Against RP Snobbery or On the Merits of the Murderhobo

If you dive into the world of D&D Greentexts or Reddit Threads mostly about DMs or other players complaining about players who "don't take the game seriously." One of the most egregious examples of this was a story I heard that I wish I could link you to but I cannot remember where I saw it.

The gist of the story is thus: OP usually plays at one of the DM's tables for an Adventurer's League game but his table is full this particular evening. As at many stores, they have multiple tables running and one of them was the "noob table" where the newer players usually played so they could learn the rules. OP sat at this table and the DM said she had been DMing for many years. The rest of the table was relatively to completely new to the game.

The game begins and the DM doesn't really seem to be playing by the rules. From the OP's perspective, it really seemed like the DM didn't really know the rules. To be fair, the DM did seem to genuinely be ignorant about a fair few rules. One of the amusing examples given is where she asked all the players to roll initiative and then asked them: "Who wants to go first?" As if rolling initiative was just something you did at the beginning of a fight with no real bearing on turn order. However, the OP admits that all of the other players are having fun. They are goofing around and having a great time running very rules lite.

OP just can't stand this. Not following the rules as written? Not role-playing with accents and long backstories? This won't do at all! So while the entire rest of the table is having fun, OP is mad, trying to point out to the DM what the rules say and lamenting how nobody was "role-playing" and just "messing around."

OP even ends up telling the store manager about the DM and doesn't see her the next time OP comes to Adventurer's League. To be fair, AL at this store was a paid service. OP thought they were paying for one thing and got another, but the elitist "wrong-fun" mentality was so outrageous here and so directly hurt someone else that I still consider it to be one of the worst examples of snobbery I have ever seen. Now that DM and the new players that enjoyed themselves playing her game, won't get to anymore, at least not at that AL.

So here is the deal: Role-playing is dumb. Take your middle school theater wannabe ass back to the wall outside your Forensics class to practice obnoxiously squeaking at a wall, thank you very much.

D&D is a strategy game and if we aren't playing with demanding strategic combat encounters where I can show off my half-rakshasa rogue-sorcerer hybrid class with the Ultimate Chef feat, and unless that is the D&D I get, I won't have fun no matter who is around me having fun!

Ok let me take that back. That was a joke and I want to make that clear. Having in-depth role-play with character voices, dramatic scenes, and backstory isn't wrong. Neither is enjoying strategic combat with highly detailed character builds, although I actually like that kind of play less than I like the plague.

The point is to demonstrate the complete absurdity of taking one aspect of play that you enjoy and refusing to have any kind of fun until the game matches up to your idea of what the game should be. I don't care what standard it is. No matter how fancy shmansy you think "role-play" is, it is only one element of D&D. Now obviously D&D is a role-playing game, but role-play can also mean interacting with the environment as if you were a real person in that world trying to figure out a problem. Based on my understanding of Old School D&D this was probably more the perspective they had of role-playing rather than the improvisational acting that has become synonymous with the term.

I have diverged from the point. The point is not that anyone aspect of D&D is less than another. Quite the opposite. I don't disparage anyone's improv if that's what they like to do and I have played in many games just like that and enjoyed them. My preferred way to play is problem-solving oriented. I like the OSR kind of play where the goal is to bypass danger through making clever plans. I love that sort of thing. I also like to make goofy but lovable characters that I can get quite attached to.

Here's the thing though: I completely left my comfort zone at Gen Con one time and played a Pbta game about girl gangs in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and had a blast. Playing a waifish ephemeral girl who liked to smoke weed and was ignored by her parents in a game about smashing in the teeth of possible sexual assailants, supplying drugs to a party, and recognizing the profound damage of all the adults around me was about as far from my usual play experience as possible.

But guess what? I had fun. Everyone at the table was having fun and all I had to do was join in. Plus. I was open to a new experience and so I was able to just go with the flow and discovered another way of playing D&D that I enjoyed. I don't regularly play games about being the artsy weed girl, and probably never will, but it is so pointless to shut one's self off to other ways of playing especially when other people are having fun, even when its the dumb joy of being a murder hobo.

So let me get back to rp snobbery vs the noble murder hobo to tell you why murder hoboing is awesome.

Here are some reasons and associated examples from my own time GMing, playing, or playing with people who were in the murder hobo spirit:

