stopping me in-character. This is always a bad idea. It’s a suicidal idea when it just makes the puzzles harder.
So I guess that’s the problem: my worst is irrepressible, completely undignified Xanatos Speed Calvinball, and he’s so unwilling to admit he doesn’t like that that it took way too long for me to realize I was royally pissing him off. Come on, he was smiling for most of it.
I waffle on about this in an attempt to explain how, in the morass of conversations that sprawled out after this mess, I was somehow agreed to be the villain. Apparently, without me everything would have been just peachy, which begs the question why he didn’t just eject me. Jin’s player was behind most of it. See, he thinks he’s good at talking, but all he’s really good at is talking at everyone until they “compromise” at the midpoint of everyone’s views. This is great when everyone’s sane, but the midpoint of “I like player agency” and “you defiled my cheese foundries with your damnable initiative” isn’t really useful to anyone. Jin’s used to conflict resolution in the absence of real disagreement, insofar as that he’s used to bleeding drama off of a bunch of fundamentally stupid personality conflicts. It’s why he works so well in clubs. I’m used to material disagreements between professionals, like I said; I need solutions more than I need unanimity, and when the solutions are equivalent I don’t see why I should argue. Unfortunately, I can’t reconcile this with endless cycles of “can we at least all agree that”, especially when Marty can’t agree to anything but that mean old Zeroller broke his beautiful campaign into tiny little pieces with his nasty logic and everyone else let me do it. Without my “personal vendetta against good storytelling” we’d have been looking at roleplaying Nirvana. Oh, according to him he also never told me to do my worst, but then, according to him he never said a lot of things we have records of him saying, so take that as you will.
Then again, I was also relying on Jin to get it through his skull that he needs to at least consider the possibility that being in academic hell for years has messed him up to the point where professional help would make him a happier person, and that failed right out of the gate. Not that he didn’t agree with me that Marty needed it, mind; he just never saw an opportunity to bring it up.
Then, too, after this, it was apparently decided that they all needed to talk without me. Yeah, sure, call me a bastard, get everyone to agree that I’m a bastard, and then go convene without me. That’s not going to make me resentful at all.
So that’s how the campaign ended: an interminable snarl of arguments. All that’s left is the writeup, since Marty asked, idly, what the epilogue was for each of us. He asked me, at least, long after all this cooled off. We’ve got two: Ian’s, and mine. Darya didn’t much care, and Jin I don’t know about.
Till next time, then.