Another category of annoying GM introduces the term Pixelbitching

I call it the ‘Clickable Pixel’ style of GMing, after various computer games. Basically, you’re in this Myst-like free environment, looking for the ‘clue’ that helps you free the next bit of drama or the next area of the game … which turns out to be a completely mundane and unobtrusive object approximately 5 pixels across.

For instance, in the X-Files computer game, there’s a warehouse. In the warehouse are ‘clues’. One of these ‘clues’ is a bullet lodged into a post. The only view of the bullet is exactly 2×2 pixels.

An in-game example:

Con games: Sometimes you can see there’s plot going on over the fence, you just can’t find the pixel to click on. Or, indeed the correct NPC. Con games where there are 12 NPCs to talk to and you end up having to talk to all 12 of them before you stumble onto the right one. Or worse, you NEVER talk to the right one, and you end up staring at the plot-fence the whole game.

Certainly my experience in this regard has been mostly at cons, and mostly with particularly uninspired gming of stuff written by other people for Living campaigns. It was somewhere in that period that I developed the “ask a lot of questions around town, then go back to the Inn and wait to be attacked in the night, then loot the bodies for clues” method of investigation. 9-of-10 success rate, that.

One comment

  1. It’s the standard “Spenser” (Robert Parker) detective ploy. Walk in, ask a lot of annoying questions, stir things up, see who tries to whack you, and use that person as the thread to unravel everything else. Repeast as necessary. Assuming you survived (which both Spenser and PCs usually do), it is, indeed, pretty effective.
    As a GM setting up (or interpreting the setup of) clues, I have an awful time gauging whether something is reasonably obvious or reasonably difficult. I’m not much of a puzzle-solver myself (vs Margie, who invariably spots the murderer thirty seconds into a TV show), and so clues that seem blindingly obvious to some (e.g., module writers, or even me when reading the module) turn out to be utterly obtuse — or clues that seem just too clever for words, such that I’m worried nobody will figure it out (see above) turn out to be the first thing that people look at …
    In some ways, that’s an advantage of player-driven narration — they do the clue setup, the GM just interprets the results thereof.

Comments are closed.