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Pencil: Welcome to The Probably Bad Podcast, a podcast that is definitely bad. I’m Pencil
Paper: I’m Paper. Today’s probably bad RPG idea is dice rolling noise refusing to differentiate important and unimportant information in your scene description
Pencil: “Looking around the ruined street you see a few burnt out houses, various bits of rubble, 4000 demon pointing swords at you, a pile of knocked-over street signs, and a stray cat”. This is one of the most popular posts I’ve ever done. Based on the replies it’s entirely due to people wanting to pet that cat. No-one has noticed the demons, it’s just like 2000 people talking about how much they love that stray cat. I don’t know if this is relevant to the question but everyone loves cats
Paper: I mean, I feel like keeping everything at the same level of importance is quite good because it’s very easy to just kind of say a plot hook and then have the characters go investigate it
Paper: But then it’s equally easy to say a plot hook and then the players go and do something else even if you make it obvious what the plot hook is
Pencil: Yeah in mystery games there’s often the kind of “ah the GM mentioned the bookcase clearly there’s going to be like a book there that we need to find” but yeah there’s also the issue of “the GM mentioned a bookcase for flavour we’re going to spend the next half an hour trying to knock it over to find the secret door in it”. ‘Cos yeah I think that there’s an um…yeah it’s good to have a few red herrings just for like – red herring’s not the right word – a few things that are there just for like scenery or background just so the world feels a bit more like an actual world rather than a series of plot hooks in a room
Paper: So, I know you didn’t mean to say red herring, but everything being given the same amount of importance is a really good way to give red herrings
Paper: Like, what if it is actually the cat that’s important?
Pencil: I mean, there would like…there were like some comments which were along the lines of “yeah as you go and fight the demons the cat just mauls you all”, but yeah
Paper: What if the demons are working for the cat? What if the demons are the cats from Cats?!
Pencil: I feel like, that’s another thing. That it’s good to just sneak into the description “yeah you see the horrible cats from Cats pointing swords at you”
Paper: “They’re doing ballet and they won’t stop!”
Pencil: laughs you are all jellicle. But yes like I have, yeah I have done this in a game for a dramatic reveal of, yeah it was World of Darkness and yeah “You’re in a normal office except some of the paintings have occult symbols, the laptop’s been knocked over, and there are dozens of mutilated corpses scattered around the building” which I feel works quite well. So yeah it sort of good to sort of like, like what’s it? Like…the garden path sentences like what’s the example of the garden path sentence “the old man the boat” sentence and those kind of things where it’s like…yeah and I think you could do a similar thing with RPGs where it’s like “haha you thought this was just an investigation scene but nope! Now there are monsters”
Paper: One thing I’m thinking about now is what you were saying about the cats. I feel like if you describe everything, including the mundane thing it’s gonna draw people to the mundane thing ‘cos it’s like “why did you mention that?
Paper: Like with that example you gave from World of Darkness my immediate thought is “I wanna look at the laptop”
Pencil: Yeah like I feel like yeah if you did the opposite thing of like “you see demons and you see dark portals and you see swirling energy in the sky and you see a horse and you see a dark sorcerer…”
Paper: That’s a fucking evil horse
Paper: So it’s almost a way to give red herrings with a lot of plausible deniability, “well of horse the…of course the horse wasn’t relevant!”
Pencil: It was just there
Paper: Just a horse
Pencil: But then if they go for the sorcerer, then the horse like, launches a fireball at them, you’re like “why would I have mentioned the horse if it wasn’t relevant” so basically…
Paper: Well yeah it’s either way
Pencil: Either way you can screw over your players is the important thing, and isn’t that the whole point of being a GM
Paper: So what you’re saying is it’s a horcerer
Pencil: Podcast cancelled guys. (over Paper giggling) Sorry, we had a good run, but…
Paper: Ok but hear me out. You always mention just a random stray creature that’s wandering around, and that’s always the antagonist. The entire world does have, like, human magic users, but it’s the animals you’ve got to look out for
Pencil: Just, yeah, at the end it turns out it’s just this one druid who has been like, following the party around in various animal forms. There’s a wizard-buzzard pun somewhere…wuzzard? No, that sounds like some sort of weird Clangers antagonist
Paper: What about a warcock? It’s a cockerel…that’s a warlock
Pencil: Yeah but I feel like if you say “I would like a warcock for my character” it’s probably not going to be like, interpreted as that
Paper: Ok what about a caw-lock then? Like C-A-W
Pencil: Ok that’s a bit better. A cawlock and a warcock, and they’re friends
Paper: Cawlock I guess would be like, a kenku warlock?
