@Woohoo: Dear DM, I live in the UK but am going to the US over Christmas and have arranged to game with some people while over there. It’ll be the first time I’ve done tabletop with a US group. Assuming they don’t just drag me out in to the garden and pummel me to death with a shovel, what differences between UK and US gaming should I expect to find?
First off, don’t expect anyone to know what the hell you’re talking about whenever you bring up food, automobiles, or sports. Maybe bring one of those little translator books. A biggie is a meal at Wendy’s and arseholed is probably a gay thing. Everyone will have a gun and will want to use it on you when their girlfriends are all giggling at how cute your accent is.
As far as the gaming itself goes, the American version of medieval Europe plays a lot like the Wild West with trebuchets, only no one here knows what a trebuchet is and everyone thinks it’s a catapult. Think Clint Eastwood and you’ll be okay. (Not the more modern Eastwood films where he finally got cash and started producing here in the states, but the old ones shot in Italy pretending to be in America if you want to know how Americans think Europe really was.) Also, everyone will probably be expecting you to be really funny, since their primary exposure to British culture comes from Monty Python. If you can run with this, definitely play a bard, and folks will be talking about how awesome a player you are for years.
By the way, most people with back yards don’t have gardens, and some with gardens don’t have back yards. If you have a garden in your closet you’re a drug dealer, and if you have a garden in your front yard you’re a farmer. Also, don’t say “Blow me” unless you really mean it.
Whenever you are in doubt at the gaming table and think you may have committed a faux pas, just excuse yourself and tell everyone you’re looking for the Mountain Dew. There are some things that transcend all boundaries.
@Alan: Dear DM, this question is about dice, and dice results. Is it ok to occasionally fudge dice rolls? I refer to times when in character generation, players sometimes have characters that are severely underpowered due to the lack of randomly generated stats, or rolling several fumbles in a row causing death to the character through sheer bad luck rather than bad ideas, or have a low level monster rol critical hits against a player. Is it ok to occasionally fudge the dice rolls to stop this game imbalances happening?
I’m gonna get all zen on you here and answer your question with another question. (Is that zen, or is that being a dick?) Why do you and your home boys play D&D?
Possibility #1: You cats all got together one day with all the rules and minis and material necessary to play D&D and someone said, “Hey, I’d sure like to roll a bunch of dice and write down what all the numbers are for a few hours!” and then everyone else was all, “Hells yeah, sounds like a party!” and then there were beer runs and tequila shots and escort services in the Yellow Pages and one dude got divorced and all the other wives made you guys get rid of your dice except you still have an emulator on your iPod that she doesn’t know about and you still roll eight twenty-sideds on it at once sometimes in the bathroom with the sound turned all the way down…
or possibility #2: You wanted to have fun.
If it’s number one, then play the dice the way they’re dealt and check yourself into rehab. If it’s number two, then fudge all you want, as long as it results in everyone having more fun.
@Chris: Dear DM, For very old established characters that have been intertwined into different campaigns and now have an effect on even sub quests what is the best way of letting that character die, but as in a way that does not break its long history.
You have several worthwhile routes to take here. A big, important character like that would have plenty to worry about other than what’s going on around the vicinity of the PCs, and could easily get called away or simply leave to pursue other matters for as long as needed, or even permanently. Like if instead of getting killed at the end of Braveheart, Mel Gibson had met this totally hot chick from Portugal and left Scotland to go work in her dad’s ceramic chicken shop, leaving Neville the cow-wiper to shout “FREEDOM!” while being wracked until he got an asthma attack.
If you DID decide to whack the character you could bring him up again when one of the PCs does something super-stupid and dies, and meets the character in the afterlife. The important character is now in the service of the gods, and tosses the PC back into the game on a one-time-only free pass. The PCs could even pray to your character sometimes, like “Oh most holy and righteous Saint Steve, savior of humanity and returner of life, can you help me find my underwear before my wife gets home and thinks I lost them when Alan called the escort service at that totally lame ‘no-fudging-the-dice’ game of his? Please?”
The BEST way is probably to let the main villain kill the important character in some cowardly and underhanded way, so that the PCs will have just one more reason to want to paste this guy. Not that most players NEED a reason. Hell, just give them a sword and see if you can STOP them from killing everyone in sight. Like, take a party of Lawful Good players, and let some old woman say one of them smells funny. That old lady is totally gonna be dead before you can say “Roll initiative”. That’s why all the old ladies in my game are really evil gypsies in disguise, just waiting to be killed so they can curse someone with dysentery or dropsy or peeing aquarium gravel or something awesome like that. Yeah… just you TRY and kill that old lady. Just you try.
@Gary: Dear DM: How do you respond to player challenges to an encounter that includes someone who “shouldn’t” be present?
I think you mean when someone is present that the players think shouldn’t be there, because they don’t get the newsletter from the main villain listing all the evil shit he’s up to and all the minor thugs he’s raised from the dead. When I get crap like that from my players I fix ’em with the old deadeye stare and say in a gravelly, Alec Baldwin voice, “Listen here you whiney little piece of shit, I’M the goddamn DM here, you got a problem with that? Tell it to your fucking mother you candy-ass momma’s boy. Ooo, look at the momma’s boy cry! Crybaby, crybaby! Little crybaby momma’s boy!” and then on like that for another ten minutes or so.
D&D is so awesome.
@TSED: Dear DM, Can you give me some advice on purchasing a shovel? Make, weight, what kind of wood in the haft? All-metal? Steel or iron? Etc. etc. etc. I may need one thanks to your earlier advice (which seems entirely sound and are impregnable bastions of wisdom and common sense).
Look for a six-foot, steel pointed blade, wooden handle shovel. If you buy it at Home Depot and keep your receipt, they will replace that shovel now matter how you break it, how long after the purchase you break it, or who’s head you break it over.
This is a policy of Home Depot’s and always has been, and it’s one that they do NOT want knowledge of getting out into the general public, as it could become quite costly to them if enough people fond out. For that reason I like tell anyone I see whenever the subject comes up… which has nothing to do with getting rejected for a job once at the Home Depot in Gainesville. In the same vein it has nothing to do with the “Honesty Test” they made me take, after which I was not allowed to shop in Home Depot without a company escort. It is only because Home Depot is a bunch of stupid douche bags.
Remember to ask your questions for Dear DM to answer next and future weeks! See you then!