Page 46 - Some Assembly Required

22nd Nov 2011, 6:00 AM
Some Assembly Required
Average Rating: 5 (1 votes)
<<First Latest>>

Author Notes:

Newbiespud 22nd Nov 2011, 6:00 AM edit delete
This is the point when my players start scheming. What will they do once they get the all-powerful artifact? If they aren't openly discussing it, they're at least thinking about it.

If the party can't agree on a course of action, though, they'll end up fighting amongst themselves. So from the DM's perspective, there's balance.


Akouma 22nd Nov 2011, 6:06 AM edit delete reply
One time my players found an ancient set of armor that was enchanted to make its bonded user come back to life when needed. Even after outright saying it doesn't work the way they were thinking, a few of the players demanded that they get the armor so that they can revive whenever they wanted. Then another group of them did the research and figured out how to call the spirit bound to the armor. They now have a legendary demon hunter along for the ride.

...In fact I really should use him more.
Chris 22nd Nov 2011, 9:42 AM edit delete reply
I HATE when DMs take ideas from players a la the last panel. It makes everyone afraid to plan ahead, for fear that they'll inadvertently make their character's lives more miserable by accidentally telling the DM how to ruin their plans. And if you're afraid to talk about the game while you're playing, even in character...well, that takes a lot of the fun out of playing, doesn't it?

A DM can reserve the right to alter their game as needed, fine, but doing so in response to player strategy sessions, and specifically using tactics that the players thought up that you didn't think of beforehand, is just wrong.
Aurabolt 22nd Nov 2011, 9:49 AM edit delete reply
Oh come on, its completely fair. The DM and players are playing together, so it makes perfect sense for-if the players come up with something-that the DM is allowed to also draw inspiration from their words.
Akouma 22nd Nov 2011, 10:20 AM edit delete reply
When a player has a REALLY good idea, it's really a shame and a waste to not use it. The DM's most powerful tool is "Sure, why not?"
Alpharius 22nd Nov 2011, 10:44 AM edit delete reply
No, it's a dick move. Players should be rewarded for thinking and planning ahead, and the DM changing the encounter in reaction to their plans is punishing them for that.
Rugsrat 22nd Nov 2011, 11:01 AM edit delete reply
It is possible to change things around without actually changing plans. My own 4e game: players are trying to track down the last surviving member of a royal bloodline that the party's patrons wanted dead (they were going to avoid this if possible). They immediately picked out that it was the little girl that helped them in the first session and that they had to then cart around for a while. A quick back-peddle later, and it became the woman that adopted the child instead. Changed? Yes. Gets to the same point? Yes. Did it make it more of a surprise and therefore a better experience? also yes.

As far as taking ideas from players, I've also been known to do that. Players ARE your best source ideas. When your players see something that they threw out in idle conversation, I've only ever seen positive reactions. "Yeah I knew it!" is the general sentiment. It's a compliment to your players to use their ideas. This is their game as much as yours.

If they have a legitimately better idea, use it. As Akouma said, your most powerful tool is "Sure, why not?" (To which I ammend that to "Yes! And..." a-la the golden rule of improv.
Crade 22nd Nov 2011, 12:49 PM edit delete reply
They *are* rewarded for thinking and planning ahead, with a much more challenging, satisfying and all around much more epic story!
Pinkie 3.14159265358979 22nd Nov 2011, 12:50 PM edit delete reply
Not particularly. If the DM has no imagination at all and bases the entire campaign off the offhand comments from players, then yeah, that's a dick move and he shouldn't be DM'ing. But if it's just the occasional "hey that'd be funny let's do that" and it's not something that completely ruins the experience then it's fine.
Kiana 22nd Nov 2011, 5:27 PM edit delete reply
I'm with you on that. Mostly because that's how I DM.

I put a lot of effort into world building, but sometimes, it's just more fun to throw something in off the top of my head. Or throw something in that a player (inadvertently or not) suggests.

Generally those are just one-off gags based off random NPCs, but I DO enjoy recurring NPCs, so... who knows? ;3
Shikome Kido Mi 23rd Nov 2011, 1:58 AM edit delete reply
You seem to be thinking of something other than this panel. This isn't the DM changing the encounters in reaction to their plans. That is a dick move,as you say since then you can never plan for anything. This is the DM being inspired by a chance comment about what the other side might do that is completely seperate from the player's plans (in fact they haven't made any yet, so he cannot be reacting to them).

