The Pleasure of Secrets and techniques | The Offended GM

Warning: this text is Bullshit!

Not more than as soon as a month, I let myself write a rambling, bloggy piece of stream-of-consciousness crap about no matter I need. I don’t attempt to give sensible recommendation — although there’s all the time one thing to study — or present guidelines hacks — although I’d preview one — and I can’t promise well-organized arguments, sidebars, and even tiered headings — however they could occur. I’m simply letting you into my head. And it’s a frigging mess in there. You’ve been warned.

Guess what? I’m writing a roleplaying sport system of fantasy journey!

No, not that one. A special one.

It’s an extended story that has to do with WotC’s menace final month to screw content material creators like me up, down, and sideways if we don’t lick their boots and my loopy — and spiteful — promise to write down a light-weight by crunchy various to D&D for my high-tier supporters. And anybody else who desires to pay for it.

I’m calling it the Slapdash Engine as a result of I actually slapped it collectively over one lengthy weekend after which threw the factor into an alpha playtest. After three weeks of turning frantic serviette scribbles into an precise playtest doc.

In the meantime, I’ve been bragging to my secret inside circle about all of the tremendous cool options that may make Slapdash higher than D&D and in addition each different fantasy RPG ever.

And that’s the place at the moment’s story begins. With this brag:

In Slapdash, anybody can solid divine spells, however solely clerics get to know the precise divine spellcasting guidelines.

Man did that break a number of brains. Possibly it simply broke yours. If not, give it a second. Take into consideration that assertion. Watch for the apparent flaw to leap out. There you go. I can inform you noticed it by that twitch in your eye and that sproing noise.


Anyway, that humble little brag about my superior slapped-together-pile-of-crap RPG was the beginning of 1 hell of a curler coaster experience. One to do with the Monster Guide, secret lore, metagaming, and a riot towards an evil cabal of Recreation Mastering Excessive Monks.

And at the moment, I’m going to inform you why Slapdash gods work that method, why it’s okay for the gamers to learn the Monster Guide, and why GMs who custom-make all their monsters to discourage metagaming are making their video games worse. And everybody else’s too.

And subsequent month, I’ll inform you why you want the Evil Cabal of Recreation Mastering Excessive Monks. As a result of treating GMs as a privileged caste worthy of respect and gratitude really offers gamers with the most effective damned TTRPG play experiences attainable.

However that’s subsequent month.

In Slapdash, the fantasy journey RPG coming this winter from Offended Video games, Inc., divine magic doesn’t come within the type of spells clerics can sling. Quite, divine magic comes down from on excessive as blessings and curses delivered by the gods themselves in response to appeals, ceremonies, and sacrifices.

All proper, you bought me. To some extent, that’s only a bunch of window dressing. Divine spellcasting is simply spellcasting and the appeals, ceremonies, and sacrifices are simply what different boring, crappy video games name spell elements.


In Slapdash, anybody can invoke a miracle. Any PC — or NPC, for that matter — can beg the gods for assist and have some probability of a response. They simply must do it blindly. The gamers of priestly characters really get to see the Divine Spellcasting chapter of the guide.

Type of. It’s sophisticated. Watch for the complete launch, okay?

Plenty of my supporters thought that was a damned cool concept. And quite a lot of mentioned that made a variety of sense for divine magic in a fantasy world. However a number of of my supporters instantly tried to identify the trick. They knew there needed to be a trick. I couldn’t imply what I mentioned. How might I? Divine magic couldn’t presumably work like that. Not for lengthy, anyway.

Suppose, as an example, that Slapdash actually had a secret set of Divine Spellcasting guidelines that anybody might use blindly, however which gamers acquired to truly learn after they made themselves a cleric. Even if you happen to ignore the seemingly inconceivable mechanics that would presumably facilitate casting spells by blind guesswork, what prevents a cleric’s participant from simply telling their allies the foundations so everybody can solid divine magic extra successfully? And what occurs when a cleric’s participant retires their cleric and performs one thing else? Does the sport embody a standard-issue Neuralyzer with which to erase their reminiscences of the Divine Spellcasting guidelines?

