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In My Humble Opinion, or IMHO, is what other, less-imaginative magazines would term "the letters page". This is your forum for telling us, and the world, what you think of Critical Miss, roleplaying, or perhaps life in general.

So that you can figure out who's saying what, we've coloured the text. This is Jonny, and this is Bubba.

Please take note of this. If Bubba says something that offends you then write to him, not me.

And I'll probably offend you again...


The first letter on the page is from Joe Morris. Joe's letter wasn't the first one we received, but he said some very nice things about my novel, so I've bounced him to the front. Hey... We never promised to publish letters in order.

Joe wrote:

Greetings!

I like your magazine, the majority of the articles are funny enough to be worth reading, so thanks for that.

Cool.

I have to say Bodyminders never impressed me very much - for some reason I couldn't really get it, and it hasn't bothered me that you didn't post the second part.

Excuse me while search round on the floor for the squelchy remains of my ego...

However, just to help scrape your ego back up off the floor, Barcode was excellent! It was exciting, interesting, and well-written. If it was a paperback I would say I couldn't put it down. ;-) It has caused a couple times when I actually didn't want to leave work, just so I could keep reading it (needless to say, not much work was getting done in those few days), something that doesn't happen very often!

That's seriously nice to hear. Being a novellist was my big childhood ambition, but somewhere along the way I decided it was just a childish dream, like wanting to be an astronaut, or being a pop star. But given that some guys like you really do seem to like Barcode, I'm starting to think that maybe it wasn't such a daft idea, and perhaps it's even I should work toward.

Anyway, I voted it a 7 fourteen times, one for each chapter, because they were all very enjoyable. :-) I'm not sure if you want people to be able to do that, Bubba may modify the submission script to check IP address from now on, but oh well.

No, multiple submissions are *very* acceptable when it comes to fiction written by me.

Regardless, it was good enough to be worth my actually de-lurking and sending an email your way. If you ever do something similar, please post it as well! :-)

Will do. Unless of course I can get a publisher interested in it, in which case it will be available in dead-tree format for a moderate fee. :)

Sincerely,

Talix


Pastey wrote in on the subject of "Modern Day BADD":

Hey all,

I've read your fine mag for a coupla years now (it's about the only one that I can keep up with). I just finished reading your article about the crazy people who believe that roleplaying is satanic, and I immediately thought of a religious tract that is still distributed via the internet by Chick Publications.

Here is the URL: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp

Well that's actually Dark Dungeons, which we spotlighted back in Issue 2. But since then, the URL we linked to had gone bad, and I couldn't find a valid link. I didn't realise that it was back up on the Chick site, so thanks a lot for letting me know. I've updated the Issue 2 article appropriately. If you guys haven't checked it out, then do so now.

When my buddy showed me this one I got a good chuckle.

Keep up the good work.

Will do.

- Pasty


Mark Brown sent us an email titled "On Conception 2002 Q & A":

Hello,

Hello Mark.

With referece to the following piece:

Did anyone actually want to play Pimp?

Well it was suggested by various people was that the reason we couldn't find any players was because it's a crap game. :-)

But then we did notice a post on the RPGA Forum (as this has since been shut down we can't provide a link) in which a Mark Brown wrote:

"When I respond to critical miss I will probably have to point out to them that we wanted to play 'Pimp' having read about it on their site (and having found the concept very amusing). However we resorted to playing a board game as we could not find anyone running 'Pimp' when the slot came around."

So that is at least one group who wanted to play the game, but assumed - presumably due to it not being included in the list of games read out - that it wasn't happening. (Bubba did go out afterwards to try to find people, but presumably Mark's group had given up by then).

I have no problem with that being used on your site (in fact I really do laugh at critical miss so it's kind of cool to be mentioned)

Good. Bubba, our webmaster, did send you a mail when we first read your post.

but I would like to make a point in relation.

Our alternative to playing Pimp was a boardgame picked out at random from one of the game stalls. It was a pretty old looking game called 'Dragon Kings' or something like that. We sat about 8 foot from the board with the A4 ad for pimp written in blue biro. We drank and ate a little while grappling with a 6 page rule book in our hungover states. I doubt we were so involved that we would not have noticed anyone looking enthusiastic around the Pimp ad vicinity. We didn't actually go near the calling area this time, we just hung around the board which I guess is how things usually work with ads written in blue biro. I really don't think the organisation of the con played a part in our missing out on Pimp. I really think you people ought to have made your presence known at least a little.

Okay, I'll quote here from the email which I sent to Mark when I received his mail:

Hi there,

I don't normally reply direct to letters to the letters page (because I reply in the issue where the letter is published). However, since your mail is time-dependent, in that it mentions GenCon, I thought I ought to. (I was just browsing through the letters inbox, read your mail, and realised that I ought to reply to it).

Well I can tell you exactly what happened from our point of view.

We arrived at the main convention centre about 5 to 10 minutes before the official start time. We were standing in the corridor thingy where the poster was (probably between the reception desk and the poster). There were six of us. At one point I approached a woman (blond I think) who was around the desk, explained that we had a game running and asked where we should be and what we should say. To be honest she wasn't particularly clear and I can't completely remember at this point exactly what it was she said.

The shouter bloke went through the list of the games and didn't mention Pimp. So Bubba went out into the lobby bit where people used to queue for games and tried to find anyone who wanted to play it.

The rest of us stayed where we were (in the corridor that led from the lobby, past the bar and the noticeboards, to the hall).

At around this point (2 or 3 minutes after the game list was read out) two things happened. I can't remember which order that they happened.

a) Demonic (clean-shaven, short blond hair) did a mock "TV" interview of me (dark hair, slightly unkempt goatee beard) using a silver digital camera that we had. He said something like: "So... how do you feel about the total failure of your Pimp game" and I replied with something like "well pretty gutted really". This was probably within about 2 metres, perhaps 3, of the poster.

We actually have Video of this...

b) I grabbed a biro and grafittied the poster. (I think I wrote on it "cancelled because no-one bothered to turn out... we're off to get pissed, we suggest you do the same").

I'm not disputing what you saw, but those two things honestly happened right by the poster, in the period immediately after the supposed start time.

It's probably true that we weren't very confident and assertive, and if we were then things might have been different. But the point we've been trying to make is that a convention should have a policy for handing people wanting to run Delegate Organised Games. The organiser has said that the procedure was supposed to be for our game to be put down on the master list so that it was read out. But we *did* ask at the main desk about running a game, and were told simply to put up a poster. We did try, but were given the wrong instructions.

As an aside, there is an interesting bit in the official Conception response where they say: "We admittedly had not briefed all of the people who eventually helped behind the admin. desk so it isn't their fault."

Well we're not blaming them. We're blaming the organisers for not briefing them. In various posts and so on they seem to be blaming us for not getting our game on the master list (Dave Moore said: "The procedure for DoGs, which a lot of people followed was to go to the desk and ask, and then the desk people would put it down on the main sheet.").

