I walk through the door and my olfactory sense is suddenly assaulted by the acrid odor of cat urine, but it quickly subsides, probably due to the fact that my olfactory epithelium has just melted and is pouring out my nose. I follow a narrow trail through trash, debris, and what must be discarded science projects, judging by the green and white fur that is growing upon (Petri?) dishes hidden under and piled atop the furniture. I arrive at the gaming table, err, gaming ottoman, where the cereal box battlemap (obviously drawn by a first grader) rests.
I sit upon the floor, because the sofa is being held hostage by soiled underwear and the cat whose urine greeted me at the door. I retrieve my character sheet, dice bag, and pencil only to find out that I must use the DM provided pre-gen, because the adventure is basically a railroad where I am forced to do the actions that DM tells me to do. What is worse, no one else owns their own dice, so mine end up being the community dice pool, and I still don’t know what happened to my metal d20.
I wake up in my bed, drenched in sweat over my nightmare, then I catch the scent of cat urine emanating from my clothes in the hamper two feet away…
This month’s RPG Blog Carnival topic, hosted by Critical-Hits, is Transitions & Transformations. The above has actually happened to me, though it is actually an amalgam of several different events. So, I want to write about the trepidations of finding new gamers, because I might be on the prowl for a group closer to home.
My current gaming group has nearly died, but I think it is being reborn from the ashes. The Great Edition Schism brought my group to its knees as the 3.x D&D grognards railed against the adopters and proponents of the 4th Edition of D&D.
I have been in self exile for a while now as I strove to manage the costs of overpriced gasoline, quality time with my wife and daughter, and the seemingly eternal maintenance that comes from being a home-owner. While I watched the gaming group fall apart from afar, I thought about finding a new group, or at least forming a new group closer to home.
So what is a solitary RPG gamer to do? Well some of the tools I am aware of include local gaming forums, publisher forums, MeetUp, ENWorld’s locater, RPG Life’s locator, and of course my FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store for the uninitiated). So I could probably find people…
But the question is will these strangers be up to snuff? Can they be an adequate replacement to my current (previous?) group? The answer to latter question is obvious, no. There is no way in hell a group can replace another group. Every group brings different perspectives, experience, and baggage with them to the table, so the experience is going to be different. The real question is am I willing to try different?
You see the problem is that I am often perceived as being an asshole. I tend to be blunt and I am direct. So if I do not like something, I say so, to your face. I am not usually cruel about it (though I can be), I’m just honest. I expect the same thing from others. You don’t like something I’m doing? Let me know and perhaps I will modify my behavior (except for being blunt, if you do not like that, tough shit). So if being honest, direct, and skipping all the politically correctness is being an asshole, then guilty as charged.
I am also accused of having high expectations that are too high (an elitist?). Indeed, as I grow older I continue to raise the bar (for myself as well as what I expect from others). Is this bad? Perhaps it is why I am often disappointed.
So back to the question, am I willing to try different? I’m willing to try different gaming systems, different styles of play, but I don’t know about different personalities at the table. The next question is if I am willing to sit with new people at the gaming table, are they going to be able to handle me? I’ve never been banned from a gaming group, unless MUDs count (if so, then once).
My need to game will eventually win out over my unwillingness to try different. So if my gaming group implodes, or the cost involved is too much to travel to game with them, then I need to modify my perception of people and learn to ignore things that usually irritate me. Something that is easier said than done.
Well that is my current dilemma and my thoughts on the subject. I also comprised a few questions that would help find the right group if or when I begin searching.
How well should I know the members of the group?
I think I need to know the preferred style of play of the group (role vs. roll, fantasy vs. sci-fi, more social vs. more serious). Knowing what refreshments, if any, are usually found on the gaming table is good. I would also like to know what pet peeves the group possesses (and if they commit any of mine). Also, are there any topics that members become easily offended or upset over (religion, politics, starving African children)?
How long does it take to get the full impression of a gaming group?
Speaking from experience, you’ll never truly know someone until you have spent years together and experienced high stress situations together. I’m not talking about interpersonal drama bullshit. I am talking about when people have to make choices that put their comrades’ lives at stake. But in order to learn most of the details discussed above, I think about three to four gaming sessions would give a complete picture.
What gaming systems does the group utilize?
This is important, because I may not really be into Rifts. If the group uses a system which has third party publishers, what content is allowed? Do they limit it to just the core books?
What is their experience level?
I am not speaking about their character levels, though that is also nice to know. I am talking about how well they understand their chosen system(s). How long have they used the system(s)? Have they ever tried different systems and which ones?
What house rules do they use?
Do they ignore or limit certain mechanics? Have they modified the system or created completely new mechanics? Do they substitute d12s for d4s (because dodecahedrons need lovin’ too)?
Where do they play and what are the expectations?
Does the group play in Mike’s basement, Bruce’s attic, or Will’s van? Do I take my shoes off at the door? Food and drinks are allowed where? No cursing because of the children. Is smoking banned or will I be sitting in a cloud of cancer?
I am sure I will think of ten more questions I would need to answer to be able to decide on the group. The main thing is can I like these guys and gals? I refuse to play with someone I do not like. I figure if I posted an ad at the FLGS, it would look something like this:
Fat Asshole in Need of Gaming Group
- Be local
- Non smokers (or at least outside-smokers)
- Open to new systems
- Possessing senses of humor
- Covered in pet hair, urine, etc.
- Religious Zealots
- D&D players w/o a battlemap
- Drug Addicts
- Extreme (as in gaming style)