r/DnD & RPG Horror Stories: Asexuality Edition

TTRPGs can be a sacred space for queer people exploring their identities...unfortunately, if you get the wrong GM, it can also be a space riddled with acephobia.


Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse, Royce, and we are not only The Ace Couple, but we are… co-DMs. Some of you may, on occasion, have heard us mention that we dungeon master for an all-ace D&D group every single week. Or perhaps you listened to an episode of ours where we talked about our own D&D horror story with a former friend who was not super great about asexuality. Or maybe you just like when we read and comment on Reddit stories. That’s fine too, because that’s what we’re doing today. We are wading into the depths of– What are we doing? D&D horror stories? RPG horror stories? There’s a couple subreddits to choose from here.

Royce: We’re keeping it open. The general vibe is various TTRPG horror stories. The two subreddits we’ve been looking at are rpghorrorstories and dndhorrorstories, but a lot of the posts on RPG horror stories are using D&D mechanics.

Courtney: Ah, I see.

Royce: Just being the popular game that it is.

Courtney: I am, like, fully afraid at what we’re going to encounter.

Royce: Yeah, before we get into it, I guess a lot of RPG horror stories in general often revolve around some sort of loss of control, or lack of consent, or no setting of expectations between either the players who are controlling their characters in the world, or with the DM that is controlling the world. That’s where a lot of these conflicts come from. And that’s even without factoring in sexuality.

Royce: I’ve read through some of these as I was just searching for asexuality and aromanticism on these subreddits. Just a forewarning for everyone, that is what some of this content may get into.

Royce: And I guess I’ll start off with reading one or two here that, I guess, showcase a side of group roleplaying or group storytelling that I personally just don’t understand. Like, I don’t get why some people are this way, but this is sometimes the core of RPG horror stories is where one person just really wants to act out some sort of fantasy with the group and the rest of the group did not consent to be a part of this. Whether that is, you know, a power trip or, you know, some other sort of fantasy that they’re wanting to play through.

Courtney: Yeah, I mean unironically, like the TTRPG community can learn so much from the kink community.

Royce: That is something we have brought up before; like, Session 0: talk through your boundaries, set expectations. If it’s an intense campaign, have some time to cool off or come down before going back to your lives after the session. Like make sure things are resolved before you exit that bubble.

Courtney: Yeah. Well, and it can’t be performative either. You have to genuinely care about the well being of everyone at the table. Because for those of you who maybe aren’t tabletop roleplayers, like a Session 0 is when everyone gets together to discuss what the story is, what the game is going to be.

Courtney: Hopefully, you can articulate what your boundaries are and make sure everyone does feel safe and comfortable. And it’s been long enough since we’ve recorded our episode about our real life example of this failing, but I know we got some comments on that episode with people saying like, “This is why it’s important to have a Session 0.” And I don’t know if we hammered this home in that episode or not, but we had a Session 0 for that campaign. And our DM, on paper, right at the beginning was doing everything right, even saying, like, “If you have a hard line, here’s what you can do at the table.” And using all these, like, safety tools that people in the community try to educate others on on healthy ways to discuss these boundaries and have these conversations. We had that, and we thought we had a DM who cared about that. But as soon as we had issues that were brought up, they were not heard, or understood, or dealt with.

Royce: The safety tools used were also to hard-line. It was like, “Hard no, immediately cut the scene, move on,” and not: there’s a more subtle underlying problem with the entire way that the session or the campaign is being run. But anyway, this post actually comes from D&D Horror Stories, the subreddit, and the title is: My DM tried to force the group to have a bar orgy.

Courtney: No! [laughs] What?!

Royce: It’s a short one here. The player says, [reading] “First time posting here. A little context: my character is ace and does not drink for reasons in his backstory, and the DM and all on the table knew that.”

Courtney: Oh no.

Royce: [resumes reading] “The story was in my first campaign and the group was fairly new to this. We had just finished a dungeon and we began– We began preparing to avenge a companion that was murdered by a powerful vampire (standard D&D stuff.) My DM, who already had problems with me, decided that we should celebrate our last victory in a bar (I guess that’s red flag number one.) We were fine with that, as it was something we always did. The thing is that he told us we all got drunk and started an orgy in the bar, and when we tried to tell him we did not want that, he got pissed and told us that this is what happened and we just have to deal with it. Some sessions later he decided to stop the campaign entirely, which was sad because we really liked our characters and their interactions.” Why?

Courtney: Why…?

Royce: Where did that come from? Why was that a decision?

Courtney: This is so far away from any–

Royce: This even sounds like it was a– It was just like a sentence or two. It was just like, “You did this. It happened.”

Courtney: That’s not how that works.

Royce: You all temporary lose control of your characters and do something completely counter to your character’s usual motivations.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: Because!

