Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Breaking Point

You can only put so much pressure on something
before it finally breaks...
Last Monday, an incident occurred with one of the players in my Savage Worlds campaign. One player, who I'll be calling "Harry" for the purposes of this post, has been a thorn in my side since the campaign began. He made every session a frustrating experience & I dreaded seeing his face each time I sat down at the table. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was the fact that he came as a packaged deal with another player who's presence I actually enjoy.

That marginal toleration came to a breaking point last Monday, and I unfortunately broke. Harry, being his annoying self, slapped an NPC who almost sacrificed herself to save his character, actually slapping the wound she gained performing this action (magic can be a dick like that). I swear I stared at Harry flabbergasted for a solid five minutes, trying to figure out why he'd do such a thing.

Turns out, his reasoning was rather stupid. His justification for the action was the NPC, a 35 year old witch & mother to one of the player's characters, was the party's only ride back into town. This character used a magical shortcut to save his character (a 10 year old middle school student), and he felt the best way to respond to that was to slap the wound she received as hard as possible. Shortly thereafter, he went into a misogynistic diatribe before calling me dumb for not understanding his actions.

That's when the metaphorical chain shattered, and a few different paths to handling the situation presented themselves. The first path was the emotional path, the to that would have felt good, but would have caused more problems than it solved. This path would most likely involve some choice words & a punch. The second path was the less cathartic path, but much more level-headed in nature. This path would involve me remaining calm and informing Harry that he is no longer welcome at my table.

Thankfully, I went down the latter path.

Now, I'll admit this caused me to lose an additional player, but yesterday's session felt so much better. I was no longer having to deal with Harry's shenanigans, letting me focus on the other players so I could make sure they were having a fun time. I'll miss playing with Harry's friend, but I'm okay with making that sacrifice for the health of the group & the campaign.

I'm sure I'm not the only GM who's had an experience like this. We've all had a really problematic player, one that slowly kills all the enjoyment you derive from the game like some humanoid tumor. While some will cut that tumor out as soon as possible, others (like myself) tend to let it fester for far too long, bottling up that frustration until the cork finally pops off. The quick flood of negative emotions is usually what causes someone to punch the offending player or flip a poor, undeserving table.

The key to not doing that is learning how to quickly barricade those explosive emotions, and letting them out in a more focused stream that's more productive. This usually manifests as either you leaving the table to calm down, probably ending the session prematurely if needed, or removing the problem player if things cannot be reconciled. I'm not going to lie, there will be repercussions for these actions (like losing another player who chooses to stand beside your own, personal Harry), but they are easier to manage than the ones resulting from a player punch or a table flip.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Have you ever had a player that was so problematic that you were eventually pushed past your breaking point? How did you handle it, and do you have any tips for those who might have to deal with it in the future? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

5e Musings - Simplified Encumbrance

Making encumbrance work seems to be a strange goal of mine. Throughout the past few years, I've been tinkering with several alternatives for different systems. Since I'm not getting more into 5e, I figured I should try my hand at doing one for it as well.

Here's the result of my brainstorming. Characters have a specific limit to the number of significant items they can carry without being negatively effected. This amount is known as the character's Carrying Capacity.

Carrying Capacity is equal to 1/2 the character's Strength score (rounded down). A character can carry an amount of significant items equal to or below this amount without any problems.

A character carrying a number of significant items passed this amount, up to double her Carrying Capacity, is Encumbered. While Encumbered, she drops her speed by 10 feet. Carrying a number of significant items equal to or greater than triple her Carrying Capacity will make her Heavily Encumbered. Like before, her speed is reduced by 20 feet, but she also suffers disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.

Now, I'm sure you noticed throughout the above text that I used the term "significant items" several times. Instead of every item counting towards a character's Carrying Capacity, only a specific few do. The following items are considered significant enough, but Dungeon Masters may add or subtract to this list as they see fit:
  • Armor, Weapons, & Shields
  • Magic Items
  • Bundled Items (Ammunition, Coinage, Rations, etc.) 
  • Containers (Backpacks, Quivers, etc.) 
Let's take a look at what this might look like at the table. Lauren's character Althea has a Strength of 15, meaning she has a Carrying Capacity of 7 (1/2 of 15, rounded down). She can carry 7 items without a problem, becomes encumbered when carrying 8 to 14 items, and heavily encumbered at 15+ items. 

Like the Simplified Ammo rules I posted a few weeks ago, the main goal of these rules was to abstract the mechanics in order to make their application at the table much easier. I believe only focusing on specific items and basing the amount you can carry on 1/2 a character's Strength score achieves this pretty nicely.

With that being said, I acknowledge utilizing 1/2 Strength does seriously hamper those characters that happen to have lower Strength scores. Those wishing to relieve this can make the number of significant items that can be carried easily equal to the character's Strength score instead.This will inflate the later numbers a little, but that might just be a necessary evil. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Doom that Came to Pandemic

Debuting at Gen Con 2016, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu will be a Mythos-themed version of Matt Leacock's popular cooperative game. The designers heading this project are Leacock himself and Rise of Cthulhu's Chuck D. Yager.

Very few, concrete details have been released about Reign of Cthulhu. However, we do know what the basic premise will be. Instead of playing CDC agents attempting to cure several diseases spreading across the entire globe, you will take the role of investigators trying to seal numerous portals throughout Lovecraft Country while battling insane cultists.

Imagine that Arkham Horror had a weird, yet surprisingly kinky one night stand with Pandemic, and this game was the aberrant spawn of that freaky moment in time.

This just proves to me that Z-Man Games knows the secret to separating me from my money. Take one of my favorite board games and add a heavy dose of Lovecraftian goodness.

What do you guys and gals think? Are you excited for Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu? Are you apprehensive, and if so, why? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.