583 – Violet • 02


For the first real installment of Dear DM, I have chosen questions asked in last week’s comments. My hope is to get more questions every week and to keep this going indefinitely. If you don’t see your question below, don’t fret. I’ll be cataloging all the questions and picking some by relevance and some just for fun each time out of the whole pot.

Thanks TONS for all the great questions last week, and I’ll keep doing this as long as you keep giving them to me. Questions can be about anything, not just D&D or the comic.

“Dear DM”, always 100% accurate… ish.”

Dear DM:

1. @Lord Clavdivs: Dear DM, how do you handle a rules lawyer that constantly exploits loopholes to his own benefit and makes the game pretty much his own playground to be able to do whatever he wants to do even though its technically legal?

Dear Lord Clavdis, there are a few tried and true methods to dealing with a player like this. The most effective is to wait until he is taking a large drink of Mountain Dew and throw a blanket over his head. Wrap the lawyer up in the blanket, drag him into the back yard, and have the rest of the players beat him with either bars of soap in socks or oranges in pillowcases until the blanket stops moving on it’s own.

If you do not have enough soap or oranges to go around, you can always try honesty. Many players feel that in-game behavior needs to be addressed with in-game correction. This is actually the worst way to handle it, since a committed rules lawyer is going to immediately seek a way to “game” your response. The best way to deal with this is to have all your players (or as many are comfortable) discuss with the lawyer before the game. Be patient with him, because he’s likely to be defensive right out of the gate. Ride it out, and explain that his play style is really affecting the enjoyment of the other people at the table. Be as understanding as you can, but stick to your guns.

Now if being honest with him and treating your lawyer like a decent human being doesn’t work, you can either replace him with someone who’s play style meshes better with your group, or call a quick time out for a run to the grocery store.

2. @Jesse: Dear DM, How do you stop a DM from making up stupid stuff and ruining adventures? Stuff like sci-fi guns and computers in treasure hoards, or movie fantasy heroes popping in and being a nuisance, or novel-plotline ripoffs taking over an otherwise sensible campaign? Is there a limit to how much crossover and idiocy is allowed before the players are required to kick a DM’s ass?

Dear Jesse: Also a super-common problem, when DMs are designing worlds entirely for their own amusement without regard for their players. There are two solutions, one is easy and mostly works, the other is difficult to accomplish but 100% effective.

The first solution is to poll the other players to make certain you’re not the odd man out instead of the DM. (That’d be embarrassing!) Once you’re sure of your footing, talk to your DM, preferably right after a session where he’s been being a doofus. Make sure he knows you appreciate his efforts, but also make sure he knows what it is you guys really want out of a game. Most DMs actually do want their players to enjoy what they have spent their time and energies creating, but unless you give them some kind of feedback, they may be shooting in the dark.

The second solution is a lot harder, but the results are always worth it. First, lightly kill your DM, being careful not to muss the skin, hair, or fingernails. Carefully skin him, (a taxidermist may be required if you aren’t experienced… use your best judgement) and cure the hide without tint. Take the finished DM hide to your local supervillain and obtain a robot double of your DM, which you can then cover in your old DM’s skin and hair, Next, plug him into WotC’s website, so he can instantly absorb the rules and the online adventures published there. Tell him what kind of game you like, and viola! the perfect DM! (Be sure to ask for a secret remote though. Robot double DMs do occasionally try to kill all their players and cleanse the world of it’s foul human corruption. It’s always best to be prepared!)

3. @Oscar: Dear DM, Have you hugged a monk today?

Dear Oscar: No. They are too loud, too hairy, and their hands smell like poo.

4. @Matt: Dear DM, How far are you into Dragon Age: Origins?

Dear Matt: Far enough to start questioning the wisdom of purchasing a Wii instead of a PS3.

5. @Starbuck: Hey DM, Can you cook? Also Why did Monks never get full BAB in D&D?

Dear Starbuck: Let me begin this by saying you were totally hot in the new series. I love badass chicks who can take command. I am a completely awesome cook and I enjoy vacuuming and giving footrubs.

Monks never got full BAB in 3.x because of legacy issues. Way back in “1st edition” AD&D, every class had a list of special abilities except the fighter. The only thing the fighter had to balance this out was a bigger hit die and a faster progression on the “to hit” charts. (That’s what we called them back then.) This became the fighter’s defining characteristic, and to keep anyone else from stepping on the fighter’s one and only toe, everyone else was held back.

Second edition saw some improvements to the fighter like specializations and such, but in truth it was a half-measure, and still didn’t bring the game out of it’s philosophical rut.

