Peaceable Demeanor #5

Cover for TWH #177, the issue this zine appeared in.

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Collie (yes, it's a nickname) Collier's zine
Copyright © 1993 B. A. "Collie" Collier
HUMOR ALERT: Anyone who sees themselves in this zine -- laugh! I did!

This zine is to be read in a style similar to old time carnival barkers; e.g.: "Step right Up! and See One of the Marvels of the World!" It was written far too late at night with far too many silly people helping!

The following team is drawn from personal experience. I'm sure I've missed many Worthy Individuals who Deserve to be on this team, but if I haven't experienced them, they don't get to be on my team. Make up your own! Just don't show it to me -- if this is catharsis, then I've purged enough!

(drumroll, please)

Impressive Title

Everyone makes lists of what they'd like to see in a great role-playing Experience. Everyone has a Dream Team. But I say that's too easy. Why not try for something that's a challenge? Why not create the Worst Possible group you've ever experienced!

Welcome, welcome, welcome, unfortunate new player, to the team you've been waiting for -- like the plague! Welcome to the:

Team from Hell!

Introducing our GMs:

The Storyteller -- a man with a vision of your PC. If you don't play it right (e.g., his way) he'll punish your PC! If you still don't get it, he takes everyone up to the Grand Finale!! (ta-da!); no, wait, he's bored with this story, let's not finish it, let's start another one next week, it'll be great!

and as pinch hitters:

The Conductor -- he has amazing NPCs -- no, you can't beat them, they're better than you and they've got a mission! -that doesn't include you! (nasty wet splorching sound) I told you so! Next!

Fight of the Week Man -- "You're sitting in your base and the wall explodes inward! Unroll the battlemat!"


Noninvolvement Lad -- who is also known as desolid, invisible, indirect, hit-them-not-me lad.

The Stiff -- he says maybe 3 words all game ("No, thank you,"), betrays no emotion, then raves about how wonderful the game was the next day. Occasionally known as Face-Down-in-a-Book Lad, his mating, er, gaming cry is always, "Huh? What was that again? I missed that."

Cluesucker -- also known as The Clue Collector -- everyone knows collectors don't share or sell!

Clueless -- (or sometimes Cluebouncer) closely related to Cluesucker in the same way that North and South magnets are. Truly frightening to watch in a game with Cluesucker, unintentionally tag-teaming some poor GM.

Whiiiiiining Lad -- who whines for respect because he paid points for it. (Spoken in a whiney voice): "But why do they always talk to hiiim? I'm better than he is -- I spent more points on it!"

and also:

because we had to have too many players...

Sacrifice Lad -- NPC: "Grenade!" PC: "MINE!"

Relentless Lass -- who falls into character at the drop of a dice, and who stays in goddamned character until about ten minutes before the start of the next week's game -- where she drops into another one!

Rules Lawyer Lad -- "I guess that's the way it is in your game. That's not the way it is in The Rules! It's on page 37, fourth paragraph down on the left -- see? Here, look for yourself."

Stay at Home Man -- you can always add him later, and he won't crowd the table. After all, he's -- Not There!

Nowhere Near as Impressive Title

The Storyteller can be of varying degrees of forcefulness, but one thing is always true: he's a Very Intelligent Person. This probably means he's been told all his life how wonderful he is. You'd better believe it.

The story is always Pregnant with Possibilities. It usually really does sound keen. Thus you merrily enter into this game, little realizing the Hidden Pitfalls awaiting you when you get to the Scripted Portion of the evening's festivities. The first warning you get is when the GM gives you that scornful look, "That's not right. That's not how your character would act."

Things go downhill from there. Say your PC wearily arrives home from a particularly grueling fight. Your electricity and water have been cut off. Your girlfriend never wants to see you again. Your mortgage is overdue. Your car has been repossessed. Your mom has disinherited you. All your checks have bounced. Even your dog has eaten your priceless copy of whatever. You (the player) may realize at this point that Something is Wrong.

