Crit Fail Ate my Character: Let’s Talk Tabletop!


If the the swords isn’t hards, how is it supposed to penetrate four inches of armor? How am I supposed to slice a fire hydrant apart to spray my enemies with water? How am I supposed to use it as an ironing board?

Please think before you besmirch the rigid names of swords. Please be flexible about the love of the blade.


Why are you describing Shadowrun?


haloo good pals.

I GM an ongoing FFG Star Wars campaign and play in a Dungeon World campaign (though the latter is on hiatus for now as our GM, a player in the star wars campaign, has recently got real busy with grad school), so what I’m saying is that tabletop is good.

Trad Games is pretty much the only forum on something awful that I read anymore, hopefully we get some good tabletop community chat sustained here so that this too can be left behind.


re: earlier Roll20 questions.

My group uses Roll20 for everything and it’s pretty solid.

The thing to watch out for is that there some idiosyncrasies of remote gaming that you don’t really anticipate going in.

For instance, I’ve noticed that player interactions in video chat tend to be a bit more stilted than they might be around a table, probably because they’re missing a lot of the nonverbal cues that normally help regulate and pace any kind of group conversation.


Another thing to note with this is that in my experience there’s no such thing as long-distance voice chat that is completely free of delay. Usually it’s not too noticeable, but if someone in your group is in a completely different time zone.expect to accidentally talk over each other from time to time. Also a good thing to note is if you have other options, never skype/discord into a game where everyone else is sitting at a table. It’s not terrible, but you definitely notice the delay in that case.

That said, playing tabletop games entirely over voice/roll20 (Even without webcams/video chat) is completely doable and perfectly fine way to roleplay. In my experience at least, if you’re not already used to the group’s nonverbal cues in a face-to-face setting, you don’t really lose that much without them (Or, perhaps I’m just bad at picking up on them either way). You do want to set some ground rules though. “Don’t have anything open in other windows” is a good one, but largely they depend on your group. “Don’t fiddle with tokens on the main screen” was a big one for certain people in my group, for instance. People can become seemingly less engaged and more fidgety without a physical table to reinforce the group social setting, but from what I’ve seen they do eventually get used to it and treat it like any other game night.


Oh that sounds like fun I wish I could get in on something like that. I’ve wanted to do some Star Wars games for a while but I’m the only one I know with a really vested interest in it, I don’t really play tabletops currently since I don’t really know anyone running anything.


Just introducing myself to this massive thing, don’t know if the thread is even still active…

Either way, I got introduced to table top with Earth Dawn and Shadowrun, then on to D&D 2e through 4e, then to pathfinder and gurps 4e for my main campaigns… some other games took place in the cortex system, WOD, Cthulhu tech, Numenera, Burning Wheel, and some others that my groups have tried throughout the years.

Currently though I’m working on my own system and world, and that’s the game that I’m running now, used to use gurps but we got tired of the complexity of the system… so I figured since I had the world I might as well write a system for it. Someday I’d even like to get it published… so it can drown in the sea rpgs out there…


Oh! If anyone needs the name for a Elvish religious leader, might I suggest Elrond Hubbard?

I am very proud of realizing that pun :3:


In Pathfinder my Inquisitor with the Toil domain forced 12 ogres to drink empty potion bottles for an entire encounter.

How? Aura of Repetition.
The encounter started with each ogre drinking a potion of enlarge person. Very scary. My Inquisitor moved within range of them and used the Aura, capturing them all within it. They failed their will saves every round and had to repeat their action (drinking a potion) while we killed them. I didn’t expect it to turn out so well because the will save isn’t that obscene but the dice were in our favor there. Well, not really, I rolled four natural ones in that encounter so my character accidentally killed the Ranger’s animal companion. It’s okay though, because my character took out life insurance on each of the party members (including the dog) before we started adventuring. Lawful-Evil is the best.