But we did ask about running a DoG, and they *didn't* put us down on the main list. How were we supposed to know what their procedure was?

Sorry, I probably sound like I'm ranting a bit now. :)

End of bit snipped from email...

Anyway... will you have any kind of presence at GenCon? I ask because I have some very drunken antics to describe to you that might put in perspective our shouting and over zealous roleplaying that put you off when you first entered the bar at the holiday camp (I am pretty sure it was us). Did you ever stop to consider just how wasted we might be?

No. [Note to everyone else... this then turned into an exchange of a few emails about GenCon UK]

There is amusement to be had at games conventions that they don't advertise on the boards. It took us 5 GenCons to even find out how to get to our first RPGA run game. Before then it was SLA and AD&D in the chalets and drinking until we could no longer walk (maybe smoking too, but I get the impression you are all kind of clean living so I won't dwell on that.)

Clean Living? Us? Are you sure you've read the site?

Please consider this an invitation for some of you to last the night with some of us at GenCon (or another suitable convention soon if you all won't be there).

Well at the moment, our convention schedule for the next year is Warpcon, Gen Con Europe (just a one day visit for shopping a perhaps another pub meet), Gaelcon and Dragonmeet.

Keep up the critical miss, and hope to catch you at the bar.

It's usually the best place to look for us...

Mark


Alex wrote to us with a Letter Offering:

Hello,

Read the review of Conceptions 2002 and came near to wetting myself on occasion, which isn't too much of a compliment as I'm incontinent anyway. :)

Right...

Seriously though, sometimes it does scare me to go to conventions and see some of the really weird characters there and think: "Hang on a minute - do people see me like that?" Thankfully though, whilst there is black in my wardrobe, there are also other colours represented, so I can't be that bad.

It's always good to believe that it's all those *other* guys who are losers.

Anyway, a letter I almost sent before, but I thought was too vitriolic. After the Conception review, I think it might just be okay to send now. :)

Many thanks,

Alex

Why White Wolf needs to be destroyed...

==========================

Okay Marty, set the Flux Capacitor to those halcyon days of 1989 and let's get this bitch sports car rolling, and relate to you the exquisite joy of playing Vampire The Masquerade 1st Edition, and my subsequent displeasure...

At that time, White Wolf was viewed as saviours by many; shining stars to light the way away from the need for the mobile library D&D always required and the never ending Dungeon crawls. It was fresh, it was new, and the image it conveyed was perfect, from the writing right down to the pictures. It was the bright Technicolor of the Hammer film honed down to a shadowy grey edge, where vampires lived among us, both grim yet as seductive as all enigmatic strangers can be. It was great to play the characters that had both frightened and fascinated us from our late-night TVmovie youth (remember the late night BBC 1 Horror Double Bill anyone?). :)

No. Sorry.

Skip forward to today, and what do we have?

Pierced angst-ridden biker lesbian Goths. Oh, with pointy teeth added on as an afterthought.

Are they all lesbians?

I still play with the old book, tired of looking at the mindless variations on blood-letting and bondage each new edition seems to drip with. It seems, in their deliberate effort to increase the size of their market niche, they've aimed squarely at the Goth/fetish market, and damn them if they haven't succeeded. Apart from this obvious tilt in the books, I made the mistake of joining the 'Camarilla UK' for a while, and attended a few Vampire LARPs, just to see what it was like. Unfortunately, it was at the last one that I made a slight error of judgement (which my group now calls the infamous "Moment of Clarity", for which I was awarded an engraved trophy at our yearly Christmas awards ceremony. :)).

GenCon2000, Manchester, Vampire LARP, down in some basement bar. My two friends and I were togged out in all our finery, myself in my dinner suit and half mask. Naturally shy in unfamiliar company, we decided to bolster our reticent natures with a few snifters of whisky in our rooms beforehand. Plus a few red bulls & vodkas. Some peach schnapps as well. Maybe a little beer too?

You mean you got drunk?

To cut a long story short, by the time the event began, I was already three sheets to the wind and still drinking (Metz I think for the rest of the evening, and a hip flask full of whisky secreted on my friend's person).

Drunk.

My pre-written character, handed out before the evening's entertainment was the Comte de Loine (nice name :) ). The name, combined with my clothes, plus the strange anonymity the mask seemed to confer upon me made me bold. In short, I dallied with every female character in the place (I think I made a good impression, though at this time most of my memories are a little hazy). Suffice to say at this point I was having a good time....

Very Drunk.

And the women..?

As the evening progressed however, my rather cynical sense of humour and contempt of people who take themselves too seriously ran full tilt into the 100 strong wall of Goth central command.

How can anyone with the gift of self-mockery we British have by default, the ability to realise the world does not revolve around ones ego, not discover that he is viewing one of the few remaining gateways into Hell? How do you relate to one hundred people who you would normally only find on the stairs alone at parties, bemoaning how sensitive they are and hoping-against-hope someone of the opposite sex will come over and listen to how only they are truly in touch with how uncaring the world is, and perhaps a little consensual sex would marginally improve their mood?

It was like being at a party with a collection of charcoal sketches; everyone there dressed in variations on black, white or grey and nothing else. After several conversations with varying strangers all trying to give the world weary, 'I know more than you do', never-seen-the-sun-let-alone-be-out-in-it-for-any-length-of-time, only slightly less important than Caine types, I wearied and retreated to the bar. If I'd left it at that, everything would've been fine.

Just what you needed, more Alcohol

My friend had other plans, and being as drunk as I, we decided to re-enact the Charge of the Light Brigade?.

Right...

Taking it in turns, we piggy-back rode up, down, around and through the angst-ridden crowd of sensitive ?The Smiths? rejects that made up the other players. We were having a glorious time, until a slight misstep and we took out a Goth....

He went sprawling across a table and we quickly and quietly dispersed. That too would've been that, except that several Goths took me to task for not taking it all seriously enough. I looked at these 'vampire lords', resplendent in their food & sweat stained black t-shirts, greasy hair and glasses it takes three days for light to get through, and I lost it. I started, in V:TM parlance, to 'rant'....

For the next five minutes I bemoaned the state of the hobby in general, and specifically how the influx of these types of Goth (i.e. those without a healthy sense of humour), had completely fucked up this aspect of the roleplaying genre.

Yes, that's not really preserving the in-character aspect of a LARP, now is it? I mean, they might have been wankers, but at least they were playing the game.

Like Moses before me, the people parted until I was alone in a wide empty circle, doing what I saw as my bit to rescue the few shreds of sense from this mockery of the hobby (but more likely looking like some drunken lout swearing and slurring words :) ).

I think that's what we call "clarity".

I was well on my way to denouncing White Wolf as the biggest bunch of wankers since "Microsoft", when my friends escorted me out upon the advice of one of the barmen and the angry murmuring of several black-clad skinny adolescents viciously waving their limp wrists at me.

