Friday, August 20, 2010

You're Doing It Wrong: Tomhammer Fantasy Roleplay

I met this guy, Tom, when I was going through an interrogation course at Fort Huachuca, AZ.  I was seeing what was out there at the FLGS and I ran into him.  He was recruiting for a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign.  I remembered seeing WFRP at the Encounter in the late 1980s and thought it looked so cool and so advanced compared to D&D.  The hefty price tag was too much for me and eventually the only Warhammer Fantasy I knew was the travails of my inept Dark Elf army.

Tom became a social friend as well as a gaming one.  Because of certain things he pulled hanging out and gaming, I'm not sorry I'll likely never see the guy ever again.  I'll leave the social parts out, but he is a textbook example of a GM you don't want to play for.

"Tomhammer" became a codename for Tom's self-serving interpretations of the rules.  Tom had vision.  And when the players and die rolls were going his way, he was a pretty good GM.  Unfortunately, he was big on house rules that favored HIM.  He'd grow visibly frustrated when we retooled our characters to exploit HIS exploitations.  Instead of the "attaboy" a good GM gives his players when they come up with an inventive solution, he would, every time and in order:

  1. Stare at the gaming table for approximately 30 seconds.  If anyone said anything to them, they got the pointer finger ("WAIT!") as he stared in silence.
  2. Say "No." and attempt to wing a rules interpretation, look one up feverishly, or attempt to find some excuse to make it not happen.  He was really bad at improv, so it never worked out in his favor.
  3. Pout.  Excessively.  Not very attractive for an Army guy in his late 30s.
Now, you may think "Why didn't you just stop playing with him?"  Well, several reasons.  One, this was Sierra Vista, Arizona.  NOT exactly a mecca for gaming.  Two, I loved the game, but he owned the books.  It's not like I could pick up the first edition of WFRP at the FLGS and be done with him.

The game ended when we players finished our respective courses (the other two guys were there for EW maintenance) and went our separate ways.  I'd run into Tom again in language school after a deployment to Afghanistan, and I'd even play and hang out with him.  That lasted about three months.  Every now and then I'd hear ABOUT him from someone who was stationed with him (Human Intelligence is a small world).  I can't hate the man too much, since he did turn me on to Warhammer, new edition excluded, is still my favorite grimy low-fantasy RPG.

What did I learn from this?
  1. House rules need to be for mutual enhancement of the game and not as a kneejerk reaction to someone not getting their way
  2. It's not just your vision, it's also your players vision.
I'm guessing most of the people who would be reading my blog already get these concepts, but if you don't, take them to heart.  Tomhammer was nowhere near as much fun as Warhammer.