The Curse of GM Fiat

Oh, hello. I almost didn’t see you there from high atop my ivory GM throne. It has come to my attention that a ruling I made in a recent episode has caused quite a stir amongst the fandom. First of all, thank Desna! I was beginning to think you didn’t care anymore! Not since a certain cleric was feeble-minded into oblivion has there been such a public outcry and call for my neon green scepter. Heavy is the head that wears the crayon, as a certain illiterate fool from Philly might say, but I can no longer sit idly by, hideously laughing at the angry mob and fiddling while the subreddit burns. It’s time to set a few things straight.

Now listen, I’m no fool. I know the vocal minority is going to stick to their beliefs on the matter regardless of what I say. That’s cool. But give your old buddy Troy a listen just for the hell of it and maybe we’ll both learn a thing or two about this game we love so well.

If you’re not caught up to the Glass Cannon Podcast Episode 186, then stop reading right now. MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD: In 186, a creature known as a Devourer casts Bestow Curse on Barron. Barron then fails his save and I, in my infinite wisdom and benevolence, create a curse from scratch that I think will really spice things up. Shortly thereafter, our friendships dissolved and the Glass Cannon Network closed up shop and declared bankruptcy, or at least that’s the sense one would get from reading the subreddit.

As someone who prides himself on playing by the rules, my interpretation of Bestow Curse would seem, at first glance, quite hypocritical to the rules-following ethos I tend to preach. Bestow Curse clearly states, “You may also invent your own curse, but it should be no more powerful than those described above.”

The Curse of the Bambino was OP

“I don’t know, Lavallee, that seems pretty cut and dry to me. The curse YOU chose was WAY more powerful than a 50% chance to act normally or a penalty to ability scores. You purposely took Barron out of the game. You have it out for him and it’s ruining my enjoyment of listening to your show. You’re a bad person and a terrible GM!”

I agree with you! Well, at least the parts about it being more powerful than written and taking Barron out of the game. BUT allow me point you to another quote from a little book known as the Pathfinder GameMastery Guide. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? This is from the Introduction to the book, which I encourage all GMs AND all players to peruse. If you read nothing else, dear players, read the one page of the intro that talks about “Defining the Game Master,” how they play many roles as a host, world builder, storyteller, etc. It also speaks on the GM’s role as a Game Designer saying, “Even with the vast range of options available, only GMs know what threats their players might face or powers they might come to control. Just as GMs arbitrate the rules within their games, so can they manipulate, repurpose, and wholly invent new rules to improve their games.”

Thinnnnerrrrr…

Part of my job as GM is – beyond making sure the guys are having fun – to challenge them in new and interesting ways. I also have the added wrinkle of playing to an audience that downloads our shows half a million times per month (#humblebrag). Listen, there’s nothing wrong with doing what your character was built to do. I’m also not doing my job as a GM if every single week Barron is getting up close and deadly to shoot four times against touch AC, Pembroke is summoning fifteen monsters and shooting thirty quickened magic missiles, Fairaza is wild shaping and raining down spells from the ceiling and Four Bears is going total defense and not using any of his abilities correctly. Snoooooozefest. It’s far more juicy in my mind if I can throw a wrench into that from time to time, put the players in seemingly impossible situations and force them to come together to get creative with new solutions to a problem.

What goes on behind the screen is the GM’s business. How encounters get modified on the fly to either penalize or ease up on the players is the reason that there is a GM screen in the first place. I told the players it was Bestow Curse. You, the listening audience, can read the Adventure Path or look up the monster and see the spell is Bestow Curse. But ultimately, all I have to say to Grant is “roll your save, you failed, you now misfire 1-9.” End of story. Is it abuse of power? That’s one way to look at it – if Grant and I weren’t good friends playing pretend together while putting on an improvised show for other people’s entertainment!!! But contrary to what many listeners believe, I don’t “have it out” for Barron. Trust me when I say that if I really wanted him dead, I could have killed Barron many, many times over by now by the rules of the game, without any shenanigans. I constantly talk about how “OP the gunslinger is” because that’s what my character “GM Troy” does – he shits on the stupid players and their stupid characters. After almost four years, it still amazes me so many people listen to this show and forget that what we are doing is much more than a game. If I always played things to the letter of the book, shadow rats would have TPK-ed the party long ago, Barron would have been blind for weeks after the Vault of Thorns, and don’t get me started on what the Birelu and Aurumvorax could have done to the crew. Where were your torches and pitchforks then?!