It was not until the next day when sobriety and good sense told me perhaps I had gone a little too far, and maybe now was the time to quit attending these Vampire LARPs. I spent the rest of the day avoiding anyone my fractured memory could recall being there that night, and drinking large amounts of water.

Good plan.

Needless to say, I let my Camarilla UK membership lapse after that, and to be blunt, their sanctioned games are just far too cliquey i.e. if you?re not one of the precious few, expect to be given the task all night of lackey.

Now, I'm not completely soured against LARPing - in fact I'm going to Conception next year with a bit of luck, since a good mate of mine is part of the double act who run "Mystery In Mind". However, I don't think I'll attend another Vampire LARP, well, not until the death threats from the Goth community stop arriving? :)

Your going to Conceptions, have fun...

With respect,

The Cad


Lord Lard of Lardhampton wrote with the subject line of: "Gushing praise for you":

Hi

I just discovered Critical Miss last week and I've already turned into a big fan.

Nice to get another convert.

You have been assimilated

I was just reading 'Yeah, But... My Character Doesn't Give A Shit!' in Issue 6 and I was so glad to find someone who's publishing the same opinions as me.

You wrote:
> It is very simple, so simple in fact that I can't think
> of anything interesting to say, so I'll just point out
> the sodding obvious and move onto the next section.
>
> Work out what motivations are required for your plot,
> and tell the players to create character's with those motivations.
>
> Work out what the motivations of the players and / or characters are
> before you start play, and make sure they fit with your scenario...
> Because it's too late once you start.

Unfortunately there are a lot of gamers who think that any scenario should work with any characters, because the players have a duty to go along with what the GM wants them to do. This attitude really fucks me off because it means that the players have lost the choice of what their characters do - they have to follow something pre-written instead. What's the point of that? In roleplaying you're supposed to be able to choose what you do. If you can't you lose half the fun.

Exactly.

Assorted rants on this subject can be found on my website at

http://www.angelfire.com/ut/spearhead

Lord Lard of Lardhampton


Lord Lard of Lardhampton wrote in again regarding

Clanbook Madness:

In 'Scenario Reward Inflation', you wrote this: > Sourcebooks containing prestige classes (e.g. a guide > to playing crossbowmen for example) are generally aimed > at players, and there may well be a temptation to > produce "over-effective" prestige classes in order to > make a sourcebook attractive to players. But that's this theory, not > mine, so I won't mention it further (although you, of course, are > welcome to).

But then what would I know. I'm just an idoit!

[That's kindof a "spot the reference" competition, there.]

Even without competition, this sort of thing already happens with sourcebooks. White Wolf is particularly notorious for this. (I think L5R has sinned this way as well.) White Wolf will bring out a basic game (like Vampire or Werewolf) which is made according to the standard WW formula. This means that you play a type of occult creature and must choose to be one of several rigidly defined subtypes (Clans or Traditions or whatever - essentially character classes by another name). Now each of these classes can have certain powers acording to the rules in the basic game.

The company then starts to launch Clanbooks detailing each character class in more depth and guess what - they give new character creation rules allowing much more powerful characters. A particular favourite is to invent some new powers for a Clan which are much more powerful than the old ones. All the munchkins then rush straight out and buy every new Clanbook so that they can make characters with even more gross powers and splat more and more enemies or innocent bystanders.

Anyone remember 'Laying down the LAW', think it was in the Glasswalkers book.

But it's a good marketing plan.

Fucking twats.

Yeah, but that twats with a profitable business. Hard to argue against that.

Lord Lard of Lardhampton-on-the-Piss


Lord Lard of Lardhampton again, this time writing on the subject of: "Incredible player stupidity":

'The Second Worst Scenario Ever Written' was all pretty shocking stuff. The incident where Ebola decided to tell a casual acquaintance his secret

mission was particularly appalling. It reminded me of a 1920s horror game I ran once (it was not Cthulhu, but had a similar kind of flavour).

Well I'd describe this game as a "horror" game.

The player characters were a bunch of friends who were interested in the occult, and wanted (from intellectual curiosity) to find out what was real and what was bullshit. Some of them were believers and others were skeptics, and they had argued about it so many times that they decided to find some evidence. That was the basis of the campaign.

Okidoke.

A player, Dan, was playing a character (I can't remember the name) who was some kind of mystic (a medium or something). He got a parcel from an NPC medium/spiritualist type friend containing a small idol and a letter.

The first paragraph of the letter said that the friend didn't know exactly what the idol was, but it was powerful, and to find out more about it he had consulted a Voodoo priestess called Madame Atou.

The rest of the letter described how someone was trying to kill him, and he thought the attacker was after the idol, so he was sending it to Dan for safe-keeping. A particularly prominent sentence in the letter was 'For God's sake, don't let it fall into the wrong hands!'

The sharp-witted may already have guessed that Madame Atou was the one who wanted to steal the idol.

This sounds horribly like a fuck-up I made in a game at a Killercon called something like "Idaho Smith and the blah, blah, blah".

Dan did not. Instead, without contacting any of the other player characters, he went straight to Madame Atou with the idol. She asked him for it. He give it to her. She refused to give it back. Then her five heavily-built sons removed Dan's character from the premises.

I expressed some disbelief at Dan's actions. He said, 'Well the letter mentioned Madame Atou.' I pointed out the line about not letting it fall into the wrong hands.

Dan said, 'Oh, I didn't bother reading that far. I only read the first paragraph.'

You can lead the horse to the library but you can't make the bastard read.

I was gobsmacked to say the least.

The scenario was supposed to be about Madame Atou trying to get the idol off the PCs by afflicting them with supernatural horrors. Instead, Dan just handed it over, so the rest of the scenario was about the PCs trying to steal this precious artifact from a bunch of murderous cultists who were prepared to kill over it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they failed to recover it.

Still, although it involved a lot of improvisation, the scenario did continue, just differently.

What a knobend that Dan was!

Your humble servant,

Lord Lard of Lardhampton


maD_andy1 wrote in on the subject of "Just the ticket (or whatever)!":

Howzit Ma China!!

Sitting here downloading a 3 days worth of email after making the near fatal mistake of installing Microsith's latest virus. the pc is recovering on a steady diet of Win98.

Anyway I see the email bout the mag, which immediately brings me out of the depperessive side of my bipolar disorder and I fling aside the sharp fragment of CD with which I was about to slit my wrists.

Cheers!!!?1!

maD_andy1

Glad to be a ray of light in a world of darkness.


James wrote to us about The Benefits of Contributing to Critical Miss:

Hello !

First, congratulations on yet another solid, mind-bending issue.

Thanks.

