October 5, 2008

The Looter DM

(A post dedicated to The Looter)

He is the kind of DM, that for the life of himself, can never come up with something orignal because he is not creative enough to save his own life.

He is also probably one of the most laziest DMs around because he never goes around designing encounters, writing adventures or weaving a plot for his own campaign.

Don't even get your hopes up that he has even read the rules for generating NPCs or creating monsters.

All he ever does before a game is watch TV, read novels or comics and surfs the net. Alot.

Just hours before the game, for his DM prep. He just writes a few notes and prints out stuff like a factory and he's ready to go.

When on the table, his players would applaud him as the next greatest DM-autuer there is. The Looter DM runs an enjoyable and fun game for his players. He impresses them with interesting adventures, dangerous and innovative monsters in combat and unique NPCs to interact with, all set in one overarching campaign plotline. The game is breathing with new and original ideas.

To his players, his game is considered a work of art and nobody could have done that without spending days and nights hiding in a basement creating new stuff.

How does he do it? You may ask, if only they knew his secrets.

If his players were any wiser, they would have been able to identify certain things during the game that were sort of familiar to them. Maybe it was the way the scene was set up, or maybe that villain had a psychological complex from a movie, or was it from a novel?

The Looter D knows that there is an unlimited supply of ideas out there; both generic or specific enough for his needs. He calculates that spending the time to find those outweight the amount of time spent to make one from scratch. He figured that if someone is better at making up new and cool stuff than him, why bother?

He would search, dig and fill any plot hole that he can find. He will rip every written NPC or Monster limb by limb right off the hands of every published or non-published material otherwise. He records every memorable scene from movies, plays and rewinds them until he gets them right.

He is a copycat and at the same time a vulture that circles around the sky in search of anything that can used in his game and lands to feed it off its bones. Once he's done, he buries them with his own poo to cover his tracks.

There is nothing that will stand in the way between him and what he sees as a treasure trove of parts for his next adventure or campaign.

The Looter DM is a scavenger. He has no shame and no reservation of being called one. If asked, he would probably admit that he is one. He feels no guilt of ripping off from somebody as long as he camouflages it well and it is used to create a fun gaming session for his players.

His art lies in making things work together while adding a new face to them. Tinkering them and grafting them to fit into his campaign. Adapting and converting what is already there and using them as a framework to make something useful for his needs. He admires and appreciates those who can masterfully create new things, but repays that respect by tearing it apart into compartmental pieces for his own use.

His craft is knowing how to bend the rules to make things from other systems work and having good DMing skills to excite and entice players during the game while throwing them off his trail of ingenious ripping.

RPGs to him, is a stage to entertain players, not a platform to display your latest work of art.

Despicable? Maybe. Pratical? Definately.

In the end, he lives by the first rule of every D&D adventurer, 'Kill them and take their stuff,'


Reverend Mike said...

Ah, there's nothing wrong with this practice...I'd be a hypocrite if I said so...I do it for the practicality, considering college and my part-time job take up a lot of time...though I do try to create my own material when I can...

So long as a DM can weave the game properly and make it fun, scavenging is a good thing...

Scott said...

Despicable? Hardly.

Knowing what to steal from and how to do it well is the key to creative endeavors, really. Doing nothing but taking stuff wholesale is a little extreme, sure, but if you've never taken inspiration from any other work...

Well, then you're either a liar or a terrible GM.

Questing GM said...

Ahh, good to hear some comments from here again!

Hey, reverend mike,

That's the routine that I think most of us are falling into these days as RL catches on day by day.

I still love the homebrewing aspect of RPGs (or more like GMing) but sometimes either time or creativity is in scarce supply, which doesn't help when I'm in a hurry to run a game in my on-going campaign.

Well scott,

This post was meant to illustrate the extreme. It just shows how lazy a DM can get and how he can get away with it. However, maybe he isn't lazy, but just like some of us who just doens't have the time to do all the creative work and just leech it off someone who does better.

The ideal Looter DM at best, is still a good DM who knows the skills and tricks of how to run a fun game, it's just the material that he is using is not his own (in which case, almost completely).

There can be a little inspirational moments here and there but they probably come during the in-game rather than out of game. Also, sometimes ripping off other material serves as a basic framework or outline which allows the DM to fill in the blanks later.

I still think that DMs should still keep the spirit of homebrewing for their game because it keeps the hobby alive and describing this sort of DM is like a worse case scenario for me.

Chris Tregenza said...

One thing I've noticed about Looter GMs is whilst they can run great gaming sessions and adventures, they are poor at running longterm campaigns. e.g. 3+ months.

Their 'handful of notes' approach leads to some great spontaneity in their GMing. Plucking ideas from one film and mixing it with another. Bouncing off the players and generally going with the flow.