Reminds me of the time a Bard completely nerfed one of the big bads at the end of a Pathfinder campaign I was running; party had a poisoned apple that did massive Strength damage that was designed to help them assassinate a previous villain, but they never used it. When the battle started the Bard walked up to the Baddy and cast Beguiling Gift. For those who don’t want to click the link, the spell makes it so the castee has to accept the “gift”, in this case the poisoned apple, and use it, which in this case means eat it. The boss failed the Will save to resist the spell, and botched the Fort save to resist the poisen. THEN, because he was wearing full plate, wielding a bastard sword and a tower shield, it weighed too much and he collapsed under the weight of it all, where the party proceeded to just stab the crap out of him until he died.

Good times.


I was playing a campaign of 3.5 with a malicious player killing DM. The big bad was some kind of lich who was just endlessly scrying us and fucking with everything we tried to do. So I had the sorcerer inscribe a sepia snake sigil onto my shield. (For those that don’t want to read :ironicat: the spell imprisons people who read its message for 1d4 + character level days.) When I announced we’d written a message on the shield and the DM asked us what it said I told him and then asked him to make a will save. The lich failed the will save and got sigiled for 8 days. The DM looked devastated. He still tried to fuck with us but the lich could no longer order his dudes or do his bullshit to fowl up our every endeavor so it was much more pleasant. We tracked the lich down in those eight days, destroyed his phylactory, and killed him. I also stopped playing with that DM.

I’m not the perfect player, I like a story and a challenge, but I don’t like malice. I hate petty hard because fuck you stuff (though I love it when it’s fun and funny. Dark Souls shit can be made fun and funny. Like, for example, the encounter with five shocker lizards and three shambling mounds that one of my favorite DMs threw at us. The lizards just buffed and healed the mounds while they swallowed us whole and it was delightful.) I admit I do make strong characters who might be a bit too powerful, but I do also roleplay and get involved in the story. I have a character in mind that I stay true to who grows and develops along with the campaign. I could definitely stand to be less of a munchkin, and I’m trying to find that happy medium between effective but not overpowering right now. But yeah, I don’t think I’m too terrible. I’ve played with some people who made game breaking psionicists and obscene super wizards and who didn’t really care about the story and the world, that’s not me.

Next time I post I’ll tell you the story of how a true neutral halfling bard named Esther Willowroot became the avatar of Vecna.


It was surprisingly fair of that antagonist DM to follow through with the effects of the Sigil. I guess that style of game can be fun if you go in knowing that everybody agrees that the DM is definitely not on your side, but it sucks when it’s just the DM being a dick.

I think a lot of that sentiment is what pulled me further toward storygames. It’s less of a “which team wins the (series of) fights” and more “what’s the coolest possible thing that can happen right now”.


In that regard that DM was “fair.” He often said he was just as bound by the rules as we were and he had to stay true to that when we sigiled his big bad. This DM might have been the source of some of my more munchkin tendencies, tbh. It was very hostile and became very much about survival. I had to study the PHB and learn the rules inside out and I think it made me a bit of an asshole. Like you, I also enjoy more story based games that are just have fun and do crazy bullshit. Regardless, none of us went in knowing this guy was a dick. He started the campaign at the student organization for gamers (called the gamer’s guild) of my local community college and we went. He turned out to be just an insufferable rules lawyer and obstructive and we had to be the same. It made us worse players, I think. Cultivated bad behaviors and mentalities that I’m still trying to shake off. But he had to respect the sigil because the rules. He established the lich was always watching us, when he read it the lich read it, then he failed the save. If he had doubled down on being an asshole I think we all would have quit. We were all thinking about it before I discovered the spell anyway. He choose to continue to lord over us instead of risk a walk out. In the end, we all kind of had a bit of fun, even the angry DM. And I think that DM found that if you don’t railroad and death roll your players and ignore the rules for the sake of fun sometimes it’s better for everyone. Still, I didn’t wanna risk playing with him again.

