The Assumptimizer of the Red Menace

Faithful readers will recall that the Red Menace is both the creator of the hated Lofard as well as being 90% incapable of coming up with a name for his characters on the spur of the moment, or of several moments.  That would be enough to enshrine him in the annals of RPGdom, but there's more to the RM than just those crimes against the game.  His major contribution to cautionary lore is a mighty engine of destruction called the Assumptimizer.

The Assumptimizer defies the laws of physics and good sense, in that it runs faster and better the less fuel you give it. Give the RM a few fragmentary pieces of description and some vague background chatter from inconsequential NPCs, and sit back in amazement as he constructs a series of half-truths and wrong-headed guesses from seemingly empty air.  If you say to him, "Red Menace, where in the bluest of blue hells did that stack of rancid sheep waffles come from?"  the first two words out of his mouth will be "I assume...."

Now, there's nothing wrong with extrapolation from known facts, or making educated guesses based on the setting and former experiences with the GM's thought processes,  but that's not what the RM is up to.  Instead, his assumptions start before he hears any facts, before the GM says a word.  By the time the rest of us are apprised of the actual situation and starting to figure out what to do about it, the Assumptimizer is up and running at full steam, making plans and cartwheeling madly down whatever path is least entangled with reality. 

To be fair, which is not necessarily in my nature, the RM is a very good strategic thinker.  In large-scale wargames like Axis and Allies or Star Fleet Battles, his kind of forward projection of events works extremely well.  Unfortunately for the rest of us, even if he could turn it off in a role-playing game setting, he doesn't want to.  The concept of taking all the Legos presented to the party and building the castle doesn't seem to appeal to him--he'd rather take just the first several that hit the table and build a haywagon. 

This isn't necessarily a bad thing for the Gamemaster. Watching the players go spinning off in a series of wrong directions is one of the great joys of running a game, as long as you are flexible enough to herd them back to the main storyline before they get frustrated and start blaming you.  I've even found myself feeding the RM barely enough info to jump-start the Assumptimizer, just to see what it would spit out. 

Once, I had a large enforcer-type human pound on the PC's door and threaten them.  The guy was tall enough that the only thing visible through the door's peephole was the large star-shaped tattoo on his chest.  Another player was out of the room during the description, and asked the Red Menace what was going on.  The answer was a revelation to me, as what the RM described as being on the doorstep was a huge starfish-like monster from the depths of Lovecraftian horror, saying things that were tangentially related to what I'd related to him, but far from accurately reported.  It was like a few words got into the hopper of the Assumptimizer, but the rest--"human", "tattoo", and "stay away from the baron's wife" ended up on the floor.  It was eerily like a one-man game of Telephone.

For other players, the Assumptimizer is usually amusing, but it can really make planning difficult when not everyone at the table gets the same information from the GM.  Grey, crouched figures in the mist?  "Ghouls," shouts the RM.  Then the mud-covered troglodytes stench the hell out of the party and pepper them with the javelins of doom.  Or, even worse, "Trogs!" and then the bemused ghouls wonder why the paralyzed PCs have nose plugs in. 

The bottom line is this: while the Red Menace is an extreme example, everyone has at least a rudimentary Assumptimizer working in them, and if the GM is aware of it and uses that knowledge wisely, it can be a great way to steer the party in both right and wrong directions.  Especially when the players are lifers who have read all the monster books and most of the same fantasy novels you have.  Bait and switch, then sit back and watch the fun. If you find an industrial-strength Assumptizer in working order, though, be careful and wear eye protection at all times.  It'll put your eye out.