Now, my supporters have good cause to suspect some verbal smoke-and-mirrors. I’m tricksy. I by no means misinform them, however a variety of my truths are solely true figuratively or on some type of technicality or given a particularly slender definition of 1 phrase or one other. However, on this case, I meant just about exactly what I mentioned. However a number of minor particulars in execution and the interpretation of my designs into D&D-esque phrases to make them simpler to grok.

The purpose is: sure, in Slapdash, there are Secret Mechanics anybody can use however just some gamers get to know proper out of the gate. I believe that’s one thing a number of fantasy journey and roleplaying video video games do very effectively and one thing TTRPGs completely ought to discover a technique to steal. I’m a giant fan.

And the truth that Secret Mechanics don’t keep secret eternally? That’s not a bug; it’s a function. It makes video games higher.

And to elucidate my reasoning to my followers, I posed a easy — and semi-rhetorical — query:

Is it okay for gamers to learn the Monster Guide?

And man was {that a} mistake!

To be honest, that query wasn’t a mistake till I took it to Twitter. Which is par for the course. Twitter ought to dump its little chook mascot in favor of a flaming rubbish dumpster.

I knew I used to be asking a loaded query, one which’s began fights since Eddie Gygax and Dave Arnoldson invented gaming within the fifties. Particularly the way in which I phrased it. As a result of my query isn’t nearly whether or not it’s okay for gamers to behave on info the GM didn’t explicitly give them in play — the bullshit metagaming debate — but in addition about whether or not it’s acceptable for gamers to purposely search that info to get an edge within the sport?

To be honest, these had been exactly the problems I used to be attempting to focus on relating to Secret Mechanics. Keep in mind, the query was only a technique to begin a dialogue I might then finish with an accurate reply that justified my crazy-ass design selections. As a result of I see myself as Socrates. And that’s fairly apt as many of the Web sees me as corrupting players and ruining the group.


The solutions I acquired ran the gamut. However I can summarize the overwhelming majority of them thusly.

Is it okay for gamers to learn the Monster Guide?

  • No, however I can’t cease them.
  • Sure, as a result of I can’t cease them.
  • Sure, however my gamers know they’ll’t use that data in-game.
  • Sure, however they’ll’t reference it in the course of the sport.
  • Sure, as a result of I render that info ineffective by by no means utilizing printed monsters as written.
  • You’re an asshole.

I’m not being facetious or hyperbolic with that final response. Exterior of my supporter group, I acquired so much of social-media replies letting me know the query was offensive and silly and I used to be an absolute asshole for even asking for it. And though I needed to work together with a variety of obnoxious, self-important assholes to get there, I did ultimately discover out what I’d achieved unsuitable. I’d recognized myself as a member of the Secret Cabal of the Excessive Monks of GMing and I needed to be destroyed.

I shit you not. And though the self-important, obnoxious dumbasses aren’t inquisitive about a well-reasoned response, I’m nonetheless going to research that entire factor subsequent month. And clarify why, sure, I’m a member of the Secret Cabal of the Excessive Monks of GMing and we’re those who run the most effective video games that make gamers happiest.

However I digress…

Apparently, I didn’t get a variety of unqualified unfavourable solutions. However I additionally didn’t get a variety of unqualified constructive solutions. Few individuals mentioned sure outright, although admittedly some did and several other of these weren’t actually partaking with the problems at hand.

And when you can counsel that pattern or choice bias performed a job right here — and it undoubtedly did — the variety of you’re an asshole responses suggests pattern bias wasn’t as huge an element because it may very well be.

The humorous factor is although, the vast majority of respondents may be divided into two broad teams. There have been the individuals who thought solely an asshole would ask such a query and the individuals who needed to say no, however knew they couldn’t.