For that matter, it's easier to plan when you know what the DM is doing and it's your idea.
Bronymous 1st Dec 2011, 10:41 AM edit delete reply
I feel that a good DM will have written up, for the most part, how they want the campaign to play out, and stick to that plan as much as possible. Obviously the Players are going to screw it up somewhere along the line, and that's when the DM needs to come up with a backup plan, or even better, have a contingency already thought out.

My point is, teh DM shouldn't be taking AJ's idea, because his original plan for NMM and the Elements should still be solid, and he doesn't need to change it. Yet. I don't think its a dick move, but its just not good DMing, either.

That said, it does tend to enhance the game when the DM uses Player ideas as one-offs or plot hooks from time-to-time, so long as he's not doing it just to completely ruin whatever the Party is doing.
Aurabolt 22nd Nov 2011, 9:47 AM edit delete reply
Wait a minute. Isn't Rule Zero in effect here? If the DM wishes to make Nightmate Moon use the powers against the party, that is his decision. As long as he leaves an opening for the players, motivation can be taken from the players as much as it can be taken from anything else. It expands the game and makes it more interactive.
Alpharius 22nd Nov 2011, 10:45 AM edit delete reply
Rule Zero only works as long as you have players. If you punish your players for planning ahead and making strategies, or even for making off-hand comments like AJ did there, you won't have any players to Rule Zero at.
Shikome Kido Mi 23rd Nov 2011, 2:05 AM edit delete reply
Depending on the off-hand comment (things don't have to be negative) that's just as likely to encourage players. And plenty of people enjoy seeing their ideas implemented, even taking a weird pride that they called it when it's to their disadvantage-- provided you don't take ideas too often or too harshly. Doing it all the time makes it feel like the DM isn't doing anything and gets stale. For that matter, as opposed to occasionally borrowing an idea from commentary, countering the player's plans by changing things is generally something to be avoided. People hate being railroaded and it feels like they're being made to fight the monsters (or do whatever) the DMs way.
XandZero2 22nd Nov 2011, 10:19 AM edit delete reply
Been following the comic and am enjoying it a lot.

-But in defense of GMs, they can't come up with everything on their own you know. When it's one person's ideas vs. the ideas of 4-6, I think that everything's fair game for the GM.

Besides that, if you're getting paranoid playing an RPG (which is supposed to be fun and challenging mind you) then you're probably playing with the wrong people.
Alpharius 22nd Nov 2011, 10:47 AM edit delete reply
The GM has the advantage of.... Omnipotence within the setting. The players only counter to this is their ability to think, plan, and work as a team. If a GM takes away that advantage by changing encounter so that the enemies magically know of their plans in advance, he may as well just make the encounters harder until they're impossible to beat.
Anvildude 22nd Nov 2011, 11:21 AM edit delete reply
But what about a GM legitimately making the baddies able to tell what the players are doing? There's things like spy equipment, psychics and divination magic in these settings, and why wouldn't the Big Bad be keeping tabs on the adventerurs who pose a threat?
MalikLucius 24th Nov 2011, 12:56 AM edit delete reply
I think you're missing the whole point here; it goes without saying that only a bad DM gives all the monsters and villains advance knowledge of the players' plans to screw them up.

On the other hand, it's a GOOD DM who takes portions of the players plans into account when finalizing the enemies' reactions and goals. As has been mentioned, if the players made a wild guess about the villains' obscure motives some time back out of game, they will be very amused to find that, after it seemed the enemy was going in a different direction, they turned out to be right all along.

Likewise, the DM has every right, and indeed, an obligation, to consider the party's ideas in such a way that the level of fun and challenge stays the same. If the group defends themselves against a particular energy type, you don't change the opponents' spells to avoid that type; you play up the value of their last minute decision by the look on the evil cleric's face. It would be much less fun if they suddenly breezed through the adventure because of last minute changes to their plan, though. I wouldn't even be opposed to the DM nullifying certain parts of the plan, so long as it's kept fun.

