“It’s Hammer Time!”

We were playing “Death on the Reik” and during the raid/visit to Castle Wittgenstein the players find it infested with Chaos mutants…

Imagine the scene that unfolds when the Sigmar Cleric in the party opens up the doors to the Sigmar chapel and finds it defiled, by a Slaneesh cult… not only that, but amongst the purple mist he can see human bodies interlocked in unspeakably depraved and vile acts of fornication. It’s hard to see where one body stops and the next begins in this writhing snake-pit. This holy place place had been corrupted by the most unholy of all…

I (DM) tell him to make a Will-test, lest he be overcome with the urge to join the sinners in the copulating frenzy… He makes it. Shakes off the attempt, picks up his holy hammer of righteousness and says, with one last disgusted look at the people in front of him:

“It’s hammer time!”

Awkward Moments

In this post I would like to talk about Player reacting on a personal level to stuff that other player characters do and/or say in game.

In the scenario described above the Sigmar Cleric “cleared out the evil” from the temple of his god. It was a defining moment for that character, filled with drama, and tension. I loved it.

Another player at the table was distraught about the whole thing because in his opinion these were just innocent villagers who happened to have fallen under the curse of Slaneesh. He claimed that the Sigmar Cleric character had just committed mass-murder.

This had all been fine unless… unless we somehow all felt the tension in the room shift, from being between the two characters to instead be between the two players.

I can’t remember who seemed to take things personal first, if it was the cleric-player for being challenged so hard or the accuser for not being taken seriously. I don’t know.

But it ended with the cleric-player saying to me (after the session) that he would never act out his character like that again, because he felt like everyone in the room hated him and was provoked by him. And even though I tried to talk him out of it, I think a piece of his love for role-playing died that day.

Personally I LOVE those situations. They define the drama in a very real sense. I would just love if the players could still be friends afterwards… and most of the time we are. But not always.

Usually it is connected to acting with lethal force without first getting consent from the group:

Like (in another game) when the Military Officer decides to summary execute two P.O.W.s they have because he cannot allow them to compromise the mission. Millions of lives are at stake, and he does not have the resources to handle two prisoners. He kills them. And several jaws around the table drop: “You did WHAT?!”

And you can feel it… It’s not only on a Character-level… It just transcended that and became something else. More personal. They are accusing HIM. Not his character. Or at least that is the way HE feels…

To discuss:

  • Have you ever had a role-playing situation cause grief between players on a personal level?
  • What was the situation?
  • How did you handle it?
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4 thoughts on ““It’s Hammer Time!””

  1. Whichever way one looks at it this shows the level of immersion and suspension of disbelief. Of course the person playing the Siegmar priest isn’t his character and would in all likelihood not purposely hurt people, but then the priest lives in a very different world, and one where the threat of chaos is ever present. Moral choices make for great drama and great drama feeds the rpg worm inside every player and GM.

    This weekend I will run my very first round of Dread, and I have tried to build personal tragedy and the option for personality conflicts into the questionnaires of all players. A group forced to work together for survival despite their differences makes for more fun for everyone. Harmony is boring.

    I see I still haven’t gotten to the point. Erhrm. What I want to say is that if the players transform a bit of RPG drama into an IRL conflict it may behoove the GM to step in and ask them to bloody well sort it out. Take them aside, let both sides present their argument and get them to at the very least agree to disagree civilly if they’re unable to resolve the matter like adults. Tensions between players is no fun at all, but tensions between characters is FTW.

    I have seen a gaming group, to which I personally didn’t belong I hasten to add, split because one player wanted to take his character on a different path to all the others. The majority of the players wanted a slow, thoughtful game where every combat was preceded by weeks of in game prep in order to ensure victory before the first shot was fired. But one player created a hot tempered character that was not at all scholarly and in fact quite combat focussed. The others, rather than trying to incorporate his wish for action into the existing campaign, grew increasingly annoyed and in the end gave him an ultimatum; go back to the old ponderous ways or leave the group. He opted for the latter, and I think that was a shame.

    1. I totally agree with all your comments. Drama and tension is where it’s at! And yes, the situation should have been sorted out. But the cleric player didn’t want to address that. So…

      Also leaving the group because you want to play something “different” is more or less standard procedure here.

      – Years ago we had one player who hated Board Games and didn’t want to show up if we wanted to play those. After some time we more or less lost him due to the fact that every one else loved to break out a new board game every 3rd or 4th evening… and he lost interest.

      – Today we have two people who will more or less only show if we DO play board games. One of them, might be into RPG’s if we play the campaigns he wants to play… but not the one we are currently playing.

      etc. etc. see my “Staying Power” post for more. 🙂

  2. Oh, I remember those incidents – and I was the “bad guy”! 🙂
    I guess it had a lot to do about perspective. I may not be much of a roleplayer in the “amateur theatre” sense och speaking in first person and spending a lot of time and energy in the “down time character stuff”, but I appreciate immersion and trying to grok my character and the period or setting and acting accordingly.

    In these cases both settings were quite dark. The Warhammer world needs no introduction, and the other was the Dark Matter Sfi Fi setting. It felt quite reasonable to leave my 21st century morals behind and act in character.

    I think the clash may have, to a large degree, been caused by the players having a very different view about how they wanted the campaign to develop. I honestly think that I was more influenced by the setting, while the others were more invested in generic fantasy or SF, and therefore reacted negatively to my characters actions. It went against their expectations.

    Had the setting been different, say Star Wars or LotR, my characters would probably have acted very differently.

    That said, I really enjoyed those moments while they lasted. I think that some of the most enjoyable moments in RPGs (and other fiction) is when the conflict is intense, and “the rubber hits the road”. It is no coincidence that I like TV dramas like The Shield tor example…

    1. Yes; “players having a very different view about how they wanted the campaign to develop” is a very good point. I agree with your assessment. 🙂

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