Curses! Touch AC again!

At the end of the day, I knew what I was doing was over the top, but, as always, there is a method to my madness, because I have the benefit of knowing the big picture. Sure, Skid forgot that Break Enchantment required a roll, but it was still a curse that would have lasted a very short time, forcing both Barron and the party to think up new strategies that would bring their characters to life in new ways. And if they couldn’t break it, then you can be sure there’d be a wild role-playing scene where Barron would have to visit some high-powered witch doctor and go through some crazy ritual to remove the curse while changing him inexorably forever. When characters in a story are challenged in new ways, they discover new things about themselves and each other. That’s storytelling 101, baby. That’s the Glass Cannon Network.

As a player, it can often be a lot more interesting for the story to just go with it. Make your case and then move on. Without being spoilery at all, in today’s episode of Raiders of the Lost Continent, my character, Colonel Luther von Hildebrand, casts Sanctuary on Matthew’s character, Gavrix. A construct goes to attack Gavrix and Skid rules that Sanctuary doesn’t work on constructs. I know that it does, so I eventually enlighten our fair GM. He decides he doesn’t like the rule as written, I say, “Cool!” and we move on. The moral of the story is: I think we could all learn a lot from this open-minded, understanding and handsome player.

For those casting aspersions, walk a country mile behind the screen in my gold-plated, whalebone GM shoes, then MAYBE I’ll allow you to clean the spittoon next to my throne while permitting you to pick my brain about GM theory. Until then, just take a leap of faith into the imagination sphere with us once in a while. My players freaked out just like you did when I made the ruling. They were angry and then I got angry at them for getting angry. Ten minutes later, we were all laughing about it. You the listener have the right to get fired up as well. Get mad. Get angry. Send a tongue-in-cheek angry email. But ALSO have some trust in your old buddy Troy and laugh with us once in a while. Or at the very least at us.

If nothing else, laugh at Grant.

Also, buy me a spittoon.

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Tomato Fettuccini
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Tomato Fettuccini

Hey Troy (and Matt, Skid, Joe, and Grant), As a player, I agree with the outrage expressed by the players. As a (benevolent) DM, I understand that part of my job **is** to outrage the players from time to time, because of the players get their way too easily, too often, then the game becomes incredibly boring. The DM’s job is to pose challenges of varying difficulty to the players, AND LOSE GRACEFULLY. This does not mean that the DM should make it easy for them (hence the word “challenge”), nor is he or she supposed to outright kill the… Read more »

Feyjarl
Guest
Feyjarl

It’s always good to challenge players that know the game well by throwing a curve ball every once in a while. Make them sit up and say, “What? That’s not right!” Just smile, sit back, listen to the whining, then lean forwards, “You done? Or do you want to whine a little longer? Personally, I’d like to play some Pathfinder, but it’s up to you…” Players have to trust the GM. The GM knows the story. The GM knows the encounters. The GM knows the PC’s backstories. You know what else the GM knows? How to weave all those things… Read more »

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I just listened to Episode 186 and want to say what I thought both before and after I heard the “dreaded” curse. First, when I saw this post before hearing it was that the people who kicked it around were being too critical on it. You guys at the Glass Cannon studios are entertaining us with the whole scope of your game and how you play it. By listening to you podcast (which I joined in on around Episode 15), we want to go for the ride with you guys, wherever it takes us. Reacting on the subreddit with negative… Read more »

MIke
Guest
MIke

I would have done something a long time ago to slow Grant down. Maybe make him roll with Joe’s dice for a session after a fumble. People think you’re ruthless, I have a copy of the character sheet for every pc I’ve killed. If I had room I’d put their pictures on my GM screen with an X over the eyes. Keep up the good work I’ve enjoyed every hour and learned a lot.