If the party made plans to do a flyover incendiary drop, it's not unreasonable for the DM to consider the ramifications, and add in some anti-air. I'd prepare ONLY against the aerial, though. The incendiaries are still sure to cause a stir.

Point is, you seem to be blaming DMs in general for some perceived lack of fun if the players can't get away with as much as the DM. So long as the group is enjoying themselves, the DM is doing a bloody good job. Party success doesn't define the DMs job.
Stratagemini 22nd Nov 2011, 11:29 AM edit delete reply
Well, unless you're Playing any number of Horror RPGs, or Paranoia. Then you're playing with the right people.

Personally so long as the players don't realize you're using their ideas then it's fine. Pulling that off is easier than it sounds, Players usually have a lot of ideas, and with a good poker face a DM can imply he was going to do that anyway and it was just common sense. So long as the DM doesn't do it too often.
Wynni 22nd Nov 2011, 11:45 AM edit delete reply
Points: Punishing players for havng good ideas = Bad DM. I've been in those games, and they tend to die out quickly. When there is no way for the party to counter the all powerful all knowing Big Bad it quickly becomes no fun, and no reason to play.

*If* you put in 'spy gear' to be fair you have to give the players some way to discover the spying, and allow a chance to spy back.
A DM's job is to make the setting and encounters challenging and fun- Not flipping impossible.
Using players ideas creatively, good. Using player ideas to dump on players, bad.
Newbiespud 22nd Nov 2011, 12:44 PM edit delete reply
That last line should probably be the take-away from all this.
Chris 22nd Nov 2011, 1:42 PM edit delete reply
Amen to that, Spud.

Sorry to start a comment war, but (as others have now expressed far more eloquently than I) a DM who alters dungeons and encounters to the detriment of the party based on player conversations is punishing creativity. Since creativity is what role-playing is all about, it makes for a very unappealing game very quickly. That's not to say that the DM can't incorporate player-originated concepts into his world, but there's a fine line between making world-building a shared experience and turning adventuring into a paranoia-fueled exercise in keeping the DM in the dark. I have played in games where players were literally reduced to passing notes to one another so that the DM couldn't rig everything to "accommodate" our plans, and that's no fun for anyone.
Sidnoea 22nd Nov 2011, 12:05 PM edit delete reply
Wow, way to start a comment war. Haha.
MirrorImage 22nd Nov 2011, 12:22 PM edit delete reply
There's really 2 ways to use the idea-steal issue.

1) The GM is Xanatos - you've heard the player's strategy, so set up either to specifically counter it or set up where the use of such a strategy will actually harm them.
--"That crystal there must be powering the big bad. We should destroy it." The crystal no longer powers the big bad, but was a power inhibitor.

2) Give the gift of Xanatos - now you've heard your player's strategies or ideas, so let them be right. Especially if the character who suggested it is the resident battle coordinator.
--"There will probably be an ambush in the next room, so everyone make sure you look up." The player steps through the door, looks up, and has just enough time to jump out of the way of the giant spider that tried to land on him.

So long as you aren't using it in a dickish way, or if you do, you only do so occasionally because it was a *really* good idea, then there shouldn't be a problem.
Sora 22nd Nov 2011, 1:59 PM edit delete reply
I love this comic, it's so good! I'm an aspiring DM (My first campaign will be begining in about two weeks) and this helps me put things into perspective. The comments help me get a good idea of how not to be an @$$ during gameplay too, which is awesome. Loving it, can't wait fir the next post~
Dragonflight 22nd Nov 2011, 1:59 PM edit delete reply
Friend of mine who's been running an occasional Adventure!-based game has often said that all he has is a sheet with some names and identities on it. He usually puts the current situation out on the table, and just watches us while we keep examining the situation and discussing possibilities. When he hears one that sounds really cool, that becomes what is really going on.
kriss1989 22nd Nov 2011, 3:27 PM edit delete reply
As a DM I've taken ideas players had and used them. They love it. I don't punish, I enhance. If someone comes up with a good idea I can use that won't be unfair to the players and would be fun for the players, it's free game. Though on more than one occasion I've been accused of doing this when it was a coincidence.
banjo2E 22nd Nov 2011, 4:21 PM edit delete reply
Agreed. I like it when DMs take something the players come up with and roll with it; that's where the best in-jokes come from. As a caveat, I think it's OK for the DM to take our ideas on what the villain might do, as long as he doesn't come up with counterplans for ALL of them.