I imply, you had these unhappy, resigned GMs who clearly wished they might cease their gamers from studying the Monster Guide however comprehend it’s past their energy. Or who mentioned, “look, I do know I can’t cease you however at the very least don’t do it proper in entrance of me, please!” However you additionally had the GMs who mentioned, “wonderful, you possibly can learn the Monster Guide all yo need, however I’m going to cease you from benefiting from it in-game.”

And particular point out have to be product of the dumbass concept that gamers shouldn’t be allowed to metagame. That’s, the concept gamers must be forbidden from utilizing data they’ve that the GM doesn’t really feel their character would have. If you happen to maintain that opinion, you’re dumb. Not unsuitable, dumb. You’re unreasonable, wrong-headed, and silly. Folks’s brains don’t work that method and also you introduce extra issues into your sport than you keep away from by attempting to implement that crap. I’d clarify additional, however I’ve higher issues to speak about and admittedly, I’m unsure you possibly can grasp the reason.


Clearly, wise GMs acknowledge there’s one thing about gamers studying the Monster Guide that doesn’t sit proper. And a few of it’s in all probability simply right down to honest play and earned victories. If you recognize what a monster can do — and you’ll provide you with methods to counter its techniques and exploit its weaknesses — you’ve acquired a bonus within the combat. And that’s undeniably true. Good info is as empowering as a magical sword, a high-level spell, or a mechanical bonus.

However magical swords and high-level spells and mechanical bonuses? Gamers must earn these by way of play. They’ve to beat challenges to loot magical treasure, they’ve to achieve ranges to get the most effective spells, and so they must provide you with crafty plans and loopy capers to get situational bonuses. And that signifies that a participant getting inside data a couple of monster is similar as a participant writing mAjiK SWarD +2 on their sheet between classes and anticipating the GM to let that fly.

Info is efficacious. All of us GMs comprehend it.

Personally, I believe info is the most precious. And I believe that’s good for the sport.

Hopefully, it’s clear that I’m utilizing the Monster Guide as a stand-in for any helpful info gamers can exploit in play. And the explanation I’m utilizing the Monster Guide is as a result of D&D — and shamefully, most TTRPGs — lack examples of such info, which I’m going to name Discoverable Secrets and techniques. Other than the magic merchandise lists and monster stats, there ain’t a variety of helpful, exploitable stuff hidden away for the gamers to find later.

And I believe that’s a disgrace. I’d like to see tons of shit hidden from new gamers’ prying eyes. My preferrred Gamers’ Handbook — loopy as this may sound — would present gamers nothing however the choices they’ll begin play with. Excessive-level spells and skills? Hidden. Status-tier feats? Hidden. All however essentially the most generally recognized deities? Hidden. Unusual, uncommon, and exceptionally uncommon magical objects? Hidden. Hell, I’d conceal uncommon races and lessons too.

I do know, I’m loopy, however hear me out.

TTRPG designers are inexcusably clueless about what Discoverable Secrets and techniques do for the fantasy style and the fantasy journey gaming expertise. They don’t notice what a horrible disservice they’re doing to GMs and gamers by making all the pieces so clear. And most GMs are so clueless about this crap themselves that they’re keen to destroy the worth of what few Discoverable Secrets and techniques there are of their determined scramble to cease gamers from dishonest.

Think about if a significant, fashionable TTRPG writer was so petrified of the comparatively tiny downside of web piracy that they completely refused to promote easy, transferable PDF copies of their rulebooks. Think about if the one method you would entry an digital model of the foundations was by being logged into — and subscribed to — particularly licensed platforms.

That’s what GMs are doing each time they attempt to confound or forbid gamers from exploiting the data they’ve acquired. If you happen to change up your monsters to stop the gamers from utilizing what they know or if you happen to completely use {custom} monsters or if you happen to forbid your gamers from utilizing what they know no matter how they comprehend it or if you happen to by no means use the identical monster twice in the identical marketing campaign, you’re as dangerous as WotC not promoting PDFs. And it is best to really feel dangerous.

