Dungeons & Dragons Online

What we can learn (or not learn) from The Warp Zone’s newest video

On mobile, apologies for any formatting issues.

So, there’s a sketch channel on YouTube called The Warp Zone, and they posted this video recently. It’s mostly the classic tale of That Guy making the whole game about them, ruining other players’ plans, and generally being a chore to have at the table. TL;DR don’t like it much; humour-wise I found it a little mediocre (but that’s pretty subjective). In regards to D&D, it feels like it was written by someone who only generally knows what D&D is, and teaches terrible things to DMs and players.

This could potentially be a wannabe DM’s first exposure to intra-table drama, having only watched/listened to shows, where everyone at the table tends to have known each other for a while, and know not to be That Guy.

The PC in question, Scoots, starts a fight with the Goblin king by “punching him square in the dick” – going against the plan the party originally made. Naturally, to add drama to the video, he rolls a Nat 20, and the DM, the hero of the story, is visibly frustrated, but still asks the party to roll initiative. The players talk out of character a little, and it’s revealed to the viewer that this is the latest in a long run of Scoots being a nuisance, and Scoots’ player says a variation of the phrase that sends a shiver down any DM or player’s spine “It’s what my character would do!”

Then, Scoots’ player says “All you guys want to do is immerse yourselves in the world and get swept up in the narrative. Boring! Scoots wants some action!” From my perspective, this is exactly where the DM should stop, because it’s clear Scoots’ player and the rest of the table want different things. The only good resolution will come from talking to the player about what they’re doing, and tell them that it’s annoying the rest of the table. If that fails, asking them to leave the table is the only real option.

The DM doesn’t do that, though. What does happen, is one of the players brings up that Scoots’ shenanigans don’t just annoy the other players, but make a lot of work and stress for the DM. This player is correct. Well, mostly. (Apologies for the upcoming diatribe. TL;DR it’s all our stories, not just the DM’s, and the players can absolutely go in a different direction than was planned. Once a player stops other players’ fun, the DM has to step in) While she is correct that players going off the beaten path creates more work for a DM, this kind of mindset led to my first party almost railroading themselves; they were so worried about making additional work for me, that they just latched onto what they thought was the next story beat. This is not the point of D&D. As great as coming face to face with the BBEG is, I love having to come up with a character and a voice on the fly, and enjoy the party’s hijinks just as much as the party does. The DM says something similar to this, but it’s a lot more passive. He says that he “creates a narrative framework”, and the party makes the decisions in the end. This takes most responsibility out of the DM’s hands, and relegates them to an impartial, referee-style role. This is not correct. The DM is, to a degree, responsible for everybody’s fun. If someone’s being That Guy, you step in and deal with it. You can’t just wash your hands of the problem.

Now, to return to our regularly scheduled programming. The DM, presumably scrambling to avoid a TPK, reminds Scoots of an artefact that can entirely resolve the situation, by “pacifying anyone within a 100 yard radius” (first of all, what the fuck? That’s crazy powerful, especially since it’s implied that there’s no save). Scoots, apparently a being of pure chaos who lacks all self-preservation, destroys it, and any chance for the party to escape a TPK (at this point, but him from the table, or just retcon that. It’s clear that he’s not really going to change). The DM does actually say it’s a very powerful artefact, so would be difficult to just break on a whim, but Scoots rolls a die (unprompted) and gets a Nat 20, so the DM says that it breaks. Couple of things – a DM can say “no, you can’t do that”. Magic items can be pretty much indestructible if you say they are; a route impassable if you say it is. Characters can’t break reality on 1 out of 20 attempts at anything. Speaking of the odds of a Nat 20, do the writers think a D20 is a coin with 1 on one side, and 20 on another? Because every single roll is either a Nat 1 or Nat 20, without fail.

Scoots’ player then essentially says “screw you DM, what are you gonna do about it?” Again, the DM should just boot him from the table at this point, for all the previously mentioned reasons. To make it crystal clear: DMs, if you don’t want to deal with a player, DON’T. You’re running a gate, and you’re allowed to not want to run it for some people.

Then the DM uses a variation of the “rocks fall, everyone dies“, and two meteors hit Scoots, killing him. The cleric doesn’t res him, and he’s told his brother who lives in the next village over died in a fire. This is very very bad. Catastrophically so, in fact. Trying to resolve grievances like this, with the DM trying to “get back” at players makes a really unpleasant atmosphere, and should NEVER EVER happen. If you don’t like the player, kick them. If you just don’t like their character, talk to them. These players are presumably friends and adults, but they seem to have the emotional maturity of 13 year olds.

Scoots’ player is visibly dejected, and, displaying (and I can’t stress this enough) the MOST maturity we’ve seen out of anyone so far, thanks the group for playing with them, and creating a safe space from the outside world, even if only for a short time. The cleric feels bad and resses Scoots, and then he jumps from beneath the table, and shouts “Scoots is back, baby!”

So, in conclusion, this sketch says: the DM just has to deal with all the shit the players throw at them – they are not supposed to have an active role in the story; under no circumstances should anyone seriously talk about issues – let it bubble under the surface until it explodes; the only solution to a problem player is to “rocks fall, everyone dies”; and, last but not least, if a problem player turns out to be apologetic, and really enjoyed the game and the time they spent saving funds, they’re probably manipulating you to get back in the game.

There’s an argument to be made that I’m reading too much into this, or that I’ve missed the whole point of the video, that everyone is to be ridiculed. Regarding the first: you’re probably right. But I really care about the hobby, and stuff like this rubs me the wrong way. Regarding the second: if that’s right, and I’ve misinterpreted the point of the video, so have all the comments I’ve seen.

Rant over, I guess

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