After receiving notification, it occurred to me that contributing an article to your 'zine a year or two back initiated a somewhat unlikely series of events that led me to recently become engaged to a sweet, energetic, beautiful and buxom 22-year-old girl who, strangely enough, seems to have a thing for socially inept, mildly reclusive, role-playing/science geeks (well, or at least me). I met a fellow at a game convention, who struck up a conversation with me because he'd read my article in Critical Miss. Said fellow then, apparently, described me in glowing terms to aforementioned girl, who wrote me an e-mail, I took her out dancing, and went from there.

Congratulations!

Bastard. Bastard, bastard, bastard.

Bastard.

People who once wrote for me are getting action on the basis of it, and I'm still totally shagless!

I feel like a rock star who's just discovered that the roadies are shagging the groupies.

So, thanks a lot! Best webzine ever.

Whatever.

- James


Lord Lard of Lardhampton wrote in again with the subject line of: "Who needs the gaming industry?":

Jonny's Action Plan to Save Roleplaying reminded me of all the people I know who say that gaming's in a bad way and worry about how the industry might collapse and there might be no more RPGs published in the future. A lot of gamers I know go on about we have to buy RPG products to keep the industry alive, or else we'd lose the hobby we love.

I have my own opinion on this. As far as I know, I am the only gamer in the world who holds this opinion. When I say it to other gamers, they react with disbelief.

My opinion is this:

Fuck the gaming industry. We don't need it. Let it die.

Yeah, I think you'll the only one.

I don't buy RPG products. I tried it a couple of times when I was younger (hey, I was inexperienced and I wanted to experiment) but I soon saw that it wasn't for me.

I write my own games. Lots of commercial RPGs have stuff in them I like, but they usually have stuff in I don't like as well (like my pet hate, experience points - for a full explanation of why I hate experience points see my website at www.angelfire.com/ut/spearhead and read the article on 'Uncontrolled Stat Levels'). I would rather play a game where everything (both rules and background) is done just how I would like it. That isn't going to happen in a commercial game, so I write my own instead.

But I have picked up a few commercial RPGs over the years and I do run them sometimes (mainly CoC). So theoretically I could run commercially published scenarios. But the problem is, they're shite. Almost all of them are shite. I won't say I've never seen a good commercial scenario, but easily 90% of them are awful. They're incomplete, they're linear, they depend of PCs doing certain actions for the plot to work, they hinge on ludicrous plot devices - I could spit bile for hours about commercial scenarios I've run/read/played.

So in summary, I don't need the gaming industry. I write games and scenarios better than the ones on the market. This is not because I'm brilliant but because the commercial standard is very low. I expect this comes from the economics of the marketplace (ie. games written to appeal to munchkins sell better than games written for good roleplayers).

Lord Lard of Lardhampton

PS. I was lying about not being brilliant. Actually I am the God of Games Designers. --

Like you, I write a lot of my own stuff. But I still buy stuff for the following reasons:

a) I can canabalise it. I'm running a Silver Age Sentinals (was Golden Heroes) campaign set in my own game world. But I'll still buy the SAS stuff when it comes out, because I might be able to rip off things like villains and stuff, perhaps keeping the stats and changing the background to fit my setting.

b) I want there to be a gaming hobby. I want there to be other gamers. That requires gaming companies. So sometimes I'll buy stuff that I don't strictly need, but will be a fun read, thinking: "What the hell, it's in a good cause."


His Lardiness again, this time regarding Where do the turds go?:

In 'Nexus's Portable Headquarters' you wrote:
> Each bedroom contains an en-suite bathroom. The toilet
> is basically a vertical drop to oblivion. Anything
> dropped down it just disappears from the universe (more advanced
> trans-dimensional spellcraft).

This got me to thinking - where do the turds go? Is there a universesomewhere where they appear? Perhaps on some planet on a little-known universe, these flushes appear in the upper atmosphere and fall to the earth below, where they are treated as protents from the gods.

Perhaps a tiny new universe was created to house the waste from these toilets - let's call it the World of Shite. Since the first ever flush created the WoS, it's been growing as more and more sewage is added. The WoS is now a sewage planet - every time a new shite appears, the flush water is added to the sea above and the turd sinks to the bottom, forming the solid planet beneath.

Because of the magical nature of this mini-universe it is flooded with magical particles which have sped up evolution. As a result, bacteria in the turds have now evolved into a race of intelligent beiongs which swim in the shitty seas of the WoS. They worship a race of gods called the 'Turdmakers' who periodically send them manna from heaven (ie. more of the shite from which they derive their life-energy).

But now scientists on the World of Shite are worried. They realise that if much more poo is added, the mass of the planet will become so great that it is converted into a black hole, and all life in this universe will end.

Only you can save the World of Shite! Yes, Saviours of the Shite (the first scenario for the World of Shite RPG) will be coming to a games shop near you soon!

Lord Lard of Lardhampton

That's actually a fucking good, seriously twisted, and very funny idea. :)


The Lard guy again... this time it's about Character purpose...

In Issue 6 you had an article called 'Yeah, But... My Character Doesn't Give A Shit!' about the problem of PCs not taking the scenario hook. It gave an example of the problem:
> Your campaign is written and ready to go... it all
> begins with a little boy, crying in the street. A few
> words of comfort and inquiry from the player characters
> will lead them onto a mystery...
> Face it. Jimbo [a PC]'s in it for number one. He's
> never going to go for this bait...

Then it offered some solutions: > Work out what motivations are required for your plot,
> and tell the players to create character's with those motivations...
> If your campaign needs five good guys who - if they witness any wrongs
> - will wade straight into sort them, then make sure that the players
> create good guys.

Now that's all good advice and I thoroughly agree with it as far as it goes, but it ignores a more fundamental problem. This problem is that the PCs didn't have a purpose to begin with.

The campaign setting described seems to have the PCs being random bystanders who are expected to get involved with a mystery when they see it. This is known as 'The Scooby Doo Approach to Character Motivation' and basically it's a load of wank. How many people, in real life, do this sort of thing? How many people, happening across something mysterious, then start to investigate it like the Scooby gang? I'll tell you - about none.

Games like this are stupid. It's much too common in fantasy (the standard premise for the average hack fantasy campaign is that the PCs are 'wandering adventurers' - what they fuck are they supposed to be?) but I'm rather disturbed finding it applied to SF here as well.

It would make a lot more sense for the PCs to have a job, and to be employed to look into something weird that's going on. They could be cops or private eyes or all sorts of things. But just making them purposeless people with nothing to do, then expecting them to leap heroically in to write the wrongs they come across, is entirely ridiculous.

Yes.

Lord Lard


You guessed it, it's Lord Lard AGAIN. This one's about Probablility:

'The Bit That I Don't Like About D20' was like a lot of articles: it made a point worth making, but it only looked at a small part of the problem. It doesn't take the question as far as it should go.

What you didn't take into account is that some things are very random while others are only slightly random, and there is a whole vast spread in between these two extremes.

LOW RANDOMNESS: A character needs to lift a heavy thing. Now, basically, almost any character is goint to either (A) be strong enough to lift it or (B) not be strong enough to lift it. There will only be a narrow range of Strength levels over which it is chancy and could go either way.

