Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Question Regarding Dungeonmastering...

In your opinion...

If a DM has in their dungeon an obviously ominous door bearing the unambiguous image of Cthulhu (and the players are Cthulhu-literate), and if/when the PCs open the door a Cthulhu is behind the door with all the attendant risks (insanity, death, TPK)...

Is the DM being a jerk?

32 comments:

  1. No. They had full warning what was behind the door. If the group has a good sense of humor, it might even provide some laughs.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes. Instantaneous TPK is no fun no matter how justified it is, especially if people have been playing their characters for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  3. They're cthulhu literate and they went through the door? Assuming this actually happened, i'd want, as a DM, to understand what they were thinking when they decided to open the door ...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cyclopeatron, this is not necessarily an "instantaneous" TPK, just a good chance of "insanity, death, TPK." You know, the usual risks of getting into combat.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maybe they expected plush cthulus to be found behind the door? Cuddly horror!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why is Cthulhu in the dungeon in the first place?

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's Cthulu. He/she/it can go anywhere!
    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Personally, I think the DM is not being a jerk any more than he would be if he imposed negative consequences on a PC who decides to jump in some lava. It all depends, to an extent, on established play style. Are there things in the campaign that characters should simply not do? If so, they should be able to discern that opening the Cthulhu door is one of them.

    That's what hirelings are for.
    ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'd be expecting cultists or something, not the deity itself. So, yeah, kinda.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Maybe. All depends on the size of the door and whether this Cthulhu is real.

    If it's a standard dungeon door, then jerkdom royale due to size differences. If it's the CoC cover - still a bad touch but you've given warning something big is coming.

    Or it's an illusion. Do you really want to stand around to find out though? That would be kinda cool. The real deal? Not so much.

    Also you said "...a Cthulhu"? That posits more than one... If you're face to tentacles with a Star-Spawn, that's less jerky depending on how you stat them?

    Clones of Cthulhu on the other hand while a cool premise would be gratuitous overkill.

    ReplyDelete
  11. You said "a" Cthulhu... was there a chance of more than one? Was there a die roll for number of Cthulhus?

    ReplyDelete
  12. In the Old West, Cthulus used to wander the American planes is vast herds. Maybe that was Bison, but I'm pretty sure it was Elder Gods.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It depends on whether those players know the DM's style or not. Arguably, if this is the first meet up, and the PCs have had no opportunity to discern that their DM will not, under any circumstances, save their soft hides with some God-of-the-Machine intervention when things get a tad trying, then we can perhaps forgive them for feeling a bit hurt when their PCs are mushed, blasted, rended and soul-shattered without further consideration or ceremony.

    Let's be serious though. If I was DMing for my kids, well, maybe, MAYBE I might hesitate. But if the person on the other side of the character sheet is an otherwise sensible adult, I feel entitled to relish the look of dismay on their face as they realise that, yes, the game can indeed go THAT way. Those d20 players have had it too easy for too long. How dare they demand 'game balance'? Does the real world pause to reflect on issues of justice before scorching your sorry arse if you sit in a campfire?

    The DM is a referee, not your PC's best buddy. Fairness is the requirement. PC's who choose to ignore fair warnings like "The vial is labelled POISON..." or "The King is starting to look irritated..." or "The huge, dripping, cyclopean door bears a carving which exactly resembles, in all pertinent details, images of great Cthulhu that you have seen in eldritch tomes. A horrid, foetid odour seeps from the cracks at its base..." Well. Just enjoy their well deserved flensing, I say... :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Christian Ha! Bison
    @Dave Ditto with the flensing :)

    I'd still be inclined to open the door. It'd be worth it. I mean, how many characters of yours have been ended by that particular Great Old One?

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've only played B/X or AD&D, so I am well aware of the risks and realize that absolutely nothing is is balanced but, I've also played a lot of CoC and in either game it's a jerky move.
    It kills the exploration feature of D&D if you keep players too paranoid. You could put a "death hex" in your sandbox, but please give a hint to a player if they approach it, don't just kill them.

    ReplyDelete
  16. In the Old West, Cthulus used to wander the American planes is vast herds. Maybe that was Bison, but I'm pretty sure it was Elder Gods.

    It was glorious until the Trans-Domensional Railroad was built, and Chtulhu Bill Carter hunted them all down.

    re: the original question. They opened the door with the eldritch equivalent of a radiation/biohazard hazard warning sign. This is the very essence of "Death, no save".

    ReplyDelete
  17. If the door opens too easily the DM is being a jerk. I'd have some lingering madness in the corridor near the door and maybe some really bad vibes if someone touched the door...if they opened it then they get to be the waking call of cthulhu.

    Let the players have the initiative on round one a couple of folks bright enough to not ask questions might just get out alive.


    "Cthulhu?"
    "no really?"
    "I zap it with the disintegration ray"
    "I run"
    "uh, ah....how big is it?"
    "I'm waiting to see what bob does"
    "I set my spear versus charging"
    "I tell henchman #1 to..."
    "uh, wait is it within 40' of me?"

    Of the resposnes above I'd let one guy run away for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm with Dave. The DM has to communicate his play style. If this is within his play style, he needs to lay out the mortality possibiltiies, how much warning, etc. I try to do this when I talk to someone about playing. It saves a lot of heartache when I just want some beer and pretzels sandbox exploration and looting and they want big exposition of every aspect of the world and interpersonal angst for their character.

