Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik and His Approach to DMing
In recent news, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins have made TIME’s 100 Most Influential People List. Two Seattle-based nerds that produce a profanity-laden comic strip – Penny Arcade – focused squarely on videogames, seen exclusively through the Web rank right below the likes of Conan O’Brien and somewhere above U.S President Barack Obama in terms of influence.
I used to read their strip on a now-obscure gaming webzine called loonygames. “My Dad is going to be so mad at you guys, I’m not kidding,” “Fetch it, and gaze upon your ruined world!” “You’re a bitch, and you’ll get the bitch ending you deserve,” and “It’s not for you!” are just a few of the lines that constitute my quote-derived vernacular.
What does this have to do with pen and paper roleplaying games? Not much. However, the infrequent yet increased attention they’ve given towards Dungeons & Dragons means I’ve wanted to post about them, and this was a timely week to do so. Not only have the two appeared in podcasts featuring Sexy DM Chris Perkins, Mike/Gabe has become a recent convert to the ways of DMing.
For those of you who don’t follow the webcomic and the daily ramblings appended to each comic post, Mike has been posting about his DMing experiences on fairly frequent basis. As a newcomer, he’s been approaching every game with a hook of some sort even if he’s not actively trying to approach the game from a ‘different direction.’
In some cases, that means introducing an in-jokey aspect to the game, such as when he fashions a quest together from the elements of Pokemon or goes into a deliberate parody of a well-known quest from World of Warcraft. In other cases, he tries to vary the mechanics of each session. In the case of his WOW parody, a loot drop table and volatile crystals create an exciting bit of randomness, while in another game he introduces a jousting minigame with the flavor of WWE.
Some might deign to suggest that these designs are merely a series of videogame-style encounters, but to them I say fie. They inject mechanical life into material that is not covered by the rules, which in the case of 4th Edition, prefer to err on the side of letting the DM make a soft estimate. Exciting possibilities emerge when Mike tries to inject tangible mechanical considerations into overland travel or stat out the intricacies of freefall combat.
Mike has totally embraced the spirit of 4th Edition. Sure it’s not as situationally comprehensive as previous editions of D&D rulesets, but is built on a philosophy of DMs who try to challenge their players not stump them and a table chemistry where players make decisions instead of relying on DMs to force feed things on a linear track. Sez Gabe:
The enjoyment I get out of being the DM comes from facilitating an adventure, not beating the shit out of my friends.
Penny Arcade’s involvement in D&D has grows constantly. Not only are D&D references peppered liberally in the comic and in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, but they’re contributing to the upcoming Player’s Strategy Guide. Also, Jerry has recently DMed a game set in the beloved arcane apocalypse of Dark Sun for Mike, Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz. Can anyone say, “podcast series to be released in time for promotion of the new Dark Sun setting?” I knew you could.
If you want to read more of Gabe’s D&D musings, you’d have a hard time since the Penny Arcade blog is not very well indexed nor is it consistently tagged. It’s a good thing I’ve been tagging their posts on my Delicious account so you can view every single D&D related post. It’s a little rough around the edges, but here it is: a D&D archive of the Penny Arcade blog.
If you enjoyed this post, or just happen to really like Penny Arcade as much as I do, then consider supporting us by purchasing some Penny Arcade stuff like The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade or ordering the Player’s Strategy Guide, which feature some adorable and wonderful comic-style art and character building tips for 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.