DMing frustration


Scarab Sages

One of my current goals as a DM is to incorporate the first rule of improv to my games. For the unfamiliar the first rule is to never say no. Yeah. My players immediately put this to the test. The witch in my game has recently learned charm monster and starts digging through the monster index for the most amazing minion he can find.

Don't you love gamist PCs?

He promptly hits on Rune Giants prompting a strong no. I elaborate that the difficulty will be one of ecology. Still I go out with the goal of being an enlightened DM and find myself squashing player ideas in the first two hours. Perhaps I should try to make them more aware of this concept or just trust them more?

The first rule only works if the players keep their paws off your GM-tools and keep at playing their characters. Players have to trust the GM to provide a fun game, GMs shouldn't make it too easy to game the system in my opinion.

My players do not own the PF bestiary which I like since the stats tend to be a bit different from the 3.5 stats, also I more often than not adjust the monsters just tell them what they can reasonably find out.

I generally am quite strict in what I allow, trying to balance things carefully but GMs should not say no to creativity, gamist players is not my definition of creativity. I often end up being quite strict with gamist PCs and allowing less gamist PCs more space, I find the latter players provide more fun for myself and the other players than a brutally effective character.

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I don't quite see the problem here. Nor does it strike me as particulary gamist if the character wanted their concept to be along the lines of having a particulary strong "companion"/ally to travel with.

Did the players expect one to come out of the air in front of them ready to be enslaved? If so thats hardly ideal and they should probably be nudged into a more realistic/fun way of doing things.

If the players knew the full implications and had the opportunity and interest to pursue the venture i would cheer them on.
I would take the player to the side and quickly go through what this endevour would involve. Most likely this would involve quite a bit of time - travel to library/pathfinder lodge to figure out where such a creature might be found, weeks or months of travel to get there and find one. Then one would need to be isolated. Then it would need to fail a will save with a remarkably good will save. Beyond that the group (not just the witch who had charmed it) would need to treat it respectfully and fairly - as it would be an ally not a servant. They would need charisma checks (with no retries) to get it to do anything it would not naturally do (for a LE magical giant that COULD mean not killing all the people in the village they just arrived at).Further, it might have had friends and allies of its own that would want to "free" it - other spell casters might want to steal it. The rumors of them having it would make the group easily recognizable and a potential target from many sources and so on.

If ALL the players in the group (or just the witch if she had a lot of spare time) had the interest and time to go through with this - and understood and accepted that this would be hard and dangerous.. By all means.
The best stories are the ones that are created by player initiative anyhow - not forced from the pages of a book.

So don't squash the ideas, help the players realize their interest in a way that makes sense to the story. If something is within the means of a character and not overly cheesy (i.e expecting GREAT effects with little or no work) - think about it with the player. See if this is something that will make their game better and if so.. go rune giant hunting!

Remco Sommeling wrote:
said stuff


i try and to be a fairly open game but i make it clear they no one pc will over power the others. i had to point this clear last time we all played

I don't think that's how <i>charm monster</i> works. First your PCs have to find a rune giant, then there are all sorts of will saves, charisma checks and spell resistance to deal with. I doubt it would be a simple matter to make a minion out of a rune giant. Unless the witch in question is high level, in that case they deserve a rune giant minion.

Dark Archive

First rule of GMing is "if it's fun, it's ok".
And trying to beat the system isn't fun. These players should focus more on the situation you provide rather than create their own situation.

This sample dialogue may help you get your gamist back on track.

PC1 : I'm going to charm a rune giant.
GM : There aren't any. You're in bloody Sandpoint, here be Goblins and cattle. And the occasional Scribbler but let's focus on our game.
PC1 : I'm going to charm a rune giant. It says here I can.
PC2 through PC4 : yawn
GM : you will need to find one. They don't grow on trees.
PC1 : I'm going to charm a rune giant anyway.
PC2 through PC4 : yawn
GM : okay, PC1 is going on a 6 month trip to find and enslave a rune giant. settled. What are the rest of you going to do?
PC2 through PC4 : Yay, now we're all going to have fun with the adventure. Thanks for settling that.

The Exchange

It's not like Charm Monster creates slaves. It would just make the Rune Giant friendly. This might make him more inclined to help the Witch with some task, but he has the power to say no if he has other things that are more important to him.

This ain't Dominate Monster.

Dark Archive

Waffle_Neutral wrote:
This ain't Dominate Monster.

you're absolutely right - but that wasn't the point :)

Scarab Sages

To be more clear I'm honestly not entirely sure how he inteded to control the Rune Giant, as this idea got floated in the midst of running mass combat in part five of Kingmaker and I was focusing on trying to operate a new and slightly clunky system.