As the Story teller recovers from the angst of You're Not Doing It Right, The Conductor will fill in. The Conductor has one purpose only: to tell the story of his marvelous NPCs. They Really are Maahvelous. Look at the sword on that baby! Look at the fangs, the glossy red hair, the glow-in-the-dark-eyes! Sometimes I think he'd make a good used car salesman.

Much like a musical director, he guides you through your carefully organized part in his orchestral piece ("Hush! The soloist is on, and you second violins are being Much too noisy!"). Like a train conductor, you've no control over where the train stops. The train doesn't give a damn about you or your motivations; you're along for the whole blessed ride, so you'd better enjoy it!

Finally there is Fight of the Week Man. He's probably the easiest to recognize. With all of his players assembled and waiting, he's browsing through Classic Enemies, picking out the opponents for tonight's game. When he's got a correct mix of power to challenge the PC party, he'll start the game. The game itself is merely an excuse for battle.

One example I heard of: the GM was stumped as to how to start the fight. The PC team had no base, the "hunted"s and "watched"s had unsuccessfully been rolled for, the local banks and jewelry stores had all been hit, er, saved by the heroes before. There was much relief when a player suggested to him that they foil a robbery at a furrier's store! (thanks, Mark G.!)

Psych Crocks

Don't worry, guys, there's all kinds of fascinating background stories for these fascinating folks! Let's start at the beginning with (drum roll, please!):

Noninvolvement Lad first saw the light of role-playing in a game with another PC whom we shall refer to as Obviously on Fire Lass. Both were in a bar, in their secret IDs. They both saw a Bad Man grab an Innocent Bystander (obviously female and terrified) and take her out to his car. At this point, Obviously on Fire Lass, in her secret ID as a small and mild-mannered woman, tries unsuccessfully to persuade Bad Man to let the girl go. What would Noninvolvement Lad do? Why, of course, he attacks Bad Man, indirectly and while invisible, so that it appears that Obviously on Fire Lass, an apparent "normal" he has never met before, has done it!

Let us say that Obviously on Fire Lass blows her secret ID when Bad Man forcefully reveals that he is in reality Mystic-Shit Armor Man! Let us also say that the Innocent Bystander wriggles out of the car and sneaks away. Then the raven sitting on Mystic-Shit Armor Man's shoulder flies away after the I.B. Yes, this is confusing, but bear with me -- it gets Worse.

Mystic-Shit Armor Man bonks Obviously on Fire Lass into unconsciousness and picks up her limp body by the throat, while preparing a haymaker with his Mystic-Shit Mace. Now then, what is the correct response in this situation? Very good! You're supposed to fly invisibly away after the I.B., because "she might get hurt"!

Noninvolvement Lad once spent an entire evening's run fleeing combat. The GM kept trying to put the bad guys within NL's strike reach. He went invisible and desolid, and still kept trying to fly out of range of everyone.

There's not much to say about The Stiff. Nothing much happens. We know play is going on -- all motor functions are occurring. It is possible The Stiff is in reality Stay at Home Lad -- they've never been seen together. Then again, maybe he's controlling The Stiff -- yeah, that's it, that's the ticket!

Face-Down-in-a-Book Lad, The Stiff's cousin, is not mentally present at the game. His body, complete with book, is. The book is a more exciting presence. I wonder if I could get the book to come up with a character concept...?

Cluesucker is usually articulate, intelligent, polite, quiet, and totally uninvolved with any other PC. Handing him a clue means that it will never be shared with anyone! It's not malicious, it's just that he needs those clues so that he can solve the mystery by talking to the NPCs quietly, off to the side, so as not to bother anyone else.

Cluesucker is not really team oriented. The other PCs just aren't within his world view. After all, he's got all the clues he needs to solve the problem. He may have the finest minds on the planet on his team, but he'd rather talk to the NPCs. Alone. Quietly. Off to the side.

He's very laid back, so it's tremendously hard to get a rise out of him, and he's not involved with the other PCs, so it's a real battle to get him into action. In one game, this led to the following scenario.

