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I got to spend some time tonight talking to an old friend of mine about gaming, and about how bad things have gotten, in our opinions at least.  This isn’t just old fart talk: I am in my early thirties, he is in his late twenties.  Both of us, though, are long time veterans of gaming.  We have over two decades of experience at Conventions, and almost four decades of gaming experience in general between the two of us, and we are noticing how bad it is getting.  I realized that it comes down to this: there is no grace to the people playing the game.  None whatsoever.

Now, grace is defined as “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action; a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment; favor or good will.”  All of these definitions paint a specific picture of a set of attributes and qualities, actually, that a good gamer should possess.  And mind you, this isn’t just aimed at players; GMs are just as bad.  They really are; I have had as many bad experiences of late with bad GMs as well as bad players.  It just seems that my hobby is getting more and more boorish and crass with every passing edition.

So, instead of just bitching about how bad things have gotten, I am going to talk about how to have grace as a player and as a GM.  I have said it before and I know I will say it again: I am an elitist about my gaming.  I am.  I can be a real prick about it, and I don’t mind getting told I am prick about it.  To me, that is like being told I have exacting standards, which I do.  This is another one of those lists you should really work on achieving, in my opinion, if you want to have a positive impact on your games, whichever side of the screen you chuck your dice on.

Number One: Learn to Rules Lawyer Correctly.
Yup, this can be done correctly, people.  First of all, if you are the GM, make sure you know your stuff as well as you can.  No, don’t necessarily spend eight hours a day memorizing rulebooks and errata; you’ll just go crazy.  But make sure you have the good, solid foundation that will take you through the game.   Yes, I know there is always the Platinum Rule (The GM is always right), but this only applies if you have a purpose to what you are doing; it’s not an excuse to cover your ass if you don’t know what to do.  Cowering behind this rule because you haven’t got the give a damn to know your job is something only politicians do.  Don’t be a politician!

This also applies to players.  Rules lawyer players are bad players as much as min/maxers are.   I will deal with min/maxing here in a bit, but let’s stay on track here.  Rules Lawyer players are fine at the table so long as they realize a few things.  First of all, the GM is not always out to get you; quite often, they want to see you succeed as much as you do.  There may be a very good, valid reason for their call on something.  I get rather twitchy when it comes to Rules Lawyers, but those few I have run into that bring up a rule infraction, but then drop it when I explain that I Have a reason that will be forthcoming impress me.

The other way I am impressed is when Rules Lawyers also bring up rules infractions which will actually not benefit the party, or themselves, at all.  When a player does this, it shows me that the player wants to take on each and every challenge instead of slumping through it.  It shows a completeness in the player that is encouraging to GMs as it shows us that our work is actually rather valued.

Overall, though, there are some guidelines for all Rules Lawyers: first of all, have some sense of time.  If you can find the rule that is being referred to within a couple minutes, great.  The action will progress at the table until you find the rule, at which time it is incumbent on the GM to rules appropriately.  But, if you think you should have a half an hour to find an obscure rule, stop.  Just stop.  You are halting the game for no good reason.  By the same token, if you dropped the ball, admit it.  Just fess up and correct your mistake.  It shows more character than being a jackass and arguing about it.  And at the same time, players, if the GM says he knows, but there is a reason, take him at face value.  There may indeed be a very good reason the rule got trumped, and it may be in either your favor, or in favor of the plotline of the game.

Number Two: Min/Maxing
I have heard so many people bitch and whine about min/maxers that it is ridiculous.  And here is the real scoop: min/maxers are some of the most realistic of all gamers.  Think about it: Did you really pick a career that you have no talent or ability at?  Or did you play to your strengths?  Uh huh, that’s what I thought.  Look, there is nothing wrong with trying to shore up your weaknesses, but we all play to our strengths; that’s what all those placement tests are about.  It’s not pigeonholing; it’s called proper placement.  Now, let’s differentiate this from Munchkinism.  Munchkins are those reprehensible beings that exist only to try to outdo everyone at the table, hoard all the best treasures, suck up all the glory, and make everyone in earshot wish to stab them with mechanical pencils and beat them with a dice bag full of metal dice.

