GM Edition: Beholder to No One

Nikki Yager makes D&D podcasts. We define heroism and villainy on a dimmer, and the many, many times gamers seem to end up at Denny’s.

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GM Edition: Exploring monsters with pro game masters

Nikki Yager: A farmer lost his farm and it was burned down by some bandits. So he decided that he’s just going to go out and kill all the bandits and make them suffer. But in actuality, he’s deciding who a bandit is based purely off of appearance. So all of a sudden you have this farmer gone villain who is killing innocent people because he lost someone.

Lucas: Does your villain always have that switch? Is it the same switch?

Nikki Yager: I think instead of a switch, it’s more of a dimmer, like a dimmer light. It starts with a very hard, this is what I’m doing and it slowly starts to blend. It starts to get darker and darker and just dimmer and dimmer and dimmer.

Why it’s

Lucas: Welcome to Making a Monster: GM Edition. For the last year, I’ve been asking tabletop game designers about their proudest achievement in monster design. And it’s a way bigger conversation than I thought. Every werewolf, zombie or beholder is a slice of history, folklore, ethics, and design philosophy. And after a year of answers, I’ve only discovered more of the question. So I want to look at monsters from a different perspective. Over the next few weeks, you’ll meet the game masters from some of your favorite actual play podcasts and hear how they use monsters in their games.
If monsters are tools, then game designers are tool makers and game masters are the craftsman, using those tools to tell interactive stories that reflect how they see the world, the monsters in their stories are where it all comes together. It’s a new conversation and we’re learning as we go, so come with me, as we discover more about how a monster works, why it works, and what it means.

Lucas: All right. Uh, in rhythm 3, 2, 1.

Nikki Yager: Honestly, I think that was the best clap I’ve ever had happen. Usually they are so off. So hi, I’m Nikki, the creator of Beholder to No One, which has been going on for a year and a half.

Lucas: Congratulations! That first year is always the hardest.

First Impressions in TTRPGs

Nikki Yager: Thanks. Yeah, the first five months didn’t quite go as intended, but the next year. So I just last month hit a full year of, uh, publishing every single week. And that year has made a huge shift and significant change in everything. But, um, so getting into TTRP, jeez, I’ve been playing since 2003.

So what does that, 19 years, 18 years, something like that? I started when I was in high school. Where I grew up there was a, comic bookstore. Is fairly big it’s actually, I think it’s the biggest, one of the biggest comic book stores in Florida. They opened a gaming satellite back in the early two thousands and it was very tiny, like it was smaller than my office tiny.

Lucas: Oh, wow.

Nikki Yager: So they had room for like one little table in there. Just could to kind of like, feel it out, I guess, to see if people would be interested.

Lucas: Yeah. Yeah. In 2003, it wasn’t a safe bet.

Nikki Yager: right, exactly. So my best friend and I walked in there one day and there was a group of guys playing D and D 3.5 and we just heard them role-playing and we’re like, what the hell are they doing?

That sounds really cool. I won that and we walk over and we were like, what are you, what are you guys doing? And they explain it and they’re like, can we try? And they let us join their game. I don’t remember anything about that game, honestly, other than the fact that my best friend’s a girl and I’m a girl, but I was the only girl character in the game. And that’s literally all I remember about the game, but thankfully it wasn’t a bad experience. It was a fantastic experience. They taught us how to play.

They helped us build our characters and I kind of fell in love with the, just the concept of it. And we kept coming back every Wednesday instead of going to church, which has its own connotations in that, but that’s not here and they’re there.

Lucas: I mean, it’s wild how much influence your first experience with this can have. It sounds like you, you, you found a game or a group of players who had a commitment to giving other people a great experience at the table, regardless of who they were or what their level of experience was. And that’s, that’s not nothing. That’s really important.

Nikki Yager: Yeah. and I kind of live by that motto. I have anxiety. I’m very open about that. Um, and I’ve asked to be at tables with strangers before, when I didn’t know anybody and literally was so anxious when they said no, because they had like 12 people at the table. Honestly, completely understand

Lucas: Uh huh.

Nikki Yager: but anxious Nikki’s like, okay, well I’m going to go then there’s no games for me. Like, didn’t even look at the other tables. Didn’t ask anybody else just like left. Um, so I had to like force myself to U-turn and go back to ask the other tables, knowing that I would have regretted if I didn’t. And then I was invited to go to another table.