But long term campaigns need consistency and direction. One random adventure followed by another quickly gets dull leaving players aching for some meaning in their character's existence.

Because all his ideas are looted, they don't have the depth. An idea that powered a 700 page novel will be used up in a session or two.

Home-brewing forces a GM to consider much more. Even if they have lifted an idea or two for their adventures, they have still given them thought and that adds depth to a one-off session, adventures and campaigns.

Questing GM said...

Great point, Chris!

Very true and I agree with you! But there are APs out there that are ripe for looting, and they may need a more planned approach into turning those APs into their own.

To overcome their weakness, I think they are more suited for the episodic type of campaigns where adventures need to be tied in with simple plot hooks so they don't get caught with dullness and inconsistency. Bear in mind that staying in theme is probably one of their last concerns.

dria said...

Where's the line between looting and inspiration?

If I create a "new" monster for a 4e campaign that is roughly based on a (renamed) original creature in a MMORPG I used to play, does that make me a Looter DM? How about if an adventure is framed around "exploring a [stronghold of some description] where the people of a [some local town] holed up once long in the past when being attacked by marauding bands of [bad guys]?" While my inspiration for that one *isn't* LOTR, it certainly could be.

In the end, if the game is fun for both the DM and the players, does it really matter?

Questing GM said...

Good question, dria! And welcome to the blog!

I do believe there is a fine line between inspiration and looting. But for the looter's case, inspiration is still pretty much the same thing.

For me, looting is when you pick something off wholesale. You take it and leave it as it is then try to incorporate it into your campaign somehow. Although minor adjustments can or need to be made for that campaign but it is almost indistinguishable from where it was originally taken from.

An inspired Looter DM, on the other hand, sees something and the concept behind it then tries to tweak it by playing around with it the concept.

For example, I read about a Celestial Lion Monk NPC a long time ago in Dungeon magazine. Now, if I take the same idea and create a Celestial Lammasu Cleric, the similarities are there but I was inspired to it rather than stealing the original NPC right off the bat.

The Looter DM as described here is not capable of creating something from scratch by himself. He relies on other materials, either ripping them off because he knows how to fit them into his campaign or he is inspired to 'make a few minor adjustments' but still using the same concept.

I certainly think that it doesn't matter for players because either they can't tell or don't care where the idea came from. However, it can and does break immersion sometimes if the players finds out where it was taken from.

For example, when the players are suddenly placed within a stronghold to defend refugees during a siege in a castle carved on the side of a mountain. When one of the calls out, 'Hey, that's taken from Helm's Deep!'. Then you can expect the game to get bogged down with quotes from the movie (not always a bad thing but you get the idea) and metagaming how the siege would end.

I find the act of the Looter DM a little dishonarable because creativity, if not orginality should be a virtue for DMs, as well as homebrewing. Also the fact that he is trying to disguise the idea as his own or at least the illusion that it is, while there's no legal consequences for plagarism but it does come across to players that their DM isn't putting in his best effort to spring out surprises for them in the game.

However, considering the practical benefits and the justification that he is doing it for the game, he is probably forgiven to a certain extent.

Brent said...

I see absolutely nothing wrong with a DM doing this.

The point of RPGs is not to show off the DM's creativity. It's to create fun around a gaming table. "A good time was had by all" is the ultimate endorsement of an RPG game (though note that "good time" varies from person to person, so that may involve killing orcs for one player, and a psychological wringer for another).

If the DM can create a thoroughly entertaining experience out of existing monsters and such, he's doing his job. That's all the DM is there for.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't D&D created by looting fictional and mythological tropes and repurposing them for the game?

The ideas of Michael Moorcock, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, J.R.R. Tolkien and many, many other authors found their way into our hobby by looting - a time-honored tradition, really!

What's the harm in borrowing this and that for a game, especially if it's just for the amusement of yourself and your players?

Questing GM said...

Wow, some of these comments are making me have some heavy thoughts.

Hi, brent. Thanks for chiming in.

Your point perfectly describes what the Looter DM thinks about RPGs, it's just a game and not an art gallery.

He thinks it's his job to entertain not dazzle his small audience.

BUT here's where I would like to ask what you think. Does the Looter DM reveal to his players that earlier on none of the adventures, monsters or NPCs that the PCs have faced so far are of his original work.

If that's the case what really differentiates one DM from the next? I like to say his creativity because every DM has their style and they have a certain preference in designing which monster goes with which plot hook with which adventure.

And if the DM really does reveal his sources of referencing or inspiration, as a player, I might just buy those works and read/watch/admire them in the same order.

DM's creativity is something that is unique in every DM and it's probably one of the reasons why players flock to his table in the first place for a good fantasy GAME rather than watching LoTR forward and back.

You're right that looting is something every DM does once in a while but a DM that relies looting for all his campaign needs?