So here we are, at an impasse. Okay, it’s not really apt, but I’ve always wanted to say it. Anyway, I’ve discovered what can truly kill a game…sometimes just an evening of gaming and sometimes a whole campaign, letting personal issues come out at the gaming table, or letting issues at the table become personal is a bane to the best of storylines, gaming groups, and friends.
I know it feels strict, but there is a rule my friend, the RG, imposes upon his table when he runs games that I have come to find actually makes a game run so much faster. We are not allowed to have cell-phones on at the table. Okay, he doesn’t actually use the phrase “not allowed,” but it is considered rude to have one out while the game is going on. Without a cell phone, people are more focused on the game, so they can get more involved on the role-playing level, and be quicker on the uptake when it comes to mechanics. The movement and shooting phases of Battletech, for instance, are slow enough without someone going: “huh? What? Oh… sorry. Well… hmmm… who has moved where? You want to shoot me where in the what now?”
A good example of this would be the campaign I was playing in before I became this gaming group’s game master. The hacker of our group, a pretty important player for a Shadowrun team during the legwork phase of a run (finding information about a job and figuring out how to do it correctly with all the information to be had before actually putting one’s lives on the line is an important step), left the table in absolute hysterics, escorted away by her boyfriend, our team’s driver. This occurred because while we were all discussing what to do for the run, she was checking her bank balance on her phone. Overdrawing one’s bank balance, while upsetting, is something that cannot be fixed at eight thirty in the evening, but we still had to halt the entire session, causing the run to waste another night of gaming, because she did not devote her attentions to the table in the first place.
During another game, a girl got into it with her ex-boyfriend via text, and totally missed a huge plot point. She ended up getting all of us almost killed, and we failed a mission that should have been a cake-walk.
I, myself, have been terrible with my cell-phone at the table. I thought my GM was going to kill me when “I would do anything for love” went off at the table during a somber scene in Carceri twice in a row. Apparently meatloaf was not a party favorite.
Another thing I’m pretty bad with is my laptop. I like taking notes with it, but sometimes I’ll be tempted to check things online, and complete check out of the game for a good five to fifteen minutes. This can be detrimental to your participation in a campaign. Ordering food online is just as distracting, although people will not hate you so much if you share…. (Dominoes and Cravin’ Cookies… yeah.)
The issue of having personal problems with other people in your gaming group is even worse. Outside distractions are frustrating, but inner-tension can ruin a game for good. I have thought of two separate occasions (four, I have now thought of four) in my short time gaming (nineteen months, ladies and gentlemen!) that a campaign has either been altered or totally scrapped because of drama from the outside being brought into the actual game.
- My good friend Paul actually had to split his DnD 3.5 game in half last year because the players could not agree on how the game should go. He had an “evil campaign” and a “good campaign” running for months, which worked out fine, but was certainly more work for him. Part of the problem did have to do with the players just wanting to play differently, part of it was one player wanting to punch another player in the face. As a result, their characters were really awful to each other, setting one another up for worse and worse falls and putting the whole party in danger of TPKs more than once.
- Our Amber group spent a whole session just arguing over a plan because the girls spent the entire evening being destructive and catty to one another.
- My friend Jennifer’s Eberron game failed because two of the players had dated and it ended badly; half the time one of them would not even show up. This would not have been as much of a problem had we not already had a bailer-flake of a fighter, but it certainly did not help the situation.
Number four is the most tragic one, in my opinion. It has not happened yet, but, in all likelihood, it will happen in the next week or so. My shadowrun game, my first campaign, my baby… I was so excited about it, and personal conflict inside and outside of game has all but destroyed it. I want to elbow-drop forty percent of my players, and I know that they are not happy with me in the slightest. I’m going to try to run the next session, just to see if we can all put our differences aside for the sake of a good campaign (I think it is good at least… It’s not a shitty campaign anyway, which I’m quickly discovering is a larger danger than I thought it was when I first started gaming). I’m also going to put scheduled time into my life for preparing for game that will take precedence over almost everything else (Discussion of preparation and how much of it is necessary will be next week’s blog I think… it promises to be fun!…?) so I don’t let personal life lower the quality of the actual story. As it stands, however, should I just “Old Yeller” the poor thing and try with new players? Maybe it would be better to acknowledge it is too far gone to save and not subject everyone to horror… I’m really not sure yet.
I love a good game. I like when everyone is emotionally involved and in sync with their fellow players. I like when people are genuinely excited, and actually care what happens, so much so that they can put aside differences of opinion for the sake of spinning a good tale.
My questions for the readers are:
– Does wanting to keep a good game going cause more problems for people if they have issues? Avoidance of problems, glossing over truths and pretending things are okay, etc.
– What is too much when it comes to cutting off outside influences?
– Would it be a good idea for a game master to try to hash issues between players out for the sake of the game?
Anyway, I’ve gone on about this a lot… geez. A lot. So for now, I guess I’m checking out. Until next week, wish me luck!
-Your perky and quirky GM Lo