Unfortunatly his character wasn't exactly actively engaged so was busy coming up with radical ideas.

The acual table talk went more like this:

DM: Okay, so the armys have closed to meele range and the wyverns pepper the centuar armys shields with spikes.

Player 1: Excellent! I order a charge from the back of my giant flying monkey. <rolls dice> and we score a 28 with 5 bonus damage if we hit!

DM: okay.. <thinks hard HP - (28+5-def) is not quite lethal> ...

Player 4: I'll commaand a Rune Giant in the next battle!

DM: What? No! Crap. What was your plus to damage again?

Not really ideal for anyone. Oh well, we can at least only improve in the next session.

As a GM, I absolutely never say no... but that doesn't mean I let the players ask me any old question they like.

Some people just can't handle the responsibility of not being told no - they will do things that they feel are outlandish and unwarranted just because no one will stop them, not even because they actually want to.

I don't see the problem. Here's why.

First, as has been mentioned, charm monster doesn't create a minion. As a DM, you're not saying "no" to point out how rules work; the rules are saying "no".

Second, assuming we're talking about something that does allow domination, there are still a few hurdles involved. As has been mentioned, availability. If there aren't any rune giants around, they become difficult to dominate. If there are... well then... it's show time. Say "yes". Then evaluate what the consequences of dominating one of the rune giants is. What will its fellows think of this? What will anyone else around think of this? Does this make the PC a target? Does it make him a criminal in someone's eyes?

Your job becomes one of guiding your players to not do unpleasant things they shouldn't do.

That said, if a PC has the ability to enthrall a monster, it's probably not terribly unbalanced. Keep in mind the availability side of things.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Let me ask a question.

Let's say that you and your buds are all rune giants, enormous powerhouses well-accustomed to being the biggest, strongest, meanest things in a tri-kingdom area, with the possible exception of that really old guy over there who has made a hobby out of ioun stone body modification. You cast mass charm monster and dominate person as racial abilities, and you've been pranking other races with them since you were knee-high to the mountain.

So you're rollin' along and this gnarly little witch dude, not much bigger than your foot, pops out of its hidey-hole and wiggles his fingers at your bud Azlarkoom, who starts acting all weird-like and drawing his five-mile-long sword on you.

Who are you going to stomp, the gnarly little dude or Azzy?

Right. Here's my golden rule of GMing. If someone has the hubris to want something ridiculously powerful, let him go for it. Smile at the player, let him think it's a good idea. Or at least, an idea that will make a good cautionary tale for his next character. Go ahead; charm a rule giant. See if you can dominate one, while you're at it. What could possibly go wrong? Heck, Will is its best save. And hey, all his rune giant friends? They can cast dominate person right back at you. Or, they can step on you. (25,000 pounds, according to the bestiary.)

Chris Mortika wrote:
Good stuff


Trying to dominate a rune giant sounds like a quick way to get killed.

Anyway, answering the OP, "never say no" isn't the same as "always say yes", too many players apply binary logic, make sure they remember that you are a person, not an intel CPU running an instance of Never Winter Nights.

Ok, first never say no. If the PC ask for some untenable thing, just smile a Fishy smile, and give it to them with BOTH BARRELS.

You want to charm a rune giant? Fishy Smile.

You new pet eats your party. The other PC's lynch the bastard. You DM hands are clean, Rune Giants eat people. Like popcorn. Screaming Popcorn.

That falls get a stick and hitta b$@%&.

Dark Archive

I thought the idea of the first rule of improv. was that you used the suggestion, not just granted it splat.

So, you PC wants a rune giant friend? That's fine, the party sets off on a quest to find a rune giant. By the time they actually *find* the rune giant, they will be of a sensible level for it to be their friend.

They get lots of nice adventures along the way. Where is the problem?

I use the same "Never say 'no'" guideline in my games, but like in Improv, you have to say 'yes' in creative ways that either build on or twist their words in a new (often opposite) direction. What they say isn't 100% true simply because they said it, it just shouldn't be 'canceled out' by the 'no'-wall because that halts the creative impulse/derails the story.

"I have (or charmed) a Rune Giant."
Wrong Answer: "No, (insert anything)."
Right Answer: "Yes, (insert anything)."
("Yes, BUT..." works quite well.)

example 'right answers':
"Yes, your rune with a giant on it matches well with your other runestone charms."
"Yes, BUT it's funny how you call Rune, your cat familiar, 'giant'. Might we be overcompensating?"
"Yes, BUT wouldn't he say 'he has you' given the cage he uses to keep you in?"
"Yes, BUT paying him 10,000 g.p./day not to kill you is sure going to ruin you fast."
"Yes, BUT you do realize his unrelenting amorousness is going to make issues awkward."
"Yes, BUT at that newborn age, his parents are going to want him back. Maybe his whole clan..."