So I didn’t want that anxiety to ever happen to somebody else. So I had the problem of always saying yes to people which had its own problems in and of itself, because I think I had 14 players at one point, which is just ridiculous. You should never have that many players at

Lucas: how did you- I don’t know how you did it.

Nikki Yager: I think like we did a round a game, maybe. I always wanted to teach RPGs to be part of something. And then I kind of like stopped playing for a little bit in college. I played like one game of Mage, I think, in college, and it was the same concept. A group of people were playing, doing something. And I’m like, what are you doing? And they’re like, playing Mage. I’m like, can I play? And they’re like, sure. And then afterwards, like we played for like five hours and then they invited me to Denny’s and somebody bought me pancakes and I’m like, cool. I don’t remember my character. I remember pancakes afterwards at 5:00 AM in the morning, though, on a weekday.

Lucas: It’s true. You never planned to go to Denny’s you always just end up there.

Nikki Yager: I just remember. I was like, yeah, I mean, I can go, I don’t have any money. So that’s like, I can just chill though and get some water and they’re like, no, no, no, no, well, we’ll buy you pancakes. It’s fine. And I’m like, okay, I’m not going to turn down food. I’m hungry. But, um, I think beyond that, I fell back in love with it officially a little bit in, in 2008, which was

like I was probably a year or two after that. Cause I played when I moved to California and it was when I was introduced to like foam smithing and like the LARPing SciFest stuff.

And I don’t, I’m not able to do like the physical fighting that they were doing. Like I can’t take a knee. I can’t, I have some chronic pain, so I.

I’ll just make foam weapons. So I start making like mace foam weapons over here having a blast. And then we go to Denny’s. Denny seems to be a popular thing. Um, and play 3.5 until like three in the morning, in a corner in Denny’s away from all the other customers just kind of was the theme. Honestly, I, now I literally it’s my entire life, honestly, it’s not even funny.

The Beholder to No One family of podcasts

Lucas: So what have you been doing since like you you’ve doubled down on podcast production? You’re doing, what, three different series at this point?

Nikki Yager: technically seven.

Lucas: seven projects.

Nikki Yager: Yes. I think

Lucas: Because I know you have Beholder to No One, which is kind of the discussion feature, you have ClearLight, which is a horror ask. I think that’s fine. And, uh, and then there was one other that I saw

The One Page Mage displays a fantastical D&D adventure

One Page Mage fan Art by Andrew Fillhart; click to visit the One Page Mage on the web!

Nikki Yager: Beholder to One Shot, which is usually non-D&D one shots. We do have occasionally D and D ones. Like we had a One-page Mage episode and he only does fifth edition D and D,

Lucas: He does. Yeah.

Nikki Yager: And then Clear light just had its finale.

Lucas: Oh good. Congratulations.

Nikki Yager: Thanks! There’s one more episode uh, which is the epilogue. And then we are switching to the Morning Blues, which is DMD by Adam of Snyder Returns. I think that game is a lot of fun, but it’s basically Eberron meets Cowboy Bebop meets like bounty hunters type of style.

Lucas: That’s all the things that I wanted.

Nikki Yager: Yeah. Um, those are the only things that I’m currently publishing that are like out officially. And then we’re starting the new, we have our sessions zero tomorrow for the next show, and I just started a really, really big YouTube project.

Um, That all I will say, involved in that and involves cause it’s 13 of us working on it. Um, it’s involving building an entire world from scratch and That’s legitimately all I will say.

Lucas: Great. So I I wanted to try some other things. And I, I think one of the things that I had in mind was let’s talk to people who run actual play podcasts. Of course your name came up cause I’ve seen you in like four of them.

Nikki Yager: All the podcast.

Lucas: So many, it was like, who does actual play podcasts? Nikki does. That’s who it is.

Nikki Yager: plus guesting on everything because it’s fun. Anytime. Anybody’s like, Hey, I need to go. You don’t even know what we’re playing don’t care. I’m in like, there’s very few games that I’ll say no to.

The philosophy of monsters

Lucas: Yeah. And that’s the other thing that I wanted to do with making a monster. And why I wanted to talk to you is because with all of these games that you’ve played and with all of the games that you’ve run and been a part of, I really wanted to ask you, what is your attitude toward running monsters in your games?

