My experience with pen and paper (PnP) RPGs definitely exists. It is a literal thing that I have done with my time. This startling amount of experience has led to the inevitable outcome of me becoming a Dungeon Master.
After tinkering around with exactly two games, we have committed ourselves into the foreseeable future to Pathfinder. We’ve recently started up a Pathfinder Campaign with a stack of new players. Already there have been some Player Characters who have rotated themselves into other life pursuits.
Our group in general isn’t very experienced with tabletop RPGs and are used to MMOs telling them what they can and cannot achieve with their character. Although some took to the idea of telling stories about their characters as themselves quite easily, it wasn’t completely natural for everyone involved.
For the first few evenings together we were all getting used to the gameplay. Truth be told, I still avoid using special attacks from the monsters. Partially out of concern for killing anyone and partially because I’m pretty sure I’ll wind up stuffing up some sort of play mechanic.
We have a really great group. We are currently at the stage where everyone is engaged in making sure they’re not accidentally cheating (only one person is in a position to deliberately cheat and they rolled “lawful good”…sucker.) Also it’s been a great opportunity to see how people react to different challenges.
“I intimidate the door”
“Why didn’t you try the handle?”
“Do you trust it? It’s clearly trapped. And the rogue is on a date tonight.”
“Fair point there, also, why is “god” laughing uncontrollably?”
So we are now just barely a step past learning how to check the rule book. And anything not expressly explained in there…well there’s a dungeon master for a reason.
This is the stage in the story where we are all starting to remember the PCs names (60% of the time we remember them 100% of the time). Where we’re a bit slow on the uptake is referencing the correct PC gender. Our bard is forever reminding having to remind us that she is a beautiful woman in a level baritone.
With the current level of expertise, I felt it was time for my players to get to know their characters better. There are a number of ways this can be done, but for expediency I decided to get everyone drunk.
Now, to be fair, I was planning on getting everyone hopelessly drunk during that particular evening regardless. It was New Year’s Eve and seemed like an ideal time to throw dice drunkenly at tables.
My PCs had hurriedly finished off their last quest which was a bunch of smashing and killing and not a lot of talking or developing. We had ended it in “The Town of Eternally Variable Construction” without camping for the evening (I think mostly because it was pushing the wee hours of the morning by the time we got there).
So to start off the next stage of development, I took a fair amount of preparation time figuring out how to ensure everyone in the group was manipulated into a stranger’s house for the evening’s first activity. Looking back, I had spent too much time on this portion of planning as the PCs rolled with it when they were offered lodging.
Once everyone was cozied up inside the dwelling, they stopped being their usually paranoid character selves and kept playing along.
The original plan was to integrate a drinking game with the usual smashing and killing that occurs. That wouldn’t solve the character development issue though so I started searching the internet (a valuable tool for human people).
Following an arduous journey requiring many clicks and the reading of words, I stumbled across what I thought to be the greatest discovery that man has ever known.
Getting to know you drinking games! In the game, everyone plays the “one-upper”. You know, that guy, who can’t let a story go without telling you about their life and how it’s better. So the game is to one-up with stories from their characters’ lives. The one-uppiest person is the only one who doesn’t have to drink. The DM tells stories for the NPCs. It’s pretty straightforward and I planned for about a half an hour to run through some stories, get a bit tipsy, and move back to the story.
Initially, the storytelling started to drag, but everyone seemed into it and enjoyed coming up with life events for their characters. “Hurrah!” I thought cleverly to myself, “I am the ultimate manipulator of playing in character of all time.”
What I failed to notice was that because it was taking so long, people were moving on to their 3rd and 4th drinks quite quickly to kill time between “rounds.” So an hour and a half later when the game finished, everyone was well on their way to drunk.
Being the stubborn so-and-so who I am, I pushed on with the adventure like it was going out of style. The PCs managed to slur their way through a puzzle trap, not die inside of a gelatinous cube, and map out the first part of the dungeon with god only making corrections once! Game play was drawing out as well with numerous bathroom trips and a fair few, “Wait, what’s happening”s. So progress through the dungeon was slow and people started getting cranky.
By the time we were done, the sorcerer was passed out on the sofa, the paladin was having an existential crisis, and everyone was trying to provoke the warrior.
Nobody is “not friends” anymore, but many did need a “friendship recovery break.”
As a highly experienced and totally competent DM, what this experience has taught me is that I clearly need more control over these PCs and the only sure-fire way to do that is persistent psychological manipulation.
Now would be a good time to wish them luck.