Your New Dad
Guest
Your New Dad

1-9 misfire might equate a bit under a 50% fail rate, but the risk of blowing the gun up would have, if they hadn’t had the ability to remove the curse, resulted in Barron not using it at all or in the party losing a metric ass-ton of money to replace it once again, so the argument that the magnitude of the homebrew curse isn’t greater than the vanilla curse is weak. Given the nature of the show, “because it’s funny” is a much more reasonable and obvious rationalization.

David
Guest
David

Troy, that was awesome. I’ve been a DM for over 40 years and love a good story, let alone a great story. And I agree with you in regards to rules changing and doing things to make the story move along in a great way. When I listened to the curse, I went thought it was awesome. Sure I can the players getting angry, and making their case. But in the end, it was a great decision on your part. I’ve done similar things in my games. Thanks for all the great stuff.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Troy, you’re the best GM/DM. I’ve learned a lot including the “My ruling rules” way. For the haters reminder he is the contoller of worlds and master of the game. If he OP the rule, he has many ways putting it back with one sentence. Same with Skid or Joe if disorganised play comes back. You can groan as I did but, wow this story is the best I’ve heard in years. Keep up the fun. That’s what it’s about. Cheers, and I hope to see all 5 of you in Denver. (Hint. Hint)

Eric
Guest
Eric

I am a huge fan of the go, and I have not ran a game in a few years because I gm a little like Troy. I am a littke tougher in some ways on my players, and I have a fire d20 that is the equivalent of mean green. That said, when Troy made his ruling i laughed my ass off. I would have done the same thing. I listened to that ep twice, with maniacal laughter the whole time. I am starting a rise of the runelords campaign in January, and I hope I can be the lawful… Read more »

dasjmp
Guest
dasjmp

thanks for making it a fun and interesting podcast, you whiley Gm & players!

Brian R.
Guest
Brian R.

As an aspiring pathfinder GM with sporadic games, I struggle with the role of GM. I LOVE the storytelling and world building aspects, but often struggle with rules. However, there have been many times when I did have a good understanding of rules and was faced with situations that did not have concrete spelled out rules. Players wanting to do something out of the ordinary or a spell not being…ahem…spelled…out clearly. When I as the GM made a ruling or interpreted the rules as I saw them, I was often met with arguing, anger and almost game ending reactions. It… Read more »

Yurazmus
Guest
Yurazmus

The longer I reflect on this topic, the more I have to think that the curse was not much worse that the 50% act normally.

Now hear me out, would I have done it differently? Yes. But troy essentially made curse on the gun itself to act normally 50% of the time.

Just for lols, I would have made the misfire range 1-5 or 1-6 AND 50% for the bullet to not leave the gun but not break the gun, effectively making the bullets a dud.

Kie
Guest
Kie

Hey Troy I hope you get a chance to read this because I’d just like to give me input here. I’m one of the people who disagreed with your choice on the curse and honestly I still do. What you and some members of the community seem to be missing is that just because I disagree with a choice you make doesn’t mean I don’t love the show, all the crew involved and will stop listening. It just means that I disagreed with a decision made and would do things differently in my game. I don’t get angry when I… Read more »

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Forget the question about the spittoon I will just bring it to the Portland meet and greet show, along with a copy of Jurassic park for you Troy.

Harthal
Guest

You guys do an amazing job and never fail to impress me. This was a great post to read, sorry your subreddit is such a gripe factory. Stay true to yourselves and you can do no wrong. Happy Holidays GCP nation.

timmeh
Guest

“Part of my job as GM is – beyond making sure the guys are having fun – to challenge them in new and interesting ways. I also have the added wrinkle of playing to an audience that downloads our shows half a million times per month (#humblebrag). Listen, there’s nothing wrong with doing what your character was built to do. I’m also not doing my job as a GM if every single week Barron is getting up close and deadly to shoot four times against touch AC, Pembroke is summoning fifteen monsters and shooting thirty quickened magic missiles, Fairaza is… Read more »

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Where do I send the spittoon?

Chris Vores
Guest
Chris Vores

I thought doubling the fail rate for his pistol would have been a good call but the critical fail rate you imposed was too high in my opinion. I do think you have it out to kill Barron and I think Barron even thinks he is going to die based on the podcast. Take time and listen to the podcast, say in the last 20 episodes. Sometimes the issue that Barron is gonna die is mentioned multiple times in an episode. I would agree with a previous poster I am sick of hearing it too and it does take away… Read more »

Jon
Guest
Jon

Quit listening dude. You obviously don’t enjoy it. Troy is the best GM I’ve ever encountered. His word is gospel, as it should be.

