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Well, this marks the end of another SIBCon, a local gaming convention held by my hometown gaming guild, Circle of Swords.  They run two cons a year, one in September and one in March.  This actually makes close to ten years I have been going to the conventions held by Circle of Swords, and every year holds more fun at the tables, and great stories from the bar and room parties afterwards.

Setting foot in the Days Inn in Butler every year for these just feels like walking into Cheers for me.  A lot of the people I know (and know me by name, and many times reputation) are waiting with a hug or handshake, a couple wisecracks, and a smile or two.  We’ve weathered a lot of things, including this economic crisis which limited many of us on our spending, the deployment of a dear friend to many of us to Iraq, his return in one piece and as sane as he has ever been, and even cancer scares and deaths.

It’s odd when you become a regular at a smaller con.  It’s almost like family, meeting at weddings and funerals, and catching up on times missed.  It always feels like it has been forever since you last saw everyone, and we always part company with promises of “getting together other than just the cons”, the same promise I hear at every wedding and funeral I have attended for family.

I don’t participate in the Live Action Vampire game anymore, but know so many of them that it’s like I have an insider track into everything that is going on for their storylines.  I guess this is what it’s like to be behind the mob running sporting events like boxing.  I am privy to knowledge that could wreck the game, and keep my mouth shut.  I know a number of the storytellers, and frankly, being a good Game Master myself at tabletop, know that well-kept secrets sink ships faster than blurted ones.

For the first time in a year I ran some events.  Playtesting some of my modules got me to be at a table with an old friend and his fiance.  We had a good time, even if some jokes got run into the ground way too damn hard.  I also got a chance to see how easy it is to wreck an encounter with a deviously built encounter.  I like to think everyone had a good time at the events I ran.

I also got to actually play.  It was rather fun to sit in on a game and get to be the one trying to figure things out, instead of always trying to out-think a group of players constantly.  Being able to sit in with some old friends at the tables were a plus, both with the man that taught me D&D going on 23 years ago, as well as a guy I met some years ago when I ran a module for him and his crew was great.

Oh, and forget about stories from the room parties.  Those don’t truly exist, like compassionate republicans and Area 51.  What happens at Con, stays at Con.  Period.  If you weren’t there, I guess you should have been.

Now, nothing is ever perfect.  I had a few bad moments at the tables, both behind the screen and chucking the dice.  And a couple of them have really pissed me off.  And so, I give you…

Fry’s Rules of Gaming Etiquette.

Rule #1: Shut your mouth.
If it isn’t your turn, don’t talk.  Not to your neighbor, not to the player whose turn it is.  Don’t, it’s rude.  And if it is something you feel you simply MUST say, write it on a note to a player, or whisper to them if they are beside you.  You are at the table to play my adventure, and I WANT you to play it.  So pay attention.

Rule #2: Don’t run the jokes into the ground.
We all get ha ha laughs out of the little groaners that come up at the table.  We all get a kick out snide comments made in passing, and it’s a great way to defuse tension at the table.  But when you keep belaboring the hell out of a punchline that was passing funny when it was said, it gets damn annoying damn quick.  I will make you stop it, even punishing your character if I have to.

Rule #3: Be willing to be wrong.
No one knows EVERYTHING about any game, not even the designers.  Memory slips, house rules take dominance in a mind.  Shit happens.  Mistakes will be made.  As a player or a GM, be willing to say, “Wow, screwed that up, okay redo?”  It is not you vs. them, player vs. GM.  It is not a black mark on your honor as a geek to say, “Oops, sorry”.  If anything, it shows a greater level of honor on your part to be humble.  And while we are on this point…

Rule #4: Don’t argue.
I don’t give a good god damn what your standing is in the RPGA, FLGC (friendly local gaming club), your mother’s church, the state senate or anywhere.  If you bring up a rule discrepancy, and it gets vetoed down, don’t keep pushing it.  It is well within the rights of the GM to fudge any rule he wishes, and chances are, he may have a reason for doing so.  Stop trying to prove your dice bag’s bigger than his, shut up, and roll with it.  I had a couple moments that made me want to argue with the GM at my tables, but I shut up and went on.

Rule #5: Do not invade personal space.
I can’t stress this enough.  Many times it is 7 or 8 of us crammed around a 3′ diameter round table.  Space is a premium.  Don’t go randomly sticking your hand in another person’s area to make a point.  If you need that much space to talk and gesture, stand up and do it so you don’t start knocking stuff over.  This goes as well for pointing things out about character sheets.  Tell them where to look.  If they can’t find it, then ASK if you can show them on the sheet.  A lot of people have a problem with personal space being intruded upon.  And I will not blame them for jacking you up for invading it.