Courtney: I mean in this space, in general, people will say like DM shouldn’t railroad. Like you shouldn’t force characters to do something, because this is a role-playing game too, even though there are rules and even though you’re creating the setting and the NPCs and, you know, the one sort of in control of the magic and lore of this world, like, your characters need to have autonomy and they need to be able to make choices. So anytime you’re just like, “And your character does this,” you’re probably in the wrong as a DM. But what–? Why this? There is some– Like, there’s only two things that I can think that would actually cause someone to do this. Either it is outright malice and animosity toward– towards asexuality, this asexual character and the player controlling them, or this is a really weird, like– I don’t know if fetish is the right word, but like this DM has a fantasy in mind that either has to do with these players or their characters or both. And is just determined to make it happen, despite the fact that no one wants that except you. Either way, it’s very gross. I’m flabbergasted. Honestly. This is so far away from any thought or instinct or any fiber of my being.

Royce: There’s another one here that I guess goes into a little more specific detail and does have more of a confirmed resolution that I’m going to read just on the heels of that one, because I kind of came to the same, “Why are people like this?” conclusion. But this post says that this happened a while ago and everyone who is still around still jokes about it from time to time. They didn’t really know much about D&D and they had a DM who had a pretty simple campaign. They’re characters or villains that banded together to try to destroy the world by releasing some sort of plan. But that’s not really what this is about.

Royce: Basically, there was this ongoing thing that their DM started doing. They first noticed that they were going into a tavern of a town that they were sort of, you know, plotting to take over or to take down, and one of the party members was approached by a tiefling and the DM went into great detail describing how like, fit and muscular and large this tiefling woman was. And was going into a lot of detail about her, like, physique, and the players showed no interest and just moved on. And then a bit later they met a sort of like barbarian princess type and the same sort of thing started happening, and this NPC showed interest in one of the characters and the player characters again, just like, didn’t want anything to do with the interaction, moved on. Later on this happens again with a, like, another large woman character, a goliath, the DM describes the character being very powerful and muscular.

Courtney: Third time’s the charm, right?

Courtney: Yeah. The DM at this point has this– this woman sneak into one of the players’ tents. Everyone at the table was pretty confused and the player character in this tent had some, like, trust issues. So, as this goliath woman is, like, sliding into the sheets here, he pulls out a knife and is like, “Who are you and what are you trying to do here?” Like I don’t trust this situation.

Courtney: Yeah?!

Royce: And the DM starts laughing, explaining that this is just a woman that is interested in the character, and all of the other players just kind of got weirded out and moved on. And this continued to happen to the point where someone called him out asking if he just had, like, a quote-unquote “muscle mommy fetish,” which is what the title of this post is: “DM forced his muscle mommy fetish on us.”

Courtney: Oh dear.

Royce: And he denied it. But then, a year after the fact, they all got drunk in real life and he admitted that this was a fetish he was into and what he was doing this entire time.

Courtney: See, that’s not okay. That is not okay. You can’t. No. Write fanfiction. Write– Write D&D inspired short fiction. Or go find some on the internet. I’m sure it exists, I’m sure– Probably, like, is there D&D porn? There’s gotta be, right? Like, go– go find that you can’t put it on someone else.

Royce: There are probably even– go find some sort of collaborative, like, erotic fanfic writing community where you can even go back and forth with someone who is actually consenting to do that.

Courtney: Yeah! I mean, it is okay to have an erotic and sexually charged role playing table if that is what you’re looking for, but everyone at the table has to know ahead of time this is what we’re doing. And you probably also have to sort out, like, if sex and romance is allowed at the table, if it’s encouraged, if this is what we’re here for and we want to act out these situations, there’s also a, like, is this only okay with a character and an NPC, or are different player characters like also free game for advances like this? Like those are all things that need to be discussed. If you have a sexual fantasy at all, you can’t– you can’t bring anyone else into it without their consent!

Courtney: I’m just– I’m shocked that this isn’t common knowledge, but I know this is how so many of these horror stories go. And I suppose along those lines, because I don’t even like advancements being on the table without that consent ahead of time.

Courtney: Like, at least that’s, like, alright, someone with big muscles crawls into the sheets and the player pulls out a knife, and is like, “Get the hell out of my tent, who are you?” Like, that’s an appropriate response, I think. It sounds like the character had the option to do that, and once all the advances were rejected, the DM was just like, “Well, I’m just gonna try again, maybe one of these will stick.” Still not correct, but things can be oh so much worse. And I have one in front of me with the title of Asexual Character Sexually Assaulted for Plot. Eugh. [reading] “This story involves a campaign I joined for a short period of time to fill my Mondays between university and work. The main problem person of this story is the DM that I will name Jared.”

Royce: Boo Jared.

Courtney: Boo Jared! I hate that guy! [resumes reading] “The campaign took place in what was essentially just a rip of Kirkwall from Dragon Age (DM’s own words). I chose to play a Male Half Elf Bard that was from a Mid Tier Noble house. He has been forced to hide his Half Elf lineage lest he be thrown into the Alienage” I’m not familiar with this IP. [continues reading] “(the segregated portion of Kirkwall where the Elves live in poverty). My character had left his parental home to experience life and escape the manor he was almost always forced to reside in. He became a bard because he loved music and would spend a great deal of his time trapped inside his home sitting on his window sill listening to the street musicians outside the grounds of his home. This characterized my character as a sheltered, somewhat naive Noble who wasn’t fully aware of the struggles of poverty that would be brought back down to reality by the rest of the party. Though he was a bit jumpy because he was always told of the “horrors of the streets” so I used the Alert feat to flavor that.”

