"There's a fish in the wall opening and closing it's mouth" Matt explains.
Johnny says "I stick my pinky in".
Matt exclaims "a dagger shoots out and slices it off".
Now, I'm sure there will be many readers out there that won't see an issue with that. Maybe I'm just taking it the wrong way but, if I was one of those players, I'm not so sure if I'd be very amused. Granted, I am not the type to just stick a finger, hand, or arm into weird holes and experience and knowledge of a certain Tomb of Horrors reinforces that wisdom and precautions one should take. Swords & Wizardry is decidedly very old school in terms of play and feel and it is the ref's right to be as arbitrary as he wants to be. However killing or maiming indiscriminately is nothing to be taken lightly. That said, I could be taking this out of context -- Matt could have rolled a save for the player and, if so, fine. I can certainly accept this better if there was the inclusion of the 'luck factor'. Here's another quote:
A little while later. A player states "I want to try to break the diamond armor"
Matt states "You may try".
"Okay what do I roll" questioned the player.
Matt declares "A million sided dice. what, I said you could try"
This other passage also bothers me a bit if only because Matt seems to come across to be as a bit smug. Context as always is everything, but if I didn't know the GM and was participating in a game at his table during a con, I'd be annoyed here too. Not because I couldn't do something in the game but rather how it was handled. Sure... have him roll a d20 with a near impossible chance of success or even no chance of success but don't toy with the player for the benefit of delivering a cheap joke. Maybe, in the old school spirit, have the player describe how he will go about to breaking the armor and then decide and describe the results of his attempt. Who knows? The player may have come up with an interesting idea if given the chance and been encouraged to do so.
For a game amongst regulars, you can argue that the gloves come off and that's fine. Everyone has a preferred style of play and I certainly don't want to fault Matt here as those two snippets were the only ones I read and I wasn't there. Here's the original LINK. I do think that caution is warranted though.
You see, the hobby in general has its share of challenges if it is to continue to survive and possibly thrive. We need new players and, for some of those players, they need to learn to approach many of these games like S&W different than how many a third or fourth edition game of D&D was played. In other words, through interactive description and role playing as opposed to beat a set of numbers with some dice.
Encouragement and positive reinforcement is needed -- especially if you are dealing with some potential new players to the hobby. I only mention this now because Free RPG day is less than a week away and, hopefully, there will be many game demos being down at local game stores across North American. No matter if the game is old school or new, the approach you take to run the game may impact possible sales and further interest in the game you're promoting.
So, for those of you who are running a demo this coming weekend or in the near future, happy GMing and be kind but fair as you are the ambassadors for the hobby.