Παρασκευή, 30 Νοεμβρίου 2012

Human Slaves of an Insect Nation Part 3-Your Players and You!

The story you can reach out and touch by Serhat Bayram

Human Slaves of an Insect Nation, part 3-Your players and you!

Part 1 was a rant and part 2 was gaming advice, but part 3 aims to cover the best and most precious aspect of your campaign:

Your players

“I'm the cream of the crop, I rise to the top
I never eat a pig cause a pig is a cop”

They might not be world class thespians, character actors or even mattress actors, but they’re your group and they’re the meat and bones of the entire campaign. They’re the buddies who will help you get your panties out of a rules twist and they’re the fuckwits who will cut open dogs so they can wear them as hats. They’re the glorious champions but they’re also the people who “look like Kakashi, only without the eyepatch.”

They’re your joy and your burden.

Your wafer-thin sociopaths.

But above all, they are your friends. Because let’s face it: you aren’t going to be investing nearly 80 hours a month into running a game for a bunch of smelly strangers you only talk to during game-time and only address them through their character names, are you?

“Hey um, Stev-ooohh…Grodnar? Pass me the beer will you dude? Of course I know your actual name, dude! It just slipped my mind, gametime and all. I know that you aren’t a barbarian all the time, dude, just…please stop crying, Steve, wasn’t it? No? Well fuck you then, strange man who plays a Viking on Sundays!”

During the course of the campaign, you are going to spend a whole lot of time with your players. Even if you only play once every two weeks, you are going to be with those guys for four to five hours at a time 

 Or an upward of ten, if you’re in college and/or unemployed
Which means that you’re going to get to know these people, whether you like it or not. You’re going to tell nerd jokes, scat jokes, bad jokes, trade character optimization tips and possibly get into a fistfight over which was the best Doctor and whether or not midichlorians ruined Star Wars.

Of course they did Dave, you fucknugget.

Now, if you are versed in the art of social interaction you’ll know that prolonged exposure to strange people you don’t know might not sit well with you and spell social disaster, especially when you discover that a bunch of them could be socially inept mouth breathers that come to the table to play out their power fantasies.

I should know, I met a few.

The table isn’t the place where you’ll make friends and it sure as shit isn’t the place where you’ll get to know people. Jumping into games or running stories for people you don’t know might also turn into a maelstrom of awkwardness.

What’s also important is that people will serve to flesh out your idea and give it the flair that your original concept was missing. They will also cut you the necessary slack when you’re stuck and offer their own tidbit of nerdy merriment when things look rough

And when they one up you, you’ll know exactly where they live so you can make them pay.
So without further ado ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Because Patrick Stewart was made for better things.



If you’re just starting off on RPGs, then welcome to the wonderful, wonderful world of imagination, fantasy and adventure (with a dash of political intrigue, where available). You’re about to pick a chosen few to embark on an impossible quest for the future of mankind, the lives of every man woman and child in their hands.

And then it turns out that they keep stopping the game because they just need to talk about how awesome their character is.

      In order to avoid this, do the following: 

  1.         Try to approach them in a nerd-friendly setting and engage them in conversation
Game shops, video game retail outlets, even heated debates on Skype on the intricacies and superiority of D&D editions are the best places to see what is up with your players. Nerd Rage brings out the worst in people (I should know, experienced it myself recently) and it will show you exactly how far one is willing to go to one up his team players.

You should not, however, go trolling. You shouldn’t purposely prod and poke your possible players into a fit of rage just so you can check them out, mostly because you’re not an asshole.

Or maybe you are: quick, count how many days you find yourself thinking that, along with a self-serving feeling of superiority over everyone else. If it’s more than 5 days a week, then you pass!
Us Nerds tend to be territorial (God knows I was, once) and this sort of test kept me both away from problem players and kept me out of games where I would have been a problematic little whiner as well.