Paper: Actually that’s a legitimately good character idea
Pencil: I like the idea of a kenku warlock who’s made a deal because they haven’t heard someone say, like, “no” yet? So when the demon’s like “do you want to trade your soul for power?” the only thing they can say is “yeah sure”
Paper: Or part of the deal is that they can now talk like a normal person
Pencil: “I would like to make a deal with a demon to play a character which isn’t like, restricted to repeating other players”. I feel we’ve got a bit off-topic
Paper: Possibly. But yes, refusing to differentiate important and unimportant information. I like the idea of just doing it in the scene descriptions but also like, if someone does an investigation check. ‘Cos you know there’s the joke of like “I got a 2 in investigation” “You see a door”
Paper: It’s like, someone gets a nat 20 in investigation you just describe every detail of the room, and it’s up to them to work out what’s significant
Pencil: I mean I feel like…so it’s admittedly not for everyone. I feel like if you want to make like investigation a bit more reliant on actual intelligence rather than you rolling well and having good stats, I feel like there’s a way of like, the more you investigate the more things you find in a room, and then like it’s up to you to like determine which of those are relevant and which are just fluff. Like it would need a bit more preparation and you’d need to like, be sure that your players were actually good at mystery solving but I feel that there’s like an actually good idea in there
Paper: Oh yeah. Especially because you would absolutely get a situation like with the stray cat where like, you investigate the body and then you spend the next half an hour debating the significance of finding a condom in their wallet
Pencil: laughs yeah like, yeah like I feel that you definitely need to have the right game group. I feel that if you do there’s definitely an idea there. And you know you could always make the condom the solution to the whole mystery
Paper: You use it to suffocate the Big Bad Evil Guy
Pencil: How tiny is the Big Bad Evil Guy?!
Paper: Hey condoms can stretch pretty big!
Pencil: Yes, like…
Paper: Did you never have in school when people would get hold of condoms and just blow them up into huge balloons?
Pencil: Apparently I didn’t go to like, a wild enough school. But yeah honestly I just want to know what situation you’re in where you can get a condom over the big bad’s head but you can’t kill them in any other way
Paper: They’re asleep…and they’re a heavy sleeper
Pencil: You teleport into their room while they’re asleep, armed with only a condom. And now you must kill the big bad
Paper: Or you could, you could like, sneak it into their food and they choke on it
Pencil: I guess
Paper: Or you seduce them…safely. ‘Cos you know, you wanna seduce the big bad in order to win, but you don’t wanna have his baby
Pencil: The fact that like, seducing the big bad is the immediate jump to for winning perhaps explains a lot about D&D
Paper: I’m just saying, considering safe sex in a D&D context is important, especially when I’m the DM, because I gave a character ultra-syphilis
Pencil: You did. I feel on that note we should maybe go to questions
Paper: Quite possible
Pencil: So there you go, give your characters ultra-syphilis, I believe that’s the explanation for that one
Paper: Also horcerers
Paper: So our first question, I’ve kind of combined two question here, because they’re kind of the same thing? Dolph, emissary of chaos, wants to know our wildest PCs, and Justin wants to know if our most ludicrous PCs were intentionally daft or just ended up that way.