Royce: For those unaware. The Alert feat prevents any kind of surprise like someone catching you off guard, and if you do get into a bad situation it also gives you a bonus to initiative. So better chance that you get to act first and potentially escape.

Courtney: So we’ll see how this story goes, but it sounds like this is shaping up to be not only am I crossing personal boundaries, but I’m also ignoring mechanics you set up for your character. Ah, we’ll– we’ll see. We’ll see. [resumes reading] “Then came the problem event. We were traveling through the red lantern district to talk to a fixer type character who could set us up with a job that would take us out of Kirkwall.

Courtney: The guy operated out of a bordello, and my character I had decided was a soft asexual, but I hadn’t decided it was right to share that yet and it’s something I’m exploring myself.” Side note, just to add that is super, super common, not only for aces but the entire queer community. There are so many queer people who were first able to experiment or fully come into their own true identity through a safe role playing game. So I just want to point that out because that is tremendously important to a lot of queer D&D players.

Courtney: [reading] “In this bordello my character was more interested in the actual dances the women were performing. I even specifically had him comment, ‘Wow, must take a lot of strength to pull yourself around a pole like that’.” Brilliant, love it. [continues reading] “After setting up the job with the fixer, we were told to ‘enjoy ourselves’ and each of the male characters is ‘given’ a woman to fade to black with for the night. A Drow woman approaches my character and my character responds ‘Oh no, thank you.’ Jared raises an eyebrow and is like, ‘Really? She’s gorgeous and it’s free.’ I just respond, ‘Oh I’m aware, still no thank you.’ Jared then replies ‘But you’re a Bard, come on. This makes no sense’.” [deep sigh] [exasperated] The trope of the horny bard! I hate it so much. I really, really do.

Royce: I don’t know why people push that so hard, because there are multiple classes that have charisma as their primary stat and none of the other charisma based characters have this sort of reputation Like–

Courtney: The smooth talking warlock isn’t ever like, “Oh the horny warlock.”

Royce: Yeah. And this is a game where there are other powerful spellcasters and there is like enchantment, magic at play.

Courtney: Yeah, but you know musicians. Like real life. They got their groupies, you know? Or something. Carrying on. [reading] “I was confused why he was pushing so hard to have me boink this woman. I later found out that he was so pushy because this woman was an agent from some criminal group that was associated with my family and was going to steal a family treasure that I had on me. Basically she was to be a honeypot but Jared never comprehended that I wasn’t playing just another Horny Bard.” Honestly, that’s also kind of hilarious, because consent and asexual character aside, sometimes characters just don’t do what you expect them to do, and as a DM, you gotta roll with it.

Royce: How easy would it have been for the DM to just shift the agent to another NPC that someone else slept with?

Courtney: Yeah, in a situation like this, either the character solved the problem before it even happened, in which case you as the DM, you’re thwarted. You gotta either drop it and find the next plot hook, or you think on your feet and you improvise and you find a different way to tell this story. Because you can’t make the characters behave in a certain way. You just set up the scenario. So even if you have this big elaborate like, “Oh, once they go to bed she’s gonna steal from you,” if the character doesn’t want to go to bed and never invites that NPC back to the room, figure it out! That’s the character’s choice.

Courtney: [reading] “The woman walks off and we go to sleep for the night. My character specifically stays up to work on some lyrics to a song he was working on. Jared then tells me that before you realize it, the beautiful Drow woman is in your room.” I have to know what was happening at this table. Like, did the DM just railroad, warp, teleport, boom, this person’s in your room? Or was the DM playing by their own rules and like rolling stealth checks for this NPC to see if she could successfully sneak into this room, or whatever she’s doing?

Royce: I read ahead slightly and I’m pretty sure it was the former.

Courtney: Oh good, cardinal sin of DMing. [reading] “The woman walks– Uh, I – seeing where this is going – say that she couldn’t have just snuck up on me as I had taken the Alert feat. Jared rolls his eyes and says, ‘Ok whatever, you hear the floorboards creak and you turn to see the beautiful Drow woman before you. The air is filled with an intoxicating perfume and you find yourself enraptured by her.’ I cut Jared off asking if she’s using a Charm effect on me. He responds that she’s using Charm Person and is about to continue when I respond that I get to roll a saving throw at least.

Royce: Good knowledge of the rules, player.

Courtney: Yeah, I’m glad that this player is standing up for themself. Like, “Um, did you just ignore my feat? Um, I’m enraptured by her? How am I enraptured by her? What’s the mechanic we’re talking here? Is there a spell involved?” Because this is classic railroading. Um, [reading] “Jared sighs and lets me roll, I roll badly on my first roll and Jared chuckles and is about to continue talking. I then tell him that as I am a Half Elf I have Advantage–” Which basically means you can roll twice and take the better of the two.

Royce: Elves in D&D naturally resist charming effects, and that includes Half Elfs.