HIGH RANDOMNESS: Shooting is a highly random business. A competent shooter with a rifle might have basically a 100% chance of hitting a stationary man-sized target within 5m and basically 0% chance of hitting above 300m, (I'm no firearms expert so those numbers are guesswork) but in between there is a huge range over which the shooter has some chance of hitting (between 0 and 100%).

Yeah, you're right. Two different tasks might have the same mean average, but different standard deviations, with one (the random one) have a very wide bell curve, and the other (the predictable one) having a very narrow bell curve. I think coping with that is one of the big problems in game design. A task resolution mechanism suitable for a low-random task might not be very suitable for a high-random task.

Thus lifting a heavy thing and firing at a target 100m away cannot be compared in terms of randomness. To make a game realistic, you have to have different dice for different situations.

Imagine a game where a typical human stat is 10, 5 is shite and 15 is very good. For lifting a heavy object, you might roll 1D4 and add the lifter's Strength, getting a success on 15+. Thus a character with Str 15 always makes it, Str 13 has a 50% chance, and Str 10 or less will always fail.

In the same system, for shooting, you might roll 1D12 and add the character's Shooting skill.

Such a system would allow a selection of dice from D4 to D12, allowing five different levels of randomness (D4, D6, D8, D10 and D12). Difficulty levels would then have to be separately defined for each level of randomness, since a character with a stat of 10 has a 50% chance of success at difficulty 13 with D4, but 15 with D8 and 17 with D12.

This would of course be unworkable in practice for two reasons: 1. The GM would have trouble deciding on the level of randomness for each task, and the players would always argue. 2. There are too many numbers to remember and people would get fucked off with it all.

Here's another possibility:

A system has stats where the human average is +0. +30 is brilliant and -30 is really shite. To make a stat test, the GM decides on the probability (percentile) of success for an average human to do the task. Then he decides how much influence the character's stats have over the task. He can choose small, medium or large influence. In each case respectively the chance of success for that character is modified by 1x, 2x or 3x the stat. So someone whose stats are really brilliant only gains +30% chance with small stat influence, but a massive +90% with large influence.

Just to round off, there are a some games where the relationship between stat levels and the randomness of the dice is way off. In Eden Studios' zombie game, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, stats are rated 1-5 with almost all being in the range 2-4. Tasks are decided by roling 1D10 and adding the stat, looking for a target number. So the difference between a complete spacker (stat 1) and a god-like hero (stat 5) is only 40% in the chance of success. I think that's completely fucking ridiculous.

Except that's presumably supposed to be a humour / farce game?

Lord Lard of Lardhampton

PS Jonny, if you want I could turn this into an article as it's pretty fucking long. -LL

To be honest, I'm not sure there's one overall answer here. Any system which models it accurately is likely to be very complex. And I don't think Critical Miss is the right arena for a serious discussion on game design theory. :)


And again, Lord Lard, this time with a post titled "Gold Standard":

'Just How Much Is A Gold-Piece Worth?' was a bit freakish. It ended with this conclusion:

> So without a gold standard they ought to have > experienced galloping hyperinflation.

They have a gold standard. It's gold. Gold exists with a finite supply and demand giving it a fixed value. Why should it inflate?

No, you've missed my point. In the article, I redefined the term "the gold standard" to be "a gold standard", with a gold standard being a system used in primative economic systems where the currency was based on a rare substance.

That's the key. It has to be rare. If it is technically finite (like iron) but in practice is available in as much quantity as required, then it is useless as a currency. Because people will just go out any find some more iron, mine it, and mint it into coins. Thus you have inflation. Because people have gone out and increased the amount of iron in circulation.

The point about gold in *our* world was that it was very rare. It was hard to find and harder to mine. So you couldn't just go out and get some more.

But in D&D game worlds, gold clearly doesn't have the rarity value that it has in our world, since it is so freely available. So it's obviously easier to get mine (i.e. as easy as iron is in our world). So people should go out and mine more and more, which will lead to inflation.

Earlier, the article gave this 'explanation': > Well - based on what happened on Earth - you'd expect
> a preindustrial economy to be based on a gold standard.
> This is where a currency is inextricably linked to a
> valuable material whose supply is limited (we - as the
> name suggests - used gold).

What makes you think that gold isn't limited in the D&D worlds? The simple fact that it's more adundant doesn't make it unlimited.

No, but it's clearly "limited" in the way that iron is in our world. It's much more available. So once you decided to use it as a currency, people will go out and open gold mines which they wouldn't otherwise have bothered opening, thus leading to more gold in circulation, which will reduce it's value.

I just don't see how this argument makes any sense.

Well hopefully my above explanation has cleared it up.

Lord Lard of Lardhampton


James D. Jarvis wrote to us exclaiming "Wow #8 and it isn't 2003!!":

Really glad to see #8, it was pretty good.

Good to hear it.

"How James Wallis Ruined My Character's Life" and "James Wallis Replies" were both great , I'm really glad to see such a frank and honest discussion of a game from player and GM views. Fat Gregor got everything he desrved, reminds me of a few of the "gentlemen" I game with and then of course there is the characters they play. Dumb-ass PC qoute:"It was great. Time after time I'd roll the dice and say: "I made it... because of the drugs!" Time and time again they saved my skin, and I wasn't going to letm the 50 gold crowns a week cost get me down. And who cared if every time I took a dose, General Tangent (the GM) rolled some dice behind his screen. "" at least the GM was letting him screw himself.

But the drugs were great... until I started ODing.

The whole situation reminds me of a lot of the games I play, players do dumbass things and complain afterwards,: yes your horses were all killed while you left them tied up outside of the "Caverns of really nasty monsters", "Yeah you blew your roll and fall of the tower, there was a door, right here just like the picture shows you" , PCs : "Lets go east !!!!", GM:"What the hell, did you guys even listen to a single NPC or read any of those handouts in the past 6 sessions." PC : "Yeah but we want to see what it is like that way".

Planet Erf : errr you guys areee missing something about D20 modern, or so i think.

Really? :)

D20...Shagged beyond all recognition.: brilliant feats, I catch a player using them I'm goign to string him(or her) up.

Yeah, I wanted to use Four Arms and Quadidexterity, but I was banned.

Jonny's Action Plan To Save Roleplaying : You are right we probably do need to make the game mysterious and dangerous again, look on the bright side maybe some kids that play D&D may go on a shooting rampage here in the states and it will get blamed on D&D despite a history of mental illness and abuse suffered by one or more young gunmen.

Fingers crossed.

Legal Defense Techniques for Roleplayers: that was good, don't worry about BADD though, how effective could they be at anything if they are worried about folks playing roleplaying games?

True.

The Bit That I Don't Like About D20 : umm, don't players try to get their score or less on 3d6 to do things in GURPS instead of adding a score to the die roll to get a result?

