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The (Un)Official, Metaversal Murphy's Laws of RPGs

  1. There is no RPG system so elegantly designed, refined, and balanced that a GM can't irretrievably screw it up in 60 seconds flat.
  2. As above, but substitute "player" for "GM."
  3. Attempts at system balance are laudable and necessary, and ultimately doomed to failure.
  4. The probability of rolling a critical failure on any given check is directly proportional to how much you care about the result.
  5. Your dice are not your friends. They're merely impartial observers who laugh at you when you fail.
  6. "Rocks fall, everyone dies" may, in fact, be a most merciful of ends.
  7. The more a player wishes to play a particular race, the greater the probability that the GM will have already banned that race for "reasons".
  8. As above, but substitute "class" for "race."
  9. The character to die first will inevitably belong to the player least emotionally equipped to handle it.
  10. The desire of a given player to "win" at Dungeons & Dragons is inversely proportional to their ability to win at real life.
  11. After X minutes of being introduced to the RPG hobby, the probability of encountering a d****bag player or GM increases by 25% per minute thereafter, where X = 1.
  12. There is no module or adventure path that a GM's intuition cannot make infinitely worse.
  13. If you're ever having fun playing an RPG, smack yourself on the face. Hard. Just to make sure you're not actually suffering a delusion at the hands of a greater demon of the Abyss.
  14. There is no campaign setting or intellectual property that cannot be ruined by a player who knows more about the setting's backstory than its original creators.
  15. Likewise, there is no campaign setting or intellectual property that cannot be ruined by a player whose knowledge of the setting is surpassed by the bag of Doritos sitting in front of them.
  16. The bag of Doritos would totally build an epic PC that would "pwn your face" if only you'd let it.
 

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Celebrim

Legend
20. No amount of preparation, however complete, will account for what the PC's actually choose to do.
21. The amount of interest that the players take in an NPC, is inversely proportional to the amount of time you've actually spent developing the NPC. Players will ignore NPCs involved in the plot in preference to trying to dig out the life history of a random background NPC that wasn't named at the beginning of the session.
22. Players will invariably ask to perform a task that involves the DM utilizing advanced math, physics or engineering skills before he can even ad hoc a response. The more important the answer is to the story, the more likely the DM actually gets the answer wrong.
23. Players will invariably ask to perform a completely reasonable task - the sort of thing a pair of 1st graders could attempt to coordinate - that will be for whatever reason impossible under the rules as written. The more you simplify the rules to avoid this, the more likely this is to occur.
24. 80% of the deaths happen to 20% of the players. The rest happen because those PCs are dead or otherwise not available at a critical juncture.
25. 90% of the deaths occur because the players split the party. They will however never learn not to do this.
26. Major PC deaths invariably occur in minor encounters that should have been easy. Major encounters with difficult foes or in difficult situations are invariably walk-overs.
27. The Pippin Principle: If the party is stuck, it's because the player whose plans are consistently stupid has the right answer and he's being ignored.
 

Hahah, @Celebrim, I absolutely LOVE #22 and #23. So . . . dang . . . true.

Continuing:

28. There is no skill, feat, or character build combination so esoteric and outlandishly broken that someone, somewhere, won't find it.
29. The more outlandishly broken a character build combination, the greater the probability that the player using it will claim, in stone faced seriousness, that said combination is absolutely vital to his or her character concept, and if the GM disallows it it's wrong, because "now I can't play my character the way I want."
 
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Celebrim

Legend
30. Regardless of what takes place in the session, 10 minutes before the time the game normally breaks up, the players will always manage to begin a major combat requiring a battle mat and figures
31. The probability that the players will search the room is inversely proportional to the amount of treasure hidden in it.
32. The probability that the players will search a corridor or door is inversely proportional to the lethality of the trap protecting it.
33. Players always move in the shortest possible path to the nearest unprepared portion of any homebrew dungeon.
 

