It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to play D&D (curse you, real life!), but I have managed to consume many fantastic high-budget entertainment products (featuring stunning pieces of intellectual property) in the meantime. As I write for a gaming blog, this usually leads me to considering the various ways I can (and sometimes do) cause a trainwreck at my gaming table. So, without further ado, I present to you this collection of stuff that doesn’t work the same on the big screen as it does at your gaming table. Yes, I mean TV too. I have a big TV. If I play Super Mario Bros. on it, he’s taller than my kindergartener. Before mushrooms.
An increasingly large percentage of movies nowadays consist of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of explosions wrapped around less plot than a Friday night movie on Cinemax. They are extremely fun to watch, but a player subjected to three hours of explicit monologue about the awesomeness transpiring around his character is likelier to set the DM on fire. It could happen.
It also happens that the wilder the effects get, the more suspended the belief needs to become. Which brings me to my next point……
On one hand, movie directors have it made. No, I’m not talking about them being fabulously wealthy and being talked about on Reddit as the ancient Romans might have referred to Poseidon and Zeus (whose last movie was underrated). They don’t have half a dozen people ready and willing to tell them to their fact that their plot sucks and/or demanding that time be turned back to fix it.
On the other, a director can’t realize halfway through the movie that he’s losing the audience, changing things accordingly. So, in that sense, we are far more powerful. Take that, Zack Snyder.
I really wonder what playing a game run by Steven Spielberg would be like. Would the undead make the Spielberg Face when turned?
George R. R. Martinization
Yes, I watched Game of Thrones this week. No, I’m not going to spoil it and neither should you (because the pain it inflicts fresh is much richer and full-bodied).
That being said, I think the Awful Stuff that George R. R. Martin likes to do to his characters (and his readers) is something that should be handled with care at the game table. As I said before, the players are up close and personal, and this kind of stuff tends to get people emotional.
It’s one thing to, er, decorate a palace with one of the NPC’s. It might be a good means of motivating the players. That being said, I’ve noticed most of the people I play with want the, uh, adornment to be for a purpose (either plot-related or to their backstory) — especially if it’s a PC we’re talking about. Reupholstering the party’s mage just to show the players how crazy your bad guy is will likely cause more problems than people complaining on forums about you.
I really wish every episode of Game of Thrones started with the characters sitting around, eating pizza, and complaining about their day. And that every battle took two hours. And that people had more hit points. Except Joffrey.
I guess one-shot adventures need to be more like movies (where everything needs to get wrapped up in a hurry so the story is condensed and there are 3 or 4 major action sequences), and longer campaigns can be like seasons of TV shows (where time can be taken to tell stories and to have Christmas specials and Very Special Episodes and the good ones get cancelled way too often).
If only more shows used the 5×5 Method…..
I’m all for emotional connection in stories, but romance involving the PCs is a ticket on the express train to Awkward Plains, NE (with stops in Barfington, IA and Mockery Grove, KY).
I’m sure there are tables full of Actor-type RPG players out there who can pull this off, but I have yet to see a table that could take anything more than mild flirtation without Ye Olde Bawdy Humor making an appearance. When it is taken seriously the air tends to leave the game room and players’s skins crawl all the way off their bodies and into their cars where they play the radio until the battery dies. And then nobody gets to go home and people are late to work. It’s bad.
There are strategies for coping when someone decides to become more than kobolds at the gaming table.
When romance between a PC and an NPC happens, a little part of the DM dies. As players, you should respect this. Especially during roleplayed sex scenes, the standard protocol is basically that of dealing with a silverback gorilla. Do not, under any circumstances, look the DM in the eye.
If the player is the DM’s significant other, caution should be taken on both sides if roleplaying an in-game romance in private. Players should be aware that DMs will still be evil regardless of how many clothes anyone is wearing, and should still check for traps.
When two players decide to act out an in-game romance at the table, DMs are encouraged to let rocks fall until the situation normalizes.
A much safer way to deal with sex and romance in a D&D game is to handle everything out of game, and not to be very explicit. This is a fantastic time to ask the DM for permission, and then to write a tasteful love story. I still do not recommend looking the DM in the eye for a minimum period of four days.