#1 Coming Up with Insane Plans and Laughing Hysterically as the World Burns down around You.
  • Burning Down Baldur's Gate
  • Forming a Heavy Synth Kinetic Jazz band and getting hired by a weird demon person to play for him for eternity and accepting the job.
  • Putting the ashes of a local farm boy into the mayor's coffee and watching him drink it.
  • Charging a giant demon to impress a girl and getting ripped apart.
#2 Ignoring the rules of the game and common decency on a whim to cosmic consequences.
  • Deciding based on no rules foundation at all that they could create a zombie out of a peasant they killed for no reason after covering him in chocolate and naming the new chocolate zombie: "Coco."
  • Putting Coco's life in danger so they had to go on an epic quest to an extradimensional library where they randomly killed a friendly alien scribe that just said "Visitors!"
  • Bringing back Visitors as the final boss of a dungeon to take vengeance on those that burned him to death.
  • Trying to kill a random maid who turned out to be a badass and killed one of their long-running characters.
  • Constantly killing one player's character at the end of the session because it is tradition.
#3 Laughing at stupid stuff for hours because why not?
  • They named their characters Tinker Bell and the Magnificent Millipede. 
  • Only ever using the Command Spell to make enemies "Turn Around" because of an in-joke about "Total Eclipse of the Heart." But of course, they also made good use of the backstab damage afforded to them by this.
  • Laughing because I described something as a "cacophony of colors" 
  • "Whore hammer" and "war hammer" sound similar.
  • "Thotinist" and "botanist" sound similar.
All of this was done in the spirit of murder hobery and it was amazing. These are some of my favorite moments from gaming and I will never forget a single one of them.

If you are an exasperated GM who just wish "they would just take the game seriously" maybe you should take the game less seriously. Why not, instead of poopooing and getting upset every time they do something unexpected, you roll with it, make it into something interesting. If they die because they are stupid, laugh with them about it. Tell them its ok. Play games where it isn't hard to make new characters or have new characters ready. Make fun ways to die a part of the joy of the game. Don't make this long narrative for your game if you know your players are likely to just blow it off. Instead, just have cool things in the world they can explore and mess up and revel with them as they lay waste to the world or get killed by it.

If the option is between holding onto the exact way you think the game ought to be played or having fun, then for the sake of all that is good just HAVE FUN! Its a game. Enjoy yourself. It's ok to look for a game where people will share your tastes. In the age of the internet, that is pretty easy to do. If you can't find a game that matches your tastes, and you likely will never find a perfect match, then just roll with what you got.

If everybody around you is having fun, then it is the most normal and human thing in the world to be able to have fun with them. The only thing stopping you is yourself. If the game isn't fun for you, change the game or change yourself. The only other option is to stay miserable.


  1. You see, the Key is to manage expectations. If we're running a Murderhobo game, bring a mostly expendable character and be prepared for tomfoolery and constantly fighting people who get mad because you started killing their friends.

    If you're playing Game of Thrones but with Mind Flayers, then you'll need a very different character and a different perspective.

    And these aren't always spelled out. Players and Referees should communicate and be prepared to be flexible to ensure everyone has fun. And of course, you can always leave a game if it sucks.

    Also, one final note. Role-playing is literally taking on a role and making decisions as if you were that character. Thus, talking in silly voices and referencing backstory is not roleplaying. Almost everything in D&D is role-playing. Combat is role-playing. Conversation is role-playing. Trying to seduce the Dragon because she just charbroiled the Cleric and the Wizard left you to meet the same fate is role-playing. So if trying to distract her while the Wizard gets into position to use disintegrate on the wall holding up the roof of her cave.

    1. Yes I agree. It is important to manage expectations, but I think a lot of GMs just never learn or people walk into things like Adventurer's League and expect everything to be just like they want it to be. There are a fair many posts talking about: "How can I stop my players from being murderhobos?" Which is stupid. If you know that is how your players like to play then stop playing with them or adapt. A lot of GMs think they can fix their players and make them into proper D&D players through their marvelous storytelling and get frustrated time and time again when this doesn't happen and milk their stories for likes on social media. To these kind of people, I say: quit the group or change your attitude. Don't just constantly whine and act like its in your power to groom your perfect little player base.

      I also get that RP is more than talking in silly voices and I say as much in the article. I specifically qualify what I mean by RP as improvisational acting since the two have become synonymous even though the true meaning is as you say.

    2. I think that a lot of DMs have unrealistic expectations due to watching livestreams like Critical Role. As with any art form, your first few times playing or running an RPG aren't going to be "professional quality".

    3. This is an interesting possibility that I have considered myself. I do think this sort of thing predates Critical Role though.

  2. Something I've realized is important, over the course of a number of games I've run with various systems, is to give the players some idea of what the setting is going to be like before they create their characters. If you don't do that, you'll end up with the weirdest, most incongruous stuff possible, like a Chaotic Evil barbarian with 8 INT in an intrigue story.
    It's also important for the DM to allow input from the players in fleshing out the campaign world. I once had a player who built a Tortle character from "a remote archipelago" which I added to the map once he mentioned it. Over the course of the story, he established what his homeland was like by comparing (and complaining about) how different the places the party was traveling through were different from back home.

    1. Totally agree. I love the Tortle story. The idea of players building their homelands while in a strange land, and then maybe returning to adventure there at some point. That's good stuff.

  3. Once I stopped trying to protect PCs from their players and make people complete their Big Character Arc, a few things happened. Sure, plenty of characters will lost through ineptitude, but those that remained were either protected, or wagered on heroic gambles. Lots of them died, sure, but those that survived were actual heroes, rather than playing at being heroes


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