So, I promised I would tell you all the story of how my character became the avatar of Vecna. The TL;DR is that the players I was playing with were jerks so I decided to betray them and side with the bad guy and succeeded. If you want the long version here it is:
Before the garbage DM I mentioned before, I was in another campaign with the gamers guild where I had the misfortune of playing with 5 players who were only concerned with combat and loot but a DM who really had a story in mind. I liked the story and homebrew world the DM had going. I enjoyed interacting with the world and the NPCs, chasing the story and the side stories, and doing things to influence the world. But, most importantly, I really liked his villain. My character, a true neutral halfling bard (in case anyone forgot), was curious about the world and wanted to have an experience and do things to influence the world. But every time she tried to engage with the story beyond just the token amount to keep the gravy train going the players, and their characters, groaned and complained. It sucked, because the DM really lit up when I started interacting. Anyway, she got a bit fed up. At one point, she ran into a way to speak to the big bad and they had a lovely conversation. The DM swore this big bad, a powerful necromancer and devoted worshipper of Vecna who had the Eye of Vecna and was searching for the Hand, was chaotic evil. But I honestly believe this villain was only chaotic evil because of D&D’s deity alignment restrictions. I think this necromancer was chaotic good but like zealously too far and off the deep end. His goal was to get Vecna’s Eye and Hand then become Vecna’s avatar so he could unite the world in true harmony and equality. To end starvation, disease, and suffering, to do away with superficial differences like race and class, and to join all races and nations into one people. One, unified, empire of free-willed undead. No more toiling on the farms to feed the populace, food is meaningless. Everyone would be able to study, to learn, to invent, and to develop technology. They would use summoned elementals to mine and gather the resources necessary to develop and build, treating them well. Under his rule, all people would be led into a glorious golden age of learning, prosperity, and advancement. See? Totally chaotic good.

Since Esther’s party was largely a bunch of greedy chaotic neutrals with no interest in the world the necromancer’s caring appealed to her. So Esther decided to betray them. She began chronicling stories of their adventures and their heroism and doing her bard thing. Singing their tales and spreading their legend to the cities they passed through on their adventures. The players loved it. And when Esther asked her team mates about their lives and back stories, you know to expand the legend, they eagerly gushed about themselves and she added that to the chronicle. In a way, I guess I got them to roleplay a little but it didn’t stick. Just before the final confrontation, I passed the DM a note telling him my plans which I am now going to tell you all. We were level 18 and we had just found the Hand of Vecna. However, the necromancer was already there with the Eye. After a very difficult battle where two of the PCs went into negative HP we won. Esther was ecstatic, calling for a high five. As soon as she touched them all she cast imprisonment on them via a magic item she had had created. All of Esther’s now betrayed allies failed their saves because her DC was huge and they were making it at a -4 penalty since she knew their names and knew about their lives. With the PCs safely trapped beneath the earth, Esther claimed the Eye and Hand of Vecna for herself, became the avatar of Vecna, raised the necromancer, and began enacting his plan with him.

The players, of course, freaked out because they didn’t see this coming. There was quite an uproar. I apologized greatly but Esther had no regrets. I explained to them that the conversation Esther had with the necromancer had won her over to his side. They didn’t even remember that Esther had had a conversation with the necromancer let alone what he wanted. I assured them that as soon as Esther established an undead empire with the necromancer she would free the PCs from their imprisonment and let them be part of undead paradise. They assured me they would coup Esther so hard and I shrugged. I fell out of contact with that DM after I moved states but last I spoke to him Esther and the necromancer were now major villains in his homebrew world and the undead empire existed. He ran many campaigns where the whole goal was to defeat Esther and the necromancer or where they played a role as incidental antagonists. So yeah, that’s how my character became the avatar of Vecna.

Let's Play To the Moon: It's like watching a trainwreck

The way I’ve characterized myself to unfamiliar players in the past is that I’m an optimizer who uses their powers for good instead of evil. I enjoy helping other players find ways to set up their characters more effectively without compromising their flavor, and I build to fill roles and support the rest of the party with unconventional options (though I’m rusty as hell, these days). I keep a Shadowcaster/Dungeoncrasher Fighter faux-Jedi post bookmarked because it’s just sweet as hell; I actually got to field it once, but the campaign sputtered out. I still haven’t found a chance to run my Definitely A Paladin character, a tiefling follower of an obscure god designed to look exactly like a bog standard paladin to the rest of the players until at a dramatically appropriate moment, I can reveal that I’m actually a Ranger, splashing Marshal and a few other things I forget offhand, and the god is made up.


As a player, I’m pretty much a character actor. Every one of my characters has One Weird Thing that I wrap the rest of the concept around.