Courtney: Yes. [reading] “Sadly I rolled not great on the other roll too.” Off to dice jail with you, dice. Don’t you see what’s happening? We have to thwart this horrible DM. You’re not doing your job.

Courtney: [reading] “So Jared starts narrating how I am basically seduced by this Drow. This is really putting me off, and argue that just because I’m Charmed doesn’t mean I want to suddenly bone her. Charm Person just makes me view her as a friendly acquaintance. Jared hand waves this and says, ‘This is special.’ I wasn’t quite comfortable enough to reveal the sexuality that I was exploring with this character so I just shut up and let it happen.

Courtney: She then robs me in the middle of the night and I argue that as I have a quite high passive perception that I should at least be given the chance to roll to notice myself being robbed. Jared responds that I was placed under magical sleep so I can’t notice it. I immediately respond that as I am a Half Elf I cannot be put to sleep by magical means. He groans and says, ‘Fine, do your roll.’ I roll a 19 and before the words are fully out of my mouth Jared says I fail and that I wake up to find my heirloom gone.”

Royce: Which, right there– Thus far, the player has had rules to try to thwart this at every step. The DM overrides that with a bullshit roll with an impossible DC, but ‘cannot be put to sleep’ is not a rollable situation, that is an impossibility. Like this just doesn’t work.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: They overrode a set mechanical part of Elves in this world that’s been in there forever.

Courtney: Yeah. [reading] “This put a really bad taste in my mouth and I just ended up ghosting the campaign. I should’ve probably sent a quick message or something but I just didn’t want to interact with Jared anymore. Edit: Completely forgot to mention. There was in fact a Session 0 where boundaries were discussed. Sadly Jared elected to actively ignore what was discussed.” I wonder if that edit was because people were in the comments being like, [petulantly] “This is why it’s important to have a Session 0,” which sometimes you have one, because people tell you that’s what you’re supposed to do. But if someone sucks, they suck.

Courtney: But yeah, this is awful on all levels. Because, first of all, the character didn’t even want to invite this NPC back and, like, that should have been thwarted right then and there. If you’re going to then have this person try to sneak in and the character notices and sees it, you can’t just be like, “Well, you just go to sleep.” It doesn’t– doesn’t work that way. And if you’re not magically asleep, I agree with this character, like, you should be able to roll to see if you hear someone in the middle of the night rifling through your crap. Because then you could verbally confront this person, you could take out your weapon and start attacking this person. You could try to defend yourself.

Courtney: There are so many things you can do if you notice that you’re getting robbed. But you have to give the character an option to notice. And just trying to throw away not only a feat that this character chose, but the racial background, being a Half-Elf. And I don’t even care that this player hadn’t specifically, like, stated that they are exploring asexuality, because they don’t have to. Players choose their characters for a reason, and some people take a lot of time crafting their character to be exactly who they want to be and how they want to roleplay, and you can’t just ignore that. That makes you a terrible DM on every level.

Royce: And yeah, you did read that the player here was exploring asexuality themselves and intentionally created this character as a means to do that.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. There’s even someone in the comments saying, “Yeah, as an ace, I have been in this situation, not quite so forced as this, but still quite awkward.” It’s like– This happens to asexual players and their asexual characters! Even if the player themselves is not asexual, if you have an asexual character and you’re respecting asexuality and you’re playing this character in a respectful manner, it’s still so many levels of disrespect. So those dice need to go to dice jail, but that DM needs to go to real jail. Pfft. Can we have a DM jail? We have a dice jail, let’s create a DM jail. Like no, no, no, no sexual assault or coercion or forced orgies, no railroading, no ignoring characters’ feats or their racial backgrounds. Into DM jail with you.

Royce: So I have one here that is a little less overt, but this title is Never Passed One DC Check in a Year.

Courtney: Do you want to explain DC, if there are any non-tabletoppers amongst us?

Royce: Yeah, so DC stands for Difficulty Challenge. It’s something that gets applied on any sort of roll you’re trying to make to beat something that is occurring. Like if there’s a noise off in the distance you’re trying to see if your character hears it, you might roll a perception check against the difficulty of hearing that sound, for example. A higher DC represents a more difficult challenge. But these are things that happen very frequently. A variety of conditions could happen. All of your rolls that are like social interactions would apply to that, as well as things like dodging dangers. If you find yourself coming across traps or, you know, things are falling or exploding around you, normally there is some sort of saving throw that you would make against a DC. So to never pass one in a year is absurd.

Courtney: That’s a problem. Well, it’s the DM who sets the DC. Like, this is already screaming DM shenanigans.

Royce: Yeah.

Courtney: And here’s actually– Before we get into this, here’s a thing that’s bothered me about some checks when it comes to, like, the horny bard or a character who’s trying to seduce someone else. Because I’ve heard this trope where some DMs will say no matter what, if you roll a 20 on the dice, that is a success. No matter what. And I think that should be true for some cases but maybe not all, because you have to still respect autonomy. If there is an asexual character who is completely sex repulsed, they don’t want anything to do with it. The character doesn’t want to engage in this kind of role play at all whatsoever. And a DM comes up and says, “Oh well, this NPC tries to seduce you. Oh, I rolled a 20. It worked. You’re seduced.” Like no. Because actually, I would argue, a random dice roll isn’t going to go so far outside of a character’s personality, their inclinations, their decision making skills, that it’s going to change something fundamental about them.

