This may come as a shock, but The Handbook of Heroes is not the only fantasy tabletop RPG webcomic out there. Crazy, I know. But it would be remiss of us not to cite our influences from time to time. The Handbook in general, and today’s comic in particular, owes a debt to DM of the Rings. This page is especially relevant to today’s proceedings. Every time I face down a colossal dragon or a towering treant, I remember Legolas working harder than halfling in a hotdog eating contest to get that Mûma-kill. (That may be why I cited the same comic last time Pug fought a much-larger opponent.)

But rather than rehashing the power of imagination to overcome all obstacles, let’s talk about the other side of the coin. When is it better to avoid the technically-legal, generally-effective maneuver, just because it happens to make no damn sense? For me, the simple answer is “when you’re the GM.”

When you’re the guy behind the cardboard screen, you’ve got the lion’s share of narrative power. You get to describe how the universe works, and you’ve got all manner of tools to paint a picture of the fantastic. That includes sweet minis, cool SFX, and the very finest in polygonal reveals. But shiny tricks and evocative visual aids aside, the engine that really drives an RPG is the interplay between rules and narrative. And if the rules happen to disagree with the narrative you’re building, the machinery of fantasy grinds to a halt. There happens to be a term for this phenomenon. And if your players have ever stopped to ask how a monster managed to target them (“You said it uses tremorsense, but I’m flying!”), how poison is being applied mid-combat (“I thought the assassin was using a flaming sword!”), or what physical contortions a 7 ft. tall minotaur would have to endure to gore a 2 ft. tall kobold (“Pug demands a detailed illustration before she accepts damage!”) you may have seen this “ludonarrative dissonance” stuff in action. That doesn’t mean you should immediately relinquish your authority as GM and cave to player demands. But if you can’t come up with a decent explanation, and if the best fiction you can concoct is “the rules say it’s legal,” you might want to side with your players.

Question of the day then! When have you encountered a situation that, while technically legal, didn’t make any sense within the fiction? Did the GM stick to their guns, or did the “wait a minute, that don’t make no sense” crowd win the day? Tell us your tale of ludonarrative whoopsies down in the comments!


GET YOUR SCHWAG ON! Want a piece of Handbook-World to hang on you wall? Then you’ll want to check out the “Hero” reward tier on the The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Each monthly treasure haul will bring you prints, decals, buttons, bookmarks and more! There’s even talk of a few Handbook-themed mini-dungeons on the horizon. So hit the link, open up that treasure chest, and see what loot awaits!