Ask Angry: Books, Interquels, and Paragons

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Do you have a question for The Angry GM! Well, because people can’t get it right, I had to set up a separate page with instructions. About how to send a f$&%ing e-mail. Ready How to Ask Angry to learn how to submit a question.

Malin Asks:

Before I answer this question, I want to set the record straight. Recently, a book got released called “How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.” I did not write it. But I have spoken to the author, Venger Satanis, briefly on social media. The title of his book is not a reference to any of my work and does not appear to have been a purposeful attempt to imitate my style. It was all just a weird coincidence. I can’t recommend the book as I haven’t read it. But feel free to check it out.

I recently bought the book ‘How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss’. It was alright, but not amazing. Much of your stuff has been more useful, less obvious and less generic. I don’t need to be told to pitch up on time or to talk with players about issues.

Why don’t you release a book? There is money to be had. Also I like paper, not sorting through blog posts when I want to review that thing about the combat that I thought was interesting. Write a book.

Okay. I’m on it. Give me a few months.

Seriously, this is part of the plan. For those who don’t know, I’ll explain briefly and then get onto more interesting questions. I’ve known for about twelve months that publication is the next logical step for me. But my previous job didn’t allow me to participate in crowdfunding of any kind because I worked in finance and accounting. The whole issue is complicated, but it comes down to conflict of interest rules, the lack of regulation on crowdfunding, and the fact that no one knows what the actual limits on crowdfunding are. It’s a new revenue and investment stream and investment, securities, tax, and consumer protection laws are always slow to figure this s$&% out. In order to even think about publishing, I had to give up my job in the field. And that was a BIG decision.

Ultimately, six months ago, I made exactly that decision. Which was helped along a great deal by the outpouring of support I received on Patreon. But without that stable job and well-paying, I couldn’t afford to live where I was. So, I ultimately moved halfway across the country from New York to Chicago where I fully intended to establish my publishing empire. The move was rocky, it turned out to be way more expensive than anticipated, and I was unable to find part time work for a while because Patreon is just not enough to cover all of my expenses and I never expected it to be. I was also robbed, had some medical problems, and dealt with a few other chaotic events associated with suddenly picking up your entire life and transplanting it in a strange city 900 miles away.

Things have really only just stabilized. But, honestly, I should not have expected to hit the ground running after such a move. Either way, the plan is publication once I make good on some of the promises I already made. And the first publication is, indeed, the How to Run a Game book that people have been demanding from me for two years now. I’ve already begun outlining and drafting, but it will probably be the first quarter of 2016 before a manuscript is ready for prime time. Other projects will follow. And I am actually working with a solid business plan. It’s just that starting the whole thing got delayed.

Meanwhile, to everyone who has kept me going since July when I started tearing my life down so I could build it up, thank you. I literally would not be pursuing this dream without your support.

Harry Peachybutt Asks:

Do your players have their characters take actions while away from table and between sessions?

Thanks, Mr. Peachybutt. You forgot to tell me how to credit you, so I fed what information I had into a Porn Star Name Generator. If you ever get into the adult film industry, you can use that as your nom de pénis.

The short answer is: no. if it happens in the game, it is covered at the table. The only exception is shopping. If you need to buy normal, mundane equipment and you end the session in a place where said equipment can be purchased, you may buy that equipment between sessions. Otherwise, game stuff happens at the table.

But, what you have to understand is that just because something happens at the table doesn’t mean it has to be played out, moment by moment. If you want to research an ancient civilization, for example, you ask your question and I’ll tell you the result. Like “you spend two days in the library looking up the Tralfamadorian culture. Here’s what you discover in that time. Good? Now let’s play.” Even for things like ongoing tasks, I resolve that stuff quickly at the table and move on.

Once upon a time, I used to allow all sorts of things to be handled via e-mail or private message away from the table. First of all, it was unnecessary given most of the crap requires a sentence or two of summary. Second of all, I’ve got better things to do with my time away from the table then run a f$&%ing play by post game that only includes the boring parts of the game. Third of all, everything important that happened between sessions still wasted table time because the player would have to come to the session and share with everyone what he learned about Tralfamadorians. And that either ended up being inaccurate or just read off the e-mails. In the end, there was just no reason for that s$&%.

RLRichey Asks:

… your Paragon monsters have done a lot of good in my games so far. I’m currently working on a Paragon Werewolf … and I ran into Pack Tactics, which is a little confusing. If a paragon is two creatures AND one creature, then isn’t it both itself and its ally? I looked at Targ, Psychotic Pet Wolf in your original Paragon article and I noticed that you didn’t treat it that way. Why?

What about things like zone attacks? Do you think that if a Paragon monster gets hit by a fireball, it deserves to take damage as two monsters?

Glad the whole paragon thing is helping you. But you’re confusing the way of reasoning with the implementation. Let me explain.

When I originally came up with the Paragon Monsters, I used the metaphor of the two-headed, two-tailed, bifurcated snake to illustrate what actually happens mechanically and mathematically when you add a second creature to a fight. A Paragon Monster isn’t literally two monsters. It just has to be able to carry the fight as effectively as two separate creatures would. That means it needs twice as many actions and twice as many hit points. But I never intended for it to actually BE two separate creatures. It is still one monster.

