Welcome back to my entropic cosm of terror where we pierce the veil of this illusion of benevolence and accommodation that's the current trend in RPGs and put the MASTER back into Game Master. Being a GM is akin to being a Greek God, the players being the mortals subject to your whims and cruelty. If you are a player reading this blog, check your sanity at the door as you discover that you are but mere puppets dancing to the mad tune of your GM.
This week I'd like to shine the light on the topic of game world consequences for player actions. It is an interesting phenomenon that many players in tabletop RPGs will end up opting for actions of a less than heroic nature. It has become so prevalent that there is a common slang term for it now: murderhobo. The problem with murderhobos is that they tend to distrust, murder and/or rob all NPCs that they can. Needless to say, this can make it rather hard to build narrative as any form of supporting cast is thrown right out. However, you're not just any GM. You are as Samuel L. Jackson would put it "a GAME F**KING MASTER." You don't let murderous miscreants run rampant in your game... ever.
The idea of the world reacting appropriately is nothing new, but many GMs seem to forget. Remember, you are the conductor of the orchestra that is your game. When players have their characters wantonly murder everything in their path, it creates certain reputations. The populace hear horrifying tales of their merciless ways over time and next thing you know, they are shunned as villains by those in power. Branded as outlaws and reduced to living on the outskirts of society, life is a daily struggle and they will mainly encounter NPCs who are just like them... cantankerous cutthroats who would just as soon eliminate the PCs as talk to them. Sometimes relatives or good friends of past victims will show up to exact vengeance. Sometimes the vendetta is delivered in person, sometimes via faceless assassins. Then there are the occasional groups of heroic NPCs come to rid the land of the PCs scourge. The life of villains is hard and that is exactly what murderhobos are to a civilised society.
While the burned hand does teach best and you should make liberal use of the proverbial stick, there is something to be said for the occasional carrot in shaping behaviour. You are supposed to be a master manipulator so it makes sense to work both angles of punishment and reward. The game world also reacts to heroic action and an adherence to selfless values. The common people do tend to like their heroes whether or not it is all an act. The term “hero's welcome” exists for a reason. Gifts, favors, discounts and adulation await the would be heroes. However, while the grass is greener it certainly isn't paradise. People expect you to do acts of heroism for little or no direct pay sometimes. Village being threatened by bandits and guess what the PCs are petitioned to do. Granted, they will likely get a celebration feast if they succeed and further tales of their heroism will spread. Good PR is its own reward sometimes.
With that, I must bring this installment to a close. Would you like to see this expanded upon in future weeks? What other areas of Games Mastering would you like tips on? Questions? Compliments? Non-sequitur megalomania? Leave it in the comments below!