Treasure Tables is in reruns from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Treasure Tables is usually pretty upbeat, discussing good stuff and challenging stuff, but rarely bad stuff.
For a change of pace, let’s take a look at seven of the worst ideas in GMing history.
I’ve tried to stay away from personal bias (“ur rpg sux, d00d”), but I’m sure it crept in there anyway.
Random Encounters: Unless you’re a hardcore gamist, random encounters stink.
“Riding through the wilderness, you encounter . . . [the GM rolls] . . . six minotaurs. They charge you, roll for initiative.”
At which point you spend what could be several hours fighting the band of minotaurs, and not doing what you wanted to do, or advancing the story in any way. And you might end up dead.
I’ve often heard the argument that you can just roll again — but in that case, why roll in the first place?
The d100: I love my d100 — just not as a die. As a fun slice of gaming history, it rocks. As a die, it’s terrible.
It’s essentially a ball, so unless you roll it on a perfectly even surface, it takes forever to stop rolling.
And it’s incredibly easy to rig your roll: Just line the seam up with your fingers and let it roll gently off your palm. Since the highest numbers are on the seam, you’ll probably roll high.
Shrinkwrapped RPG Books: If you’ve ever been to a gaming store that shrinkwraps its books, you know why this one makes the list.
As a GM, if I can’t read anything but the front and back covers, what exactly is going to make me buy the book? I can’t check out the rules, I don’t know if my group will like it — hell, I don’t even know if it’s readable.
Shrinkwrapping a boxed set is understandable (although still not desirable), but there’s no excuse when it comes to books.
THAC0: I heart AD&D 2nd Edition, but fewer things about the game were harder to explain to new players than THAC0, amusing acronym notwithstanding.
“Wait, you mean I want this number to be really low? What the hell? I thought higher was better!”
Throughout the rest of the system, high numbers were good — so why make this crucial rules element different?
Attacks of Opportunity: Conceptually, attacks of opportunity are just dandy. They add tactical spice, and they seem fairly realistic.
But sweet baby Jesus is it hard to remember how they work. Which isn’t helped along by the fact that unlike the much more logical “opportunity attacks,” “attacks of opportunity” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Along with grappling, AoOs are the d20 System’s answer to THAC0.
Mixed Typefaces: Most RPG books use a couple of different typefaces — headers and body text, for example. Some, unfortunately, go a different route.
Have you ever paged through a Hunter: The Reckoning book? In Hunter-Book: Martyr, many pages feature four different typefaces. After a couple of paragraphs, it’s on to the next one.
I don’t know about you, but I can barely stand reading them at all — and I can’t imagine trying to reference them during play.
Books Without Indexes: With a few exceptions, every RPG book that’s longer than 32 pages should have an index.
The index is where GMs go to find what they need, especially in setting books and longer sourcebooks. I’ll take an index — even a crappy one — over 2-4 pages of extra content any day.
No, they’re not sexy. They can’t have boobs, or cool dragon pictures. But they get a very important job done, and they’re not optional.
What terrible GMing-related ideas have you run across?
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post, and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums?