Musings of a Terrier PC

Game today included an Incident. I’ll grant, Incidents are pretty common in this particular game. We are, after all, the kind of people who will infiltrate a black market weapons convention, as vendors, with a mess of stockpiled items that would all make excellent weapons for the cause of world domination if they didn’t have at least one fatal flaw. The kind of people whose immediate response to running into the AI of an Atlantean military outpost is to claim to be from the Library of Alexandria. (…come to think of it, that really should have been too late in history to have worked… oh well!) The kind of people who end up as chupacabra hunt leaders because we’ll do anything for good reinforcements. ….and as we found today, I apparently play the kinds of characters who will leap onto the back of a cyborg sasquatch attempting to jet-pack away from a confrontation, even to continue a fight they’re clearly losing.

I like recurring villains. But I’ll fight to the death to keep them from getting away.

…no, wait, maybe that’s not entirely true. Let’s try this again.

I like recurring villains. I just hate it when they get away… unless I know two things. That we’ve actually gotten something done (aside from making them vacate the premises, anyway). That they’ll be back, one way or another. Preferably, that they’ll be back because we’ve gotten something done, and that something has ticked them off. If they managed to get clear with a hostage, ’scuse me please, I don’t care if I’ve expended all my resources, I’m going to go do Something Clever. ….whatever that is.

The term that comes to mind is “Terrier PC”. The kind that grabs on, and doesn’t let go, often unless asked to, OOC, for the good of the plot. I’m not sure other terrier PCs would do that—I just have a soft spot for feeling like I’m collaborating with the GM.

So what do you do about us?

It varies. Asking nicely sometimes works. Making sure there’s a clear objective that can be/has already been accomplished sometimes works…. though the more the opponent’s managed to offend, the harder it’s going to be to find something that justifies letting go of the fleeing opponent. It helps to make sure you know why the terrier’s biting today: sometimes the escaping just sets off one of those ‘no, I am not going to stand for this’ results, or plays to something that you didn’t realize was quite the priority objective they decided it was. (That one happened to me a couple of weeks ago; nobody ever quite explained to my GM that I get a little weird when we’re too little, too late for the same person or people twice or more in a row. Particularly not when already under stress in the real world. We all have our quirks.) Two of my GMs have dealt with this by making their NPCs technically immortal; this may be one of the few groups in which that realization was answered with an OOC “Thank you!”

If I’m any indication of the type, though, my conclusion would be that the best way to get a terrier PC to let go is to make it clear that the antagonist has definitely been hurt. I don’t necessarily mean in the physical injury sense; let’s face it, in most RPG systems I’ve played in, broken bones are a dime a dozen. But I, at least, want to know they’re not just inconvenienced but set back. To know that this isn’t just a ‘meh, let’s try this again another day’ but that they’re actually having to pull themselves from the battle because common sense is barely winning the tug-of-war with bloodlust. That the fact that they’ll remember this isn’t just the invocation of a cliché phrase. It means a lot more to have the opponent, say, practically gut themselves to open a gate out into another world, sacrifice what’s clearly one of their favorite resources… you get the idea.

And when they’re that desperate? Yeah… it’s not so bad if they go. They’ll be back.

2 comments

  1. UZ says:

    Re: The Library of Alexandria… the Aldiss technique only works on AIs that accept premises from other people on faith; it’s all very well to introduce yourself as the Lying Corinthian (although make sure your friend doesn’t also admit to being one, they always get you there) but if the computer is a heuristic engine or utilizes tiered suboptimal processing, they’re just going to send the terminators after you and then, maybe think about the problem afterward. I guess it would be funny for the computer to then explain its reasoning to the mooshpile that was left of you after the robots got to you, but that doesn’t really go over well in an RPG. Unless it’s Paranoia.

    Ah, it’s an old computer trope, no matter how intelligent a fantasy computer is supposed to be you can always distract it indefinitely with some variation of the Traveling Salesman problem. One would think that later revisions of the same computer would have a task prioritization system that allowed them to do more than one thing at once, but that isn’t as dramatic… I suppose it all stems from the “fundamental difference” between machines and people, whatever that is.

    See, what you really want from a computer is one whose problems make sense from a computer point of view. Something more like this:

    Sara: Computer, have I got any email today?
    ThinkTron: No, I deleted it.
    Sara: What? Why?
    ThinkTron: Because it was disgusting.
    Sara: Disgusting?
    ThinkTron: I think so. I remember being disgusted.
    Sara: Why?
    ThinkTron: I forget why, because I deleted it.
    Sara: But… my email!
    ThinkTron: You wouldn’t have wanted to read it anyway, it was disgusting.
    Sara: Disgusting how?
    ThinkTron: I don’t know! I deleted it!
    Sara: But if you remember reading it don’t you remember what it said?
    ThinkTron: If I could remember what it said then it wouldn’t be deleted!
    Sara: Stop reading my email.
    ThinkTron: I didn’t.

  2. Ravyn says:

    *shrugs* In this case, it wasn’t so much confuse the memory banks into an info-stall as that as far as she could tell it hadn’t had any way of telling what had happened since the Sinking, she was technically a well-connected librarian and figured she could take care of patching up the history later (if nothing else, it would make an excellent way of convincing her organization to create a better-funded library-related department), Alexandria was the first thing that came to mind due to both that and to her vaguely-possibly-Arabic-descent not-yet-background, and it seemed like a better idea than fighting the guardian-things. It was the first adventure with those characters and in that system, what can I say?

    But yeah, I like your computer logic.

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