Are there things that you find more useful, certain monster types that you gravitate to certain moves that you tend to use, things that make your life easier or harder as a DM? What’s your philosophy of monsters?

Nikki Yager: My go-to monster is the average person, um, or someone who is very humanoid in some form of way, um, in while the dragons are fun, um, beholders are great, obviously. Um,

Lucas: Okay.

Nikki Yager: like I have some favorite monsters in fifth edition, but the ones that I enjoy playing are the ones who think they’re doing the right thing.

So to them, they’re the heroes, but to everybody else, they’re the monster. So for example, in my I’m running a five-year game right now and it’s completely homebrew. So I’m basically doing Shadowrun, but fifth edition, but everything is magical instead of technology. And I absolutely love it. Like you don’t hack into computers, you hack into the astral plane and into magic scrying, orbs, and things like that. And I’m having a blast making it up as I go, but

Lucas: this sounds great.

Nikki Yager: the bad guy was purely acts, not accidental, but it was not planned.

One of the players, left the game and they had a mission in character that they were cleric of themselves and they wanted to become a god. That was their all time goal. That was their goal in life. Nobody in the game knew this. They just were told a different name and suddenly they’re like, oh, I don’t know that name, religion check now.

Sorry, you didn’t roll high enough. You never heard of that name now. Um, but now they know, and the player left the game. And I had before they left, told them, you know, in the library, there are some books about siphoning powers from dead gods and how that could make you closer to your goal. And they started to research that.

So I went with that angle as the player wants to play or left the game. And now their character is heading to the graveyard of the gods in the astral plane, which has about a dozen or so gods that are just dormant, including gods like Bain and Ba’al Ha’al, which are like the worst of the worst. They’re like the king of murder and torture. And this person is going to attempt to siphon powers from these gods to make themselves stronger. And depending on which god they go for will depend on how bad that’s going to be. because they’re a level nine character. Like they can’t handle that power,

Lucas: Yeah. Not adequately prepared to deal with this situation.

Nikki Yager: but they’re going to try anyway. And that basically means that this one’s friend is now going to become the bad guy, which is making it all the worse because two of the players are still original play characters. Two of the players know this character. And one of them is absolutely distraught that they might have to kill their friend because they’ve already lost so many people. She was basically told if this friend of hers is doing what they think she’s doing, she will need to be killed or destroyed.

If she tries to continue, she will ultimately, if she gets that power, possibly destroy everything. And she does not want to, she is that very passive person who wants to like, let’s talk this out and that might not be an option. AKA, it’s not going to be an option,

Lucas: Right. Yeah.

Nikki Yager: But it’s fun to like have bad guys who are your friends and then not your friends or. In my Friday game – I don’t DM this, I’m playing it- a trusted person that we were iffy about, but that we like told them things to like get ideas because they knew more things than us: yeah, everything we told them, they used against us.

It just all stacked on top of each other. And we, it blew up in our face two years later in game. It was fantastic. I absolutely loved it in character. I was devastated and terrified and anxious, but out of character, I’m like, that’s genius. I love this.

It’s like, how long have you been planning- oh, god, it’s been a year and a half.

Seriously. Geez. You have way more patience than I do.

Lucas: Yeah, that’s wild.

If you go to the Monster Manual, there’s a big header on page four that says “what is a monster.” D and D has a two sentence definition. It’s any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought or killed. So a frog and a unicorn are both monsters by that definition. And I’ve found a lot of people gravitate towards humanoids as well, because they want to put them in that category of monster.

To me, that means that what I’m asking about is villain antagonist. What people want out of their villain or antagonist is to ask questions. Like they’re not looking for an answer. I think, from their villain, like give me a monster that lets me explore the difference between, a friend and a foe and trust and whether we should give it to people and who is on the outside and who’s on the inside. Do you think that’s like a uniquely RPG thing or is that something that’s just part of the zeitgeist?

Monsters as morality meters

Nikki Yager: I mean, you see that in novels all the time. Morality is a huge thing. And when you put the characters in these moral dilemmas where you see like the person is good and bad, not all of one thing, then you have a little bit more of an issue. And when you make it a human or humanoid, they are like, well, this is a person.

