On this site and elsewhere, tens of thousands of words have been devoted to the art of being a good GM. Tips, tricks, ideas, and strategies for improving your game abound, some valid, some not. But I sometimes feel as though in all that talk about running a better game, an equally (if not more) important part of the gaming experience is neglected. It's true the way in which a GM runs a game contributes a lot to its success or failure, but in the end it's the behavior of the players that really makes or breaks a game.
After twelve intense sessions things have culminated and you finally manage to corner the elusive 'Master Villain'. Your party engages him in combat, and before long you are fighting for your lives. The Ranger lets loose with his powerful Bow of Death, and rolls a 1. Next the fighter attacks with his massive two-handed Sword of Decapitation, and rolls a 1. Yep, we have all been there at one time or another. Some people say that dice are fickle, but I know the truth. They just need to be trained.
With the release of GURPS WWII, more campaigns than ever are based around soldiers, and an increasing number of players are stepping into the combat boots of military characters. One of the hallmarks of army life is the chain of command: the strict hierarchy of rank that determines every soldier's place and fate in the world. By contrast, most gaming groups interact as democracies (if not anarchies) and placing one PC above the rest is an unusual dynamic.
Gaming etiquette could be the single most important aspect of running a campaign. I will not rehash old stereotypes such as bathing before a game or eating all of the host's food. Instead, I have a slightly different perspective on gaming etiquette. I have discovered a few simple rules which could seriously affect a campaign for ill or good. While some people may grumble about a few of them, a player will respect a firm GM over a weak one no matter how much grumbling happens in the background.
It started out simply enough. One of our gaming crew had a roommate, Bob, who was thinking of getting involved in role-playing games. He had all the hallmarks of a potential RPG-er: he loved Lord of the Rings and was a fan of William Gibson, but most of all, he loved Star Wars. We were all interested in starting up a new game, so we sat down with Bob to find out just what kind of game he might be interested in.
It's the nature of gamers to want to get the most out of the characters they play. The experience of spending hours hunched over a blank character sheet and a Players' Handbook, trying to figure out just how to arrange those last few character creation points to make an indestructible fighter or an undetectable thief or an infinitely enlightened wizard, is common to just about all of us.
I am a gamer. I spend my evenings and weekends holed up in cavernous basement rooms consulting sourcebooks and to-hit charts, or running around parks and community centers in full makeup and costume playing rock-paper-scissors at various intervals. I spend my paycheck or my allowance on the latest games and supplements and mounds of polyhedral dice which have a way of turning up in the oddest places around my house or apartment. I have hundreds of stories about games I have played and characters I have known, some of which are actually interesting and funny to other people. I am a gamer, and this is how I spend my free time.
Most of the previous "weekly noun" articles at Gamegrene have focused on things that your characters might have but which players and GMs don't always include for whatever reason. Mine, however, is a little different. It looks at a background element that every character, by definition, must have, but that for whatever reason gets forgotten more than one would think. It's family.
I've been a Dungeon Master (DM) for a long time. In this time, I've seen several kinds of people take to the dice in the search of adventure. During character creation the choice of character class usually ends up with a fighter, a cleric, a magic-user/wizard, or a thief/rogue. These are the more common selections, the premier group. The process of stratification continues from the most to the least favored with the latter group including the ranger, the druid, and the illusionist.
Gamers in search of a group may sometimes feel like Christians in ancient Rome; you have to speak in code and be careful who you talk to, or before you know it you might be standing in the Coliseum being stared down by lions with a severe case of the munchies. No matter what, it's likely that you'll have to do some work, especially in areas where the hobby is less common, and many people have no idea where they should even start.