3.x almost did the trick, introducing feats and skills in a meaningful fashion… but everybody got them, so it didn’t really help. Monks and everyone else non-fightery had to stay low on the BAB tree in order to assure the fighter’s martial superiority. Unfortunately, in higher level games, this meant that wizards who often didn’t need to roll to hit, and fighters who had bigger bonuses, eclipsed the rogues and monks, bards and druids, all of whom ended up trying to be support.

4th edition did away with BAB, giving all classes a +1 to hit every other level, with ability bonuses based on your class. (Strength for fighters, dexterity for rogues, intelligence for wizards, and such.) All classes have a list of special powers and tricks they can accomplish which are unique to them, yet balanced against each other. A 4th edition monk can therefore kick just as much butt, (like Starbuck herself) as anyone else on deck.

40 Responses to 583 – Violet • 02

  1. Dear DM,

    One of my fellow players suffers bouts of irrational anger whenever the word “dice”, or its derivatives are mentioned (die, d6, d20, icosahedron, etc.). We have found that the only way to placate him is by feeding him large amounts of food.

    While this is a temporary solution, the player in question has his waistline expanding dramatically fast making it difficult to sit round the table, and our spare cash is diminishing.

    Normally I would kick out such a disruptive player, but his l33t skilz are required if we are to boost the power of the local druidic gaming circle (Beating D&D satanists since 1997), so unfortunately this is not an option.

    How would you suggest dealing with this issue?

    Yours concerned,


  2. The best way of dealing with rules lawyers I ever heard of was to take their sheet. “Now you’ll play from memory, and if you get anything wrong, I’ll alter it for the worse.”

        • My only issue with this approach is that it presupposes the lawyer is doing something wrong, and seeks to punish him for it. For some folks, however, this is simply their playstyle, and it is legitimately the way they WANT to play the game. In this instance, the lawyer is not playing quite the same game that everyone else at the table is, and it causes friction.

          An excellent way to reward your former lawyer once you’ve spoken to him about his behavior is to replace his role in the group with a new one. Turn him into the Rules Encyclopedia instead. It is way handier to have somebody at the table who knows all the rules that you can ask than to look up everything yourself, AND your ex-lawyer gets to feel needed and appreciated… something he likely wasn’t getting out of the game before.

          Unless he’s just a dick.

  3. Dear DM, Since you are short on questions today, and said ” Questions can be about anything, not just D&D or the comic,” I’ll ask “What should someone do about a (computer) virus?”

  4. Dear DM,

    What do you think of the recent computer game Torchlight? would you play a game similar to the MMO Diablo thats designed to be a singleplayer?

  5. Dear DM,

    My gaming group has spread over the past year, such that we’re now in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. We’re still trying to play via Skype, but those of us not at the main table in Aus are finding it harder to get immersed. Do you have any recommendations, or is our only option to find a new group to join?

  6. “Tell him what kind of game you like, and viola! the perfect DM!”

    Viola? What does a musical instrument have to do with DMing? Okay, now that my editorial nature is out of the way, I liked your answers to the questions today. I also liked the comic today, even though I had to look at Bunker’s ass. I guess I can get past that with a few years of therapy and/or lots of alcohol.

    Dear Dm: Do you ever play any other role playing games besides D&D and if so which ones? Also, how do you convince someone else to DM for a while and let you actually enjoy being a player for a change. I’ve been playing RPGs for about 15 years and for about 13 of those I’ve been the DM. Sometimes I just want to sit back and play, not be the guy in charge.

  7. Dear DM, I once participated in a adventure where one of the other characters was a male human paladin. In our first serious battle the player of the paladin excitedly described how his character summons his loyal stead and out of nowhere pops out a majestic and fearsome… unicorn. Everyone (except said player) burst out laughing. Annoyed at our reaction, he claimed that according to the 3.5 MM unicorns are not always ridden by elven maidens, just almost always. That made everyone else laugh even harder.

    Do you think we were justified in our reaction? How would you react in our place? Have you had situations in your games where a player does something he perceives as cool but everyone else sees it only as comical?

    • Dude Unicorns are badass! They got that wicked horn to skewer bad guys with, and when they ain’t skewering bad guys they’re using it to deflower virgins. Either way, badass!

    • Well , the Christian association of the Unicorn with purity does fit the paladin class. Unless he’s one of those crazy-eyed, uptight, stick-up-the-ass paladins who channel their repressed sexual urges into gruesomly slaughtering everything that is even slightly naughty, sorry, “evil”, with their huge swords. and we all know what swords stand for, right?

      The unfortunate association here is of course the idea that (male) unicorns can only be tamed by a (female) virgin. We all know that some people (esp. boys between the ages of 15 and 20) find the word “virgin” hilarious. 🙄 Worse, the unicorn proceeds to lay its head, with its big phallic horn, into the maiden’s lap. (Nothing beats mythology and religion for dirty jokes.)

