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The argument for teabagging when you TPK

Posted By Matthew J. Neagley On August 4, 2010 @ 1:23 am In GMing Advice | 10 Comments

887351_55529944 There’s a lot of subjects that we as gamers and GMs have giant raving debates over that at their core revolve around “Will I lose a friend if I do this?” Everything from fudge to player kills to dealing with problem players at least partially hinges on the reaction of the rest of your gaming crew and how well you can trust them to act in a mature manner to an unfavorable situation. We can talk about the necessity of mature discussion of expectations, social contracts, and trust all we want, but for many of us there’s a tiny doubt gnawing at us that if we kill someone’s character, if we destroy their favorite sword, if we give everyone else treasure or a level or a keep and not them, or if we tell them it’s unacceptable to make lewd mouth gestures at another player, that they’ll throw a temper tantrum and storm off, never to be seen again.

Frankly, some of our experiences back us up on this one. Here’s a few of mine:
-A friend of mine once  rolled up a paladin knowing full well that the rest of us were playing evil characters (an evil priest, an assassin, a mob thug) and waved his detect evil around like it was a royal parade. When he grabbed the evil mind-bending artifact that was telepathically tempting us all with great power and insisted we take it to his temple to be destroyed, it fell to me (the assassin) to poison him into next week. He stopped playing with us and years later when I bumped into him at our FLGS he was STILL going on about how the killer GM had offed him for no reason. Once I stopped laughing, I confessed that I had, in fact, poisoned his oatmeal with three doses of incredibly deadly poison.
-Once while GMing, one of my players was possessed by a demon and then geased to eliminate an NPC who was a threat to the bad guys’ plans. The other players didn’t know about any of this. All they knew was that when PVP combat broke out, I kept giving the possessed PC, who also happened to be my wife, a floating +4 bonus to all kinds of rolls as the demon shifted the bonuses it was granting around. Later on I clued them in to what had been going on, but until that point they were pretty grumpy about my apparent favoritism.

The problem with this dynamic is that the nagging doubts that our players will react poorly to bad situations can prevent us from making decisions that we know will probably improve our game. But oddly enough, not all games we play have this problem. If we’re playing Halo, and we get our buddy with the 100 to 0 winning streak in our sights, we don’t pause and think “If I take this shot, will he storm off?”. No, we take the shot, trash talk all over him and his ruined record, and maybe make some extremely rude emotes over his fallen corpse. If we’re playing World of Warcraft, and epic loot drops, we have an almost unnecessarily complex system of determining who gets what so that we don’t have to make these awkward decisions… and people still get upset and leave at the drop of a hat. What these other games show us is that not only do we not need to worry so much about our players throwing temper tantrums when things don’t go their way, but that some people will act childish no matter what we do.

That seems like a perfectly reasonable conclusion and one that we’d all be aware of already. So why do we allow these worries to nag us like they do? In part, this stems back to the social roles that were established when we first started playing role playing games. Most gamers started playing during our awkward teen years when social pressures were high. Though we’re no longer in this situation, established behavioral roles and patterns are hard to break, especially ones ingrained over years of practice, and when in doubt, we quickly fall back into comfortable territory. As we mature we sometimes need to remind ourselves that our situation has changed, but this is only half the equation. We also need to begin building a new set of social roles for ourselves and our players to accept as the norm. This means that not only do we need to ignore the self doubt of our old social roles, we need to aggressively pursue an agenda that showcases the social roles we want to adopt.

Thus, we’re back to that God-Awful title. If FPS gamers not only tolerate but laugh about teabagging each other, there’s no reason that RPG players can’t do so as well. The only prerequisite to your group having a chuckle over someone getting teabagged by an ocularon is for you to have the ocularon do it. O.K. Maybe that’s a bit far, but ignore that self doubt and do what’s best for your game. The social roles will follow.

About  Matthew J. Neagley

First introduced to RPGs through the DnD Red Box Set in 1990, Matt fights on ongoing battle with GMing ADD, leaving his to-do list littered with the broken wrecks of half-formed campaigns, worlds, characters, settings, and home-brewed systems. Luckily, his wife is also a GM, providing him with time on both sides of the screen.




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10 Comments To "The argument for teabagging when you TPK"

#1 Comment By Whitt On August 4, 2010 @ 1:52 am

I find a direct attitude is best. Encourage the player to do a bit of showboating on the death scene, then get on with the game. It’s a little abrupt, but that serves to focus the other players on the shock that someone has gone.