Fantasy journey TTRPGs ought to comprise Discoverable Secrets and techniques. They make fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Fantasy journey TTRPG gamers ought to have the ability to exploit Discoverable Secrets and techniques in play. It makes fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Fantasy journey TTRPG gamers ought to share their Discoverable Secrets and techniques with one another. It makes fantasy journey TTRPGs infinitely higher.

Let me clarify…


Discovery contains one of many eight main sorts of gameplay engagement. It’s one of many eight emotional experiences individuals play video games to expertise. And Discovery is likely one of the core engagements of fantasy journey gameplay.

Discovery is a type of mental conquest. Discovery is thrashing again the darkness of ignorance. It’s revealing the map, it’s discovering the hidden dungeons, it’s understanding the world’s secret backstory. And that’s often how we tabletop players take into consideration Discovery.

However essentially the most precious, strongest Discoveries are those that make gamers extra highly effective. Discovery grants data and data is a type of energy. As you play The Witcher, you determine which potions and mutagens and poisons work greatest towards which foes and jive greatest along with your playstyle. As you play Breath of the Wild, you learn the way objects on the earth work together with one another, how your runes work together with them, and the right way to use these interactions to unravel puzzles and win fights. As you play Elden Ring, you study enemy movesets and weapon animations, and you recognize when to dam, when to parry, when to sidestep, when to make use of a robust assault, and when to panic-roll the hell away as quick as you possibly can. As you play Hole Knight you study which charms do what and which you’ll be able to mix to nice impact and also you study boss patterns so you understand how to dodge and when to strike.

Discovering mechanics is Discovery too. And it’s a extra empowering, extra joyful, longer-lasting type of Discovery. Yeah, it’s nice to see a dragon for the primary time in Breath of the Wild or to experience that one elevator in Elden Ring — you recognize the one I imply — however discovering the dragons spawn at set occasions and locations so you possibly can farm them for armor-upgrading scales and horns is a way more precious Discovery. Breaking by way of the Maridia tube was superb as soon as, however Shinesparking was the reward that simply saved on giving.

Worldlore reveals and scenes of marvel are nice. By all means, embody them too, however they’re not the identical as getting an inventory of spells to decide on once you degree up and saying, “I had no concept I’d ever have the ability to do one thing like that.” After which experimenting along with your sudden energy in your subsequent dozen fights.

To many gamers, Discoveries in regards to the sport’s mechanics are literally extra rewarding and depart a longer-lasting feeling of empowerment than Discovering one other dungeon on the map or one other attention-grabbing reality on the earth’s wealthy historic tapestry. Such Discoveries are empowering. And it’s empowerment gamers really feel like they earned.


Discoveries aren’t empowering in the event that they’re not helpful. I hope that’s apparent. Info you possibly can’t exploit doesn’t make you’re feeling extra highly effective. It’s only a enjoyable reality so that you can file away. And that’s why purposely redesigning monsters — or custom-building your personal beasts — destroys the worth of Discoverable Secrets and techniques. You’re rendering the gamers’ data of the sport’s mechanics null and void. You’re robbing the Discoveries of empowerment.

One cause GMs can’t see that is that they don’t assume past the marketing campaign they’re operating and so they don’t take into account the big-picture gameplay expertise. The RPG expertise ain’t restricted to a single journey or marketing campaign. It’s one thing gamers do throughout quite a few adventures and quite a few campaigns for months or years. Plenty of individuals have been enjoying D&D 5E for 9 years now. 9! Years! And you may’t ignore that long-term facet of the play expertise.