Unless he tells us. If we KNOW that the villain's going to have a counter for whatever cool and unusual punishment we're gonna inflict on him, or if we encounter him too early, it's totally cool with me.
kriss1989 22nd Nov 2011, 8:42 PM edit delete reply
And on that note, some of our groups commercial parodies/jingles that we do during breaks!

Double your anger, double your fun!
That's the statement of the great-ax
Of Double-Rage Gum!

Pacifists. For when you absolutely have to kill everything unintentionally. Warning: May cause moral dilemma.

This program is brought to you by the letter nine. Nine, it's the strongest. *holds up image of 9 with super-sayan hair* AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

We now return to Dungeons and Dragons. If you think this is crazy, you should see the abridged version.
xuincherguixe 22nd Nov 2011, 5:29 PM edit delete reply
I'd say Nightmare Moon needs to read the evil overlords list, but it sounds like the DM needs to as well. An artifact of doom exists. Why not use it on the PCs?

... Okay, because it would be short and no fun. Therefore adjust plot! Villain would like to do something that seems sensible, but something prevents said villain from being able to do so. He's working on getting around it though so PCs better hurry up and foil the nefarious plan!
Mecryte 22nd Nov 2011, 6:20 PM edit delete reply
If you'd remember, the artifacts of doom do, in this instance, have prerequisites. Prerequisites that Nightmare Moon can't meet. Pragmatic Villainy aside, she can't meet those prerequisites before Twilight gets to use them.
xuincherguixe 23rd Nov 2011, 4:47 PM edit delete reply
I was talking in a general sense.
kriss1989 22nd Nov 2011, 8:34 PM edit delete reply
Since it requires you do display the qualities, or work together with a group large enough to display them all, useing them is not an option for NMM.
terrycloth 22nd Nov 2011, 11:56 PM edit delete reply
And it explicitly can't be used by 'only one pony', according to Celestia's letter. So NMM would have to recruit minions. Maybe the PCs? n.n
Akouma 23rd Nov 2011, 3:27 PM edit delete reply
Also the Elements of Harmony are pretty much the exact opposite of an artifact of doom. They're a "make everything that's currently going disastrously wrong all better" button. Wouldn't activating the Elements herself be just as detrimental as the players activating them, even if she could?
Kuragari 22nd Nov 2011, 5:30 PM edit delete reply
I must say bravo, bravo my good sir. I find the idea of this to be just plain hilarious and more than likely to give me hours of joy and laughs as the comic picks up speed and gets more comics in. I love how the players personalities are matching up with that of the MLP characters.

I look forward to more comics!
HellHound01 22nd Nov 2011, 7:15 PM edit delete reply

This can't be the last comic! No!

Awww well, guess I'll just have to wait for the next one like the rest of you.

Anyway shout out to Alternate for linking me to such a kick-ass comic.
DB 22nd Nov 2011, 11:58 PM edit delete reply
My approach to the Pony Tales game I’m running is to “adultify” the world—sticking to the 1860s–1880s technology and society Ms. Faust apparently had in mind, acknowledging elements of the world hinted at but beyond the scope of a half-hour children’s show, moving closer to the Brothers Grimm—but otherwise retain the sunny, nobody-locks-their-doors-at-night tenor of the show. The “pilot episodes” revolved around a mystery: the disappearance of the youngest daughter of the marquess, sometime during Nightmare Night partying. I planned out the course of events in general, but I didn’t even bother to get more specific; I knew the players would derail any such planning within an hour as they attempted to investigate.

Instead, I simply followed their lead, throwing clues in front of them that fit whatever course of action they took. Checking out the harbor? NPCs advise them to head over to the harbormaster
DB 23rd Nov 2011, 12:06 AM edit delete reply
Argh. Hit the “go” button by accident.

. . . The harbormaster’s office has a big chalkboard listing ships in port and their status; the players figured out their quarry had hired a ship that specialized in what’s euphemistically called the “small-packet trade”. I hadn’t had that in mind at all when we started! In the end, the whole storyline changed radically because the players were telling the story as much as I was.