Problem solved. (And lesson learned, do not screw with game balance.)

And, keep in mind the improv rule is more for storytelling/building, not for adjusting mechanics (FREE LEADERSHIP? ALL RIGHT!).
I actually don't let players speak "player to DM/world altered at whim" under this rule, but rather PC to PC/NPC, when we're engaged in the story itself.
Making it so should alleviate much abuse/need for glib word twisting.

To others, if you haven't tried this improv rule, it can be really fun. Define your PC, or your fellow players just may define him for you. (i.e. "I love your red hair.") Do add the stipulation it should only be used for entertainment, not to dismantle another player's character concept because they're not as glib. ("Use your powers of creation for good, young Pathfinders.")

PC 1: "Wasn't your mother the Guildmaster of Thieves?"
PC 2: "That was Thebes, and she was a master potter. Did your brother say she was his Guildmaster? That's typical of lying, fratricidal backstabbers." (Got you back!)
or "Yes, which is why I took my Paladin vows." (Ooh, thanks.)
or "It's best we not mention it here, as she's at war with the local guild. Who, by the way, have a strict policy against kidnapping or murdering family members of known enemies." "Why do you say that?"
"I don't know, I just feel the truth had to be said." "But I heard they just changed that policy." "Shut up, no..., I mean, yes, they were going to, but changed their minds. How about we DROP this topic?"
or "Damn straight. I love my mudda'."
or "I was orphaned, you bastard."

While I do have to step in sometimes, much good RPing and story development can come out of it. If somebody has something written down, it trumps what gets said. "Starting Money" and other rules sort of trump a lot too... :)

Great fun. Try it.

Matthew Trent wrote:

One of my current goals as a DM is to incorporate the first rule of improv to my games. For the unfamiliar the first rule is to never say no. Yeah. My players immediately put this to the test. The witch in my game has recently learned charm monster and starts digging through the monster index for the most amazing minion he can find.

Don't you love gamist PCs?

He promptly hits on Rune Giants prompting a strong no. I elaborate that the difficulty will be one of ecology. Still I go out with the goal of being an enlightened DM and find myself squashing player ideas in the first two hours. Perhaps I should try to make them more aware of this concept or just trust them more?

Well, it depends on what the player wants. This could impact in a whole range of different ways. Someone wanting to play a four-armed sahuagin but wants to keep the level adjustment low despite the mountain of racial bonuses and abilities, a frenzied berserker character who wants a merciful weapon to get around the weakness of their class...... the list goes on. One very common thing is when the fighter or barbarian reach a city and start asking for +1 flaming swords. The player has read the magic item compendium but the character sure hasn't. I would suggest looking at what they want, thinking about it for a bit and either refusing them or altering the stats a bit. In the example of the rune giant, you could perhaps drop the number of hit die, roll back the saves and certain attributes to match a creature having a CR suitable for the witch's current level. Gamist PCs can be a problem and I've seen how some of them can screw the pooch. As long as you ensure that there is a balance of power across characters, it should be fine.

Kyras, yes I am the same. I have had to disallow certain demihuman and class (prestige or new unbalanced) choices because they aren't balanced with the rest of the party.

The worst I've seen is a dread nec turn on half the party and the city they were working with. Fortunately, I was playing a fighter/beta barb/3.5 berserker and got to kill him (I was not the dm).

To Matthew Trent, as that player started going through manuals looking for things to enslave I would ask for some skill checks. Not every spellcaster knows about rune giants, or where to find them or whether they could be controlled by a specific spell, that is really specialist knowledge. Explain the players knowledge and character knowledge divide and see what they say.

Equalizer, yes I had temporarily forgotten about the sahuaghin noble choice. Siiiigh.

The best response to the, I want to be a sahughin noble and not be many levels behind the party and get all my abilities, came from another dm.

He suggested it be a form of mental illness.
The "Sahuaghin" character thought they were a four-armed beast of the sea, but they were actually a sea elf.

What a fantastic idea. A dm could pull it off. A player fantasy within a fantasy, unknown to the player SAHUAGHIN INCEPTION!

Alas I didn't get to give it a go. I adjusted the ECL of the player, they came in, felt they were weak, loafed around, left the game. A shame, and a give-away it was all about the stats and benefits, not roleplaying something exciting.

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