Friday, March 1, 2013

In Retrospect: The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming

16. What music do you listen to?
a. Ambient Techno.
b. '70s heavy metal.
c. Norwegian black metal bands, only you think they're nancies 'cause they only burn down churches, not cities. 

--From "The Are You a Munchkin?" quiz, page 9

That question pretty much gives you an idea of what to expect when you read The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming, by James "Grim" Desborough and Steve Mortimer, Steve Jackson Games, published in 1999. If you're looking for enlightenment, look elsewhere. If you looking for "childish humor, blasphemy, and references to naughty body parts" (as the warning label say on the back cover), then look no further.

Inside you'll find advice on cheating, how to harry the GM into caving in to your demands, and how to take advantage of the weaknesses of the other player-characters for your own gain. Desborough and Mortimer cover all of the major RPG genres: fantasy, space/sci-fi, modern/horror, superheroes, and even live action roleplay ("go for the face!")

See, being a munchkin isn't about playing fair, its about winning at all costs, even if you have to use a halfling as biological warfare during a siege. You just feed him full of beans, fried onions, prawn vindaloo or a cheap Mexican meal before launching him in a catapult. "When 300 pounds of halfling meets rock at 100 miles an hour it creates quite a mess as all of that biology gets instantly liberated"(page 41). Man, talk about English grot.

Most of the book has been written for players, but there is a section for Game Masters toward the back, giving advice on how to handle munchkin behavior. Obviously, this isn't meant to be taken too seriously. But there are some useful tidbits like telling a munchkin "Don't push that button." Odds are, he will and suffer the consequences. If a munchkin wants lots of high technology, have it malfunction at the most inconvenient moments, since this often happens in real life (the authors site having endured multiple computer crashing while writing the book).

From Page 91
There's even a quiz to help identify if your players are munchkins:

12. How does your group decide what game to play?
a. You decide--you're the GM, after all
b. You make a democratic group decision. 
c. They show you the book with the biggest gun on the front and say "Ook!" 
(Page 108)

Oddly enough, I've found this book to be useful. Sure, it shows how to be a munchkin power gamer, but it also teaches you how to spot munchkin power gamers. You discover their tricks, including how to cheat at dice rolling.

Of course, the best defense against power gaming munchkins is to not let them in your group. The second best defense if they are in your game is the word: "No!"

I'd like to share more of the book's contents, because even though it is about power gaming, anybody who's played RPGs for awhile has dealt with players who are almost beyond control. Yet I don't want to spoil the book for anybody else who wants to read it. I bought the book back in 1999, and I still find it funny after all of these years.

But whenever I think of the The Munckin's Guide to Power Gaming, I don't imagine the original book cover. For some reason, the image that appears in my mind is this:

If Steve Jackson Games ever does a reprint, this needs to be artwork for the cover!
The shotgun and chainsaw hand is so munchkin!

Perhaps power gaming Munchkins are what happens when young players are exposed to the game books before they are exposed to the history and literature that inspired the game to begin with. Just a thought.

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