    If I have communicated the table's play style to a prospective player and they decide to play, they can say all day that it's "no fun" or "not fair" that this happened. Sure, it's not what you wanted and it's not within your preferred playstyle, but once decide to play my play style trumps your play style every time.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well, I would only do this if they had a way out or were high enough in level to vanquish Cthulhu somehow. If they were Average Joes like in CoC I wouldn't do that. Seeing Cthulhu in the distance is enough to shave of a few sanity points in that case.

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sort of a dick move, unless they have waded through servants/cultists, only to open the final door to witness the high priest sacrificing 66 innocents to awake the tentacled one...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Interesting. If the party was Cthulhu-literate, as you say, then by opening the door tehir expectations were of looking out on a black vista of some existentially-horrific panorama, not a face full of tentacles popping out like a Jack-in-th-Box. Or so I would guess. Their expectations were very likely shaped by their reading, and if one encountered such a door in the literature, it'd be a good bet that they'd see blackness, a sucking void, and maybe the dimly silohuetted form of what might be Cthulhu rising from out of the blackness in the distance.

    Having the Big C sitting right behind the door is tantamount to letting them step off the moving train directly into the middle of ground zero of the detonation of a nuclear weapon at the onset of the war that produced Gamma World. It sounds cool to a DM. It sucks for a player expecting something completely other.

    Perhaps a few cultists at the door, or lingering madness as suggested above would have helped. A clue that the door was Not Meant To Be Opened could ahve at least prepared them in such a way that one might have survived by leaving judiciously prior to the thing getting opened.

    See Tolkein for the Balrog scene in Moria. The approach of the Big Bad was far more fun than the actual encounter, and there was a heavy cost involved. something along those lines, plus copious amounts of gibbering madness, withered limbs, premature aging, livid tentacular scrification and discoloration to the eyes...and a foul, lingering aura of corruption that eventually destroyed all their loot, weapons and armor...that's more like what I would have done, after the whole black void scene described above. Then, if they persisted, they'd be worse then dead, as they obviously volunteered to join the ranks of Uncle Cthulhu's marching band of zombie slaves or get their heads nibbled off as a between meal snack. The nice pic would get used at that point.

    Another option would ahve been to let them see this image in a blurry reflection from a mirror as some other party opened the door below them. If that didn't make them soil their drawers, let the master of squish start squeazing their bad self up the shaft at them...and you get to use the picture and maybe inflict some much deserved insanity, cursings, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Yes. The GM is being a jerk.

    Also: even though the players might known what Cthulhu looks like, that doesn't mean their characters do. In their world, it might just be a logo of a popular brand of beans.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Not being a jerk....now, if next time you put two doors side by side, and one door has a Cthulhu image and the other a fluffy bunny and Cthulhu is hiding behind the Fluffy Bunny door, THAT would be being a jerk.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Ha ha! JJ is with the money there, methinks! So many of the "DM's a jerk" moanings seem to be based on an expectation that the gameworld is designed for the PCs to be NURTURED from fledgling promise to godlike prowess. d20 phooey, in my view. To reiterate, I wouldn't want to be a player in a game where the DM was prone to say "Do you REALLY want to sit in the campfire? You might get burned..." Or "So you're really positively sure you want to drink from the vial marked poison? Really?" No hand-holding please. We learn the red bits are hot by experience. Its a GAME. Roll up another character and don't be such a doofus next time round... :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow, great comments everyone!

    A little background, the whole "If a door has a picture of CThulhu on it and Cthulhu is behind it theplayers have no reason to complain" thing is a shorthand phrase for how, in my game, if I make a reasonable attempt to telegraph Bad Fucking Mojo! regarding something, than the gloves are off regarding the thing in question.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Also, I have no problem with player metagaming regarding genre conventions, knowledge of the game, etc. It's a survival treasure hunt with acting/comedy!

    ReplyDelete
  28. From your game reports that definately seems to be true, Blair. Algol is a brutal place! Adventurers that can get their breakfast, keep coin in the their pouch and a safe place to rest would really feel grateful from the respite from danger.In my view this is how a heroic pulp setting SHOULD leave you feeling. When Conan had a wench in tow and a bagful of coin, he was ALIVE- he knew the dangers of the world. PCs must be aware that Gandalf ain't coming to guide them affectionately through the world's perils. Players with such expectations need to find a DM with a cheesier genre...

    ReplyDelete
  29. The DM isn't being a dick.

    Cthulhu is being a dick.

    That's why it's called roleplaying. :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. I'd say the jerkiness is proportional to the learning curve. If you are establishing a danger sign for characters to be wary of, then any ramifications for ignoring that danger sign are on the players' heads. (This is leaving aside the whole player knowledge/ character knowledge thing. You can't learn from something that you die from...)

    On the other hand, if you set up the warning and then don't deliver when it's ignored, or lay the smackdown without the warning, then you're probably verging on jerkiness. Then again, expectations are there to be played with.

    ReplyDelete
  31. When it comes to Real Estate inspection in Pocahontas, Hawley Home Inspections secures the top position because of the exceptional customer service it provides and the certified professional home inspectors that are a part of this team. The fact that both of these constituents are unavoidable while considering to book an appointment for a home inspection for your house or the property you are about to buy. There are many factors that force us to get a home inspection done but if you are living on a property and it has been more than a year that you got your house inspected, this is the right time. If the situation is worse and you have never gotten a home inspection done before, it is never too late to start now. You can just start by giving Hawley Inspections a call and leave the rest to us. We promise to send you the most Professional Home Inspector Pocahontas has to offer and we claim 200% customer satisfaction as well, so what are you waiting for?

    ReplyDelete