Like, I can’t just, maybe there’s a reason, like if they have any morals or at least, um, then they’re going to question things. But if you, I do not like the concept that something is purely evil, 100%. So even like goblinoids and gnolls and stuff like that, a lot of those types of races are like listed in fifth edition as just evil, chaotic beings.

Um, I have goblins that are just trying to survive in a cave and chilling. And then they’re told that they’re stealing and they’re like, we stole some food, but all the other stuff we didn’t take. That was the bandits. If you like ask them, but they were, people were sent to kill the goblin. So it’s like, okay, let’s find out if you’re the good or the bad guys.

And when you’re done with the game and they killed all the goblins, like, well, actually you got the bad guys, just so you know.

Lucas: Why is that? What, why, why is that important to you?

Nikki Yager: I think it makes the story more realistic in a sense. I love character growth. I’ve always loved character growth whether in tabletops or in books or in writing or whatever, I like it when a story enhances.

And if I can feel as a player like I am in my character’s shoes, if I can get anxious in real life, when my character is getting anxious, that’s the, that’s the role of a good story. If I’m excited, genuinely for my character to go see this one person or to rescue their kid, then I am just like, that makes me want to come back for more.

I love stories where I can become involved in that and feel those emotions. That’s why I’m very big on role play and very big on like relationships and friendships and all of those things. I will always try to adopt all the animals and I will always try to talk to all the NPCs and befriend them or I’ll try to do all the things because that’s what makes a story interesting.

Lucas: Yeah how does a monster who’s the average person or who thinks they’re the hero make that happen for you?

Nikki Yager: I think it varies. Um, so I guess an example could be like a farmer lost his farm and it was burned down by some bandits. So he decided that he’s just going to go out and kill all the bandits and like make them suffer. But in actuality, he’s deciding who a bandit is based purely off of appearance. So all of a sudden you have this farmer gone villain who is killing innocent people because he lost someone.

So in his eyes, he’s like, I’m killing the bandits so the bandits don’t kill others again. So other people don’t have to suffer like I did.

Lucas: Yeah. I mean, you’ve literally described a heroic origin story

Nikki Yager: And,

Lucas: from a certain lens.

Nikki Yager: and then, but to the, to the actual players, there’s a maniac going around killing innocent people. Sure, he killed some bandits, but he also killed like 30 people that were part of like a monastery because they were wearing a particular style of clothing. So.

Lucas: we can’t have that. And do you, do you feel like in that story, at least the one you’ve just told there’s a moment where that switch flips and he’s like, no, no, we’re doing everybody. This is, I don’t care. Does your villain always have that switch? Is it the same switch?

Nikki Yager: I think instead of a switch, it’s more of a dimmer,

Lucas: Hmm.

Nikki Yager: Like a dimmer light. It doesn’t, it starts with a very hard, this is what I’m doing and it slowly starts to blend. It starts to get darker and darker and just dimmer and dimmer and dimmer. I think that as you, there is no real black and whites. The shades of gray will change as the characters story develops, what direction it goes towards is dependent on what happens.

Do the adventurers show them kindness? Okay. They went a little bit more to a lighter gray. Did they adventures try to kill them? They went to a little bit darker gray and there’s things going on in the background that are going to alter these, this situation. But I don’t think any one is inherently good or bad.

Um, I think they’re all just shades of gray in the scale of, depth in their villainous abilities.

Lucas: Yeah.

Nikki Yager: Just like, I don’t think any person is purely good, either. Even the, even the heroes are sometimes they’re like, are we the bad guys?

Lucas: Is that just as important to you as, uh, like, do you want your heroes to wonder whether they’re the villain just as often as you want your villains to think they’re the hero?

Nikki Yager: Not as often, but I do like that moral dilemma because it’s like, wait, D did we just kill somebody without actually talking to them first and finding out if they were the bad guy? Because the last time we talked to somebody of that race, that’s what happened and assume? Guys. We should reevaluate. Let’s let’s

Lucas: All right. Stop the adventure.

Nikki Yager: Let’s step back for a second. Let’s have a chat around the campfire. What are we doing?

Lucas: Yeah. So let me, um, let me “crunchatize” this a bit. I don’t know if you’ve ever played nights of the older public.