Look. I never said I knew about rules and shit!

news from my side of the pond:

In my weekly D&D game our resident hack and slash player stunned us all by actually roleplaying , we all sat there in suprise until my wife started a hearty round of applause, 18 or 19 years of gaming and he finally acted in character .

It's one of those chimps... typewriters... shakespeare things, isn't it?

- James D. Jarvis


Jewelzc4 wrote with the subject line of: "other aberrant games":

This really isn't much of a response to anything in particular. But we started playing an Aberrant game recently. The tendency with our group seems to be to rip off comic book characters with this system. We have an Iron Man, a Grifter, Rouge, Nova, and then some others that are almost original. I playing the Iron Man character and being very wealthy have collected the other PC's to try and put together a team to stop evil novas from wreaking havoc. The game is working well but the GM really cant stand the superhero celebrity aspect of the story line. So he started with the end of the story outlined in the main book and in the two weeks covered in game there has been a steady degeneration in human Nova relations, T2m is under suspicion of murder, novas are slaughtering baselines in the parks, and my team has been reduced to roaming vigilantes. But the game is fun so i guess you guys just had some bad luck.

Who's Rouge?

Well I'm a great believer in "it's your game, play it your way". I don't like this idea that you have to stay with the official setting and story-arc. So if the GM wants to cut loose and go dark and gritty, then I think that's exactly what he should do.


Kevin wrote in regarding The Bit That You Don't Like About D20:

Hello There,

First off, thank you for putting all the effort and time into _Critical Miss_ that makes it such a wonderful read.

I am forced to throw on my rules-weenie hat, and point out an error in the way you perceive d20.

A natural _20_ is not an automatic success for task resolution, except in combat. This is pointed out on page 60 in the D&D Players Handbook, and in the d20 SRD ( http://www.wizards.com/D20/article.asp?x=srd) in the _Basic_ section.

I have suitable punished Bog Boy and Mark for teaching me the wrong rules.

Hopefully, this realization will allow you to use d20 in all your gritty, campaign settings... I personally would LOVE to see _The Big Push_ from Issue 5 reworked to d20...

To be honest, I'm not sure that it makes a huge difference. If two people are doing a Move Silently test, both using only their attribute bonus, one with +4 and one with -4, there's still a high chance of the one with the shit attribute succeeding whilst the one with the high attribute fails.

--Kevin


Tim wrote in with a subject of: "Fun with Dice":

Greetings,

I loved your article "Fun with Dice" but I feel your missing one of the most irrating things that you can do with dice, or at least I get accused with it, is warming your dice up.

Which is..?

There's many a roleplayer who won't touch their dice unless it's time to roll as they feel you're changing you dice's luck (or some other bollocks), I don't, I quite happy just roll dice especially if my characters not up to much. Of course if you really want to get on someones wick, start shouting out the really good and bad ones "Oooh, a 01" " got that 99 critical failure out of the way". Some people may feel your cheating as you're constantly rolling (even when they are) and unless you call the roll, who knows when that "20" got rolled.

Well that is a classic cheating technique.

Other Dice throwing technique, is to throw your dice like jacks/chuckies [ok, it's a young girls game with regional name changes] Basically, put the dice on the back of your hand and throw it up in the air, rotate hand and catch, throw the dice up in the air again, rotate hand and attempt to catch (usual poit of failure), repeat and until you eventually fail or your companions are screaming at you to throw the bloody dice.

Good one.

Just plain bored then take a dice and see can you roll it across you kuckles with out it falling off.

Have to try that.

CYL

Tim


Another from Lord Lard this time on the subject of Star Trek:

I've just been reading Surviving The First Session from Issue 7. There was a lot in it about Star Trek. Now Star Trek is a funny game because the Trek universe is so inconsistent and self-contradictory. Lots of people enjoy picking holes in Trek, and I am not least among them. My particular bugbear is the fact that people have replicators but they don't just replicate everything they need.

But I got involved in a Trek game and I decided I didn't want to fuck it up, I wanted to have fun. So I decided from the first to run a character who would do things in the Star Trek way, even though these make no realistic sense. Whenever I was presented with a problem, I looked for a Star Trek way of solving it. For example:

Problem - The ship was being overrun by interphasic aliens which were taking over people's minds or abducting them.

Think I've seen that episode...

My solution - Modify the ship's main deflector dish to send a pulse of some kind of made up particles through the ship, stopping these aliens crossing the phase barrier.

Now the GM was a massive Trek fan so whenever I came up with this kind of Trekkish solution he was happy with it and let it work.

That sounds rather like Step 3 from GMing With Nothing.

My conclusion is that to play Trek you have to (A) know and (B) go along with the background. The world is so contradictory that you can't expect the game to work if you want everything to make sense - because it won't. Instead you have to work with the game to create an enjoyable, if clearly ridiculous, fantasy.

To a certain extent that's true of any game set in a licensed setting. I didn't really enjoy playing MERP for the same reason (I've never read Lord of the Rings).

But sometimes it got too strained. Note that by this time in the game we had already had several minor GM-vs-players arguments over the issue of replicators and what they can and can't do. I remember that there was a large dark-matter nebula in the game and, from the positions of certain Romulan raids, my character concluded that the raiders must have a base in the nebula. The following ensued:

ME: Could these raid come from a Romulan base hidden in this nebula?

GM: Well... a base to make all these raids would have to be pretty big. They'd have to have an enormous amount of space put over to agriculture.

ME: Why? Food can be replicated.

GM (angry this has come up again): Listen! You're just going to have to accept that some things can't be replicated!

ME: OK, but I know food can be replicated. It happens all the time in Star Trek.

This led to quite a long bitter argument in which the GM insisted that this base would have to be infeasibly large because of the need for agriculture, and the players utterly refusing to accept this when we knew full well that this was complete shit.

Well it's always awkward when player's pick a hole in the GMs logic, or go off in an unexpected direction. Mind you, when I'm GMing and that happens, I'm usually honest, and stop the session there and then, so I can write more stuff, and then we can resume the next week.

I would have just said that replicators don't work in this Nebula as the Extremely High levels of Celistinian particles interfere with some systems. Then, as a lesson for being so fucking smart, I would have said "that's why your transporters no longer work now".

I don't know why he insisted on this so heavily, because in fact the base was there, and we found it and blew it to pieces. But hey, it's a funny old game.

Now that is a bit bizzare. I guess that maybe there was a sub-plot you were supposed to have to go through to find out that it was there, possibly involving the huge logistics operation they'd had to build to supply it.

Lord Lard of Lardhampton.


Nick wrote to us about Rats:

Isn't 1d3-4 slightly underplaying the damage caused by a Bongoan Latrine Rat taking a chunk out of your arse?

Now you come to mention it, yes.


Flex wrote with the subject line of: "Legal DefenceTechniques for Roleplayers: Question 4":

Jonny,

Many of our Fundamentalist Friends are also firm believers in the significance of numbers.

