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...which is very much what I wanted to be using my journal for, I felt the need to rant about something. It's not about any certain people, or against them, but is instead about me.

Simply put, the Barony Bugle articles about the Bard have triggered the living hell out of me, as unbeknownst to them, the people who wrote them are behaving in the same way my school bullies did.

What has happened is comments have made by characters whose players know they are not going to receive any consequences for doing so, as the only consequences that would be fitting would be the Bard showing up and laying waste to them. It would be arbitrary, unstoppable, and wholly bad GMing to kill without recourse in such a fashion, and this is widely understood. Thus, it is known that the characters can do what they like, even call him out, and they won't get in trouble for it.

This is a depressingly familiar process of events, and not a remotely pleasant one.

When Gerrard did the same to the Gamesmaster, the almost immediate response was someone died in front of him at the snap of a finger. As above, I viewed it as arbitrary, unstoppable, and wholly bad GMing to do so, but it was at least a fitting consequence to the abuse that was being hurled (acknowledged then, and still acknowledged now). I publicly decided I was not willing to do that in such an arbitrary fashion with my plotline, and if I didn't know better, I would say that that knowledge is being exploited. I'm not sure I do know any better. Gerrard taunts the Gamesmaster because he wants, for want of a better phrase, to hold aggro and keep the heat off anyone else. I don't see the same reasoning in the behaviour of the characters taunting the Bard - it's less overt aggression, and more amused disdain, which is the same thing I dealt with for years at school.

The immediate thought was that in the light of my gut reaction, my safety is more important than anyone's enjoyment or otherwise of a game, and that the plotline should be immediately canned. It was then suggested that this would be a shame because the characters didn't get to kill the Bard. That doesn't strike me as much of a shame at all - market research says the games themselves are boring (not interesting enough to be engaging in their own right without the added interest of the Bard himself being there as well), and they're a nightmare to organise due to their complexity and in-depth monster briefings. If the level of engagement is so low, who is it a shame for to shut it down? As the article says, he's just another bad guy - nothing more, nothing less.

It's the same thing that happened with the Man in Red, and it suggests that there is just not enough imagination in the stories I write to hold attention for more than a couple of games. It's already happening with the Druid series as well (six players and eleven monsters for the last game, including one who switched from monster to play at the last minute? That's a pretty clear message). I wish I could instill the level of engagement that other GMs can, and I would dearly like to know what they have that I don't so I can incorporate it. If nothing else, the Bard games are a legitimate vehicle by which weird and wonderful game ideas can be experienced by the players - even by itself, was that not enough?

I applied for the game on July 23rd. Before the four-week limit is reached and I receive the committee's decision, I should probably decide whether I still want it or not.


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Doug Millington-Smith

June 2017

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