Friday, April 15, 2011

Munchkins

Another short post; I need to go to bed earlier and stop programming until midnight. Granted, the end-product will be good (I hope), but I need more sleep. If you're bored, here's an AD&D NPC Generator. Basically, there was this old NPC generator written in C I found, but it was flaky to compile and some of the computers I use don't have gcc or something comparable (which boggles my mind, really...back in the old days, EVERY computer had a BASIC interpreter and you could write your own programs. They're nothing more than toasters now, internet devices. Oh well.) So I slapped on a half-ass web front end and hey, it does the trick. Here's some sample output:
Random NPC party for dungeon level 20

Human Magic-user, Level: 13
Hit Points: 54
Str: 15 Int: 17 Wis: 16 Dex: 17
Con: 17 Chr: 15 Com: 13
2 potions: healing, giant strength
1 scroll: 2 spells, level 1-4
1 scroll: protection from magic
wand of illusion
ring of protection +3
rod of cancellation
robe of scintillating colors
1: Detect Magic
Jump
Magic Missile
Read Magic
Shield
2: Ray of Enfeeblement
Shatter
3: Explosive Runes
Slow
4: Confusion
Dimension Door
5: Conjure Elemental
Passwall
6: Extension III
Geas
Glassee


Human Thief, Level: 13
Hit Points: 68
Str: 13 Int: 13 Wis: 13 Dex: 17
Con: 16 Chr: 15 Com: 15
2 potions: extra-healing, polymorph (self)
1 scroll: 2 spells, level 1-4
1 scroll: protection from magic
wand of negation
bracers of defense, armor class 4
sword +4 (25% special type)

Human Thief, Level: 13
Hit Points: 73
Str: 17 Int: 10 Wis: 7 Dex: 13
Con: 16 Chr: 11 Com: 16
ring of mammal control
ring of mammal control
1 scroll: 2 spells, level 1-4
dust of disappearance
1 figurine of wondrous power: serpentine owl
2 ropes: climbing, entanglement
cube of force

Human Thief, Level: 13
Hit Points: 61
Str: 13 Int: 16 Wis: 10 Dex: 15
Con: 18 Chr: 12 Com: 13
ring of protection +1
2 potions: climbing, flying
2 potions: healing, giant strength
cloak of elvenkind
wand of negation
sword +4 (25% special type)
cube of force

Now remember, this is a randomly generated party of characters. It does use a fairly decent generation algorithm however. I wonder why a magic-user was wandering around with three thieves, apparently in the 20th level of a dungeon. Two of the thieves have +4 swords, possibly special. This wouldn't be a party I'd want to meet in a dark alley, you're just asking to be backstabbed. Still, the MU has a fairly paltry list of spells which resembles nothing a PC would have. I think that's cool, because as this is completely random, you can see what characters might look like if the DM didn't sort of "help" by placing certain items within the game. Sort of like how Gygax would always have a scroll of Stone to Flesh in the lair of a medusa. Where are all these wizards learning Fireball anyway? Tongues or Suggestion would be more useful in a wider variety of situations, right? That leads into...

The definition of a munchkin according Wikipedia's article on the subject (a reason you should never use Wikipedia as any sort of scholarly reference): a player who plays what is intended to be a non-competitive game (usually a role-playing game) in an aggressively competitive manner. I'm not so sure I agree with that statement, to be honest. Everyone who plays rpgs is a little competitive with the other players; all of us want to have a useful character. Wiki goes on further, explaining that munchkins engage in cheating, misinterpreting rules, and min-maxing. This last one, that's what I usually think of. Min-maxers don't take spells like Tongues. They load up on Fireballs and Lightning Bolts, no matter what the situation. But again, where the hell are these characters finding the Fireball spells? There's a certain level of blame that has to be placed on the DM for munchkinism, obviously. He's the one who populates the world with monsters, treasure and magic items. He also influences the encounters that take place, and after the party has fireballed its ninth townsman this week, perhaps the DM should have the town guard come after their asses. If the DM is putting scrolls with Fireball in an easily accessible dungeon, he can't complain if a player character finds that scroll and learns the spell. Of course, plenty of rules exist in a game like AD&D to limit this sort of thing. The player has to roll to determine if his character can learn the spell, assuming of course he hasn't reached the maximum number of spells for that level. Almost every game I've ever been a part of, these rolls were summarily dismissed, even by me-as-DM. And almost every time, even with players who aren't munchkins in the general sense, there was a bit of power creep and gamism I didn't particularly care for. But you want the players to be happy...if you're playing a Magic-User, 9 times out of 10 you want to learn Fireball. It's a good spell. Isn't that the whole reason you put up with fearing house cats and giant rats for 4 levels, to make it to 5th and get some real power?