            2.         Go out for a couple beers.

The key word is alcohol. Chugging down brewskies doesn’t work if the guys you’re with aren’t even tolerable. Besides, alcohol speeds up the process of  ‘excrement expediting’ (i.e. shooting the shit’) which pretty much lets you veer off the campaign matters and talk about regular, boring stuff.

This might seem like a silly process, but it really isn’t. If you can drink with your players, then you can hang out, talk and even cry yourselves to sleep as you’re reminiscing over how Matt Smith is the worst fucking Doctor ever

Or the non-necessity of Spiderman in comics.

Also, you might get some great friends out of the deal.

PROTIP: If any of the guys drinks too much or starts crying and/or won’t stop crying until he’s drunk, subtly avoid him. Trust me on this.

3    3.          Play the goddamn game
You done frollicking, son? Had your chugs, shot your shit, excluded the sociopaths? Good! Now find a place and fucking play cause honest to God, I’m tired of your bullshit.

I wonder why the fuck I even bother with you people…

The whiner, most bountiful of roleplaying creatures.

Sit down in that chair son and let me tell you the tale of the whiner:

It is said that in the olden days, before man was man and woman was woman and everything was pretty much a huge pile of sludge sloshing around on the face of the planet, there was a single cell that, while otherwise being a very cool dude, would occasionally stop and scream at the brine for no reason.
So the other organisms tried to console him and to find out what was wrong and soon found out that the lonely cell would not cease its racket until it got what it wanted (which was usually something silly and unimportant). But the more they gave it things, the more it asked for, until his buddies got sick of him, grew arms and smashed his goddamn head in with a rock.
But his progeny remained and it crawled out of the sludge and it made its way through the aeons and now resides in your gaming table AND HE WON’T SHUT THE FUCK UP.
Oh, it starts subtly, at first. Perhaps it starts with a well-placed argument about character levels or character wealth, or attack bonuses. But if the whiner’s given in inch, he grows and so does his whining. It expands and it expands its grubby claws and its big mouth and screams and asks for more, until you find yourself having to stop everything just so you can calm him down and keep on going with the story.
But by that time, it’s already too late to kick him out, so you have to put up with his shit for the remainder of the campaign, while assigning one of your buddies to kindly ask him to shut his voice-hole every 30 minutes.
And the worst part is that you can’t avoid the whiner. Sure you can avoid the PARTICULAR whiner, but there’s so goddamn many of them, you’ll always have one at the table at any given time.
Like spiders, they crawl into your mouth as you sleep.
The secret is to learn how to identify the whiner and stop him before he reaches critical mass. Here’s how:
The first step requires a firm grasp of the rules, the story’s tone and a solid, but brief introduction into your campaign policy. Tell your players exactly what you have in mind and tell them that you’re going to bleed them like pigs. Notice their reactions. The whiner will make his first move then, by starting an argument that continues long after everyone else has let it go.
The second step requires vigilance. It requires an iron will and a strong stomach. It is the point during which the whiner will begin his assaults on your nerves and it will last for the entire campaign. You can stop it by simply denying his silly requests. If logical counter-arguments do not work, then a simple “NO” will suffice.
The third stage involves long sessions of cock-fencing with the whiner, during which he will waste your game time looking through rule books and gaming articles. If you maintain your position of logical counter-arguing, then you’ve already lost.
The fourth stage involves party wrath. It’s the point where the entire group turns against the whiner and they either fling accusations against his mother’s marital conduct or threaten him with bodily harm. It is important to note that this stage is entirely your fault.
In short, the whiner needs to be indentified and quelled before he even begins. Delay that step for even a single session and you’ve lost. 
Strike the whiner down, lest he return as something more powerful than you can ever imagine!
I mentioned during a previous article the evils of rules lawyering.

