August 27, 2017
RPGaDay Question #27
Question #27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Good friends that you enjoy laughing and telling shared stories with?
Too simple? Probably, but gaming is only as good as the group of folks that you're playing with. As GM Chris of the Order 66 podcast has often said, "no gaming is better than bad gaming," so if you've got a crappy group of players or a crappy GM that's more interested in indulging in an ego-fueled power trip than in the group having fun, then you're not going to have a good gaming session.
I've been in this hobby for the majority of my adult life, having cut my teeth on D&D as a great many of us did before moving on to other systems and settings as the years progressed. I've played RPGs that frankly are not so great, but had a lot of fun because the players and GM were a fun crew to roll with, and I've played sessions of Star Wars (my fave RPG by a country mile!) that were teeth-pullingly horrible because of players that were more interested in running roughshod over the rest of the group than in actually completing the adventure; con games have an unfortunately deserved reputation for this, which is a shame as con games can also be a great chance to roll dice with folks outside of your usual gaming circle.
So yeah, while you might have piles of dice, reams of notebook paper or a high-end tablet/laptop, and cunningly crafted characters, none of that matters if you don't have a table of players who are both invested in the adventure the GM is presenting and are willing to indulge in at least some attempts to roleplay their character as opposed to just rolling the dice when necessary.
For example, to call back to that Vampire: The Masquerade session where my murdered Mortal returned as a Crow for a rousing roaring rampage of revenge, once the Caitfiff combat-god player was gacked (carrying a bunch of white phosphorous grenades as an anti-vampire weapon when you're a vampire yourself is a good way to get burned, to say nothing of being thrown into an oncoming semi while already on fire), the other players soon grasped that this wasn't going to be a typical session, and very quickly got into things, with the guilty characters trying to find in-character ways to escape retribution at the hands of a creature that made the Terminator look like it was phoning it in. But if the remaining players had railed against their characters being set up for inevitable execution at the hands of a fellow player, then that session wouldn't have happened, and I would have gotten all dressed up for nothing.
Also helpful for good gaming is for the players and the GM to having a willingness to not stress about how exactly the rules work, especially when the game has reached a tense situation or climactic moment. As a GM, I'm okay with a player asking if something is working the way I'm running the game, but I'm a firm believer that once the GM gives their answer, the question is to be tabled until after the session. Nothing pisses me off more as either player or GM than when a rules-lawyer starts a full-on argument with the GM about how the rules are "supposed" to operate, especially when that rules-lawyer is trying to skew things to their benefit.
Now I will admit that I have been guilty of questioning a GM's interpretation of the rules during the course of a session, mostly out of curiosity of their reasoning for making the decision they have, but I also shut my yap once the GM gives their answer and let them get on with running the game. Granted, there have been times I've piped up to remind a GM of something rules-wise that works in their favor (sometimes to the groans of my fellow players), but I'm a firm believer in fairness on both sides of the screen, even if it puts my character at a disadvantage.
The only exception to my behavior on that front is that if I feel the GM's call is unduly screwing over another player, doubly so if the player is new to the RPG, and triply so if the newbie is new to gaming in general. Nothing can ruin gaming for a new player than a GM that is being a flaming doucheasaurus, and I've been around long enough to hear plenty of horror stories of bad GMs turning people off from RPGs in general. Though as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that asshole GMs are going to keep being assholes, and that the best thing to do is to provide the other players an alternative by my offering to run something for them and promising them that they won't have to deal with a flaming asshat GM like the one they're currently dealing with. I did have one memorable moment where the GM of a Star Wars d6 session at a local small-time convention was being such a roaring jackass that when he got called on his BS by not only myself but most of the other players for being needlessly cruel in how he interpreted the rules with regards to the players, he stormed off and I quickly slipped into the GM's chair to make up an adventure completely on the fly. I know I botched some of the rules, but the players had fun facing the challenges and being able to actually get into playing their characters, which is the important thing.
So yeah, in my book a sold group of players and a GM that's working to ensure everybody at the table has fun, those are the tools that are essential to good gaming. Check in tomorrow to see what media is almost essential viewing for most of the folks that I game with these days.