I'm not sure I think munchkins are any different than "normal" players, really. When I was in junior high, my 15th level fighter had an awesome dominion and a Star Destroyer. A few legions of robot warriors who eradicated all the orcs in a 500 mile radius. What...didn't everyone play this way? What's funny is that the fighter was actually challenged all the time. He fought gods and demons and whatever else on a weekly basis. He was resurrected countless times due to getting owned by some super-heavy badasses. I don't consider that being a munchkin at all. 15th level fighters should be in the thick of things with ridiculously powerful demons. The Star Destroyer surely didn't hurt. But I don't think I was a munchkin player. I didn't cheat die rolls or argue over rules interpretations. When a demon lord attacked my character on the bridge of his Star Destroyer and blew it up, of course that sucked, but I didn't whine about it. When his dominion was taken over by a rival magic-user of immense power and he was stripped of all his wealth and outcast to a distant land, that REALLY sucked, but I didn't bitch. In fact, he got a bunch of primitive tribes together, overthrew that evil wizard and took back what was his (directly ripped off from RotJ, of course). Certainly that's not munchkinism. However, if I had said, okay, this sucks ass, you can't blow up my Star Destroyer! And the DM rescinded his ruling, allowing me to keep it, then yeah, that opens the door for munchkinism. If I was unbeatable and the evil wizard couldn't possibly take over my dominion, no matter what, then that's probably munchkinism. To be sure the game was more juvenile than the sort I play now, but it was still legitimate, I think, due to the possibility of character loss. It could easily have led me to be a munchkin player had the DM not been on top of things.

I think the DM needs to set the tone of a game and not give his players everything they want. Just enough to make them thirst for a bit more, but also enough that they're somewhat happy. Players need to achieve goals in-game, but always have another one just out of reach. Giving the players everything they want without effort creates the munchkin attitude. Some players come into a game with that attitude already in place. I think a good DM can knock them out of it by being fair and unwavering, just like you can teach a kid to deal with disappointment. Consistency is the key. Unfortunately, some people never grow up, and their munchkin tendencies persist throughout their gaming careers. I say fuck 'em, and don't play with those types. Anyone who expresses a sense of entitlement when playing a game, especially an rpg, needs to be excluded from the table. The players are entitled to have fun, the DM is entitled to have fun, the character isn't entitled to a +5 sword of dragon slaying just because...if you want it, you gotta work for it. What sucks is a game like D&D 3rd edition actually encourages this sort of behavior. 5th level characters SHOULD have X amount of gold and magic items. Screw that.

My main point in this rambling essay that has turned out to be not-so-short is that I think random rolls are pretty great for the game. Randomly generating treasure and scrolls and whatever else, that eliminates some of the DM bias and places more emphasis on player skill rather than whining ability. It's possible to eliminate all the munchkins if the DM just randomly rolls for every bit of treasure in his game because how can you whine and rationalize your stupid arguments to dice? As a DM, it'd be rather enjoyable to be just as surprised as the players. I'm not advocating this all the time, but for certain styles of play the completely random method could add a lot of value to the game.

2 comments:

  1. Programing when you're tired? Oy. That's hard stuff. Hope you get more sleep. Happy Gaming.

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  2. Hey Brad, nice generator. I added it to my link page. Very cool. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete