Saturday, September 5, 2009

PC's who give a sh*$

It's very interesting in running a campaign (the Bard one) with players whose characters pointedly do not give a shit...about much of look at modules for ideas and find that almost all of the recent ones (last 10 yrs) are premised on the fact that characters, if approached with a problem that's not their own, actually give a shit about the poor bastard with the problem.

This could be just a failure of memory but wouldn't you say that back in the AD&D days, characters didn't so much give a shit about helping others, as they did in helping themselves, first and foremost?  And the modules were designed with that premise in mind?  It seemed to be mostly about slaughter and looting, and if someone else was helped along the way, good for them.  Or, if you want my help, you're gonna pay dearly for it bitches.  Granted, a lot of modules have "other character hooks" sections, but the main one, and the one modules seem to be written around, is one of the helpful do-gooder PC.

Even if you want to explore other plot hooks, often because of the story format of modules, and the tie-ins from one section to another, you have to do large revisions of sections to make it fit.  Certain encounters are based on the characters following the story arc of the helpful PC---otherwise that encounter wouldn't make sense.

If this is indeed a true observation and not just a revision of history, when did the shift in assumed motivation occur?  By shift I meant in the modules themselves, not in the players. A shift in the design premise of the module that the PC's players use will be do-gooders. Seems that the older modules didn't have this built-in assumption.

What came first, the do-gooder assumption in module design creating more and more players playng that way, thinking it was the way to do it, or the players out there actually doing it so modules were designed for them?  Was it a result of the whole 2e abortion of assassins, devils and demons?


  1. In the late 1980s, players in my campaign would mock me when poor, beleaguered farmers approached them with impassioned cries for help.

    My players called these adventures, "Save The Farm Modules" and they loathed them. They just wanted to get rich, find magic and kill.

  2. My players will always save the town, farmers, damsel in distress, etc...

    But they also always ask, "What's in it for me?" at least once before it's all said and done.

  3. I always try to alter the adventures to suit what the players want to do. The group I DMed usually wanted to build something or become someone powerful. In the world I constructed if someone hacked down farmers then the local yoeman would come, and if they were hacked down then they might get a visit by the local lord with fighting men in tow. Their actions would have rewards and consequences.

    What I wouldn't tolerate was if the players whole purpose was to disrupt the game itself. As a GM you have to draw the line. Why bother spending all that time if you and your players are not having fun.

  4. I think the shift began when game designers decided that there should be more than just kill the monster and take its stuff. A lot players started to feel this way but some kept on with the idea that its the only way to go.
    Much of it depends on a group by group and campaign by campaign basis. A GM should be clear up front that campaign will have some adventures that will be just for the greater good/story points or that its just going to be a hack, slash and loot fest.
    My biggest problems come from when the character is supposed to be heroic but the player is acting like he's a cold blooded mercenary. Or even worse, when an NPC with whom the PC is supposed to have some sort of deep emotional connection comes along and asks for help. The PC just asks, "What's in it for me?"

  5. Joe, I think the change generally occurs at the point where the underlying assumptions about the game experience shifted from being derived from Sword&Sorcery, (Howard,Lieber,Vance,etc),and moved to High Fantasy.


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