Min/maxers are NOT the hogs that Munchkins are; they just want to be the best at what they do, and this is admirable.  After all, you want your meatshield to be able to take some amazing punishment so that your spellslinger mage can fire off some impressive fireballs, right?  Or you want to make sure your Rigger can do the most with his drones so that your team can get into the warehouse and heist the paydata, all so the Johnson can hand over the cash, right?  Well, guess what… are you really going to hire the sickly looking swordslinger, or the Rigger who is constantly unable to interface with his drones?  You would be an idiot if you did; admit it.

That being said, make sure not to over min/max.  If you skimp too much on other facets of your character, you risk becoming a one-trick pony.  A little redundancy in a party as a good thing, so long as the redundant parties act in support.  This means that your ranger may be pretty accomplished at sneaking around and spying, but you should only do it in order to support the rogue, or when the rogue is out of commission.  This isn’t about being able to hog the spotlight; it’s just about making sure everything is covered properly.  After all, that’s a form of min/maxing as well.

GMs, beware this on your side of the screen.  Remember, the bad guys are there to harass the PCs and make them fight, but not absolutely eat them alive.  If the fighting gets thick but the PCs come out on top by the skin of their teeth, you did your job well.  However, if they don’t get out at all (TPK), or they barely escape, then you dropped the ball somewhere.  This precludes the notion of PCs with delusions of immortality, taking on foes way too tough for them, and announced to be so.  Still, try not to introduce those bad guys that are way above the PCs too much, it gets discouraging.

Number Three: Respect
This is perhaps the one arena that really chaps my ass.  I run into so many players and GMs that are completely disrespectful of each other 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 ANYONE at the table, not just players.  The major points include cleanliness, appropriate use of humor, over-arguing, and space.  Seriously, go read it; there are some great points there that go a long way towards general respect.

Number Four: Cheating
This is ridiculous.  I mean it; why do people feel the need to cheat at these games?  Everyone thinks that they need to be on top of the heap constantly.  They don’t realize how many opportunities are opened when they fail at something.  Seriously!  When you screw up, and the crap hits the fan, it doesn’t mean that the game is over.  It might be just beginning.  Being a hero isn’t about always winning, but it is about plugging away.

You see, that is something that is missing from most players: they all want cheat codes so they don’t ever fail, falling into FPS (first person shooter) syndrome.  Look, if you want to play that kind of crap, go play it and leave my table.  This isn’t Quake, Doom, or any of that crap.  This is about cooperative play and storytelling, and sometimes the heroes just have to fail.  Hey, the Fellowship of the Ring busted up, Aslan does get killed, and the A-Team gets jailed for crimes.  In each and every case, the failures facilitated the progress of the plot, and opened new doors for the characters.

When you cheat, you cheat yourself of the chance at something greater, something better.  I catch you cheating, you get one shot at redemption.  If I catch you again, it will be a very long time before you every play at my table again.

There are some other points: GMs, respect your players.  If they didn’t come play your game, who would?  Players, respect your GMs; you have no idea how much goes into making a game for you guys and girls to play.  Guests, respect your hosts, they are giving you a place to play your game.  Respect each other’s right to play your characters the way you designed them.

Do you want to know the killer point of all this?  Just so that everyone enjoys the game.  You see, this all still comes down to the selfish pricks that join us at the tables.  It is not just about your own enjoyment, you realize.  This is about everyone’s enjoyment.  The instant you only worry about your own gratification, you are a problem at my table.  If you realize that everyone else has just as much right to have a good time as you, and that your actions may be destroying that good time, then you need to stop doing that crap.  I mean it; I will kick your ass off my table, even if you are the host.  I would rather break up the game than allow you to be an ass and ruin the time for everyone else.  Go play video games and stop wasting  my time, your time, and the time of the other players.  Period.

These are really four simple points.  They are; this isn’t rocket science.  It’s about valuing everyone at the table.

What do you think?

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One Comment

  1. I think I find myself guilty of #2 most often when I don’t think the DM has a clue (or admits they don’t and solicit it). It also depends a bit on the environment, players, and setting (and of course, if it’s way off base and screws us – see also LFR, which is most of my gaming outside of home).

    I’ll admit having found myself apathetic / frustrated (or even bored at times) at tables, be it at conventions or not, for a number of reasons. You don’t get this one so much at conventions (usually) because of the time constraint and pay-to-play nature of the beast, but sometimes the players just get way too silly / straying away from the game (have I done this, probably on occasion – you tell me). At times it just becomes a side show with a game thinking about progressing in its midst. I don’t mind that at my social gatherings, but damn it I showed up to game. /rant


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