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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bad Advice at RPGNET - The Starting Gate: New Player/GM Help Commentary One

Bad Advice at RPGNET -  The Starting Gate: New Player/GM Help dispensing bad advice to newbies, it's what RPGNET does.
Where should I start, there are so many places that I could, so how about this one,  [Essay Section] Fundamentals Of Tabletop Roleplaying. In the first post by a moderator the following advice is offered
Before we get into details, just imagine that we’re sitting at a table, and I say to you “So, you’re a dragon, and you're up on a mountaintop, looking around. You've just seen a group of people making their way towards your lair, and they look like dragon hunters. What do you do?” - and you respond “Well, I guess I'm going to try and figure out if I can beat them in a straight fight, first, so I'm going to slip down closer and scout them out”. I think about it, and tell you a couple of possible ways to slip down the mountain to get closer, and you pick one, and I respond with more stuff; and we’re playing. I’m the GM, and you’re the player. We have a fictional role (you're a dragon), and we’ve got a situation that works, one where you have a goal, some obstacles, stuff like that. So far, easy.
There is much wrong with this, but I am going to focus on the part that I placed in bold print. In the first post in this thread we immediately establish that this moderator doesn't know anything about refereeing D&D. The ref is clearly cheating when he tells the player how he could slip down the mountain and has the player pick the action presented by the ref. Is he going to rule against his own idea? Of course not, because in this style of play there is no risk and success is guaranteed. So lets break down what is happening here.

So you the player have decided to play a dragon (which means you are starting at first level not as an ancient powerful dragon) and you are in your lair on the mountain top and instead of you adventuring (possibly with other young dragons or other types of PCs) before you can even get started the ref throws a bunch of dragon hunters at you as the first encounter. REALLY! That is how you start the game off? So to continue the player says, “Well, I guess I'm going to try and figure out if I can beat them in a straight fight, first, so I'm going to slip down closer and scout them out”. 

Two things here, scouting them out, good idea if you can pull it off, but beat them straight up, not likely as a young dragon a first level dragon (I am assuming that this is the case, since the moderator did not label his advice for a "start at high level campaign").

At this point the player should tell the Ref, how he is going to try "to slip down closer and scout them out." That's right the player comes up with the ideas about how to perform the actions he wants to take. Even if you were playing with players with severe mental challenges you wouldn't spoon feed them, you would help them learn to think and to reason so that they could have fun and grow both in game and out of game from playing.

Now let;s go to another item in the paragraph above and focus on the parts placed in bold.
Before we get into details, just imagine that we’re sitting at a table, and I say to you “So, you’re a dragon, and you're up on a mountaintop, looking around. You've just seen a group of people making their way towards your lair, and they look like dragon hunters. What do you do?” - and you respond “Well, I guess I'm going to try and figure out if I can beat them in a straight fight, first, so I'm going to slip down closer and scout them out”. I think about it, and tell you a couple of possible ways to slip down the mountain to get closer, and you pick one, and I respond with more stuff; and we’re playing. I’m the GM, and you’re the player. We have a fictional role (you're a dragon), and we’ve got a situation that works, one where you have a goal, some obstacles, stuff like that. So far, easy.
So here we have a new player and the GM(or more correctly Ref) and what does this so called GM do? He mandates that the player is a dragon, instead of letting the player pick what he wants to play. That is bad advice item one. Then he says "we have a fictional role" and this is wrong on two levels, first we as in ref and player don't have a joint fictional role, the players has a character that he has created to play, the ref does not run or create the character that the player chooses to play and secondly by saying fictional role, he implies and in "new school" parlance he mandates that there is a pre-written "STORY" a script that the player is expected to follow. The player does not get to choose, the ref tells him what to do. Wow, sounds like fun, a player gets to be a puppet in the story the ref wrote. 

Now I accept that there are a lot of people lacking imagination and the ability to think, imagine and reason that probably enjoy playing railroaded scripts and if that floats your boat, then more power to you and have fun on that train. But I take exception to a whole forum that wants to teach newbies that that is all they can expect from a roleplaying game. I for one think it is wrong to limit what people can do from the get-go like this.

Why not at least allow an opposing viewpoint that espouses the original open-ended game without limits that OD&D was designed to be and is. I would be highly surprised if RPGNET allows any advice that deviates from the new school party line of RAILROADS, RAILROADS, RAILROADS, don't think for yourself, the ref will take care of that for you. Or the from the newest school party line, which has this viewpoint 
In some cases, the authority of the GM will be split up among the players in various ways.
That is, of course how a  RAILROAD becomes a real TRAIN WRECK.

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