So, last night (last month), Jeremy said some things to me, and those things have made me think a bit. One is an exact quote, "Also, are you still upset about Kethranmeer's death? I am tired of feeling guilty over it, my friend." The other is a paraphrase of something he said, and the gist of it is that Hekinoe's level of grimness and darkness are exhausting for him. He made it sound like my beloved Hekinoe was a chore to adventure in. It sounded like he wasn't having fun with it, like he was sick of it. This is not the way I want one of my favorite players to feel.
Did I intend for Hekinoe to be a dark and gritty place full of danger and adventure? Yes. Did I intend for it to be somewhat unconventional in its portrayal of fantasy? Yes. Did I intend for it to be grimdark? No. I sought dirt and grunge and grit when I decided to set adventures in this realm of mine. But grimdark is going too far. Grimdark is depressing and melancholy with only the laughter of thirsting gods to keep you company.
Here's the thing, I am too hard on my players. They goof off, kill people they shouldn't, forget important details despite me telling them to write things down. This is what players do, I do it on the extraordinarily rare occasions that I've been able to play a character.
Does this mean they should get a free pass? No. If they bury someone alive, and condemn him to either starve or suffocate to death, and he survives, he will come for them. If they kill a child, parents will seek vengeance. No, if they fuck up royally, they'll pay for it. There must be consequences for a player's actions, otherwise, their actions have no meaning and we might as well railroad shit or sit around a table listening to me tell a story. However, I need to stop reminding them of how stupid they are, how many details they've missed, or how often I tried to give them a chance to do something or change something, or what have you.
We're here to have fun, to relax. Grimdark is not relaxing. Grimdark is depressing. Yes, when Eric uses his blowtorch to weld a door shut and entomb some enemies, we should laugh. It is hilarious and creative and it is an imaginary game. We all laughed when it happened. Yes, Xein is evil for doing it, but it was pretty funny at the time, and I need to recognize the fun we have instead of hammering the guys with how evil and awful they are as humanoid beings.
Their actions have consequences, but I don't need to relentlessly remind them about all the stupid shit they've done. It is like writing, don't tell. show. I don't need to tell Eric that Xein is evil and Jeremy that D'alton is an apathetic sociopath. I should show this stuff in game by showing them the consequences of their actions. We need to be able to laugh about our adventures outside of the game, not argue with one another about the relative evil of our characters and whether or not people properly mourned my NPC. Showing the guys that the Rankethlek is pissed is appropriate, me going on at length here about how sad I am about it, isn't terribly productive.
That said, if the guys have gross misconceptions about events and attitudes and things their characters would know, I need to inform them. When Eric says that Xein is a good guy and not a murderer, I do need to remind him about the entombment and the murdered Fell Human frat dudes out for a lark. I only need to remind him, I don't need to go on at length via text and email.
This is a fine line I have to walk. I cannot be lenient when they just decide to mass murder people or allow themselves to be used like pawns, but we still need to be able to have fun in the game, because it is a game and they have a right to it being fun for them just as much as I have that right. We're a team and we're here to help each other have fun.