Royce: Yeah. A high Charisma Check is not mind control. And there are tables that I believe are in the Dungeon Master’s Guide that are– they’re not for making seduction rolls, because while it is troped so heavily, is not a major aspect of this game. But there are, like, say, you’re trying to persuade an NPC to assist you in some way. There are some example tables of what various Persuasion Checks could do, based off of their current relationship with you. [Courtney agrees] If they’re neutral, or if you’ve already have, like, a good report with them, or if they’re antagonistic, and how close you are with them affects what is possible with the roll.

Courtney: Right. And I mean here’s like an example: if you meet an NPC in a tavern and you try to convince them like, “Hey, will you buy me a tankard of ale?” Maybe the DC for that is like 12. If you roll a 12 on the dice or higher, you persuade them and they buy you the beer. But if you go up to a random NPC who, like, is a real family person and loves their entire family, and you’re like, “Hey, you should kill your mom,” and you just roll a Nat 20 on the dice, that character isn’t all of a sudden going to be like, “You’re right, I totally should kill my mom.” So– so that’s why you still have to use role play and reason and character backstories and motivations to work with the dice, because the dice can’t work against all those other elements of this game.

Royce: And to go back towards the end of that last story you just read, the magical sleep. First of all, that shouldn’t have been a roll. That shouldn’t have been a possibility. That was against the rules. But the fact that the player rolled a 19 and then before they even like– like the moment they get the word out the DM is like, “That fails.” Like that was an example of there wasn’t a success. There wasn’t a possible roll that the DM would have taken to get out of that situation, because they had already made up their mind that this is what is happening.

Courtney: Which– that’s the bad way to– to interpret that. But it’s also– I promise we’ll get on to this next one, but that– that just reminded me as well that that is just lazy DMing too. Not only is it bad, but it’s lazy. And that’s what’s infuriating. Because if you really want this character to steal something from another character, and that is their only purpose for being in here is that they have to steal this, this is going to progress the plot, build that NPC in such a clever way that they have options to counteract what might happen based on the characters choices in their own dice rolls. Because I’m thinking, Royce, you wrote a one shot that you ran for me and a group of friends once, and then I also DMed that same one shot later, you and I did together for a different group of friends. There was like a band of thieves in there that had everything possible in their arsenal to do what you needed them to do in the campaign.

Royce: There are a couple of dicey situations. I was actually just thinking about that right now because that was the first one shot I had tried to write, and in writing it I thought about it too much like a video game in some aspects. It was more linear, looking back at it now, than I would have liked it to be. But there was a point very early on, when we’re basically setting up the session, where I did force a sleight of hand from their thief, but it was only to get the party’s attention. Like they did pickpocket someone but then, after a confrontation, their items were returned. So it wasn’t like it wasn’t a big deal kind of a thing.

Courtney: Well, in all these subsequent things, you wanted this group to be able to run away if the characters tried to fight them, so you had so many spells and options and tricks for them to be able to attempt that.

Royce: Yeah, I rolled– Well, first of all, I rolled the three NPCs as full characters and the combination of the Ranger Rogue and Druid all had, like, they all had Fog Cloud, for example. They all had–

Courtney: Basically they had magical smoke bombs. [laughs]

Royce: They had the means of getting out of a bad situation in ways that had me confident enough to just roll Combat without needing to step in and, you know, magic them away.

Courtney: Which actually makes for, like, an annoyingly compelling antagonist. Because if they have a legitimate like, this is a real character, this is a real thing this person at this level should be able to do, but they’re constantly foiling me so they’re just annoying the shit out of me, that actually is a really compelling villain. And I loved playing and running that one shot because of that. And so I’m thinking about this character. It’s like, all right, you have a thief who needs to steal a thing. Why are you just relying on, “Well, she does, she just steals it.” Give her interesting ways to steal it so that you, as the DM, have earned that theft. You have to earn it too, just as much as the players have to.

Royce: And note to other DMs out there: if you’re trying to magically manipulate someone, don’t pick the Half Elf Bard, pick the Fighter, or the Barbarian, or someone who is going to be easier to trick.

Courtney: [soft laugh] Very bad.

Royce: So onto this other story: Never Passed One DC Check in a Year. This is a little lengthy. I am going to skim it for important parts. But the player says that they have been in a fortnightly campaign for a year now. It’s not the best but they like a couple of people in the group. They needed a support/healer person and the player had just finished a run with a Cleric, so they gave a go at a Bard. They made this [reading] “washed out character who pretends they are younger than they are, acts like a cocky rock and roll star, acts like everyone knows him (even carries around 10,000 copies of his autobiography) and keeps going on about how he’s going to get his band back together. The personal twist is, as much as a cocky sod he is and a tad cheeky, his morals are lawful good... he’s not even down with killing things. Also as sexually provocative as he dresses he’s asexual. He’s not interested in seducing anyone. Its about the music, man.”