The problem with allowing the creature to be its own ally for the purpose of helping itself OR allowing it to take extra damage because it is two monsters sharing a space is that those synergies that arise from multiple positions allow options. They allow choices.

For example, if the PCs start throwing fireballs at two goblins or ogres or whatever, the goblins or ogres can choose to spread out. They can choose not to bunch up. They can respond to that tactic in a way that only two separate creatures can do. Now, by doing so, the two ogres (or whatever) also find their tactics limited. They can’t focus their attention on a single target because they have to keep a distance between them. They can’t assist one another with the Help action. Stuff like that. The tactical choice to avoid area spells gives the PCs some control over the ogre’s actions. That’s part of what being a wizard offers.

But two ogres combined into one ogre literally can’t make that choice. They are stuck in one body. They can’t possibly choose a tactic that mitigates area spells or zones or whatever. In essence, the nature of the creature makes them inherently vulnerable to area attacks and zone attacks. If you force them to take two or three times the damage.

The same argument can be made for why they can’t assist each other once they are crammed into one body. If you allow the creature to trigger its own Pack Tactics, for example, it simply always has advantage on all attack rolls. And the PCs can’t respond with divide and conquer strategies. They can’t restrain or trap the creatures to prevent them from using Pack Tactics. They can’t bunch up and guard each others’ backs so no one member can be surrounded. Or whatever. Simply put, the PCs can’t respond meaningfully to the monster’s tactics.

So, it becomes a tradeoff. The two creatures can’t be affected individually but they also can’t team up. They gain something from being combined into one body, but they also lose something.

Beyond that, there’s also the game logic to consider. Things like area attacks and Pack Tactics are ultimately not reliant on creatures but on positions. That’s how they work. That’s the basic logic of it. Who can be targeted is a matter of where everyone is standing. And who can help who is a matter of where everyone is standing. Those mechanics LOGICALLY are keyed to positions, not monsters. And if you start f$&%ing with that, you break an essentially bit of game logic. You don’t want a game in which sometimes a fireball damages each creature in the area once and sometimes it damages a single creature multiple times unless you’re prepared to explain that in the game world. And that would mean admitting to the players that you literally have one ogre crammed inside of another. Otherwise, the players can’t make logical decisions and tactical choices. They can’t rely on the consistency of the game world.

In short, we accepted that a paragon monster was the same as two monsters in terms of hit points and action economies, but it had to give up being two monsters in terms of positions. And that means anything tied to position – for better or for worse – also had to be given up.

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12 thoughts on “Ask Angry: Books, Interquels, and Paragons

  1. I just have one tidbit pertaining to off-the-table, out-of-session actions. As as DM I don’t allow actions that would take any ammount of actuall time. That would be silly IMO. What I have found rewarding, is keeping an on-going “slack-ster-whats-app” online page going where I post re-caps and experience, post-session. Now, I also provided a folder in there for in-character thoughts and emotions, that players can feel free to use any time. I’ve found that as we go (and this relates to your madventures post about character defenition), that the players start to really get into their characters and thoughts about the last session. They even post inner concerns about the other characters or npcs that usually wouldn’t be voiced in-session. As we go on it becomes a good platform for the players to internalise their struggles and opinions, and it’s a great way for them to tell eachother about their characters passively, without dominating game time. It’s worked great so far (was my friends idea actually), and we’ve found it provides a rich emotional background to the next session before we sit down together again.

  2. I have that book too. Yeah, it’s okay. I think you and Justin Alexander @ do a far better job of presenting information because you both back it up with analyses, design theory, and experience.

    It’s a book filled with a few dozen 3 paragraph blog entries about different topics on GMing, a campaign checklist that isn’t really a checklist, and then a bunch of random tables that he made and uses. It’s good to see the wisdom of someone else that’s “made it” in GMing, but I really prefer to understand the underlying “why” rather than just be told what to do.

    • I think the gaming world needs more critical discourse on gaming theory like Angry and the Alexandrian. Both of you guys have offered me a paradigm shift in the way I view roleplaying and GMing.

  3. I do accept and encourage actions and questions between runs. But that is symptomatic of being only able to run every four to eight weeks on average and when we do get together we need to hit the ground running. If I ran weekly it would likely be different.

    • Good point. Like yourself I’m only able to get everyone together every 4 weeks on average (6 person party), and that situation really can be helped by tools like those discussed. I guess we work with what life allows.

  4. Why would you need to run a Kickstarter in order to publish a book? Send me your manuscript and personal email, and I’ll edit and publish it for you for free. I’ve edited and published one book already and I’m ready to pad my editor’s resume with one more before I start charging my clients. If you don’t like my editing at any point in the process, just pull the plug and go with someone else, no hard feelings.

  5. It saddens me that my choice to snarkily point out the unmoderated porn advertisements on this page has resulted in my posts being heavily moderated while porn advertisements remain, and continue to be posted freely.

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