I also thank the dead player and ask if I can take a copy of the character for my ‘Hall of Greatness’. Then I hand him a PHB and tell him to get cracking. :)

#2 Comment By Cloudyone On August 4, 2010 @ 2:58 am

Of course if the GM really is a dick, then just walk away. I remember dropping in on a game session at a college club night. I rolled up a quick character and jumped in. The party was then negotiating a narrow path above a river. They were playing D&D 2nd edition, which was new to me. I quietly began asking another player how the THAC0 mechanic worked so that I could come up to speed on the rules. The DM abruptly looked over and said “your character slips, falls in, and dies”, then went back what he’d been talking about to the party. No saving throw, no nothing. Apparently it was Not Okay to talk while His Specialness was holding court. I left. So just because a player leaves doesn’t mean it’s the player who is childish a-hole.

#3 Comment By evil On August 4, 2010 @ 8:18 am

The most important point here to is to be able to take it as well as dish it out. Sure, I tease my players mercilessly if they die foolishly once the game is over. However, they have the same rights if they run roughshod over my BBEG or a particuarly nasty enemy. As long as everyone realizes that it’s all in fun, then it’s no problem. Some will realize this instinctively; others will never realize this.

#4 Comment By dizman On August 4, 2010 @ 8:49 am

Well this TPK is a situation that happens sometimes not often. If you lose a friend over it he was no friend to begin with. Even more if i lost a friend for each PK i would have no friends. As gm you must find a way to deal with players that get killed. Talk to them in case of overkill to get idea how to overcome if the players got to atached to chars.

#5 Comment By Nojo On August 4, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

There can be no argument for sexually humiliating your players that will sway me.

I keep sexual violence out of my games.

#6 Comment By Katana_Geldar On August 4, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

You have to set house rules even just to save the players from themselves. I am very firm about things that with involve conflict within the party, and if say a player wants to play evil in a good campaign…he has to sell me the idea and convince me he’s not going to PvP. And I only let my “No PvP rule” down for players know I can trust.

One way to get around this is for the player to be an NPC and have instructions, that way there’s no confusion between the player and character.

It also goes down to knowing your players and how good they are at the game, particularly the style you want them to play. Remember Gygax’s introduction to the original Tomb of Horrors?

And sometimes in a TPK, things just go wrong. Bad dice rolls, bad decisions. It’s up to the DM to decide whether players deserve what they get because they didn’t play well, or they were dealt a cruel blow by the dice gods. if you save them everytime though, they tend to get used to the idea of a Deus ex Machina.

#7 Comment By Gregory On August 5, 2010 @ 10:37 am

There’s a tangential issue with the examples you cited. I think that a player should always know why they died, or have a clue where some odd bonus is coming from. They don’t need to known the exact culprit, but that paladin should have gotten, “As you black out, you realize that your oatmeal tastes really bitter,” and the players in the demon fight should have gotten a “suddenly her eyes seem less shiny, but her arms grow more sure” as the bonus shifted from perception rolls to attack rolls. Often, just acknowledging “yes, this situation seems really strange to your character” can change an indignant player into an intrigued one.

#8 Comment By GiacomoArt On August 5, 2010 @ 11:49 am

If role-playing teaches us that taunting is bad, and to act with basic concern and consideration for our fellow players where other games do not, that’s a feature, not a failing.

#9 Comment By Roxysteve On August 5, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

How about the case for not using the term “teabagging” when what you mean is “sandbagging”?

The linked article used the phrase and it made sense there. Here it really doesn’t, since in the examples given the key feature is the total lack of up-front humiliation delivered to the victim(s) – the whack is delivered in secret and “explained” hours or years later.

It also would seem to be an attempt to gratuitously work an arguably offensive term into the game-table vernacular that goes counter to everything written only the day before here.

Nice use of irony in the third paragraph. Take a benny.

Not sure if I agree with your conclusions, though.

I think the reason people in FPS games are so liberal with their mouths is that the whole thing is anonymous, rather like the comments section in an e-forum. Anonymity brings with it a certain assurance and bravado that is totally lacking in a face-to-face setting, and anyway, who the hell cares about pissing off someone you’ve never met and never will?

I think the reluctance to risk pissing off a FTF RPG player also has more to do with the size of the pool of remaining players than who you spent your teen years with. Piss off a Halo player and there’re 20k people waiting in line to replace him or her. Piss off Alec the Gnome Wizard and you’ve lost 16% of your regular gaming group, maybe more if Alec talks the others into leaving in sympathy post-game.

#10 Comment By Bercilac On August 22, 2010 @ 5:42 am

…and is it better to be loved or feared?


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