Rule #6: Bathe.
I am serious.  I shouldn’t have to say this.  If you stink like a hard boiled egg shoved up a rotting skunk carcass’ ass on a July day in Georgia, then set on fire with corn chips, take a shower.  Hell, wash up sponge bath style.  But for the love of God, do something.  And yes, I have pulled players aside and discreetly told them to go do so at a table before.

Rule #7: Do not tell someone what to do.
I don’t give a good crap if you were named player of the decade.  Let a person play their own character.  If they have no idea what is going on, make some suggestions of what they CAN do, but do not tell them what to do.  They have the right to make their own choices in the game.  And yes, from time to time we ALL fall victim to this kind of impulse.  Resist it.  Suggesting options will make you seem to be a friendly, caring person.  Telling people what to do makes you a bossy son of a bitch.  And that ruins everything.

Rule #8: Do not metagame.
Nothing pisses me off, as both a player and a GM, more than metagaming.  For those of you not necessarily in the know, metagaming is the term used for the use of out of game PLAYER knowledge as a CHARACTER.  Just because you the player knows that red dragons are more vulnerable to cold attacks doesn’t mean Grunk the Fighter (your character) does.  It also means that just because YOU the PLAYER have played this adventure before and know that the butler did it, does NOT mean your NEW character, Aloysius the Wizard does.  It’s a fine line, but it’s one created in order to let everyone have fun around the table.

Rule #9: You cannot do everything.
Can you do everything in life?  Program a nuclear reactor?  Direct entire armies in their movements and actions?  Pass laws to bolster the economy and help the common man?  Not really.  And just as in real life, in game, everyone fills a niche.  It may be that you can be helpful in more than just your little arena, but then again, what’s wrong with being good at just a couple things, and letting someone else be good at something else?  Roleplaying games are about cooperative play, working as a team.  Everyone gets their chance to shine.

Rule #10: Give someone else a chance.
Just because you can do the same thing they can, don’t be a dick and dominate the field.  Give the other ranger a chance to check the cave out.  Let the other fighter take on the Big Bad Evil Guy, and you focus on the lieutenant.  Be fair.  The glory can’t all be yours, and rightfully, whether you took down the bad guy yourself or not, it was the party’s actions that did it, not just your dice roll.  Remember, cooperative play, not first person shooter.

Rule #11: Do not make it or take it personally.
It’s just a game.  You may not get a chance to be the shining hero on the white steed, but you ARE part of the group that did the good deed.  Someone may have, in your mind, stolen your thunder, or left you hanging.  But when it comes down to it, there is a BIG line between you, the player, and your character.  It starts at the edge of the paper, and stops never.  You, while playing and impersonating your character in the adventure, at the table, are still not Guido the Magnificent.  And you never will be.  Remember that.

Rule #12: It’s about fun.
Not about winning.  The games are about fun.  Your character may die.  You may not accomplish the objective, even as a party.  But if you can crack some smiles, have fun at the table and generally go away saying, “Heh, that was a frickin’ riot”, you’ve accomplish what it’s all about.  If, however, you do nothing but dwell on the failures, the lost combats and the like, you missed the point.  Remember, it’s all just wood pulp, artificial ink and graphite.

Rule #13: Be gracious.
When it’s all over, when the dice are packed away, and the GM has wrapped up the adventure, tell people thank you.  Help clean up the mess that is left over.  If need be, help tear down too.  If you are the GM, thank your players for playing, and offer to answer any questions they may have as best you can.  If you are the host, thank people for showing up.  If you are a guest, show your gratitude by offering to pitch in what you can (soda, snacks, extra minis or dice, even extra scrap paper for notes and such).  And for God’s sake, if you are a player, thank the GM for making and running, or finding and running the adventure.  It takes effort on everybody’s part to make a game come together.  Thank each other.  And mean it.

If you can come as close as possible to following these rules as much as possible, you will find a happy gaming group and experience will exist.  I promise you.


One Comment

  1. very nice

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] that it turns my stomach.  I have covered some disrespectful behavior in other posts, most notably A Gatheriing of Geeks and Friends, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Con all about etiquette at Conventions, but that applies anywhere, really.  These are pointed at […]

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