I think my favorite PC ever, who was wasted on a campaign where the GM didn’t tell us ahead of time would be a Megadungeon set in an interplanar reality show, was HERDIGAST CAKEFORGE, a Dwarven Barbarian and Pastry Chef. Lost in the wilds of the North after his family’s caravan was waylaid by bandits, young Herdigast, who hadn’t even learned to read, was left with nothing to remember his family or culture by except for a lavishly illustrated patisserie manual. His whole thing was that he’s a crude, astonishingly unhygenic, basically disgusting little Berserker with a penchant for turning slain beasts and monsters into beautiful, ornate miniature pies, and skill in crafting a wide variety of tiny cakes from ingredients found in nature. He wore a chef’s hat with viking horns attached to it.

As a GM, I try to follow what they call “the rule of cool”. If a cool thing can happen, then it probably should. Players can attempt to do things that are a real long shot, as long as the payoff would be cool. Are you going to abuse illusion magic to pull off an elaborate bank heist? That’s pretty cool, let’s see how that pans out. A weird man from the government is here to see what’s up with all these psychic teens who hunt monsters, and you want to convince him to deputize you guys and supply you with military-grade hardware? Hell yeah, gimme that skill roll.


I’m still trying to improve my DM/GMing skills. I do alright with stories and campaigns and manage to craft properly challenging (but not overwhelming) encounters but I have a hard time thinking up puzzles or non-combat and non-political (NPC and villain based) challenges. I’m not sure how to learn that skill so I can diversify my campaigns.

Players love my displacer beasts in a mirror maze or room full of shriekers, or cloaker doors challenges. And they thought it was hilarious when they tried to build a base in the town and a minor antagonist that they themselves created by being rude to her used her political power to change the zoning on the land they had purchased so they couldn’t build a base there. (They built a church to Pelor instead and just used the church as a base.) But I’m not so good at thinking up logic puzzles or interesting traps. For traps, I stick to the old standbys of trip wire explosions, trap doors that fall out from under you, or pressure plates that send bursts of flame down the corridor. And as far as logic puzzles that the players have to think through to solve? I actually haven’t been able to think of any. Does anyone have any resources on how I can improve these skills and just become a better DM/GM?


This is gonna sound dumb as hell, but for political challenges, just flagrantly copy a book or movie that you liked, and try to roll with the butterfly-effect ripples that the players introduce. Or like, if it’s a criminal trial, base it on a real case. Your players will get really curious about where you’re going with something when it becomes clear in the first 10 minutes that it’s the OJ Simpson trial but OJ is a sorcerer.

It does require a lot of winging it, though. Even in systems that are designed to accommodate that kind of thing. That sort of situation is a lot of speeches and conversation, and you have to get a feel for where the pivotal moments are. Pretty much, as soon as a request or demand is introduced, that’s when you want to break and do a skill roll. In a d20 system, this can cause the situation to swing wildly in either direction. In a system with a better fail-forward system in place, you have a bit more of a gradient for possible outcomes.

It might help, before engaging with the situation, to come up with specific bullet points of what the PCs are trying to accomplish there. So, if they want to get their land zoned back to how it was, it might look like,

  1. Find evidence that zoning was changed for politician’s personal gain
  2. Acquire said evidence legitimately, via a witness or confession
  3. Sue the city to reverse the zoning order

And you can frame those as individual challenges with their own pass/fail/pass with issues contributions to the final result.


Here’s a little nastygram from my early days of playing D&D…our DM was a Vietnam vet, as well, and liberally sprinkled in nasty crap he saw (or claimed to see, anyway…) in the shit.


So, I GM’d for the first time (using Dungeon World) and it was interesting to seesaw tonally different I was from my groups regular GM.

Him: So, you have to track down a terrorist to get a favor from the Empire, which gets you out of the city that has recently taken a turn for the totalitarian.

Me: Goblins stole the mask of the Mysterious Baker X


“MBX may not be good for the waistline, but those goblins could get inside ANY patisserie with that mask. If you think things are bad now, wait 'til they’ve replaced all of our flour and fondant with rat-bonemeal and snarzzle-phlegm.”