In particular 666 is the well known Number of the Beast. (Although, with all the publicity, the Beast has probably found a new number to work with. If I were the Beast I'd choose and irrational number. It makes summoning that much harder.)

Eighteen is 6+6+6, thus eighteen is a clever way to hide demonic cults, while still having some meaning to the members.

Therefor, knowing what a characters attributes are tells you a great deal about his place in the devil worshiping hierarchy. The more eighteen's he has in his attributes, the higher he ranks as a devil worshiper.

Damn good point. 18 means you rolled 6, 6, 6. Never thought of it that way. Have to remember that one.

Q.E.D.

We should go down on our knees and THANK the vigilant Fundamentalists who are taking so much TIME and EFFORT to discover the hidden demons in RPGs, and publicizing to the world their astounding results. AMEN!

(Did I spell vigilante correctly in above paragraph? No? Doh!)

-Flex


Ed wrote in regarding The bit you don't like about D20:

I read the probabilities article with interest. If the part of D20 that really irks you is the flat distribution, then it's a relatively easy matter to instead make it the 2D10 system, by substituting the 2D10 roll for the D20 roll for combat, saves, and skill checks. Make the "always miss" roll be a 2 instead of 1. Otherwise, play it as is.

Yeah, except then it would probably throw off the modifiers. My argument wasn't that it was inherantly bad. Instead, I was saying that flat distributions are good for heroic games, bell-curves for "realistic" games.

Ed Allen


Séan wrote the following:

I read your article "How James Wallis Ruined My Character's Life" and found an old itch coming back... I haven't played WFRP in 10 years but I suddenly started to remember how much fun I used to have. I quickly emailed the members of my current gaming group and they agreed that a change of game would be fun. Only then did I realise that I have moved house about eight times since I last ran WFRP and I haven't seen any of the books since five or six houses ago. Undeterred, I nipped out of work for a few minutes and visited SubCity (Dublin comic/games shop). They didn't have any WFRP stuff but would order it for me, so I paid the 40 Euros for the comics and games I picked while I was there (because I'm just that weak) and left. I have to go back Thursday to pick up (and pay for) the core WFRP book and Shadows over Bögenhafen and god knows what else I'll see there and decide I can't live without. That article has cost me a bloody fortune!

Séan

Well glad to hear that we inspired you to get back into WFRP. Unfortunately, since Issue 8, Hogshead have shut up shop, and so there is currenly no English language version of WFRP. On the other hand, if you picked up a few of the campaign books, you'll have enough to give you about two years of roleplaying, and by then, someone else might have picked up the license.


Bellatrix wrote in with the subject of: "Convention... my arse!":

Hey peeps.


Wow, finally got an excuse to write to you, been reading for ages, great work, keep it up and all that. :-)

Thank you. Although did you know I have to hand-craft HTML to handle angled brackets in mails? :)

Yeah, I know you're probably sick of all this by now, but I had to put in my bit about your convention article. don't let the bastards grind you down! As far as I'm concerned, it's your webspace, you get to say what you want. I always thought that was the point of your netmag and part of it's charm IMHO. You gave an honest account of what you saw and felt there, and well. isn't that it? It's not like you wrote an official complaint to them or anything, and from what I can tell it seems to have started up far more bickering than it's worth (but then again I suppose that's what you get among dysfunctional rpers :-)) And since my own Convention Hell T *, it was GOOD to read something that didn't say about how conventions are so uberkkeewwll (sic).

Well yeah, we did just say what happened to us (albeit in a perhaps not particularly polite way). But it was all true.

Unlike some of the people who were bickering, for whom the Truth seems to be a much more fluid thing...

Hell. I've read a lot of your 'how larping sucks' articles, and although I love larping, I still laugh with them, and understand, take note of how I can make my larp games better for other people, and not whine about it. *grins* I don't think you deserve half the criticism you got, and hope that you continue to speak yer minds.

We will.

Bellatrix

* Convention Hell: being forgotten in the accommodation lists at Manchester Gencon a few years ago, and being accosted by security and escorted to their collection of about 7 other poor sods who got left out, thus missing every single night at the bar due to being locked up and told to go see Bloke X for a key that didn't exist..

Downer.

PS: Feel free to put this up if you feel the need, it'd be nice to have a bit up saying how the article was *good*, just for a bit of variety, like! Oh, and when I eventually get my hordes of minions down here sorted out, you've already got a pride of place slot for Pimp. *winks*

Look forward to it.

Does that mean we have to get some more cards?


Jonathan wrote in on the subject of the price of a gold piece:

Talk about coincidence. I dreamt last night of an online roleplaying magazine, updated in issues and with votes on each article. When I went to search for inspiration for creating such a site, I stumbled across Critical Miss and realised that it had already been done. Your site's entertaining mix of humor and ideas entertains me greatly. Thanks, Critical Miss!

No problem.

Erm, anyway. I once worked out that the price of a gold piece was approximately £50 GBP, or $75 US dollars. A currency convertor site puts the price of a gold ounce at $319, making a gold piece (one fiftieth of a pound of gold, according to the PHB) worth about $75.

Well that's not actually far off my rough figure of $100. I think it depends on which "current price" you happen to take for gold. I think I took an average one for the nineties. The point though is that I've often read things where people say you should assume (for guestimating prices) that a gold piece is equal to *one* dollar.

-- Jonathan Drain - I'd explain it to you, but your head would explode.


Adam wrote to us about D20 skill rolls:

Guys,

Issue 8 was great. Loved the Planet Erf setting and adventure - your best since "Dream Park Done Cheap".

Cool!

However, I'm actually writing to nit-pick your article on D20 skill rolls.

Not cool...

You are evidently under the impression that a '1' on a skill check always fails, and a '20' always succeeds. This is not correct.

Well I know that now!

That special rule applies to attack rolls and saves, but not to skill rolls. Check the PHB page 60, or the DND FAQ pages 39 and 54. This means that Andy's chance to swim the hardest river is actually nil, while Barry & Charlie automatically succeed at the easiest river, and Charlie also automatically succeeds at the second one.

This doesn't invalidate your basic point about the vagaries of flat-probability skill checks, which is true enough ...

Well yeah, because it seems a bit unfair for Andy to have a 0.00000% chance to swim the hard river.

but it does eliminate your complaint about "fail unless you get a 20" (it's just plain "fail") and "succeed unless you get a 1" (it's just plain "succeed").

True.

Thanks again for the great read.

Adam Windsor


Stewart wrote with the subject line of: "On published scenarios":

Okay. Incoming rant. You have been warned.

I'm going to disagree with the majority (and your printed articles) on this one. I *loathe* pre-written scenarios for games. Absolutely and utterly detest them. Thing is, whenever I try running one, the players (being players) inevitably pick up on bits that aren't written about in the published stuff, and I end up ad-libbing the entire thing anyway, making shit up at random because the writers never bargained on players being players and not following their nice little leaps of "story logic". So, remind me again why I blew money on a bad plot hook when I could come up with a better one in about five minutes whilst bored at work?

