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I Ate Someone’s Character Sheet

Last month at PaizoCon, something came over me.

I ate someone’s character sheet.

Let me back up. I discovered something inside of myself at PaizoCon that I didn’t remember was within. Years of playing story games and high co-op games shaped me into who I am, to some degree — I believe in life as co-op mode, I am a fan of the PCs and of the players, etc. The closest I get to adversarial gaming is when I run Mythender, but then that’s designed for exactly the sort of adversity I want to do: I want you to be awesome, and I want to constantly tempt you into your doom while doing son.

The whole “killed DM” thing was never my boat. Hell, the very first time I GMs, I cheered along with the one guy who was playing for his badass GURPS fighter-mage (150 points in 3/e) to kick the ass out of my enemies and get the princess and the gold and the magic sword and all that shit.

By and large, I’ve always been a celebratory GM.

But something happened. I was running a Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box game for six people who had all played Pathfinder before, some of whom in fact played or ran the adventure I was running, so I switch flipped in my head. I went from “I’ll teach you how to play!” to “Come ye who wish to endure pain.”

Apparently that’s on the same damn switch?

That game went crazy. I called for saves versus existence, adjudicated rules for racism bonuses and channelling hallucination, had the cleric decide that she was actually a paladin midway through and convert to worshipping John Compton (who was running Golarionender in the room next door), dealt with a rogue that rejected all labels (including whatever a “class” or “race” was), and even crazier. We had a romp, and it was far more fun than I anticipated having at a 9pm Saturday game.

We all had a blast. There was a bit of GM vs. players element that really took the game to 11 once the “we’re going to definitely cooperatively bullshit and pretend the rules we’re spouting are legit” had full buy-in. I still recall the cleric-turned-paladin of Compton wanted to “smile evil the room,” leading to me throw down a blank map tile and say “okay, you’re now in a netherspace because the paladin smited causality.”

Anyway, I rolled that spirit in the Delve — an event at PaizoCon where people step up to a 20-minute murderfest, with over-challenging encounters (or, at least ideally over-challenging). Characters are expected to die, and people know that coming in. Players love it, because we’re just rolling right away, they get a chance to out-fox Paizo staff, and we all have a good time. (If you know about the infamous Shaq event last year, that was during a delve.)

Still feeling the spirit of the moment, when one player attempted to mock me personally, I told him to hand me his character sheet. I then ripped off a corner and gave only that to him, saying “That’s as much character as you have now.” I left him the speed line, so he could at least run away.

When he died, I stared him straight in the eyes and started to tear off pieces of his character sheet — the part I held onto — with my teeth and eating it.

I’ll let that player tell the story:

I’m the Valeros player Macklin was punishing during the delve. Allow me to reiterate events as I recall them:

A friend and I noticed a sign above a table, it read THE DELVE. There was a charming and bright eyed GM running short games, everyone was having fun, even laughing.

We waited patiently for our turn, then sat down- eager to have a wonderful time like the four people before us had. The GM welcomed us before checking his wrist-watch. “Oh- I’m done guys, someone else will have to run you through this. Good luck!”

A shadow crept across the table. We all looked up and seen a new GM had joined the event. His name tag read Ryan.

Early in combat, my friend rolled a 1 on attack. Ryan pilfered my friends d20 and said “you can have this back when you deserve to roll it.” Then he turned my friend into a goblin, and said “now talk like a goblin for the rest of the encounter” Then he turned me into a ghoul.

I asked “Do I have to talk like a ghoul?” Ryan said “yes” I replied “But I don’t know how to talk like Ryan Macklin!” About now Ryan rips the corner off of my character sheet and hands it to me, growling “Thats how much of a character you get to play now!” After another round of punishment the ghoulish GM advised me to eat the remnants of my sheet. I obliged, half-heartedly, barely putting the paper in my mouth. I didn’t expect Macklin to fangoriously devour the larger portion of the sheet which he still held.

I have told this story about 6 times in the past week. See my memento here.

It’s not accurate, as Jessica Price was my co-instigator and she got written out of his account (probably because she didn’t also feast on the character sheet with me). She injects her crucial part of the story on the post, as without her I don’t think I would have been set up to be the harvester of characters that I became in that moments.

To be clear, this was a stock pregenerated character that we hand out at the delve, so it’s not like I was eating something of personal investment.

I don’t entirely know why I’m sharing this story, except maybe to say that even when we have a basic mode of play, it’s worth shaking out of your comfort zone to find new sides of you. I’m still shocked that I ate a dude’s character sheet in front of him, because I didn’t know that was in me. Now I do, and can wield that with intent and consent much like the Tracy Hickman Killer Breakfast or other murderfest games that people live for (or at least want to retell six times in a week), since those live and die based off how entertaining the GM is in said murdering.

– Ryan

Photo: the remains, as posted by that player

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3 Responses to I Ate Someone’s Character Sheet

  1. Robert Calfee says:

    Years ago I made a button that I wore to DunDraCon that said “Killer GM” and had a picture of a character sheet being set on fire.

    I didn’t eat the sheets, though. That’s hard core.
    (I also didn’t set them on fire, because the hotel frowned on open flame, oh well…)

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      If I had seen that five years ago, I would have assumed that you were just some asshole, because that was my reaction to “killer GMs.” That’s my prejudice.

      If I had seen that two or three years ago, I would have shrugged and thought “as long as y’all are having fun…” but not really understand it. Even though that’s effectively what I was doing in Mythender.

      Today, I get it. Though I’m still probably going to be suspicious of people who identify that was, as I have to determine whether the players know what sort of game they’re getting into with that person, or if that person likes to surprise people. I suppose if you’re wearing it on your sleeve, it’s more often the former.

      – Ryan

  2. Martin says:

    For some time, I’ve been thinking about a game where destroying the character sheet bit by bit is a core mechanic, but I never considered eating it.
    If I should ever manage to get the game done (highly unlikely), I will do a limited Ryan-Macklin-Edition with character sheets made of eadable paper.