December 19, 2008

On GM Kills

I was on a conference call today with someone who plays 4th Edition (Not HackMaster, but that new "other" 4th Edition). In passing the subject of GM Skulls came up.

Evidently there are players of those "inferior" games* who get a bit scared off by the fact that many HackMaster GMs keep a list of their kills.

Sure, I'm proud of my kills....but not to the extent that I'm gunning for the PCs. When I see my personal skull set I think of the games that I've played and the people that I've had at my table.

That first skull....the only red one- that was the first and only time my now brother-in-law played HackMaster. His charismatic bard decided to switch allegiences to the bad guys at the climatic final battle. He really wasn't up for playing and decided that death at the hands of the clingy Druid who he slighted with his betray was the most appropriate way to leave the table.

I have one TPK and several near TPKs where the party "Bravely Ran Away". The TPK was interesting because the adventure was a complete slaughterhouse. I didn't think I was going to be running the adventure...I was probably going to play, so I hadn't read the low-level adventure before hand. Since everybody was first level, the players didn't mind pushing on ahead at all costs even though it was apparant they would be totally slaughtered. That was a pretty fun con.

The next day I ran a different group that didn't fight well at all and got hammered by a classic L shaped ambush. The party was decimated except for one guy who managed to run like hell for the woods. Everybody had a lot of fun though. They voted one of the monsters MVP! The monster was firing into melee and ended up killing a couple of his compatriots and the group figured he was the most effective fighter during the tournament.

I cannot say with any measure of honesty that I recall every PC death....just as I cannot recall every game I've played or all of the good times I've had at the table.

Sure the skull shield can be a scary thing.......but really the issue is how the GM runs his game. Most of the "Killer" GMs out there in reality are those that are running the most games. Tournaments account for a huge number of kills because at tournaments the games may be tougher and the players are much more willing to push things too far and get into a position where they can get their PCs killed....which is more likely to lead to getting the other PCs killed.

*There are no inferior games....just inferior players. OK, maybe not even that, but I have met some poor players before.

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