Curtis Brown
Guest
Curtis Brown

Been with the original ruling since the beginning, curses are bad and sure this one was a bit strong but hey I’m glad you stuck to your guns. But in terms of you wanting to stop baron and the rest of them from doing the exact same thing every combat: mix up your strategy, have someone grapple baron (literally counters his class entirely. Or stand next to pembroke with a readied action to attack if he casts a spell. Just walk past fourbears when he goes total defense. I know you know many of these things, but I really think… Read more »

IllNAte
Guest
IllNAte

You’re FINE!! GM knows best, make them aware that they might be breaking the RAW, but if they still want to proceed, move on! As Troy says, he’s getting the players fired up. If he wanted less fire, then instead he says “Yeah, I know it’s OP, but it’s also what’s happening”

#Lavalleesarmy

Kelvar
Guest
Kelvar

I’ve been GMing “Rise of the Runelords” for several years now (since my players can only be available when the stars align just so), so I know what it is like to be behind the GM screen. While listening to the episode, I thought the curse was a bit draconian, but I also thought that compared to only being able to act normally 50% of the time, it *was* in line with the power of Bestow Curse. So I think Troy was fine in terms of the letter of the rules. That being said, it was harsh and probably more… Read more »

Tevell Winston
Guest
Tevell Winston

*out of combat*
As of he didnt have an axe and spells.
Start buffing and using your grit for not shoot things is what I’d think.
I liked it, and personally, I wish it happened earlier in the episode.

#Lavalleesarmy

The Champagne room
Guest
The Champagne room

After listening to Barron decimate enemy after enemy throwing him a curve might be good for character growth. I have been addicted since episode one and shall continue to listen till the rabbid crowd climbs the studio walls and burns you for bewitching us.
No point in getting upset at the story because it’s not the exact story people want. Its the story you guys are telling and the reason we listen.
Don’t ever change Troy.
Keep being the jerk we love to listen too.

Decicio
Guest
Decicio

I for one welcome our gmly overlord.

In all seriousness, I am on who defended your choice on the sub and, in fact, don’t think it was as powerful a curse as 50% chance to do nothing (but I won’t get into that here). I gm and we mostly play raw, but I agree that that was the good story choice, I also agree that the party could easily have been tpk’d had you gone raw.

Just know you have allies on the sub. For that matter, let Joe know he does too.

Billy G
Guest
Billy G

Bottle Cap

Phil
Guest
Phil

You’d think that after 186 episodes, we’d collectively be able to give Troy the benefit of the doubt. Now I regret not meeting that whacky witch-doctor.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

Ya know Troy people are going to be bringing you spitting to the GCP Live shows next year

Redshirt05
Guest
Redshirt05

Great response Troy…this coming from a fellow GM. Our group plays RAW, but I love you quoting the Game Mastery guide, ““Even with the vast range of options available, only GMs know what threats their players might face or powers they might come to control. Just as GMs arbitrate the rules within their games, so can they manipulate, repurpose, and wholly invent new rules to improve their games.”

You have to throw something in the mix to keep those players on their toes!

Well done.
B.

Joshua Sachs
Guest
Joshua Sachs

I am also running the same ap for several of my closest friends and we just made it to book three and I killed two of them with the cyclops now dont get me wrong I make mistakes on how I interpret the rules (even though as gm it’s my ruling if i want it be the way i say) and it caused a disagreement between me and another player he is playing a magus (RIP della) and is the only tier one charector remaining and he got very upset with me when he rolled a one on his reflex… Read more »

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

Amen!

Paul
Guest
Paul

Bless you, Troy. You are doing the Lord’s work. I love the show and will continue to listen but the combats feel less rewarding if the players don’t sound like they are challenged. Currently, it reminds me of a video game., with a deadly threat of the end of the world, but let’s rest a day after every combat, as I am sure the threat will still be there a week from now.

Keep up the good work all

EZWalton
Guest
EZWalton

Preach it!!!