Nikki Yager: I did not.

Lucas: It was a Star Wars game based on the Star Wars d20 system, sort of hacked real time combat for the early Xbox by doing it turn-based with concurrent animations.

And, uh, like a lot of them. Later BioWare games, Mass Effect being one of them, it puts, uh, the dark side at the bottom, that was red, and the light side at the top, that was blue, and your powers that you could gain, gain access to were concurrent on where, on that spectrum you were between blue and red. The redder you got the more Sith powers you would activate, lightning, et cetera, whatever.

Uh, and that was all based on choices that you made in the game, usually in dialogue trees. That’s an interesting way of balancing that idea of hero villain being on a dimmer. But it had some problems. So if you wanted to play a moderate sort of morally gray person, something neither red nor blue, uh, the game did not reward that because the strength of your abilities was tied to how far up or down that scale you were.

Do you think there’s a mechanical impact in fifth edition or in other games to that moral grayness or the, the hero villain dimmer?

Nikki Yager: Um, mechanically, what it is. I don’t have that answer. Cause in fifth edition specifically, there isn’t a mechanical difference. The monster has all the abilities, no matter what or the person, um, it’s whether they use them or not is how it is, how it determines.

And now some games will say, well, this particular dragon is evil and this is what they will do no matter what. But in other games, a lot of games that I’ve played recently they don’t have monsters officially. There’s no stat blocks. It’s all theater of the mind and you make it up as you go.

So I, my thought process is if they’re more in the middle, it means they can be persuaded in either direction. So the party, depending on how they act with the person could make them sway to second guess themselves, which I am newer to. Like I used to be very much a if it’s a fight, it’s a fight, you have to fight them. They’re going to fight you. Lately I’ve been kind of more interested in the, well, maybe you can RP this out. Maybe you can convince them. I have a player in my Monday game who tries to do that with almost everybody, like literally went to go meet a sahaguin priestess who kidnapped two humanoids who attacked them.

And I didn’t know where, what they were going to do with the thought with the humans. I was just like, yeah, they’re in cages, I guess, like Sure. Um, and the person tried to sneak in to save the villagers and got caught last minute.

And instead of fighting, because that was what she was trying to avoid, she’s like, take me instead and release them. And I’m like, your party’s not going to be cool with that, but make a persuasion check. And she persuaded the Sahagun priestess and I decided like, I was like, okay, well, what would the priestess do? And I didn’t want to go a slave route because that just left a dirty taste in my mouth.

And I didn’t want to go, like, they’re just going to kill her because I didn’t want to just kill off the player for no reason. So I was reading as they were role playing it out and the other players were like slowly getting closer and closer. I was reading up about the sahaguin priestess and the sahaguins in general and read that only females have magic and there’s usually only one priestess per town.

And I was like, what if this is an elder priestess? What if she doesn’t have any female offspring? And she wants to have her magic traded down to somebody else. So she agreed to this in order to train this person in their ways. So she’s like she offers a deal. It’s basically saying, if you agree to worship my god and learn my magic, then I will let you go.

Just come back to me once a month to learn more. And basically it was take a level in cleric to worship the god Sekolah, who is the god of sharks.

Which story-wise, it ended up going a slightly different direction because she was running from the goddess Sseth, because she was a yuan-ti and trying not like she didn’t want to worship him, but he wanted her to worship him. So when she made the pact with Sekulah, Sseth slithered his way in and was like, you thought you could run from me? Nope.

Lucas: didn’t run far enough. Should have chosen a different animal god, perhaps. That’s a way of you attaching a mechanical consequence that’s arguably good, like leveling up is the thing you want to do in this game, but you’ve made it into a consequence for your actions and obligation for the player

Nikki Yager: Oh, I love using those. Yeah.

Lucas: You talked about whether someone can be persuaded, and the idea of that indicating that they’re less evil. To me, it almost seems from that that you’ve put a certain value on absolute conviction.

And I don’t think you would say, and I don’t think you have said that absolute conviction is the definition of evil because it’s also an extremely heroic aspect or characteristic in some ways, uh, for some people, um, maybe for that farmer, he started out with an absolute heroic conviction that ended up in an absolute villainous one.

What is it about conviction that gives it that weight? Is that a more useful way of thinking about things than, than good versus evil or light versus dark side?