Courtney: Yeah! I’m with ya. I’m with ya, man.

Royce: He was originally received by the players in a lukewarm manner but over time they got slightly protective of him due to all the buffing and healing, as well as being supportive, despite his personality being constantly full of himself. And after a while they started to find the way he acted genuinely funny. But the problem becomes the DM. The story seems like it’s not really going anywhere. General etiquette is awful. There seems to be massive obstacles. For example, they wanted to buy some outfits for the party so that the party could be in their new band, and the DM says that the outfits will cost 75 platinum– Which, that is the amount of money to buy a warhorse with barding.

Courtney: Yeah, that’s a lot. Spendy.

Royce: A fancy outfit should cost maybe one or two platinum per person.

Courtney: This is designer, this is top tier.

Royce: Given the rates for costume clothes, or fine clothes, out of the book. That was a pretty ridiculous expense. That seems to be an expense of – much like we were saying DMs putting impossible DCs – this was the DM putting an impossible price. Because they say that they had the equivalent of 30 platinum on them and money wasn’t easy to come by in that campaign, and they ended up spending all of their money on a custom wagon instead, that they could use as a mobile performance stage, instead of the costumes themselves. But the campaign was full of these little situations where the player was trying to do something with their character and the DM, for whatever reason, just kept finding a way to foil it. They tried to perform in taverns, because they are a washed-up rock and roll star, and they say that they had pretty good ability scores. They– [Courtney softly laughing] What?

Courtney: I just don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say rock and roll star, because it always gets shortened to rockstar. But of course rock is short for rock and roll, but it just sounded silly to my ears.

Royce: Oh yeah, rock and roll star is exactly what they said earlier.

Courtney: Rock and roll star.

Royce: But they had pretty good scores, they say their Performance and Deception both were +11. That is a high boost. And they were rolling pretty well. And whenever they would try to perform in taverns the DM would say that their Performance Check would fail. [Courtney ums]

Royce: And that sort of vibe continues where the things that they are trying to do never seem to work out. Somehow they get to the point where they are not going to be able to be a part of the group anymore due to something coming up. And they message the DM about a month ahead of time to plan for, you know, when is going to be their last session and to find some way to have their character, you know, sent off, in this case killed off. And the DM agreed. And so they are prepared for how this was going to go. For their last– their last session.

Royce: They had thought of some like snappy one-liners to leave the rest of the group on as their person leaves the campaign. They say that they were in the Feywild and they were heading somewhere, and their scout makes a pretty bad roll that gets them into a bad situation, and some just mysterious guy comes up blocking their path. And so this character, this Bard, steps in the way and tries to talk their way out of it, and they roll a 28 on their Deception, which is a very, very high roll. Generally speaking, a 20 is going to be good enough to make most of the things that you want to happen happen.

Courtney: Yeah, except for the extraordinarily difficult, if not downright impossible situations we alluded to earlier.

Royce: And this, this roll doesn’t work and they get ambushed and they do a good two and a half hours of combat that doesn’t actually end. The session ends the last session that this player can play in without them getting to the climactic point where their character can actually get a good send off.

Courtney: Aw…

Royce: And afterwards they talk with the DM in private messages, the DM saying like, “We didn’t get to the point where your character was going to get killed off.” And the player was obviously pissed off about this because, you know, the DM controls the entire world, they could have made this happen differently. And their excuse was that, due to the way they articulated, like, they verbally articulated their Deception, based off of the story that they tried to tell about to get themselves out of this situation – they mentioned a story of a golden unicorn and the DM said that that was too fanciful for the Feywild and had the enemies roll an Intelligence Check that was done behind the DM board, no one knows what that actually was – and said that even with the super high Deception Check, the enemies figured out that this was a lie based off of logic. And, you know, threw away the player’s roll. Which, I wonder how much of that had been happening for the entire campaign.

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: It seems like a very thinly veiled excuse to just discount the player’s dice. And it was around that point when the player left, annoyed, sulked a bit, felt like they didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the group. And it was at that point that they had realized that, thinking back on it, they hadn’t passed a single, like, story based DC in the entire year that they had been playing, when they had been trying to do things.

Courtney: Wild.

Royce: Like there were little things but no major interactions, no major story beats. [reading] “My super lying bard had never successfully even lied, even with the high scores.” And then it hit the player that the DM hated [reading] “The type of person my character was, or at least had contempt for them,” and just prevented them from doing the things that they wanted to do.

Courtney: Awful. It’s terrible. Because even– I mean obviously your forcing fails, which is not cool. But I also think that a really good DM should try to make even natural failures important or meaningful or interesting to the story in some way. Because it’s just frustrating if you are consistently trying to do something and it just won’t work. Like, you should celebrate the triumphs and the successes, but if you fail at something, it shouldn’t just be like, “No, that doesn’t work. Next, try something else. No, this is how it’s gonna go.” And it is a skill. It’s hard to do, but when you take on the responsibilities of a DM, this is the line you have to try to walk and you just can’t– Is this even fun for DMs? I’m thinking about what I enjoy out of DMing and how much fun I have roleplaying with our friends, and it doesn’t sound like it would be fun to me if I just decided to say no to them every single time.