Pencil: Ok so, my wildest PC, I’ve already talked about Pete the Pathetic Paladin beforehand, but my wildest one is..so the campaign was you are in TV shows and you were jumping between different TV worlds, a metafictional one like that, and my character was the Cbeebies channel. For people who aren’t in Britain, the Cbeebies channel is a children’s show for like
Paper: Children’s TV channel
Pencil: Children’s TV channel, for like, you know for, like, preschoolers. Uhm, so my character was just this constantly shifting hybrid between different Cbeebies presenters that could summon the Teletubbies and could not comprehend anything that wouldn’t be allowed on a children’s TV show. So could only comprehend violence as bullying, for example, and interpreted all more extreme violence as a subset of bullying and…like I feel like around the point I was saying I want Cbeebies, Cbeebies channel as a character, I was aware it was going to be pretty daft. Though I…ah. Sadly that campaign like, ended early, but we did manage to like, uhm, I summoned Twilight Sparkle to fight the meerkat from the meerkat commercials. Compare the Meerkat. So I feel that’s like, the goal of role-playing
Paper: Yeah I feel like all my weirdest character have been intentionally weird, like I’m currently playing a six-year-old feral child whose best friend is a bugbear and they’re private investigators. I’ve previously been – I think it was in a pathfinder game – where I ended up as a tabaxi assassin with a jetpack and an invisible servant called Beryl. Like, I dunno I feel like I just, I pick, I pick my race and my class, and then I just kind of do whatever with it makes me laugh? Which I feel is a good way to make interesting characters
Pencil: Like yeah luckily I…not luckily. I don’t tend to be in like, hugely serious games so I can play very silly characters. Uh, my other, my current PC in terms of an actual character I’m playing is uhm, Regina George if she’d been raised by a literal angel and has only like, encountered humans for the first time about a year ago. So that’s going well
Paper: I feel like I do have a fairly normal character at the moment, he’s a high school history teacher, but also it’s Monster of the Week so no-one is normal but he’s, he’s relatively normal? Like he’s not the mundane but he’s, he’s just a history teacher who’s been sucked into this. But his whole family has names that begin with H just because I had to do something silly
Pencil: There has to be some level of wackiness here
Paper: Well yeah, his name is Henry Hough, there’s his wife Harmony and their son Hank
Pencil: But yeah, no, yeah. I think with my case it’s a kind of, I don’t uhm necessarily want to play like…like basically if I’m playing someone I want them to be interested, obviously, and if…like there are ways to make them interesting other than making them silly but in the kinds of campaigns I tend to be in it’s probably one of the easiest ways? So yes, a lot of my daft characters are intentionally daft. There is also I guess Sir Strongspud from the Patreon exclusive game, but you will need to subscribe to our Patreon to learn about Sir Strongspud. Advertising!
Paper: And also that’s a Feast of Legends game
Pencil: How dare you suggest the the official Wendy’s TM RPG is not the most deep and serious exploration of role-playing imaginable. pause Yes I wasn’t sure if you had cut out or if you were just sick of me talking
Paper: Yep. For more information of Feast of Legends see episode 2
Pencil: But yes, next question is sent in my a tumblr anon. “How much input are players allowed to have when it comes to NPCs that are important to their character’s backstory? I want my D&D’s character…my D&D character’s adoptive father to be a good aligned goblin and a former wizard since him being a supportive father and spellcaster plays an important role in her life but I’m afraid the DM will reject the idea. Especially since this is the one backstory element I am not willing to compromise on. Am I in the wrong for asking?” I don’t, like I don’t think you’re in the wrong for asking. Generally as long as someone’s not being completely ridiculous it’s reasonable to say “yeah this is what my Dad is like” or “this is what my best friend is like” or what have you
Paper: Yeah not it’s like you’re saying something completely out there it’s just “this is my character’s backstory, I would like to include it
Pencil: Yeah, like, yeah unless your GM has explicitly said something like “yeah it’s important that all goblins are completely evil in this setting” or something it seems fine?
Paper: And there are, you know, it would be good and useful for your GM for potential future story stuff to maybe leave like, what he did back when he was a wizard a bit more vague, and like before he adopted your character and stuff, but I feel like what you’ve said isn’t…it’s not overly restrictive
Pencil: Ok but, if you are worried about it being rejected, do the like, marketing thing so you go in like “hello I’d like my D&D character’s adoptive father to be the tarrasque who’s been awakend by a druid and now runs a cake store” and then when they’re like “what no fuck off” you’re like “ok fine how about instead it’s a good aligned goblin and former wizard” just like, start of with something ridiculous
Paper: You gotta negotiate
Paper: That said an awakened terrasque that runs a cake shop sounds like a great parent
Pencil: trips over words
Paper: What happens if your DM says yes to the first one?
Pencil: Then you have a fucking amazing campaign is what happens like, yeah like what you could also do is like “ok, but the tarrasque’s husband is a good aligned goblin and former wizard” and then you have two cool parents
Paper: And also gay!