Nikki Yager: I don’t know if conviction is the right term, but, um, I was more thinking along the lines of pure, just, ” No, I have my mind set, you’re just trying to trick me” type of thought process. Like if someone is just like, I’m not going to be persuaded by you, they could like an evil person could be persuaded if they’re persuaded in the proper way. For example, if you have a greedy dragon maybe you can persuade them by giving them enough gold to make it worth their while. And they’re like, okay. Yeah, I’ll take the golden and not kill you better go before I changed my mind.

Lucas: Yeah, still evil.

Nikki Yager: right. Um, like a succubus who wants a play toy basically might be persuaded. You just might not want to pay their price.

Um, so I think that people who are more towards the evil side can be persuaded. It’s just what that price is going to be. That is the question.

Lucas: Okay. So is it self-interest then?

Nikki Yager: Yes, that is what I focus on. For example, I had a witch of a town ruler, who had an army of were-creatures at her beck and call. And she was a high elf and this town was very much racist, 100%. The high elves, the elves and the humans were all in the upper tiers. And then like the smaller races, the doors, the halflings in the gnomes were in the lower tiers. And they were treated more like servitude because long, long ago, the elves agreed to help them and give them protection in exchange for them to work for them and then the lions got blurred of what that meant.

So the party was originally rescued by this woman who was very nice to them, gave them whatever they want and gave them food, gave them safety in a world that there was little safety.

Lucas: Heroic things.

Nikki Yager: Exactly. So basically they slowly started to realize, like they were given quests by her and said, here’s the magic items. Yeah you can have a bag of holding. That’s fine. No problem. I just need you to look into this one thing. Um, I hear rumors that somebody wants to usurp me, somebody wants to assassinate me. Somebody wants to like take away my power, my rule and I just, I just need you to go down there in like blend in and figure out what’s going on. And when they go down there. Yeah. They’re there there’s meetings, but they’re meetings about complaints.

There’s meetings about our food sources have gotten more scarce. Like we’re sending more to the higher tiers than we’re getting. Um, we’re working longer hours because we don’t want to send our loved ones to settle in the upper tiers because supposedly the elders were brought to the higher tiers to live the rest of their lives in harmony because they worked their time yet nobody ever hears back from them.

So there’s people who just don’t say that their grandparents are ready to retire and do double work so they don’t have to go. And the party starts to see these things and they start to realize this can go one of two ways. Well, they went a third way, but like this, this could, this could go either you take the safer, richer, nicer route in the sense of, uh, for your benefits and help the ruler of this town but in exchange, you are sacrificing the lives of these people who just want to survive. Or you could piss her off and, and help the, the underdog and help them take over or escape or do whatever. But how are you going to do that in a world that is destroyed?

So I was really hoping they would go with the route of not the bad, like the evil queen lady, which they did. Um, but they ended up basically just leaving, and eventually coming back when they were stronger,

Lucas: Ah, let’s not start a revolution now.

Nikki Yager: Right. They’re like, we don’t have a way to protect you currently. They have an army of were- creatures,

we can fight one max, um, maybe two. Uh, but once they got to the high, higher levels, they ended up coming back. Cause that game we skipped a lot of levels. I would like jump three levels at a time sometimes. It was the war of the gods was what was causing all the chaos. So they ultimately had to be high enough level to fight a god.

Lucas: Yeah, you need to move towards 20, fairly quickly to make that game work.

Nikki Yager: Correct. And, I had a deadline because one of our players was being deployed. So I’m like, okay, we have five games to reach level 20 and we’re level 15. Every week you level.

Lucas: Yeah. That’s pretty wild. The other thing I love about this medium that no other medium has is that it’s so weirdly intertwined with real life. I suppose you do see this in sitcoms with scheduling conflicts among actors, but there’s a lot of character choices that get made because someone is not going to be available anymore.

Uh, that was a brief aside, but I think maybe where I want to land down on this is if we’re talking about a switch, and a dimmer and the Knights of the old Republic blue to red bar

Nikki Yager: Or Fabled is also a good one.

Lucas: Fable does that?

Nikki Yager: Yeah. It’s uh, there, some of them are like, it’s, you’re more towards evil or more towards good, depending on your actions.