While in secret ID, Cluesucker sees a teammate fly backwards (not under his own power) out of an alley, land heavily, scramble to his feet, shout "Oh, yeah? Take this!", and fly back into the alley.

GM: What do you do?

Cs: (deep thought) Hmm... I don't want to blow my secret ID. I'll slow down to SPD 2 and move 6 inches.

Team mate flies backwards (not under his own power) out of the alley, lands heavily (putting a divot in the asphalt), staggers to his feet, yodels, "Oh, yeah? Take this!", and wobbles back into the alley.

GM: What do you do?

Cs: (deep thought) Hmm... Is it segment 12 yet? I'll move 6 more inches when it's segment twelve.

Team mate rag-dolls out of the alley; lands heavily, putting a final divot in the asphalt.

GM: What do you do?

Cs: (deep thought followed by weighty decision) Hmm... I still don't want to blow my secret ID. Guess I better leap up onto the roof and take a look at what's beat up my team-mate.

Clueless can be handed a clue with the nonremoveable federal tag still attached, and he'll glance at it, chuckle magnanimously, and toss it lightheartedly over his shoulder. After all, some other poor sap who actually needs things like that might want to scrabble for clues, but Not He! I once watched the following run with a certain amount of morbid fascination:

We shall refer to Clueless in hero form as Our Hero!. He is sauntering down the street. He hears a scream and sees a man being thrown out a window. He performs a split-second rescue! Putting the man safely on the ground, Our Hero! comments to the man that he shouldn't do things like that. Then Our Hero! continues sauntering merrily down the street.

The GM gives the player an incredulous look and says, "OK, you hear another scream and see another man being thrown out the same window!"

The player gets a thoughtful look and has Our Hero! fly up into the offending window -- almost but not quite forgetting the falling, screaming man. Inside the room he sees -- Bad guys! He beats them up without much effort and summons the police. When the police arrive, it is discovered that these bad guys are part of a group who intend Bad Things to happen to Our Hero! (and his team!). As the Bad Guys are loaded up, they shout epithets.

"Just you wait! We've got lawyers! We'll be out before you know it!"

Hands on hips, Our Hero! proudly watches them get loaded into the police van. There is an absolute purity in the lack of thought on his face. The GM gets a slightly desperate look.

"Two hours, tops! And then we're gonna go get help and beat the snot out of you and your team!"

Our Hero! congratulates the cops on responding so quickly to his call.

"TWO HOURS tops! That's IT! Then we're going to our SECRET BASE! YOU'LL BE SORRY!"

With a snappy salute to the astounded cops, Our Hero! flies off (into the sunset, of course).

Clueless, as I've said before, is awesomely frightening to watch in action next to Cluesucker. As the clues go fluttering forlornly away from Clueless' fingers ("My, these pesky clues build up if you don't keep an eye on them! Heh, heh! Beat it! Shoo!"), there is a small slurping sound much like a ravenous vacuum cleaner. You turn startled eyes towards Cluesucker, from whom the sound came. He returns your gaze with a calm, dispassionate look, as if to say, "Sound? What sound?" Needless to say, the poor clue is: (insert ominous music here) Never. Seen. Again.

Whiiining Lad. Ah, yes, Whiiining Lad. Excuse me, please. (sound of footsteps leaving the room. Door slams. Muffled sound of angst being released in an anguished, extremely long-winded scream. Footsteps re-enter room). Thank you. I'm feeling much better now. No, really!

Probably the only player/PC I would truly love to KILL!KILL!KILL!, Whiiining Lad manages to make the simplest of questions seem loaded with references to the fact that you should feel Guilty, you nasty person, you. How could you be so mean to poor helpless Whiiining Lad? Especially when he's trying so hard? And he paid points for it, too!

Sacrifice Lad, one of my personal favorites, has a shtick. It doesn't matter what it is, it's His Shtick. Perish the thought of anyone else even breathing lightly upon His Shtick. If you do, he'll put his next 20 or so points into levels in His Shtick. He'll want to know why you don't have more chances for him to use His Shtick. He wants to Save the World with His Shtick. He will anxiously await chances to brandish His Shtick.

