Note that the exclusive use of the masculine form is totally arbitrary…
10) That Guy
You know you’re in trouble when the Game Master starts ranting against the game he signed up to run. He obviously prefers another system but somehow agreed to run for a game he dislikes. The session is peppered with editorial comments on how this or that action/scene/resolution would have been handled in this or that other game. While common within the grand D&D family, I’ve seen it occur with fans of other games.
Don’t be that guy, run games you enjoy, and please leave your irritations at the door.
9) That Guy
The game is 15 minutes late because of missing players, and the GM completes setting up. Then he starts talking in a morose voice, obviously not wanting to be there. Chances are, the GM jumped on the occasion to score free admittance to the con (including possible free lodging) but realized late that GMing for 10 hours a day for the whole con wasn’t such a great deal. The game runs on autopilot, with minimal descriptions and a complete lack of enthusiasm on the part of the master.
Don’t be that guy, sign up for less or just skip the con if you can’t afford it.
8) That Guy
You signed up for one of those “learn to play’ game because you don’t know the rules but are eager to learn. The GM sits down, looks at the newbies (and veterans that brought new players) and says he’ll be using a bunch of undocumented house rules that his gaming group plays. “It just makes the game better”.
Don’t be that guy. You accepted to teach the game as is, within parameters set by the organizers. You are one of the most critical advocates of the game and even if you are an award-winning game designer, you MUST stick to basic rules. If you absolutely must, discuss your hacks AFTER the game.
7) That Guy
This one may be a tad bit more controversial, but I can’t bear a GM that signs up to run a game he doesn’t master enough to run. I’m not asking for complete mastery here, but I can expect not having to wait inordinate amounts of time while the GM frantically looks up rules. To a lesser extent, I don’t have a lot of patience for those who run adventures they haven’t parsed enough to run within acceptable delays.
Don’t be that guy. You can’t afford to be unprepared at an event people paid good money to attend. At least be familiar enough with the material to wing it.
6) That Guy
The last GM-only archetype of this list, the laid back “who needs pacing?” Guy is the scourge of con games. With a limited time slot and a table full of people, everyone expects to experience the best a game has to offer. In such cases, the last thing you want is someone who doesn’t speed things along when players flounder, are being too risk-adverse, or lose time roleplaying with every merchant to save 4 cp on a lantern. In the same vein, some GMs insist on seeing each combat encounters go to the very end, even when it becomes obvious that the PCs will win and it is just a matter of time.
Don’t be that guy. Keep things rolling, drop more hints, help stuck players along and know when a fight should be brought to an end.
5) That Guy
The GM revs up and the game starts. Everything is going along fine, until it’s time for Mr. Smartphone to play. Mr. Smartphone has grown such a symbiotic link to his phone he has to go back to it whenever he isn’t being actively solicited. This breaks immersion as the GM must always get the player’s attention. Now I’m not so naive as to expect people to leave their phones away during play, that boat as sailed a few years ago, but I really don’t appreciate those that clearly focus more on the phone than on what’s happening at the table.
Don’t be that guy. If you must absolutely stay on your phone or tablet, at least have the decency to pay attention to catch your turn before it comes around.
As a caveat, I’ve seen people, present company included, become that type of Guy when a convention game turns sour. This is often because some or several of the things outlined in this article occur. This is a common, passive aggressive way of dealing with what’s wrong at the table.
4) That Guy
…is a close cousin of the GM that doesn’t like the game he runs. He vocally announces that he’s never played the game he’s joining and likely heard horrible things about it. He often start rehashing some of the overblown generalities we all heard at game stores or on game forums. The worse thing about that type of player is they often obviously have fun during the session, getting into things and forgetting to bitch about the game… until the game ends and they start complaining about it again.
Don’t be that guy. If you decided to invest 3-4 hours in a game that you have heard bad things about or aren’t sure you’ll like, give it an honest try. Please keep your negative opinions to yourself please, the others have a right to experience the game from a neutral perspective too.
3) That Guy
The GM doesn’t have the time to start to introduce himself that this player starts talking over him, putting both hands on the Spotlight with no intention of ever.letting.it.go. This type of Guy has many flavours, from the extroverted Method Actor who insists on describing each sword strokes in excruciating details to the tactician that tells everyone how they should play their characters. Worse still is the one that patronizingly challenges everything you do. While not quite reaching the levels of the next guy (see below), this one can turn the rest of the table into wallflowers unless someone (usually the GM) takes active measures to rein him in.
Don’t be that Guy. Extroverts know they’re extroverts, and while it may take some efforts, if you MUST have your hands on the spotlight, at least help out by shining it on the other players. Become a cheerleader for the rest of the party, it is a lot of fun too.
2) That Guy
The Lone Wolf, the player type that is powered by unfiltered selfishness, pure douchebaggery or abject social skills. He gets a kick out of being the table’s outlier. The more harmless versions of that Guy constantly ask non-nonsensical, badly timed questions or always tries to do things that are so outside the rules the GM may become flustered and frustrated. In the middle of the range lies the impatient instigator that slices through any delays longer than 5 minutes with an action that puts everyone in mortal peril. At the extreme end of that range lies the ultimate game killer, the jerk just likes disturbing the social equilibrium of a group by sowing discord and being downright offensive (See #1 for a particular lethal combo).
I can’t really tell you not to be that guy, because if you are you wouldn’t get it or listen to me anyway. Others, stay tuned we’ll see what we can do after we deal with the next issue.
1) Any (Noun)-isms
I’m going to break form with my initial joke here because I care deeply about this one and I have yet to take a formal, documented stand on the issue.
My number one convention game/panel/discussion killer is any and I mean ANY kind of exclusionary behavior. Sexism, Racism and any form of discrimination or prejudice against the varieties found in our community (religion, sexual orientation, appearance, domains of interest, etc.) This is the kind of thing that gets me so riled up I will interrupt the game, point out the behavior and threaten to leave the table (or kick the offending player off if I run the table) unless the behavior stops cold. This is one of the greatest enemies of our hobby. This pushes potential players away from the hobby forever. I will even challenge people who make cracks at LARPers, Cosplayers and fans of sparkly vampires.
For the love of all things that are so awesome in RPG games, Don’t be that Guy*
What can we do?
If you are sitting at a table with such players/GM and you feel this will spoil your experience, you should bring it up. Explain, focusing on your point of view to prevent defensive behavior. Explain how this or that behavior or approach prevents you from enjoying the game. That might be daunting, but remind yourself that you invested money and time to be there, you are entitled to a good experience.
If that doesn’t work, feel free to just walk away from the game, go enjoy those hours somewhere else.
What’s your horror story?
I’m sure you had bad experiences. Feel free to share them here (don’t name people please), more importantly share your ways of coping with less than ideal games and how you can manage to save them.
I promise to restore balance soon and write another Top X post that focuses on things that make con games great.