And their subtle evil that seems so coldly logical and infallible…
But the truth of the matter is that, unless you’re a rules lawyer yourself, you’re still going to need someone to advise you on rules disputes and to guide you out of any dire gaming straits.
Oh yes, you do have a very firm grasp of the gaming system, but having a player who’s even better at it can help turn that fuck-up into a possible victory and your spontaneous fit of malice into a carefully staged and challenging encounter.
The Buddy is a player who is a rules lawyer and who you trust implicitly with both helping you run through the campaign, as well as with any of your coming ideas. Now, this sort of trust is not one to be taken lightly. You could find yourself divulging need-to-know information to a guy who’s going to use it for evil and then where would you be?

Answer: not in a happy place.
The rules Buddy is the guy who will help you put your foot down in an argument, but also someone who will point out when and where you’ve fucked up so you can make up for it and fix it before it gets out of hand.
I don’t even know what that is, just picked the first image that Google picked up when I typed schedule.

Scheduling is probably the most important part of the entire campaign. If you’re like me, then this means that you’ve a very busy week (and sometimes weekend), which leaves you only a day to devote to gaming and that’s if you’re lucky and some other shit doesn’t come up.
If your gaming group is a bunch of college kids, then they can just play whenever the hell they want (or whenever you want them to), unless they get jobs and/or girlfriends.

Or, in a worst case scenario, the girlfriends have their own campaign and steal your group away from you.

But if your group is comprised of busy, married people (like mine currently is) who will pretty soon have kids of their own (which will seriously hurt our game time and also make me feel alone and unloved) then that means that scheduling is fucking EVERYTHING.
Campaigns are like teaching yourself how to smoke: you need to do this shit often and with a steady pace, until everybody’s addicted and they act like a bunch of nicotine-starved bitches come game night. This means that you need at least one session per week for at least ten weeks.
Sounds terrible doesn’t it? It actually is, mostly if you factor in everyone’s job. Which means that you’re going to have to negotiate on days that work for everybody, as well as gaming hours. Here’s a tip: no matter what you do, do not exceed 4-hour stretches. If you’re busy people but also friends, then that means that you can agree to play first, then act like nerds later and not be too tired for work the following day.
Also, four hours is a perfect time limit for a group that’s grown used to working together. You can start off the game, play out your session and still have time to grab a bite to eat.
I know that this bit of the article presents gaming like something way too stressing to look like it’s fun, but you should remember that I’m in a gaming group full of working adults and that we love our hobby enough to look for ways to get the most of it out of the time-consuming black hole that our working lives have become.

You got those sons of bitches together. You made the story, isolated the whiner pathogen and found an ally. And you might just fuck up yet, in more ways than one.
It’s important to note that, despite the group’s best efforts and immersion, this entire hobby venture rests on you. No matter how much your players want to help you, you’ve still built the world, populated it with characters and come up with a narrative. And you’re going to be running that narrative for months to come and possibly not see it come to fruition.
You should keep in mind that, no matter how wonderfully creative this hobby is, it’s still tough to maintain and that it rests on your shoulders. You don’t need to be the new Homer and come up with Iliads, but the mere process of having to mind everything might tire you out.
You might also make the mistake of blaming yourself, if things do not go as planned. Hell, I did and I had trouble coping, thinking I should just give it up. So here’s my bit of advice, for you:
You are already doing the best you can you’ve just gotten a bunch of adults who are going to be acting like manchildren for the next few hours get round a table and play through your story.
You are going to keep doing the best you can because this is the story you made up and you’re going to see it to fruition, because you fucking deserve it
You sexy storytelling savant, you
You’re working with an audience you know and therefore can work your strengths with them these people are your friends. You don’t need to prove jack shit to them. Provided you don’t break down and start acting like a whiny little bitch, they’re going to love it.
And last, but not least:
You could always just fucking do it and get the best campaign you’ve ever wanted to run, ever I should know, I’ve been there. Wanna know what happened? I stopped gaming for 6 months, because I had burned out, faced with the thought that no other game I was ever going to be in was going to be that great, ever. 
But goddamn did it make me feel like a million bucks, cash.

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