34. Players will invariably reference house rules produced by the most incompetent GM imaginable as their primary evidence that GM house rules are "bad" and should never be used, because everyone knows GMs are out to screw the players.
35. Players will invariably reference house rules they created themselves as being the best improvements to the game since E. Gary Gygax.
36. The player with the Fighter 1 / Cleric 1 / Wizard 2 / Rogue 1 / Thaumaturge 3 / Warlock 1 / Bard 2 character will invariably scoff at the notion that they really should be playing a generic, skill-based system like Savage Worlds or GURPS, because "that's just not D&D."
37. Despite the passage of decades and added years of maturity, anecdotes of "bad things happening" at a gaming table when a player was 14 are still considered valid evidence for any manifested issues regarding the current state of a system/group/campaign.
38. Any attempts by anyone to say "That's probably not the best system to accomplish that goal" will be met with derision and counter-claims of system "elitism" and "edition warring."
39. The Leeroy Jenkins Corollary: The character/player with the absolute least at stake in a given scene or encounter will invariably be the one to instigate a TPK.
40. Despite defying all conventions of logic, cause/effect, and the space-time continuum, taverns will remain the temporal vortex surrounding which anything or anyone interesting interacts with the PCs.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
41. In any well balanced dungeon with appropriate challenges, players will find a way to pull multiple encounters to their current location to create inappropriately difficult challenge. The more time you spend balancing the encounters, the more likely the players are to pull multiple encounters.
42. The more time you spend preparing for the players to approach a challenge in a particular way, the less likely it is that the players will treat the challenge in that way. For example, players will attempt to ambush or surprise foils if you carefully detail a complex RP challenge, they'll refuse to chase fleeing foes if carefully prepare a chase scene, and they'll evade or attempt to negotiate with monsters in carefully prepared combat scenarios. This remains true regardless of whether the alternative approach is much more difficult than the one you planned for (ei, deciding to attack a king and his body guard of high level knights, attempting to negotiate with a hungry dragon, etc.)
 


43. Despite multiple redundant overlaps and a trail of information nigh-impossible to miss, the party will invariably finger the wrong person as the "bad guy" for a given scenario, short of the GM placing a "THE BAD GUY LIVES HERE, COME GET HIM!" flashing neon sign over said bad guy's lair.
44. There are no GMPCs. There are only NPCs far more worthy of the spotlight than the players' frankly pathetic attempts at trying to be "actual heroes."
 

Celebrim

Legend
45. You will discover within the first five minutes of play that the most important and hitherto neglected line item of the social contract is what to do with dice that roll off the table. The answer is never in the RAW.
 

45. You will discover within the first five minutes of play that the most important and hitherto neglected line item of the social contract is what to do with dice that roll off the table. The answer is never in the RAW.

46. The Cocked Dice Addendum: One in five critical successes will necessarily be negated due to the dice landing off the table, or on a book, mini-figure, token, or food.


This one is particularly relevant for our group, because our GM uses a set of those cool metal dice where the "face" of the number "floats" in the middle of the die on a set of hinges. For some reason those suckers end up cocked on an edge all . . . the . . . time. Part of the issue is that we play Savage Worlds, where the number of d10s and d12s in use is significantly greater than most other systems, and those particular "floating" die sizes are most prone to the problem.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
47. There is no entity in this universe or any other that is more resilient than a well-equipped adventuring party...except maybe the dandelions in my lawn.
48. No matter how remote it may be from anywhere adventures actually happen the party will invariably find the biggest city on the map, go straight there, and forever base themselves there unless they hear of a bigger one somewhere else. Then they'll complain how long it takes to get to the adventures.
49. Rulebooks are usually reasonably well proof-read and contain remarkably few outright errors. The same cannot in any way be said for published adventure modules of any era.
50. In a published adventure, if the "boxed description" of a location assumes arrival from a certain direction (as many of them do) you can be sure that will be the one direction from which the party will never approach.
51. Sooner or later somebody will insist on playing a Paladin even though half the party are of alignment/class/race that a Paladin would not usually run with.
51a. Point 51 is invariably either the result of an alignment argument or the cause of one.
 

52. The probability of a player choosing a particular character class is inversely proportional to their ability to play the class competently.
53. The solution to any given rules problem, discrepancy, or needed fix can invariably be found in a source material to which no one at the table actually has access.
54. The amount of time players spend shopping for a particular item is inversely proportional to the actual usefulness of the item in question.
55. There is a 99% probability that a given group will have at least one character who is the semantic equivalent of one of the following: Drizzt, Conan, Gimli, Legolas, Aragorn, or Raistlin. The probability increases by 1% for each succeeding gaming group in which a player participates.
56. The probability of success for the most insane, zany, ludicrous, or implausible check a player can make is inversely proportional to the GM's ability to successfully manage what happens should the check actually succeed.
 

57. The probability of your current campaign coming to an unexpected end / TPK / falling apart due to "real world reasons" is directly proportional to how much you are enjoying it.
 

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