Technique and ability are important sport elements. Video games with out components of ability or technique aren’t video games, they’re actions. They’re Sweet Land. They’re slot machines. To qualify as a sport, gamers should have the ability to have an effect on the result with the standard of their decisions. Furthermore, gamers should get higher at making higher decisions as they play.

I do know we don’t like to speak about this shit as GMs — I do know the idea of participant ability is bizarre and icky — however we’ve got to. As a result of it’s a central a part of video games being video games.

Individuals who have performed D&D for years ought to be higher at enjoying D&D than individuals who simply began. Put an skilled participant and a beginner in the identical combat with the identical pre-generated PC, the skilled participant ought to get his character by way of that combat with out a scratch and the beginner ought to barely scrape by. That’s important for long-term engagement and playability. If that ain’t the case, then the one technique to hold individuals round is to continuously introduce new, higher choices till the sport’s a bloated, overwrought, overpowered mess. After which it’s time to throw your sport out and make a brand new one.

Gamers — not characters — are supposed to play TTRPGs for years. RPG programs — not campaigns — are supposed to present years of enjoyable. You may argue all you need that it’s unrealistic for 1st degree characters performed by long-time gaming vets to know extra in regards to the world and its monsters than newbies enjoying the identical characters. Possibly it’s — although each Greek citizen who went to the identical play knew the right way to reply a riddling Sphinx and I understand how to kill a vampire though I’ve by no means meant one — however actually, realism is method, method, method much less vital than long-term engagement and funding.

It’s higher for the long-term play expertise — which is greater than your tiny, crappy little marketing campaign — if the gamers get to study the ins and outs of the sport and exploit the hell out of it.


When Hideo Miyazaki took a break from drawing animes to make probably the greatest motion RPG video video games ever — Darkish Souls — he acknowledged that, within the age of the Web Gaming Neighborhood, you would make a sport completely frigging inscrutable and players would band collectively and scrute the hell out of it. He deliberately obfuscated the hell out of Darkish Souls — and Blood Souls and Elden Souls and all the remaining — as a result of he knew Discoverable Secrets and techniques unite communities like nothing else. He mentioned so in interviews.

Persons are communal by nature. They love drawing circles with themselves and their fellow insiders on the within and outsiders outdoors. And due to in-built psychological limits on simply what number of members social teams can have, communalism is critical, wholesome, and pleasurable. Folks want a way of belonging, however it ain’t significant — and it doesn’t really feel good — if it ain’t earned.

Individuals who piss and moan about gatekeeping are idiots who don’t know factor one about human social wiring. Which is why everybody tries to maintain them out.

I ain’t saying poisonous communities don’t exist — or that communalism can’t flip poisonous — however I’m saying that communalism isn’t inherently poisonous. Hell, it’s a requisite for good psychological and social well being.

Miyazaki completely understood that probably the greatest methods to construct a gaming group was to present them a bunch of secrets and techniques to uncover and mysteries to unravel. Allow them to construct a collective physique of shared data. That’s what human communities do greatest. If you happen to don’t just like the Soulsborne video games — as a result of you possibly can’t deal with a problem and also you hate enjoyable — take a look at how the Legend of Zelda group acquired collectively for years to determine the incomprehensible timeline of the Zeldaverse.

After all, Nintendo — shortsighted dumbasses that they’re; very like a sure circle of wizards who dwell on a sure coast — completely ruined that by publishing an official timeline to promote some overpriced hardbacks.

Discoverable Secrets and techniques — and the sharing thereof — unite communities. Particularly gamer communities. And, prefer it or deny it, the roleplaying gaming interest is each social and communal. Want proof? Simply go to frigging Indianapolis one August. 100 thousand individuals wouldn’t go to a godawful place like Indiana simply to play the identical fake elf video games they might play at dwelling if some critical communal forces weren’t in play.

