A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why so spergy? OR Things to do to not have a bad RPG session.

Call this a two in one post.

(The events happened with people I knew. I apologize in advance if posting about it upsets them in any way. I think we learned a few things worth sharing with the Internet. Should anyone not wish these events to be repeated here please email me and I will remove enough content to fix it.)

Last week a group I joined of people who I already knew had an RPG game. It did not go so well. Mistakes were made all round. Too many people were chatting loudly about things utterly uninvolved with the game, putzing with things not involving the game, ect.

I got an email from the GM taking me to task for building a model kit during the game. Looking back perhaps I should have asked if it would be a problem. Normally I can multitask while I play, plus as I feel I talk too much and am constantly (and somewhat hurtfully IMHO) taken to task for being too loud as well I felt the kit would keep me quiet during downtimes and give other players a chance to shine as I eased into the campaign. If the kit was causing me to fail to keep 95% of my attention to the game I would have put it away posthaste.

The game itself was kind of a disaster. Around 10 people around 1 table all talking and the GM, being one of the nicest damned people I have ever met wasn't really running the game as best a GM should.

On an RPG forum I posted about it and what happened.

The responses I got ran the gamut from intelligent things that should have happened to the most worthless, hateful things no gamer should ever do, ESPECIALLY not in a group where everyone is friends. (Or you really should want to BECOME friends with the folks around the table with you.)

There were such horrid suggestions as "Steal the best players", "The GM should have booted you for even bringing it because you were clearly a passive aggressive tool", "The GM can't run a game so boot him and take over" and a few similarly hateful things NO DECENT PERSON SHOULD EVER DO.

See for some gamers the game is the Alpha and the Omega. Its all important and anything that keeps it from some perfect gaming ideal should be horribly stomped on. These are the sorts of people who think yelling at other people will get them to do what they want and think how they think. Like Rush Limbaugh. Normal people, and people with souls and empathy for other human beings understand this in fact not only fails to solve any problems, but hurts feelings and makes things worse.

Way worse. It in fact can end friendships.

Asperger's Syndrome, for folks who don't know the term is a condition in which the sufferer largely has trouble empathizing with people and interacting with others on a normal level. Many nerds on the Internet have decided they have this condition as an excuse for being a douchebag to others. Spergin is a joking term for nerds getting angry and pissy about stupid things online or in a game setting.

The guy who flips out if you even look at his models on the table? Spergin.
The chick who starts screaming bloody murder if you make fun of her favorite anime pretty boy character? Spergin.
The rules lawyer who starts spouting rules and trying to overturn a GM call? Spergin.
The guy who builds his 40K armies only after he hears what army you play so he can beat you soundly? Possibly Spergin.

Ya know that sort of thing.

More common real life Spergy things could be not throwing your garbage away at the movie theater as you have to walk right by the trash can to leave the room anyhow. Not putting away your shopping cart, but instead leaving it in the middle of your parking space. Giving a waitress a hard time at a diner for no real reason and then not tipping her just to try to score a free meal or because you think its funny.

In fact, those real life things might be closer to Asperger's behavior than the nerdy ones. It shows a lack of consideration and empathy for your fellow human being.

And sadly, empathy for your fellow human beings seems to be in such short supply in this world that many people have becomed accustomed to other people "peeing in their Corn Flakes"!

The thread I made on this site was full of that. I consider people I game with either friends or potential friends. You DO NOT do your boys and girls wrong. You give them plenty of chances even when they bork things up. You respect them. You help em when they fall, and cheer them on when they win.

This thread I mentioned had sadly little of that making me wonder what sort of horrible draconian games many roleplayers play in. While they might get more gaming in than my groups do, we certainly are closer as friends and have generally more pleasant days even if the games themselves might not be as satisfying.

Yet in this game session's failure I take learning and knowledge and wisdom from it. And I impart not only to you my few readers who don't know who I am, but the folks in the game who do.

1: You are the GM. Your word is law.
As the GM you run the show NOT the players. If they keep babbling off topic or being loud, you should bring them in line. If you choose to ignore a rule for speed or flair or fun or cinematic awesome the Rules Lawyers should just be quiet and accept it, maybe bringing up the correct rule after the game.

This is VERY important. Knowing all the rules is nigh impossible in these games but you should know more than your players do. Keep some "cheat sheets" handy with the main things you need to know. Have your rulesbooks tabbed to important sections so you can look up stuff fast.

3: Be prepared, but be flexible.
Have your adventure notes ready, but be capable of changing gears due to player actions.

1: The GM is God. Obey and respect them. The players are your brothers and sisters. Respect them too.
Don't cause trouble for the GM. Don't try to powergame rules or stupid actions to hose over and ruin the game for other people. Its not nice. The GM's word is law. They should be impartial but fair. If you find some lame loophole or rule the GM doesn't want to follow tough noogies. Bring it up after the game but accept their ruling for now.

2: Contribute don't distract.
If you can't keep quiet find something to fiddle with that will keep you focused on the game yet not distract anyone from the game. If you cannot do this, leave your Ipods, cellphones, artpads, toys, or whatever at home.

3: Know what your character can do.
Be as prepared as the GM is. Except you just need to know what your character can do. Jot down page numbers of your character's powers and abilities. Maybe even scan them and put them on cheat sheets. Don't expect the GM to remember every skill and ability you have. Its impossible!

Some thoughts from the game that could be useful:

1: Game size. We had 10 people in one room. This might have been too many people. For a game this big it may have been better to go LARP style and split up into rooms and move about giving us more RP with less requirements for constant GM interaction. We were all talking over each other, and rarely did it involve the game itself.

2: Assistant GM/"Rules Bitch"/Party Leader or Caller. Once you get that many people the GM is gonna be swamped. Some help or backup could be handy. This obviously requires some forethought and planning as the Assistant GM kind of needs the game spoiled a tad, and if its a Party Leader or Caller the players need to agree on how it will work. But it can make for smoother, faster games. The Rules Bitch just saves time and sanity for everyone. Because the Rules Bitch is already on the case when a rule needs to be repeated for the sake of all.

3: Giving players motivation and stuff to do. This was a problem with me. I didn't get into the game till like 90-120 minutes in, and had little motivation or story reasons to do so, yet the GM expected me to almost drive things. If you want a player to drive things, get in touch with him or her before the game and work out what they need to do. Sometimes players like myself who sort of take up the party leader roles don't always want to be the LORD OF ALL ATTENTION and want to let other folks shine. In the game we played I apparently picked a REALLY stupid time to become an awkward wallflower. The GM was used to me taking the reigns. I didn't really want to, but would have if I had known, which leads to:

4: Communication is key. Everyone should be on the same page. Campaign style, characters that work together, what is expected of everyone. It makes for happier, smoother, faster running games.

5: Talk with people after the game to clear up issues, rules conflicts, ect. We are doing that very thing, and this post and some phone calls are part of it.

6: Remember you are all friends and to treat each other as such. None of the passive aggressive ways of handling things most RPG forums seem to think is the correct way to deal with a game. Mutual respect and understanding and empathy goes a LOOOOOOOONG way folks!

Hopefully this will illuminate some people and give them wisdom and knowledge. Plus its always good to remind ourselves why we play.

To have a good time with friends.

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