Monday, April 10, 2017

Want To Have More Fun At Your Table? Stop Playing With Jerks!

So, as I've said in previous posts, I spend a lot of time on gaming forums. I lurk around FB, I spend time on Reddit, and I think I might be in the top five most-disliked people on Paizo's forums. In these and other spots, I run into a lot of people looking for solutions to their gaming problems. The mechanical problems are easy. Whether they're looking for ideal feats for a two-weapon fighter, or they want to build a character that resembles someone from pop culture (often one of the 48 entries on my Character Conversions page fits nicely), I can usually provide some solid guidance.

It's the other problems that are more difficult to solve. Like when a player wants to know what to do about the rest of the table ignoring them, or demanding they play their character a certain way. Or a DM who has a player that purposefully brings serial killers to a game about shining heroes. Even what to do about the player who will argue for half an hour about a rules call, and torpedo a session whenever they don't get their way.

Look, I'm just saying that my character is the best, and you should just admit that already.
Since we're adults, and we're here to enjoy some cooperative storytelling, the first thing to do is to communicate your feelings. Talk to your DM if you feel they're being unfair, talk to the other players if they're making you uncomfortable, or if there's a big issue going on, talk to your group. You can do it in-person, over a group chat, or even on Skype. As long as you make your feelings clear to your group, and open a dialogue, you can solve a lot of your problems. If you're a DM, then having a Session 0 where players can talk about what they want out of a game, and what they expect from you, you can head off a lot of problems.

Sometimes you can't, though. Sometimes you're sitting at the table with someone (or several someones) who's a jerk, and part of the fun for them is being a jerk. In that situation, you are playing chess with a pigeon. All your logic, careful explanation of the rules, and appeals to being a better gamer won't change anything. The pigeon will just take a crap on the board, knock over your pieces, and strut around like it won the argument.

When that happens, walk away. Seriously, just walk away.

You Don't Need That Kind of Game in Your Life

Perhaps the most common reason people don't walk away from gaming groups populated by jerks is they have no other options. Jeff runs the only game in town, and it's either show up to his game where my character is made the butt of every joke, or don't play at all. Or maybe the only game you can find is the local organized play at the one gaming shop in the region, where you have never finished a module on time due to the constant bickering over rule calls.

If you find yourself in that kind of situation, ask yourself this question. If there was another game you could go to, any other game at all, would you go? If the answer is yes, then walk away.

No, seriously, you have other options.
Finding a new game is a huge pain in the ass, I won't argue there. And it might cause some hard feelings if you do have friends at the other table, but you exit stage left. If you are not having fun, and nothing you've done has made the problems you're dealing with better, though, then you're sticking it out for nothing.

So what can you do? Well, the most obvious solution is to pop online and see if anyone's running a game in your neck of the woods. With social media and gaming-specific forums, it's entirely possible for you to meet new gaming friends whose paths you'd otherwise never cross. If you have a friendly local gaming store, check the cork board, and ask around to see if there are other groups that meet there, or if anyone is looking to pick up a new player. Post a notice yourself, if you have to, and pitch yourself to groups in the area who might see it.

If you can't find anything in-person, you have the option of playing online. While it isn't for everybody, online games can be great if you have a group willing to include you. Thanks to advances like Roll20, it's now possible to play with people nowhere near where you live.

Of course, it's possible there are no local games, and that you aren't the online gaming type. What you really want is a game that's local, where you can play with friends, and have fun in a positive atmosphere. And as they say about books, if no one is doing the thing you want, then it's your turn to step up and do it. Even if that means you need to recruit a new group of friends into the hobby just so you have some new folks to run with.

Seriously, Though, Don't Break Rule 0

Now, to clarify where this advice is meant for, I'm not talking about groups where you have occasional disagreements, but you're all friends at the end of the night. Nor am I talking about groups where, though play styles may clash, you still have fun and enjoy the game. I'm talking specifically about games bad enough that players (or DMs) who describe them sound like someone talking about being in an abusive relationship.

Sounds harsh, but if you go down the checklist, it might be accurate.
We hear people talk about how, "we're here to have fun," or, "it's just a game," but it's also a social interaction. Those come with rules, and standards, unique to our subculture. One of those standards is that even if we disagree, we should respect the other folks at our table, and we should do our best to work together to find solutions so we are all getting what we want. If you are talking, but no one is listening, it's time to find a new group. Or to start your own, with blackjack and hookers!

An Edit: Those For Whom This Advice Doesn't Help

It has been brought to my attention that there are several sub-groups of gamers this advice does not help, or will not work for. Those who suffer from anxiety disorders, those with limited social currency, and players for whom giving up and moving on seems like too big a task.

Now, I'll be clear here. This advice is just like all the other advice on this blog. If you like it, take it. If you don't, or it doesn't work for you, you know your situation better than I do. I am just some yutz on the Internet with a blog, and an opinion.

The point is not to make some free-market, vote-with-your-feet statement. The point is, rather, that just because you spent a lot of time or effort making a mistake, that's no reason to cling to that mistake. If you are in a group that isn't giving you what you need, or is actively taking away your energy, you don't need me to tell you that it's toxic. And walking away might mean not participating in your favorite hobby if you have barriers to finding new groups, or starting your own.

If I find a solution for that problem, rest assured I'll share it.

That's all for my thoughts on this Moon Pope Monday installment. Hopefully some folks found it interesting, or at least thought-provoking. If you'd like to stay on top of my latest updates, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter! And if you'd like me to keep making content, stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to become a patron. If you pledge at least $1 a month you'll not only buy my everlasting gratitude, but I'll send some swag your way as a thank you!


  1. Always good advice. Just like you can't fix killer GMs with the game system, you can't fix problem players with mechanics and in-game incentives.

  2. That reminds me... time to bake something for my GM in appreciation. =)