Well I must admit that I find running pre-written scenarios very hard for just the reasons you say. My best scenarios have been the one's I wrote myself, because they were exactly tailored to my PCs and setting. But I still feel that companies should make the effort, because a lot of people do like pre-written scenarios, especially for more "conformist" settings that support them.

For me as a GM, they are a major waste, especially when you get a new gamer who sees the books and says "Hey, I've played through that one. What did you think?" My answer: "I wouldn't know. The tossers that wrote it wrote a mini-novel, they didn't write this with roleplayers in mind"

This attitude has got me flamed repeatedly, but frankly I couldn't give two tugs of a dead dog's cock. Pre-written scenarios in the old-school, maps-and-railroading style have been getting a lot of support in your letters page recently, and I figured a dissenting voice was needed. Gaming companies writing for non-fantasy games should put their time and effort into producing supplements that actually have some value to more than just people that want to play Adventure X.

It's a fair point, so you should say it.

He just did. Pay attention Nexus...

On the other hand, there is one pre-written scenario that I love (go figure...): Darkness Revealed for Trinity. Give it a try at some point, see what you think.

Well that perhaps shows that it is possible to write pre-written scenarios for that kind of setting.

In other news... Roleplaying Cliches was spot on, I really have to give Porno! a try and "The Problem with D20" is one I have with many games that use a flat-5% mechanic for normal situations. Fading Suns catches a ton of flak for it, which is unfair as it's meant to be a heroic game so the mechanic fits, at least in my eyes...

Barcode was damn good. Been waiting for something like that since the missing Part 2 of Bodyminder.

Well it's *very* good to hear that you like it.

Well, I've run out of things to ramble about. Maybe next issue.

Look forward to it.

--S.

Stewart Wilson


Katherine F. wrote in regarding D20's probability curve, and other, more interesting stuff:

Jonny,

First, *great* site. My jaw practically dropped off my skull when I saw Issue 9 was out so soon after Issue 8 -- long may this trend continue! The more Critical Miss there is in the world, the better.

I think you'll find that 8 after 7. :)

Second: I'm probably the sixty-seventh d20 nerd to tell you this, but... your article on the "bit you don't like about d20" has a fatal flaw that I feel compelled to point out.

Yes...

The thing is, the rule about "20 always succeeds, 1 always fails" only applies to attack rolls and saving throws, *not* skill checks. Thus, the scenario you envisage, in which a novice canoer succeeds at navigating a treacherous river (skill mod +0, DC to navigate is 21) through sheer blind luck, while a seasoned veteran capsizes his canoe in a baby's paddling pool because he rolled a 1, isn't actually an issue. Though I do understand your confusion on this matter, as it's never explicitly stated in the PHB that skill checks don't follow the same rule as attack rolls and saving throws, though it *is* explicitly stated in the System Reference Document, which can be found at this URL: http://www.wizards.com/D20/article.asp?x=srd (The specific reference I'm thinking of is in "The Basics": "A "natural 20" on the die roll is not an automatic success. A "natural 1" on the die roll is not an automatic failure.".)

I think you've probably already read my explanation...

Thirdly, I thought I might share with you a little snapshot of the D&D campaign my housemates and I are playing in, just to show you how blind people can be when it comes to their spouses. See, I live with my DM and his wife (they're lovely people, even if he never does the washing up), and with two other friends we have a pretty cool, high-powered D&D campaign (it has a website at http://www.badgerofthelord.net, though there's not much there at the moment). Now, when I say high-powered, I mean "taking on gods and winning" high-powered. I mean "destroying a Pit Fiend in a short scene that was not instrumental to the main plot" high-powered. My character, an insanely multi-classed fighter/sorcerer/bladesinger/paladin (look, it made sense at the time, all right?) regularly kills nasty monsters like illithid in the first round of combat, despite not being particularly well-designed from a min-maxing point of view.

Nonetheless, one of the characters is even more insanely powerful than the others. I don't think I even need to tell you that this is the character played by the DM's wife. My character's pretty buff -- she's 17th level, she's got a +4 vorpal chaotic sword (except I keep forgetting that it's vorpal, and the DM refuses to remind me),

I always have that sort of problem.

Jonny forgot to get arrows for his Bow in our current game...

she's the leader and founder of a paladin order, she can turn into a badger three times a day (don't ask; the DM just really likes badgers for some reason), she has access to the memories of several thousand previous incarnations (except that I keep rolling for shit on my Recall Memories checks, so it doesn't help much) and she has lots of powerful friends who are willing to do her favours and expect nothing in return. Sweet. But then you have the DM's wife's character, Urda, who:

1. Can turn into a gold dragon at will (not a wyrmling either -- we're talking Great Wyrm-size here).

2. Can teleport without error at will.

3. Is ten levels higher than the other characters.

4. Is queen of a recently-created amalgam of kingdoms that includes the strongest military force on the continent, many of the most powerful mage colleges, a city so powerfully warded that fiends and undead can't even approach it, and a lake whose bed contains a portal to the Elemental Plane of Water.

5. Is the proxy of the world's overgod and is thus under constant godly surveillance, can talk to her god any time and gets instant, easily understandable replies, and can extend her god's realm into the material plane. Oh, and what with him being the god of dreams, she can also tell people to "sleep", "wake" or "forget", and they *will*, no saving throw allowed.

6. Has a sword that can destroy planets. (Okay, so it's not that often that planet-destroying force is called for, even at this power level, so she hardly ever uses it, but still.)

7. Is the wife and/or lover of four of the most powerful men (and one of the most powerful women) on the planet.

8. Regenerates to full hit points after 7 seconds.

9. Can turn into a tiger, or two tigers, at will.

There's probably more, but that's all I can remember off the top of my head. Game balance? We don't need no steenkin' game balance!

Yes, but she let's him have sex with her.

Now, given that I have to live with these people, I've never actually brought this up in conversation with them (The DM has a claymore, and he knows how to use it. No, really. It's scary watching a man swing a claymore with one hand.) but I can't help but wonder if the wife genuinely doesn't notice, or knows damn well what's going on and doesn't want to draw attention to it because she likes it.

Probably the latter.

Likewise, I have no idea what the DM's attitude is. I don't actually think he's retarded enough *not* to notice something as blatant as this, but maybe he just doesn't think it matters. I will admit that most of the time, it doesn't. But sometimes the game feels a bit more like the All Urda, All The Time Show and less like a goddamn game about *four* goddamn characters.

Do you have Guys playing too? What are their characters like?

Whew. Glad to get that off my chest. Anyway, I hope this hasn't been insanely boring for you to read, and good wishes for future issues and life in

general.

Thanks (and no, it wasn't boring).