Discoverable Secrets and techniques — exploitable sport mechanics that aren’t shared instantly with new gamers — improve the tabletop roleplaying gaming expertise, each on the desk and past. And so they’re an ideal match for fantasy journey which is Discovery-focused by its nature. Furthermore, with the asynchronous nature of tabletop roleplaying video games — a single, omniscient trustee hides behind the scenes and divulges the world to the gamers one session at a time — you’d assume TTRPGs would lean onerous into Discoverable Secrets and techniques. They’re excellent.

So why don’t sport designers lean into them? And why don’t GMs admire their value? Worse, why achieve this many GMs actively sabotage them?

Enter the Excellent Resolution Fallacy.

It’s inconceivable to cease secret data from spreading. You may’t cease gamers from studying the Monster Guide and Discovering all of the Secrets and techniques. Nor are you able to cease them from telling their non-cleric compatriots all of the Secret Lore of the Gods gleaned from their days at Fake Elf Seminary. You may’t cease gamers from performing on info that wasn’t actually gained by way of play. And even if you happen to might cease all that, there’s a small subset of gamers who additionally run video games and GMs who additionally play video games. And so they’re gonna carry info throughout the display screen.

The truth that Discoverable Secrets and techniques can’t be completely preserved and guarded — and the truth that some individuals cheat — doesn’t imply they’re not damned precious. Hell, individuals rip aside Soulsborne video games and publish all their secrets and techniques virtually the identical day they arrive out and that hasn’t stopped the strongest gaming communities on the web from forming across the pleasure of Discovering their Secrets and techniques.

GMs who forbid gamers from performing on their data of the sport to stop dishonest — which is bullshit anyway — are ruining the enjoyable for everybody who got here by their data by way of sincere effort and years within the desk trenches. Identical with GMs who continuously reskin or custom-build new gotcha monsters so their gamers can’t use what they know from earlier video games. And so they’re not simply hurting their very own gamers, they’re additionally hurting the communal expertise of shared Discovery for the sake of their tiny, petty, tyrant kingdoms.

I used to be telling the reality about Divine Spellcasting in Slapdash. The small print of deity worship within the Slapdashosphere gained’t be printed in no matter passes for the Slapdash Participant’s Guidebook when it comes out. They’ll be entrusted to the GM. Most likely on little player-friendly handouts with little disclaimers about sacred trusts and the enjoyment of Discovery they characterize. Over time, the data will unfold. Some foul cheaters can have all of the handouts and use that info to their benefit. Most players gained’t. Spoilers will occur. And moderators in Slapdash Discord communities will in all probability must undertake strict spoiler insurance policies. Similar to in on-line fan communities for all kinds of different media. Over time, a physique of shared Slapdash data will kind. I can’t cease that. Hell, I’m hoping it does.

In the meantime, although, don’t hamstring the Discoverable Secrets and techniques in your system du jour. You don’t have any concept the worth of what you’re breaking. Perceive that it is okay for gamers to learn the Monster Guide, although they gained’t if they need the most effective expertise, and it is best to in all probability inform your gamers so.

Learn it if you need, however you’re ruining the enjoyable for your self if you happen to do. I don’t care although, since you’re solely ruining the enjoyable for your self, and that’s not my downside.

Past that, let your gamers use what they know. Even if you happen to assume so little of your gamers that you just don’t belief them to have come by their data actually. Cease with the no metagaming bullshit. Embrace loads of challenges from printed rulebooks. As written. You may construct your personal {custom} stuff too, however two-thirds of your challenges ought to come from the shared pool of communal data.

Briefly, cease screwing your gamers out of one of many corest of core engagements in your entire fantasy journey gaming style. If not for the sake of your gamers, then for the sake of mine. In spite of everything, in the future, considered one of your gamers would possibly find yourself at my desk, or considered one of mine would possibly sit at yours, and so they shouldn’t be screwed over simply because they modified GMs.

And if you happen to can’t abide these guidelines, completely don’t purchase Slapdash when it comes out. I don’t need you ruining it for everybody, you petty little tyrant.


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