Royce: I mean, that’s been the struggle of talking about a lot of these things or reading a lot of these stories is I don’t understand the person’s motivation.

Courtney: [Softly] Who are you and why are you this way…? And despite the frustrations of just constantly being steamrolled by the DM and not being able to play the game, I feel bad that he wasn’t able to have a good send-off! Because people get really invested in their characters. People spend a lot of time and thought and energy into concepting and playing these characters. And I know when I’ve had campaigns fall through without a meaningful resolution, I– like, mourn my character, because I had thoughts for them. I had hopes and aspirations. I had character growth that I wanted to implement throughout the story within the flaws that I intentionally gave them to explore. And if a campaign just totally falls apart and all of a sudden that character is an orphan, they didn’t get a good resolution, they don’t have a satisfying ending, but you don’t have somewhere else you can take them to carry on their story. It’s– it is a loss, it is genuinely upsetting.

Royce: And this was, I’d say, at least a four-hour session. It says at one point that they were probably about three and a half hours in, and then it continues until everyone gets weary, because this is a massive combat that goes on forever. And so there was plenty of time for the DM to get to this resolution and make it happen.

Courtney: That is– And it sounds like the DM probably didn’t give this satisfying resolution on purpose. But even if we are giving the benefit of the doubt, and we’re saying, well, they tried to, but this combat just, you know, drew on too long, that is the time when it is acceptable as a DM to pull some shenanigans behind the scenes and speed things up. Change how much health this thing has that you’re fighting, fudge a role here and there, like end the combat sooner to get to the important thing. Like that is the time, if ever, as a DM, you’re going to steamroll something and manipulate something secretly, this is the time to do it, right? It’s infuriating. Alright, so this one is actually not from D&D. It’s also not from an RPG that I’m familiar with, Monsterhearts 2. Luckily, the original poster gives us a brief overview, saying, [reading] “For those who don’t know, Monsterhearts is a teen drama, PBTA game.”

Royce: PBTA is powered by the apocalypse. That is a game system that a lot of TTRPGs are based off of. It’s like a baseline rule-set that you could start with.

Courtney: You can reskin it to have different flavors.

Courtney: Royce;

Courtney: Yeah, yeah.

Courtney: What are some other ones that use that mechanic that I would have played or heard of?

Royce: Monster of the Week is based off of that. We’ve played a game of that.

Courtney: Oh, we’ve played Monster of the Week.

Royce: I think I played a Dungeon World game, which is sort of D&D adjacent but a bit simplified.

Courtney: Yeah, we’ve played Dungeon World.

Royce: We have heard the title Thirsty Sword Lesbians before.

Courtney: We own it. We just haven’t played it yet.

Royce: Oh! That is also based off of this.

Courtney: So, [reading] “It’s a PBTA game told through a supernatural lens, à la Buffy, Teen Wolf and Twilight. It has a particular emphasis on LGBT+ characters, even having rules for characters who are asexual or otherwise don’t experience sexual attraction like most people. Our cast (fake names) is myself playing the Witch, formerly the Mortal, who was a-spectrum; Damien, our DM, and that guy of the story” Ah, Damien… another Jared. [resumes reading] “Yue, who I was friends with before we started this game, playing the Werewolf; Lily, the Infernal; and Angus the Fae, formerly the Hollow, who was present but mostly irrelevant to the story. We had been playing the game since late last year and everything had been great. Recently finished our first major arc and we’re kind of in between sessions, so to speak. When everything went down, at the end of the last arc, the Werewolf had broken up, in character, with the Infernal due to them starting to use magic again as a coping mechanism with all the problems going on around them. The Werewolf had helped my Mortal escape a toxic relationship with the cult leader, (big, bad, evil guy) and turned my bitter wrath into a weapon as the Witch. Fast forward to last night, we’re playing a prom session and the Werewolf and my Witch go to the dance together to make the Infernal jealous.” [laughs] This is so silly. I love it. It is very– Like, I’m seeing some Buffy themes, I’m seeing– I get it. I see. [resumes reading] “Now, everything had been going so smoothly for my character so I decided to complicate his life by complicating his sexuality. While our characters dance to catch the Infernal’s attention, Damien calls for her to Turn Someone On against the Infernal and to Shut Someone Down.”

Royce: The way that those phrases are capitalized. They feel like a sort of ability in this system.

Courtney: It says in parentheses here: the alternate role against ace characters. So it sounds like Turn Someone On is basically like a Seduction Check, or you’re trying to woo someone, but Shut Someone Down sounds like a specific ability that an ace character would have.

Royce: Right.

Courtney: Like no Nat 20′s here. You’re not going to seduce this character.

Royce: For people where the base ability Turn Someone On would have no effect, they have an alternate thing.