      Solution #1: Let the paladin take the Exalted feat “Vow of Chastity”. Heck, I would give it to him for free. And then let the rest of the group run into a lots of succubi and warty green hags and harpies who mindcontrol the other male characters into having sex with them and drain all their…*cough*… all their character levels and constitution points. Yeah, definitely constitution points. Problem solved.

      Solution #2: Make the unicorn big and black and manly, with lots of muscles and a shiny black leather harness with studs, and… no, no, on second thought, that’s even worse. :mrgreen:

  8. Dear DM,

    I liked Violet better when her boobs were hanging out.

    Can you please address this vitally important issue?

    A Cousin

  9. I like the skinning the DM idea, although I don’t what I’d do with all the gooey leftover DM meat. I like to handle rules lawers by saying “It’s House Rules, so shut up!”. And are you talking about monks or monkeys? Is there any real difference? Questions for the DM:

    When a Paladin falls from grace and loses his powers, are there any recommended special effects, or is it just “poof, they’re gone”?

    If a Titan is beat down to 1 HP, and a rouge hits it with a slingstone for 1 HP of damage- does the comparatively miniscule slingstone actually kill the Titan? Or should the DM look at the rouge and say “you gotta be joking”?

    Should “activation words” for magical items be given to the finders of the items (like a sticky label on the sword), or should there be some sort of insane quest just to learn how to use your new trinket? What would a happy medium be?

    • Activation words: An easy way around this is, for once, to have the NPCs actually use the item against the PCs instead of having it stashed somewhere. If they get fried enough when someone says “bacon” while weaving a wand at them, they might just take the clue. Or they might get hungry.

    • Leftover DM can be thinly sliced and smoked, and handled in all instances the same way you would treat bacon. It is important to be respectful, and use every part of the DM.

      “House Rules” should always be screamed, not politely spoken. Remember, your house rules are your baseball bat, not your fluffy blanket.

      Monkey or monkey? What?

    • I think you mean “rogue”, not rouge…. 🙄 As for the deadly 1 point damage, blame the system.

      Magic items:
      As a DM, I usually start by asking myself the question: Did the original creator of the item craft it for the “mass market”? If it’s a standard item and he wanted to sell it, I don’t see why the activation word shouldn’t be inscribed on the item itself, especially if it’s something with limited charges, like a wand.
      On the other hand, if it’s a unique item, or something made on order for someone very paranoid, or by someone very paranoid, the activation word would be kept secret so that if it fell into enemy hands said enemy couldn’t easily use it.
      Alternatively, maybe the item is very old and was build long ago by wizards of some extinct culture. Way back the activation word for this type of item was commonly known, but these days it’s lost in the mists of time, and can only be retrieved by a Legend Lore spell, difficult bardic lore or knowledge history roll, or lengthy research involving a Speak With Dead with the bones of some long-dead wizard.

      Unless the fall from grace is a very sudden thing in reaction to some unexpected and outrageously evil act the paladin did, the road from paladinhood to fallen paladin is usually a journey, not a lightswitch. I find it only fair and polite to include some warning signs along the way, especially if the paladin in question is a player character. It’s only logical that a deity should not sit by idly while one of her paladins drifts away from her. Some ominous dreams or omens to direct the paladin back to the correct path and strengthen the goodness in his heart should be in order. Aftrer all, no deity wants to lose a paladin. Even if atonement is possible, it is a lengthy process. Better to catch the paladin when he begins to stumble than wait until he has fallen flat on his face.

      And yes, the fall of a paladin should warrant a few special effects. What DM worth his or her salt would forego this golden opportunity to break out the dramatic music? The heavens opening up, etc. A paladin usually should not not only that he has fallen but also why. I hate DMs who use this Damokles Sword of “Oh, your paladin might lose his powers for even the slightest misdemeanor!” as a punishing stick for players. you don’t fall for one non-lawful action, but for an evil act committed willingly and knowingly, or if your alignment changes away from LG permanently.



    I don’t know what else to say, really.


    Dear DM,

    It’s crunch time at college. Only I’m not crunching. I don’t have to. I’m cruising, it’s easy, blah blah blah.

    IT IS DRIVING ME MAD. All my friends are busy working their butts to the bone, and I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs and reading wikipedia pages on Archimedes while maybe thinking about this one essay that’s due in a month or so. My video game tolerance has been played out. How do I escape this mind-crushing boredom?

  11. What to do if the players know the rules and the game setting background better than the gamemaster? Everyone is secretly wondering why this guy did offer to GM a game in the first place, because he keeps “inventing” stuff that runs contrary to the canon material that he never bothered to read properly.