The one I am most acquainted with had a defenses shtick. His force field was the best. His DCV could be raised the highest. He had the most levels. He could take a small bomb going off in his hands and not take more than a little stun. He wanted you to know this.

Picture if you will: an aggressively defended crack house. Machine guns and other nasty slug-throwing things are going off everywhere. Super heroes and shouts fill the air. Suddenly everyone freezes at the dreaded scream, "Grenaaade!" Everywhere, bodies make frantic leaps away from the small, bouncing metal object. But wait! Roaring insanely through the air and belly-flopping on the grenade -- it's Sacrifice Lad! Thank God, we're saved! (a muffled whoomp) "It's okay, folks, it's okay now. I've saved you all -- I got it!"

The battle continues. Suddenly, while Sacrifice Lad is across the building, the dreadful cry rings out again, "Grenade!" Who can save us now, when Sacrifice Lad is so far out of position? A heroic split second decision is made by another team mate: "I'll take it! I'll probably survive, and the civilians won't all be killed!" In the fractions of a second as the grenade passes from one hand to another, an anguished cry rings out, "NO! It's mine!" Crazily weaving with reckless abandon through the very crowded room, Sacrifice Lad barely grabs the grenade in time. He falls upon- no, he hugs the damn thing, Yet Again. Saving Us. All.

Even later in the same fight, while the mopping up is occurring. A small, bouncing metal object is seen, the breath for the warning cry is inhaled! "Gre-" "QUIET! If you shout, he'll mow down the cops to get it!"

Relentless Lass, a creation of mine own, has been referred to as one of the most frightening things any referee could Possibly Face. She is always in character. Always. It's not that she's confused herself with her characters. She can and will Soo-per Leap to another character if you don't feel like playing with the first one. She Wants To Game. NOW, thanks very much. Seasoned GMs have been known to cringe at her clarion battle cry, "Let's GAME!"

If the role-playing is not up to Her Standards, she'll cheerfully Take Center Stage. In fact, she'll trample you on her way there. Trying to peel her off stage is like trying to take dinner from an octopus. Resign yourself to having her role-playing fingers in every conflict you present that night.

Someone else's PC may be having a clandestine meeting. At the bottom of the sewer. In a place no-one knows about. With a secretive Old Ninja Master. Out of nowhere she'll pop up, complete with a plausible explanation of how she got here, and a bag of McDonald's! The really annoying part is that you find yourself agreeing with her that Old Ninja Masters love Quarter Pounders with extra pickles, no cheese!

She's usually literate, educated, articulate, and logical, and can't figure out why you aren't, or why you persist in such obviously incorrect behavior. Entire gaming groups have fallen sway to her astonishing command of body language. Consequently a disapprovingly raised eyebrow can cause veteran GMs to scrap an entire night's scenario in terror.

She's also written up in a somewhat self-serving way (okay, smarty, you try to be snidely objective about yourself! Everything I wrote about her was given to me by some other long-sufferer! :-)!

Rules Lawyer Lad is most daunting when he Wrote The Rules[TM]. Somehow there's always a rules book within reach! Interpret the rules in any way except By The Book[TM], and he gets that slight look of startlement and says, "Did you mean to do that? That's not Right." You defensively insist that: a) yes, you meant to do that (even if you now feel like an idiot), and b) no, you don't intend to succumb to the Tyranny of Rules-Playing. He looks doubtful. His body, without any apparent conscious control, reaches for The Book[TM], and riffles through it until his fingers stop on a page -- without looking at it! He says, "I guess that's the way it is in your game. That's not the way it is in The Rules[TM]! It's on page 37 -- here, look for yourself." He proffers The Book[TM]. The really ghastly part is -- a) without looking at The Book[TM], he's on page 37! b) the damn rule is there, and c) he's right!

