Describe a Game Experience That Changed How You Play

During the month of August, I’m participating in RPG a Day 2017. Each day I’ll answer a question, or my interpretation of a question, about tabletop roleplaying games. For those who have wanted your beloved UncleBear to get back into RPG blogging, this is the closest you’re going to get.

Describe a Game Experience That Changed How You Play

For me this is a melange of bad experiences, or a running theme, of people in the group not being reliable. Sometimes this is unavoidable — I have played with people who have children, and whose jobs have them on call. Those things make it difficult to make plans. Sometimes I have been that guy, because my chronic pain issues, anxiety, and general introversion and social phobia have caused me to flake out. Then there are people who just don’t take it serious, for whom “it’s just a game” is a good enough reason to be hours late or not show up at all.

The issue with this is that tabletop roleplaying games require preparation. Maybe not for the players, who just need to show up with dice and a character sheet in hand. It certainly requires prep for the gamemaster. Even if you’re just running a published adventure you need to read it, familiarize yourself with any rules that will come up, the abilities the bad guys have, and how the story is supposed to flow. You need to tweak things based on the abilities the player characters do and don’t have, changing the challenge levels and compensating for necessary powers and skills that they lack. If you’re writing your own adventures, multiple the prep time by a matter of 3 or higher.

Unless you have a good reason, not showing up is disrespectful to the time the gamemaster has put into preparation. This has changed how I play in a number of ways. I make sure that everyone knows my issues and potential conflicts up front. They need to know how to contact me, and each other, in case something goes off the rails. If I’m the gamemaster, I let them know that I expect them to take it seriously, the same as if they were on a sports team or any other group activity where people rely on you. Then I make sure they know that it’s okay if things happen, so they don’t get too stressed when they get blindsided by life and have to cancel.

Every group that I play in now makes an agreement on what constitutes a quorum. What’s the minimum number of players we need to go ahead and play anyway, if some folks can’t make it? We also establish some in-game excuses for characters to disappear — I dislike having someone else run a player character like an NPC. Finally, I always make sure that there’s something else to do in the event we don’t have a quorum, even if it’s playing Settlers of Catan or Munchkin.