So, yeah, co-opting ideas because they make a better story is great. Being adversarial, not so much.
Erin Palette 23rd Nov 2011, 2:10 PM edit delete reply
Spud, have you seen these? Please tell me you've seen these.
Erin Palette 23rd Nov 2011, 2:12 PM edit delete reply
And by "these"I specifically mean the PnD character sheets.
Newbiespud 23rd Nov 2011, 3:41 PM edit delete reply
I do remember seeing a couple of those somewhere, but not at the artist's source and not all of them. Thanks for pointing me towards them.

Wait- Pinkie Pie starting out with a Rod of Wonder?? 0_o I know it fits, but... man, poor DM.
Chakat Firepaw 23rd Nov 2011, 5:16 PM edit delete reply
The 'rightness' of swiping from players/reacting to their table talk is very situation dependant. While playing the game of "your first two ideas are wrong/will fail" is very much a dick-DM thing, it's perfectly OK to simulate the master tactician with an IQ of 200 by cheating[1].

In this case, we have someone who has had quite a bit of time to plan so some measure of idea swiping is allowable, (I, the DM, have had a couple weeks, she has had a thousand years and didn't have to go to work five days a week or deal with family).

[1] "Having masterfully manoeuvred you under his traps..." with the traps being wherever the PCs are at the time.
musicssound 23rd Nov 2011, 11:52 PM edit delete reply
Ok, I agree with Applejack here. If the GM hadn't thought of that, he doesn't get to use it. The GM has to work a bit harder than that. I'm perfectly fine with him having thought it up before and using it, though. It's not terribly unobvious, and breaks a few conventions, which is always nice. But if you have so little faith in your original plan that you're willing to throw it out in favor of an off-hand comment, then you shouldn't have been implementing this plan to begin with. It's fine to modify in response to adversity, that's all that all of you are doing. (Only put as much effort into keeping character knowledge separate as your players do, by the way.) But at least keep your original plan, to some extent.
Guest 24th Nov 2011, 3:40 AM edit delete reply
I've only really used that once, and it was against a Xanatos/Thrawn 'I have plans for the plans for the plans I made' type that's usually 17 steps ahead of you, even when you pull shit like 'we can't decide the best course of action, hey let's roll a d6!'

They really enjoyed taking him down.
Sir_Leadhead 2nd Dec 2011, 5:02 PM edit delete reply
I ran a game where two of the sessions took place in Sunnytown, Everfree Forest. You know, that town in Story of the Blanks? Well, all my players were talking about how they were going to stratigize when night fell and suchlike so that they could win against the zombies/escape, all the while gathering supplies from the 'kind townsfolk'. They obviously got the reference as soon as I had said the towns name, and told me I was being predictable.

Truth is, I WAS being predictable, I was going to go with the whole zombie-fight thing. As Pinkie Pie would say, BOOOOORRR-ING! So, taking inspiration from my players from an offhanded comment that all this preperation would come to naught because it wouldn't play out the way they were thinking, I managed to introduce a third party bad guy, and the population of sunnytown hired the party to help them defeat it.

Basically, I made the zombies in Story of the Blanks good guys. What a tweest!
Helgraf 20th Jun 2012, 5:39 PM edit delete reply
Your players are -always- your best resource. What they focus on is what they want to pursue. It only makes sense that you develop the things that catch their attention. It keeps them vested and minimizes the possibility of zoning out.
Vulpis 21st Jul 2012, 9:32 PM edit delete reply
Ah, I see I'm not the only one late to post here, good.

Personally..AppleJack can stuff it. A good GM can be inspired by an idea and use it to improve the scenario without using it specifically to hose the party. For example, how I'd handle it:
NMM, being an intelligent ancient villain does indeed secure the Elements (as she knows they're what were used to beat her last time), and *does* try to use them on the PCs the first time they try to confront her--but they fail to function. She throws them to the floor in disgust, and proceeds to start an Unwinnable Boss Battle, which ends with the party running away (convenienently grabbing the Elements in the process). This begins the Quest to recharge and bond to the Elements so that they can be used in the Final Boss Battle. I mean really..this bunch obviously needs to learn more JRPG tropes. ;-)