Stay-at-Home Lad is another one of those damn geniuses. His particular peculiarity is a deep and abiding fondness for rules-crocks. He can take 10 points and come up with a thing-gummy that does everything except sit up and beg (gleeful cackle "Wait till the next 10 points!") My own favorite creation of his was a Scientist (he studies Science!) who literally Stayed at Home. He would get stuff from the group and wring All Possible Knowledge from the poor things, inanimate or otherwise. It would go something like this:

"Ah, an ancient artifact! Well, I'll use my ancient artifact identifying skill to plumb its depths! Moment, please... let's see, I'll comp my skill with 3 vaguely related other skills to give myself +7 on my ancient artifact identifying skill roll. Then I'll take a hour for an additional +5, and do some research for another +9, making my roll (which is a 15 or less), even with all the minuses, at a +21, and since the worst I can roll is an 18, I now know Everything There Is To Know about this object!"

He is equally effective in combat. ("Combat? What's that? Wait, here it is on the sheet -- I have Combat on a 16 or less. Can I comp that with Tactics?"). He has mental powers out the wazoo. His powers only work at range. Because they are mental-based, they are invisible. Because he has wrung Every Last Point from any possible rules crocks, these powers are awesomely potent. Because he has no real character conception ("he's a Scientist, don'tcha know!"), he only puts points into powers-increasing things. Because he stays at home and can't be traced, he puts no points into defense.

Imagine if you will:

(squeaky-with-hysteria young boy's voice) "Gosh, Sarge! We're about to be overrun by Bad Guys!"

(deeper fatherly voice, vaguely reassuring) "That's okay, son! Call in an airstrike from Stay-at-Home Lad!"


"Of course my ego defense is resistant. And double hardened." (pause -- smirk)

The Tyranny of Time in Role Playing

And then, 8 hours later, all the dice rolled and all the super heroes scraped up off the floor, we realize with that sinking feeling that 12 gaming seconds have passed. One minute (minus twelve seconds) until Doomsday.

More bloood! More bloood!

It seems appropriate that my distaste with the rules of Vampire: the Masquerade should be so strong just as a new book concerning vampires should come out. It is called Night's Edge, from Ianus Games, and is an attempt to put vampires into the Cyberpunk game-world. I was surprised: it's a good supplement! This might seem to make Cyberpunk into a pale reflection of either Shadowrun or V: tM, but I feel this is not the case. In fact, I wish both SR and V:tM would try the same kind of style in their supplements.

I haven't read Shadowrun's 2nd edition, but I've never felt they handle any of the mythical monsters well. I also don't care for the style of writing that aims for that snide, condescending chummyness. The concept behind the game I find fascinating -- I'd love to play it without having to resort to the included mechanics.

As far as V:tM goes, I'm discovering that I am less and less enchanted with its pretentious tone. I understand that the mythical monsters of mankind's collective unconscious can be used as representations of the human condition. Telling me once is sufficient; there's no need to beat me over the head with this theory.

Commanding me to run the game in exactly the manner put forth also does not impress me. A game should require flexibility and imagination, not a mental straitjacket. White Wolf may have made many monsters in many diverse game worlds available for play, but they haven't even made the game worlds compatible. I do not consider this very versatile on their part. I do consider it a money-maker.

I find myself more and more thinking of White Wolf as "art fascists" -- my way is right, and all others are wrong- no, they're bad. I am merely repeating gossip, but apparently this attitude pervades the White Wolf offices. Once you have decided you possess the only correct way to game, your mental agility dies.

I am really tired of watching fascinating new ideas die, simply because the rules are a horrible mish-mashed attempt to come up with a new, improved, next-generation of gaming! rules system. I'm not even going to bother trying to compare the mechanics of all three games: a) I'm not a rules junkie, and b) there is very little flexibility to any of the rules; they stink. Suffice it to say all of the above mentioned games would, IMHO, benefit greatly from having their concepts pasted onto the Hero System rules. Anybody want to try? :-)

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    Last Updated: Mon Aug 4 1997