Professor Quercus' Qorner


Some advice from one of my players, the wise Professor Quercus.

"Your problem is that you love us too much. You claim to be a PC killing maniac, but it's all talk."

"There's too many of you. I am weak. You all gang up on me."

"Of course we're going to fight you, we're spoiled children. You have to take a firm hand with children."

He's right. Conversely, I have some advice for players: Take off the black hats.


"Black Hat thinking" is criticism. Poking holes in an idea. Like, when I say "You open the door and a monster bursts out of the room!", someone who's got their black hat on asks "How did the monster get in there? What has it been eating? Why would it want to attack us?"

I don't know about you, but this happens to me all the time. I'm in creation mode, trying to make interesting stuff as quickly as possible in front of an audience, and my players are in problem solving mode, trying to find a way around my obstacles. I'm naturally going to leave a lot of gaps, and my players are naturally going to pick up on them.

If you can talk your way out of the plot hole, this might work out. Say: "Uh, the monster has a slave-race of tiny fungus-men that do nothing but bring it food all day." So now instead of a plot hole your players have an interesting thing to interact with, and your world is a little bit better.

No matter how you handle it, though, this always sucks away momentum in the same way that blocking does in improv theatre. When you critique like this you're taking energy away, not adding it. When the GM has to stop and think up an explanation, all the momentum he built up from that monster introduction disappears. Building up that momentum again is hard.

A GM is constantly giving energy to players by making stuff for them to break. For D&D to work, the players need to constantly give energy back. They do this by putting on funny voices, coming up with exciting plans, making jokes, and stabbing people in interesting ways. The best type of player gives out massive amounts of energy, to the DM and everyone else.

If you sit in the corner and don't add anything, then you're not giving the GM any energy - but you're not taking any, either, so it's sort of ok. If you wear the black hat, you're not adding anything, AND you're forcing the GM to spend more energy in making up more things. If you're wearing nothing but the black hat, then you're constantly sucking energy from the GM and giving out absolutely no energy of your own. This is the absolute worst kind of player.

There's a lot of writing out there on how to be a better GM, but not a lot on how to be a better player. If you're the kind of person who reads this blog you're probably already the raddest player possible, but I thought it was worth trying to articulate what kind of responsibility a player has.