Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Interpersonal Problems in RPG's -or- "I can't stand him, or the way he plays!!!"

Most Interpersonal Problems in games can be solved by following a few simple rules of RPG ethics:

  1. Don't disrupt the game: The DM is in control, he should be doing most of the talking; don't hold side conversations; don't throw dice across the room; keep your attention on the DM until it is your turn.

  2. Don't cheat: It should go without saying that you should be honest at all times; make your rolls where everyone can see them; don't pick up dice right after a roll; don't fudge your stats; don't fudge your xp; etc. etc.

  3. Respect everyone: In character and out; don't denigrate others; don't put anyone down; don't make fun of others in their attempts to role play; don't intentionally harm another player's pc without their express permission--and don't threaten to do so.

  4. Watch what you say: joking is fine, but don't be stupid; don't say your character is going to do something just to get a laugh and then say--oh I was just kidding--it's annoying.

  5. Roleplay: get into your character and the spirit of the game; be as serious as the game requires; contribute to the game through actively playing your character.

  6. Communicate: with the DM and the other players; don't make role-play disagreements personal; let others know what you're doing unless there is some reason for secrecy; let others now when you have to miss, especially the DM.

Roleplaying is a social activity. That means we have to get along. If you are having problems talk about them and make an effort to smooth things over. Apologize even if you weren't wrong and move on. Be nice. Compliment others. Work together. How are your characters going to succeed through cooperation if the players can't?

To assist the DM in handling such problems he can try any the following suggestions. Mind you these are not foolproof and they don't always work, they are just suggestions.

  1. Use a talking stick--only he who holds the stick gets to talk

  2. Keep records of each pc so you are aware of the changes in pc stats

  3. Require all rolls be in the open and viewable by everyone--even most of yours

  4. Make the rule: What you say your character does

  5. Extra xp for roleplaying

  6. Have frequent dm-player conferences to talk about their character the game's progress etc.

  7. Make everyone "roll" for treasure--highest wins. Once you've won once, you can;t roll again until everyone has gotten something then it starts over.

  8. You take over treasure division

Now, these won't solve everything. Sometimes people just can't seem to get along no matter what. Sometimes its the annoying whine in someone's voice. Or their inherent bossiness or self importance. Or they way they kiss the dice before every roll. At other times we just have a personality clash. The point is interpersonal relationships are never easy. They take work and they take sacrifice. Worse case scenario is to either go play in another group or *shudder* ask someone to leave.

Now, I would say to be VERY careful with asking players to bow out. Some real hurt feelings can result over that. And not only that if a player is voluntarily staying then he or she is probably willing to try and change. And it is a much more human thing to do to try and help a person improve or lead them to change than to just exclude and ostracize them. Most of us have been there and that is no fun, moreover it's just wrong.

Yes, there are certainly cases which require us to ask someone to leave. But I would say that warnings and conferences are due long before you reach that stage. Let the person know what they are doping and how it affects others and the play of the game. 9 times out of 10 they aren't even aware. If they fail to change, let them know this is sort of the last straw and if they can't at least try and change they may not be invited to the next game. But also keep a careful watch on everyone else's mood. The problem player may be driving out others left and right. Before your gaming group dwindles to nothing you better make an effort at either requiring a change in behavior or asking the recalcitrant player to be excused--permanently.

Lastly, it is always worth considering just what exactly is the problem. It is an annoying trait? Those are usually quickly dispatched with a few reminders. Or is it personality? we can always learn to appreciate others and make an effort to get along. Or is it that the player is inexperienced, doesn't understand the game , its spirit or its rules? Make allowances for that and teach by modelling and directly that fledgling gamer the better and more correct way to play. We were all there once, and some of us learn more slowly than others.

If you've been reading any of my recent posts, you know I've been struggling a bit with this lately. I'm not sure it's resolved either, but I'm working at it. Have I wanted to hang up my dice bag with this group? Yes. Have I wanted to kick some people out? Yes. Have I wanted to quit altogether? Yes. But I haven't. It only takes a few moments for these thoughts to run their course through my mind and then I start thinking about how to deal with it. Every situation is different and requires a thoughtful and sincere approach. I have found that that is usually the key to successful resolution of interpersonal differences. Oh, and prayer helps alot too.



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