Pencil: Yeah! So, I feel like what we’ve done is given you a tarrasque dad, which I assume is what you wanted when you asked this tumblr question
Paper: So our last question is “how do you go about running a campaign that’s more about management than adventuring?”
Pencil: So, I know that there are a few like, D&D and Pathfinder supplements that deal with like, running a nation or running like, a barony? I think that’s word for like, your castle and all your little places around that. Uhm, yeah, so like the way it’s done is yeah it’s done on a more meta level like your nation has stats and other nations have stats and like essentially you play as the nation
Paper: So it’s a bit like Civ: The Tabletop RPG
Pencil: Yeah, ‘cos yeah I think the fundamental problem is like, yeah a lot of the actual things of, like the other idea is just it’s, you’re only managing it in name only and it’s like “ah you need to go on a quest to get some gold for your kingdom” or what have you. But on the other hand the question isn’t how should you run it it’s how would I run it, how would we run it
Paper: That is very true. I think what I would do is maybe have like, you do have to answer questions about, because realistically if you’re in charge of a country, or even like a barony or, or a duchy or something, you’re not going to be hugely hands on. So I like the idea of maybe, you have to answer questions from your underlings, who then go and do things. Yeah so then the basic idea would be that that has knock-on effects like maybe you messed up so now your kingdom’s at war and you’ve got to deal with that and maybe some knights came in the night and took your daughter and things like that, but I think it would be difficult to have it be an actual party game rather than a one-on-one unless you were playing the underlings rather than like a duke or a monarch themselves
Pencil: I guess like you could have a setting with a council or like, a committee in charge or something. But yeah the way I would do it is a LARP where you break into the White House and become the president
Paper: And occasionally that guy from Sim City turns up and says you’ll regret neglecting the roads
Pencil: Yeah, I assume that’s mostly what being president entails. Yeah if you sit down on the big chair in the oval office you get to become president, so it’s basically high-stakes LARP
Paper: That’s also a very good point
Pencil: Yeah. As you can see I have a lot to contribute to this conversation
Paper: It’s…it’s like bearer bonds
Paper: Whoever has the crown…has the Crown!
Pencil: Yeah no, whoever is like, I feel like you could have, I feel like if you had a nation where rulership was just literally whoever was wearing the crown at any given time, that’s a very bad system, but it would also lead to a lot of plot hooks if like, there was a fantasy nation which has that very bad system. Because it’s fantasy, you know, it’s not the most ridiculous way of deciding who gets to be king
Paper: I mean, it does feel a bit like the Year of Four Emperors
Paper: Where basically people just kept dying while being in charge of the Roman Empire. I think it’s 69AD? There were four emperors because people were basically like “I’m in charge now!” “Stab! No I’m in charge now!”
Pencil: I like the idea of a management game where it is essentially you are trying not to be assassinated by the dozens of other people who want to be in charge
Pencil: And yeah you’ve taken rulership but it was for whatever reason like, a controversial rulership, there were multiple claimants to the throne or what have you, and now the thing is you trying to cement your power as various people try and like get you off the throne in favour of whoever…I think this is just Game of Thrones is what I’ve invented actually
Paper: But if you played like, a cabal of potential claimants
Pencil: Yeah you’re the ones who didn’t get the throne
Paper: And take power, yeah you take out the current ruler, and then you have to actually deal with running the state
Paper: And presumably everything just goes to shit
Pencil: Yeah I do like the idea of the first half of the campaign is trying to like, get in charge of the country, and then the second half is dealing with all of the problems you now have to deal with when you’re in charge of a country
Paper: Just admin
Pencil: Yeah. laughs Yeah I guess the other way is literally just “roll to fill in the proper paperwork to not neglect roads”
Paper: So that’s about everything we’ve got for today
Pencil: Can you tell both of us were quite tired?
Paper: If you have a question you can send it to us on tumblr, or email email@example.com, thanks to NickBlake for editing. If you want to support you can head to patreon.com/probablybadrpgideas where you can donate at 1, 5, 10, or 20 dollars a month and get rewards such as bonus episodes and homebrew content. The most recent bonus episode, actually also the first bonus episode being us playing Feast of Legends
Pencil: Feast of Legends the official game of Wendy TM
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Both: And remember to have a probably bad day
This podcast is supported by listeners on Patreon. Thanks to Jeremy, Jonathan, and DerpHaven for their support