A Good Time in Spite of All

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So, its been quiet round here? Well, yes, the Smart Party have been heavily involved in weekly games and organising campaigns and not so much of the one-shots we’re here to talk about. With summer over however (did it ever really begin?) there’s a convention a month into the new year starting with last weekend’s CONcrete Cow in Milton Keynes. This is a one day con Ideal for one shot adventures, and although I could only go last minute and hence didn’t get much chance to prep games or get involved in advance, I did get chance to play in a game of Spite: the second book of Pandemonium – following on from Dread (the first book, not the game involving Jenga as a resolution mechanic). Ably refereed by the always-reliable Mr Dorward and good fun as it was, it reintroduced me to the world of Playing RPGs With People You Don’t Know and threw up some behaviours I observed around the table; behaviours I think we could all do with trying to avoid…

1) Teleporting. When one brave soul announced he was going to investigate an office, the player asked who was going with him and there was a tumbleweed-filled silence. The GM double checked that no-one else was interested and off the character went on his solitary way. Upon hearing that there was blood seeping under the door to the office, all of a sudden another player is all like “oh well, I’d probably have gone with him, we wouldn’t let him go on his own”. Oh really? Now that it looks like something interesting might be about to happen, your character is there? The issue was further compounded when the teleporting character then went on to do absolutely nothing when it all kicked off. Bad monkey. If your character is in the wrong place at the wrong time, by all means look for an “in”, get other characters to call your character to come on up or whatever, but please people, don’t try to just instantly be wherever the exciting stuff is all the time, as if by magic. And *really* don’t insist on being there and then not take part, because that is Weak.

2) Talking About You. I tried to kick-start the character intros at the beginning of the session with a high-octane in-character rant. Regrettably other players weren’t used to this, or uncomfortable with the idea and just read out things about their character in the old favourite “yeah, I’m like the tank of the party, got some spellcasting, blah blah blah”. No no no dear chap, what’s your *character* like – talk *in* character – give me a clue what the person is like I’m dealing with. This sort of idea is further demonstrated when players talk about “well I think my character would do this, because…” – I don’t need to hear how you think you should behave and then a justification for the actions (“I have to do this, its what it says on my sheet”), I want to hear a “I’m doing this”, no ifs or buts, just as Nike say, do it. Of course, you need to make sure other players know you (as a player) aren’t just being a jackass (Obama approved), but its fine if your character is, within reason. Take your action, live with the consequences, don’t worry about having to make sure its perfect.

3) Be Your Own Man. The other problem with approval-seeking and getting it right (which is fine in moderation) is that sometimes players can over think things. Take as an example, final battle Player 1 has initiative and is about to shoot the baddie. Player 2 says “oh I have a spell to make that better”…
P1: Okay, I’ll hold my action then
P2: But you can go now, so you might as well
P1: No, that’s a good idea, I’ll wait for you
P2: Okay, well actually I was going to cast something else this round, so go ahead
P1: Oh, well I’ve said I’m holding my action now, so I’ll have to wait
P2: Gosh, yeah, sorry, okay, I’ll cast my other spell now then…
Etc.

Seriously, what’s all that about? Interrupting someone with meta-game discussions, then not doing it anyway, then the other player imposing a restriction on himself when he can have his go, but the GM doesn’t care and no-one’s said he has to… Essentially it was a couple of minutes of meaningless chatter that broke the mood a bit and didn’t have any benefit for the game at all, or even make much sense. And of course, when the guy finally took his shot, he missed. Maybe in games like 4e, everything has to be thought out with minute precision because the encounter is finely balanced? In most games however, the session benefits more from taking action first and working out details later, or at least, doing it in-character. (In the above example *character* 2 shouting “hold on brother, I’m going to give that bullet divine providence” and *character* 1 responding “Amen!” could have achieved the same result in a fraction of the time and added to the atmosphere of the game.)

4) Attention! Some players only seem to speak when the GM is otherwise engaged. Apart from withering asides and mocking the “obvious” inaccuracy of the game, or a player gambit, this joker will sit tight-lipped. That is, until someone else is part way through some RP or action with the GM, whereupon they’ll leap in with a “oh, while this is going on, I’ll be looking for drugs, because, that’s what my character is about” or some other non-sequitur. If your action or statement isn’t directly relevant or time dependent, then hang on until the current bit of dialogue between GM and other players is finished. You can always have a natter in-character or otherwise with other players while you’re waiting and inform the GM of decisions or requirements afterwards.

5) Validate Me, aka Show and Tell. This has been touched on before, but it’s the curious habit of players seeking to not only just justify their actions as mentioned above, but also explain what they’re going to do in advance and then look for laughs or nod’s of wonder from fellow players. Humour in a game or genuine shock or excitement comes when a player or character just does something or say it out loud, loud and proud and it becomes game fact. Saying you’re going to diss the big NPC doesn’t have the impact that actually *doing it* does. “I’m going to do X, because that’s what my character would do isn’t it? Ha ha!”. Lets ditch the habit of trying to *tell* people how great we are and get on with actually *showing* them shall we?

6) No One’s Perfect. So after all this vitriol about other player’s, obviously I was the paragon of virtue and perfect in player technique, right? Wrong. I clearly had issues with the way other people were doing things, but rather try to help them along or communicate this in a mature way, I mumbled to myself, with the occasional “get on with it” outburst. Bad form. If something’s not going the way you’d want or expect, its always worth saying so in a constructive way and trying to get things on track, rather than rolling your eyes or sighing at someone else’s play style. Note to self, stop being such an arse and help encourage others.

Together we are stronger.

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