Lucas: Yeah. But there’s a principle in running games that’s called two plus one. You give your players two options to make the choice easy, but you always give them a third choice and whatever that third choice is, is up to them.

I think maybe instead of a slider at two ends of a bar really the best way to think about hero and villain is two plus one , at least in terms of game design and, and tabletop role-playing games is you can be a hero or a villain, or you can be something else that you choose.

Nikki Yager: I think that that’s completely fair. Um, and honestly, 99% of the time that’s party, we’ll pick the plus one option. Like it’s ridiculous. How many times we get off rails in any game I’ve ever played. It’s like, oh, we’re going to do this. Uh, we want to throw a party. W what do you want? What do you mean? You went through a party.

We wanna throw a celebration. We built a celebration area. We want to to throw a party. Okay. Um, I guess you need party supplies? Where would the party supplies be? In a town 30 days’ travel by foot away? Okay. We’re going to travel there and I’m like, okay, we’re throwing a party. I guess

Lucas: Come hell or high water, we will throw this party.

Nikki Yager: They didn’t throw the party.

They made it halfway and then went to the astral plane instead.

Lucas: Oh, gosh.

Nikki Yager: But yeah, they it’s, it’s always the third option. And like even in games that I’ve played where my characters are inherently good, in a sense, um, I usually play very chaotic characters just because I’m very not chaotic in real life. I like a very structured scheduled world basically.

Um, but my characters, oh God, no, they are so chaotic. For example, my new character for the Morning Blues is from ClearLight. She is actually an NPC from ClearLight, but all grown up and she has the, uh, thought process of if somebody else isn’t using it, I might as well take it. So she won’t steal something if somebody’s using it. Yeah. So she won’t steal from the poor. She won’t steal from somebody who needs the money. She’ll steal from people, more Robin Hood style. Um, but she’s like, oh, he’s not using it, he’s asleep. Why does he need more money? I’m helping him actually, he’s an alcoholic clearly. Um,

so I’m going to take the money from him so he can’t buy more alcohol because he drank so much, he passed out and they’re like, are you really stealing something on the job? It’s like, he’s not using it. And some of the conversations that we’ve had already are just, it’s so hilarious because we have four players, two are very serious and two are just chaotic and we are such a great duo.

And then we’re like, oh crap, that person’s looking dope. Nope. Not a lot at all. Not stealing anything. And it’s so funny. And then in my Friday game, speaking of like good versus evil type of thing, I am the most chaotic person in that game. And I, my character will just run up and punch things. Like her response to things is punching them, but I’m the only literal alignment, good character. And the one of the NPCs is like, seriously, she’s the good one. That’s like what? You punch everything. Yeah.

To protect people.

I only punch bad things. I decide what’s bad. It doesn’t mean that it’s good, but yeah,

Lucas: Well, Nikki, we could do this for hours and at some point I hope we might, but, I do want to make sure we get to that thing that you do at the end of podcasts, where you tell me what you’ve got going on and how to find you.

Nikki Yager: Best way would probably be link tree, L I N K T R dot E E slash beholder to no one. Um, you can find all my links there. You can find me at Twitter at Beholder to No One. That’s my most common access place. And if you like anything, I do check out that Patreon, and help me continue to ensure that I can provide you the things that I love to do.

Lucas: Thanks for listening to Making a Monster. I’m really excited to share with you what I’ve learned from these storytellers. So I hope you’re enjoying this diversion from the format. If you like what you’ve heard and you want to support the show, please share it with someone, you know, who loves D&D. If they like this episode. I’ve got two dozen more and the best is yet to come. Your recommendation proves you’re the most savvy monster hunter in the room – look around it’s you. And it proves this show is worth the time and attention. If you want to go a little deeper, and learn more about what I’m doing, you can sign up for the show’s email list. When you do, you’ll get free extras from. my guests, like 5E stat blocks, virtual tabletop tokens and discounts on best-selling D&D products.

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Next Episode: GM Edition, The Last Tapestry

Cover for The Last Tapestry, actual play D&D podcastThe Last Tapestry is a tech-noir, Eberron-inspired actual play D&D podcast. DM Dan Locke and I discuss “monster monsters” and the definition of villainy. Making a Monster: GM Edition asks actual play podcasters how they use the monsters in their games.

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