Courtney: Mm-hmm. So the Game Master here basically calls for her to Turn Someone On against the Infernal and to Shut Someone Down against my Witch. [reading] “But I decided to introduce my character’s newly discovered complication in his sexuality. And I say that everything the Werewolf helped him through made him see her in a new light, and discover he may not be all the way asexual like he previously thought, and that she should roll the same against both of us. At first Damien laughs it off as me trying to deflect away from a move that could be bad, and just comments that sexualities don’t work that way, and that if you are asexual, you are and nothing can change about that. That’s when I mentioned I used to consider myself asexuals even into my 20′s and more recently discovered it was more complicated than that and now I’m demi. So I can attest firsthand that people who once considered themselves asexual and can discover they were wrong later in life.”

Courtney: [reading] “Damien absolutely flips out at this point ranting about how demisexuality doesn’t exist and just is bullshit heteronormative aphobia made up so bigots can try to backpedal on their sexuality after coming out and later claim they are basically straight. Before I can argue back, he kicks me from the server. A little later I get a text from Yue telling me he continued his rant against my sexuality, and when she argued against it he kicked her too. Then this morning Lily messaged me telling me her and Angus left the game and won’t be returning to it next week, and if we wanted we could try to get a game together with someone else as a GM, which we will be doing Session 0 as of next Friday.” Shitty situation. Good, happy ending though. Cause that GM is terrible, but the fact that all the other players were like, “No fuck this, fuck that we’re out.” And started a new game so quickly. I hope they had so much fun in their new game!

Courtney: The heteronormative aphobia… that’s not the most common thing people say about demisexuality, but it’s just as bullshit as everything else they say about it. Especially a game where it’s supposed to be geared towards queer characters and queer players. That is just so unacceptable. ’Cause first of all, identifying as asexual and then later learning demisexual is probably more specific and more accurate, that’s not even that drastic of a change. Demisexuality is still widely regarded as being a part of the asexual spectrum. I’ve met a few demisexual people here and there that will say, like, “I am close enough to allo that I don’t necessarily identify with the asexual community,” and those experiences are fine and valid. But the vast majority of demisexual people I know are asexual. It’s the same spectrum. We have many shared experiences.

Courtney: And to just say blanketly that sexuality can never change or evolve or isn’t ever fluid…? Nah, that ain’t it. That ain’t it. Plus, like again, what an unfun DM. Like, put the bigotry aside for just like half a second. How unfun of that? Like, even if it wasn’t about a changing sexuality, if I had a pretty good grasp on a character and I had talked to the player and I kind of know what their deal is and I’m working with them to tell this character’s story within my setting, if all of a sudden my player is like, “Actually DM, maybe there’s a bit of a twist, maybe there’s more to the story here.” I’d be like, “Oh, do tell. What is this plot?” I love when the plot thickens. That– I mean, my players will attest, I am always like give me more lore, give me more backstory, tell me everything. Oh, your character is journaling? Send me those journal entries. What’s your character writing over there in secret?

Royce: We’ve had more than one player write a ‘just in case I die’ note and tuck it somewhere in their belongings.

Courtney: Yeah, and I love it. I’m like, look at all this plot that they– Like, usually I’m in the know as the DM, I know if there’s plot coming down the line, and I’m, like, excited on behalf of the other players that don’t know the plot yet. Because I’m like, “Oh, we’ve got so much plot in store for you! It’s going to be great.” And also, if you send me 50 pages of backstory, I’m going to read it multiple times and I’m going to love it and I’m going to appreciate it. And you just need to stop apologizing for sending so much backstory, because I care about this collaborative story that we are telling together. And that’s how I approach games.

Courtney: I approach it as this is collaborative storytelling. We are on the same team, and we want to make a good story. And we want to uncover the richness of this world and these characters, in whatever form that– that takes. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be happy and fluffy and triumphant either. It can be a horribly depressing, like very oppressive world, if that’s something we’ve all agreed to. Which is just why all these DMs that are, like, “I don’t have an idea of how this is going to go and it’s just going to be that way!” It’s like, then why role play with other people? Go write a novel, go self publish a novel. That’s a thing you can do on your own and tell the story exactly how you want to tell it. But that’s not how group role playing works. It’s not. It’s not.

Courtney: And that will bring us to this week’s featured marketplace vendor. In keeping with the theme of this episode, we have AGON [spells it]: A Game Of Nerds, original TTRPG made by a small indie team. And, yes, they are asexual owned. We have already purchased the Arcana Familia book, which is an indie TTRPG based on the Blackjack System. And the artwork is just so cool. It’s very colorful, it’s very– very cyberpunk-y. And, alas, we have unfortunately not been able to play this with a group yet. I have not been able to run it for a group, but we’ve been really busy with our monster of a D&D campaign, right now.

Courtney: But I have high hopes of actually running this for an all ace TTRPG group. I’m super excited. And actually, now that I’m on their website, it looks like there’s a second RPG that I don’t recall seeing in the shop last time I was here, so I’m intrigued. Deep Sky Ballad. This one appears to be a space western. And these can be purchased as a physical copy or PDF copy, and is available in English, as well as Italian. I don’t know how many Italian speakers we have listening, although I think we have charted in Italy a few times, so I’m sure there are some of you out there. And we will go ahead and put a link in the show notes, as usual, to A Game Of Nerds, if you want to check them out. So please do. And we will talk to you all next time. Goodbye.