~gm

Farmers are increasingly reliant on patented corporate seeds, whether non-GM hybrid seeds or GM, and the chemical inputs designed to be used with them. Monsanto seed traits are now in 80 per cent of corn and more than 90 per cent of soybeans grown in the US. It comes as little surprise then that people in the US now consume a largely corn-based diet: a less diverse diet than in the past, which is high in calorific value, but low in health-promoting, nutrient dense food. This health-damaging ‘American obesity diet’ and the agricultural practices underpinning is now a global phenomenon.
—  Colin Todhunter, ‘Monsanto And Bayer: Why Food And Agriculture Just Took A Turn For The Worse’ , teleSUR
Thoughts from the GM Chair or “How I Learned to Wield Omnipotent Power Responsibly”

ATTENTION SPOILERS FROM EPISODE 69 AND 70 AHEAD. IF YOU HAVEN’T CAUGHT UP, PLEASE LOOK AWAY!!!

If you’re one of the millions** who tuned in to this week’s Glass Cannon Podcast, then hopefully you walked away having been shook to the very core by a roller coaster of a denouement to Book Two. While most would agree that Troy and the gang took the story into some crazy uncharted territory that made for a tragic entertaining finish, many Pathfinder and other RPG purists have chastised Troy for wielding his power in ways some have described as very bad GM-ing. We thought this was a great opportunity to speak to the evil genius himself and find out just who the hell he thinks he is! So here I am.

Where to begin! The party got themselves into quite a kerfuffle in these past two episodes and while no one has the authority to call their actions “wrong” per se, they definitely, in many people’s opinions including mine, made a TON of bad decisions as a party. Single combat against a creature that could very well kill you in one round? Sitting on an orc-slaying arrow?!? Going to heal an unconscious NPC while your ally is seconds away from permadeath?! I think we can all pick out at least a half dozen more instances where we were all screaming at our listening devices saying “what are you doing!??!” But this is the beauty of Pathfinder. You could play this scenario out a million times with a million different gaming groups and it would never be the same. Was single combat an asinine choice? Mechanically of course it was! But to me the worst way to play this game is always trying to make the best most effective decision at all times. I applaud Joe for creating an insanely satisfying story moment and frankly that’s why I play the game, for moments like that as a GM where I’m like, “Well shit, I didn’t expect that! Now what do I do?!”

Of course, in making that choice and in all the choices or non-choices his allies made, it put the party in a seriously bad situation mainly because of the two dozen other orcs that were mobilizing in the fort. By the time the party finally dispatched of the General and the bodyguards, they would have been decimated by waves of blood-thirsty orcs catching the PCs in an already weakened state. The party made a set of choices that could have very well lead to a TPK. So I made a choice that could perhaps get them out of it, but there would be a price. And the price wasn’t me DECIDING to kill Gelabrous. The price was giving an array of options to the only one bold enough to risk his character’s life to save them all.

A lot has been said about me railroading Gelabrous into what eventually led to his tragic demise and people wanting to know how much or how little Skid knew of it beforehand, because for some if Skid knew this was going to happen, then it’s good GM-ing, but if Skid didn’t, then BAD GM! Go to bed without supper! Skid knew that going to the dam and splitting the party was a dangerous move. Although a voice in his head prodded him to do it, he chose to go. When he had to make a choice between pulling the latch and fighting the gar, he also made a choice, one I don’t think any player I’ve ever played with would make in that situation. What if he fought the gar underwater and won?! What if he was able to cast a spell to at least buy him one more round to pull the latch and get out of there? What if he had hit the DC of the save against Brandyr? Gel has a +7 to his will save and it was DC 24. If Skid rolled a 17 or higher on the die, WHO KNOWS what would have happened?!?! OR what if the party had made better choices and they all ran to the dam to confront Brandyr? But because Skid is such an amazing player, he made the amazing character choice. I’m very lucky to have a Skid in my gaming group and I feel bad for those that don’t.

The fact is Skid had no idea that things were going to go down the way they did. If you play in one of my games, I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of you that what I prize most is great story through HIGH DIFFICULTY. Because of that, as we’ve mentioned before, I make sure that all the players have backup characters at the ready because, as I am a stickler for what the dice say, death is always a moment away. Skid knew that for sure. Skid also knows that I’m a heartless monster of a GM so the odds were not in his favor. The gar encounter was a set piece in the module, but I had decided long ago when Brandyr first saw Gelabrous in the mists and pinpointed his location, that he would make all haste to find him, wait for the perfect moment and exact his vengeance. For a powerful magic user who can cast overland flight and who has some very high level of scrying going on, this makes perfect sense for him to be there. I was fully ready for the whole party to meet him there or for Skid to pass that Will Save. It didn’t happen. The dice giveth. The dice taketh away. Not to mention there’s at least one pretty important thing that went down that, to my knowledge, none of my players or anyone on social media has even noticed! Like I’ve said before, it’s all there if you listen and re-listen.

The beauty of our group is that we’ve played together for so long now, we all trust each other greatly and my players trust me as the GM to do what I think best for the game even if that means horrible things for their characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I will never kill a character outright. The dice are the only thing that will do that, either from me doing insane damage on a crit or someone falling to their death and the damage taking them well below their negative CON score for example. Actual permadeath is left up to the dice gods. So fans of Gelabrous can perhaps take some solace in that fact and read into it how you like. I have no doubt if a GM did something like this in a gaming group that isn’t lucky enough to have the solid foundation of trust that we have, there would be mutiny, lost friendships for life and more than one black eye. Did I railroad Gelabrous into his eventual vegetative state? I’m sure you can look at it that way but I look at it as yet another tool in the GM’s toolbox. The party was in a tough maybe impossible spot because of the choices they made and the dice that they rolled. I could have pulled back and let them just win outright and all the orcs in the fort magically run away in terror. But to me, THAT’S BAD GM-ING. Instead, I chose to give the only character that could actually tip the scales in the situation a chance to save the party, threw at him an encounter with a gar he had no business besting and then worked a personal story element in to beef up the CR of the encounter still using the mechanics and rules of the game to what wound up being a tragic but in my mind fulfilling ending.

Doing this podcast has made me a better GM for so many reasons. Not only do I get to go back and re-listen to all of our sessions anytime I want, but I also get the benefit of all our listeners writing in questioning us, challenging us and keeping us honest when we get the rules wrong so very often. Please keep doing this as it’s only going to make the show and all of us better. In the meantime, I hope to continue to gain YOUR trust as a GM as if you were sitting at my table too.

-Troy

**thousands

flickr

MBTA’s FP10 1108 was GM&O F3A 806B – Here’s Photos of Both by Marty Bernard
Via Flickr:
GM&O 806B at Glenn Yard, Forest View, IL on August 25, 1977. Rebuilt to MBTA FP10 1108.