Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Murder Hobo - How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master), #3

Recently a friend of my son’s was over an they were playing Fallout. Actually, the friend was playing, and my son was mostly watching. I don’t know much about the game. I was sitting at the kitchen table writing scenes for “A Tale of Heroes” (the next few have been really cool for me to write!), but I was marginally paying attention. I’ve also watched them play it pretty extensively before. It seems to be mostly wandering around trying to not be killed by various mutant monsters. Yes, there are some other characters involved that you occasionally meet, but mostly, you’re running around trying not to be killed.

And, much of that “trying not to be killed” part involves killing everything else out there. There’s a kind of core assumption that anything that doesn’t look like (mostly) a human is dangerous and should be killed immediately. Then, when their bodies litter the ground, you can search them over for anything useful to your survival and move on.

Fallout 4 is rated “M” for “Mature”, and this description is from it’s ESRB page:

“Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Use of Drugs

“Rating Summary: This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a fallout shelter resident emerging from a post-apocalyptic world. As players traverse the open-world environment, they complete various mission objectives and use machine guns, machetes, lasers, and explosives to kill mutants and other human survivors. Battles are frenetic with realistic gunfire, explosions, and large blood-splatter effects; some attacks result in slow-motion dismemberment and decapitations. A handful of scenes depict chunks of flesh as well as severed heads and dismembered corpses. During the course of the game, players can consume a variety of fictional drugs (e.g., Buffout, Jet, Psycho) through the use of a menu; repeated use of these drugs leads to an addiction status and various negative effects for characters. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” are heard in the dialogue.”

Now, whether or not games are too violent is not my point, here. My frustration is that this text not only shows the more extreme moments of combat, it also pretty effectively describes the plot. By that, I mean the entire point of the game. There really doesn’t seem to be much deeper substance there beyond killing things and grabbing stuff.

Now, there’s more than just rated M games that seem to suffer from this malady. I love to play “Breath of The Wild”. This one is rated E10+ (meaning that it’s rated for all players, but recommended more for ages 10 and up). There’s a little more to the story line, and a few more options for actions, but mostly it involves wandering the open countryside killing bokoblins (or other denizens of evil) and taking what they have that’s of use.

There are thousands of other games with a similar, underlying concept. Even games as “child-friendly” as Adventure Quest and Wizard/Pirate 101 are still all about wandering around, defeating bad guys and taking their loot.

All of this comes, I believe, from the rich tradition of tabletop role-playing games. In the beginning, D&D began as primarily a dungeon crawl game. As a party of adventurers, you found a underground network of halls and chambers (no one is sure who built it), populated by horrific monsters (no one is sure where they came from), that got stronger and more terrible the deeper you went (no one knows why the structure was dug so deep). As the game moved into above-ground adventuring, it was easy enough to carry on the tradition of killing and looting. It’s easy to justify if you’re raiding orc and goblin encampments, but if your character is evil, it’s a lifestyle that’s easy to claim.

And thus, the murder hobo was born.

The murder hobo wanders from village to village, killing and looting. As an RPG lifestyle, it’s an easy way to live. You have a constant source of experience points and gold pieces to feed on, and before long, you’ve leveled up enough to be a feared local legend.

While the community may mock the playstyle, it seems most tabletop and electronic game systems still actively encourage this way of life. I’m kinda surprised that it’s not its own character class by now.

So, what can you do? Well as the GM (Narrator) of the story, you can do two things:

First, you can make a story line so exciting and compelling that the idea of just wandering the countryside making mayhem is downright boring. Give a focus, set up a quest. Give them some real, true villians to fight! Make it a real story!
Second, make consequences happen! If someone kills just out of spite, greed, or boredom, have the friends or family of the victim come after the character. Constables, guards, or local law can come down hard on the lawless as well. Finally, in The Hero’s Tale, use negative karma points to make life difficult for the offender.

Maybe there is a villian among the villagers! I think a cool 2-3 session adventure would be for a party to be hired by a local king or noble to go capture a local murder hobo who is causing panic amongst his peasants. Find him and bring him to justice!

Let’s make our games less rampage-ey, and more heroic!


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.If you like this story, support us at our Patron!

No comments:

Post a Comment