Back in the Saddle

by | Jun 5, 2015 | Notes From the Dungeon Master

I’m baaaaack! If you thought you could get rid of DM Neil for good, you were wrong . . . dead wrong. Seriously, it’s great to be back in the RPG world. A huge thanks to John for inviting me to contribute to the site. I’m looking forward to sharing some of my gaming experiences and (mis)adventures and maybe even jump into a podcast or two.

This post started out MUCH longer and I wasn’t even close to finished. Then I realized I’m ridiculously verbose and people have short attention spans. So here goes my shorter attempt to be concise.

I don’t have a normal gaming group (though it’s getting there) and couldn’t get the Nerdbounders on Skype to save my life. So I decided to go to a few random pick-up games to get my gaming fix. Here are a few pieces of advice for a group of relative strangers starting a game at a local game store and especially for a group of non-strangers who have a stranger join.

  1. Chill out
    I understand if one new person shows up to a group where everyone knows each other, the group will be more comfortable saying and doing things that might offend, intimidate, or generally put-off the person that doesn’t know them. I get it. You’re supposed to be yourself and live your truth, but maybe dial it down a few notches the first session or two to make sure everyone has a chance to get to know each other. For example, I swear . . . a lot. But I don’t jump into a game with a new group and drop F-bombs left and right. Do I have a right to? Maybe. It depends on the venue. However, I shouldn’t because I don’t know if it really offends another player or just makes them uncomfortable. Feel out the situation over time and see how people respond. After a few games, people get more comfortable and then you can loosen up a bit.
  2. Fairness trumps the rules
    This is especially true if anyone at the table is new to gaming. I know some people have a very strong desire to follow all the rules exactly as stated in the rulebooks. Resist that urge. Let the narrative take precedent over the mechanics for just a few sessions as long it’s fair, fun, and moves quickly. Trust me, you can fine-tune and tighten up the rules as you go. I’ve seen it in action and everyone has a much better time layering in rules as the game progresses.The take away point here is fairness. I played in a random game for one or two games because a GM required my character to roll a ludicrous check (that no other character had a similar equivalent) in order to determine if my character could perform his primary skill/function. First, that is no fun because there isn’t parity between a skill based character and a guy who just shoots or hits stuff. And second, it wasn’t even the way the rules were written. So if you can’t roll with it, make sure you know your shit. OCD newbies will read the rules and figure out you don’t know shit about shit and are basically being a douche about it.
  3. Don’t rape anybody
    Okay, that’s clickbait (new word according to Webster’s!!). Seriously though, I was in a game that in the first session a PC literally tried to rape an NPC. For those of you who don’t know otherwise, rape is a touchy subject to people other than women and it’s very uncomfortable for people around the table in general. ALSO, as a GM, don’t reward that behavior! My character tried to stop said PC from fictionally raping an NPC and somehow got less discretionary XP for the session. Maybe it’s because the GM thought you wouldn’t hear someone firing an assault rifle and then sexually assaulting a lady from literally one room away or the GM just gave more XP to people he/she knew before. That leads to #4.
  4. Don’t favor people you know (go out of your way to make new people feel part of the group)
    Sound unfair? It isn’t. If there is a new person in the group, go out of your way to include them. They are way more likely to be inhibited and it makes everyone feel good to feel like part of the group. It doesn’t take much to dominate a group when people know each other. Give folks a chance and even if you don’t do it “in character”, give out equal rewards to everyone the first few times so new folks don’t get discouraged.
  5. Have fun
    If you are having fun (and aren’t a sociopath), other people will probably have fun. Remember this is a GAME not a life or death situation. Seriously, the out of character jokes will settle down over time, people will settle in, and everything will work out. And if it doesn’t, just remember you can always pretend to be a dwarf or robot, or tentacle porn monster with another group of people next week.

So that’s it for my first post. I’ll try to be more positive and creative on the next ones. I’m part of a great group that started a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire game recently and it’s been really fun. More to come!