Gamers Who Rockby Jason Sartin
Gamers Who Rockby Jason Sartin
Gamers Who Rock
by Jason Sartin
We hear all about the gamers who suck - the power-gamers, the railroader gamemasters, the perpetually unwashed social retards, the apathetic losers who agree to your games but can never bother to actually show up, the idiots who take "Your character will be insane" to mean "Your character should run around naked screaming things like 'MY NAME IS ALLAH AND I HAVE A TEN FOOT PENIS!!'", and the fanboys who are such braying morons that you can't help hating whatever their game of choice is.
But what about the ones who rock? I'm sure I've left some out, but:
Gamer Couples Who Don't Insist On Bringing Their Screeching Accidents To The Game. Because not making me wish I brought a gun before the game's even started is just common courtesy.
Kid Gamers. On the other hand, gamers who happen to be kids are pretty cool. No, they can't play on YOUR level, but they will - unlike many kid pastimes, role-playing can survive childhood.
Storytellers. These gamers have more stories about their past games than they do anecdotes about their family. Granted, many gamers who tell you about their games are annoying losers, but this individual has the amazing power of making their stories actually entertaining, even if (indeed, usually because) they're describing the most disastrously stupid game you've ever heard. Indeed, their approach is almost invariably based on humor, rather than the usual chest pounding about the most badass or angst-ridden thing their 100th level or third generation character did. It doesn't matter if their stories are never 100% true to what actually happened...it's still fun to hear about.
"Oh, wow, you're into that, too." Because it's so pleasantly surprising when you're getting to know your seemingly normal coworker/roommate/drinking buddy/favorite prostitute/whatever and discover that they're a gamer of the non-annoying variety. Granted, 90% of the time, they don't like the same games you do, because you're much more "hardcore" about gaming than they are, but whatever. You can give, right?
On Parole For My Past Life Guy/Girl. I'm not sure how many of us have run into gamers like this, but I sure as hell have. Everyone falls victim to a night of crappy die rolls now and then, but this hapless gamer's night lasts the decade round. Most likely, they did something in a past life that was definitely bad, but not bad enough to warrant reincarnation as a cockroach. Instead, they have to be the gamer incarnation of Murphy's Law, somehow forever unable to roll worth a damn on anything that even remotely matters. A Dex + Shoe Tying roll? No problem! Carjacking a car the group doesn't really need? Maybe. Quietly picking the lock on a door (without slashing their own wrist open) so everyone can sneak attack Insane High Priest Whatsisass before the sanctimonious jerk can summon Cthulhu's angrier, older brother? No way in hell. Amazingly, Past Life Guy/Girl displays a remarkable ability to keep characters alive despite their ever-lengthening records of blatant failure and self-inflicted worst-case scenarios. Even more amazingly, they remain a good sport about it. Sure, this kind of bad luck can be disruptive, but you have to admire their resilience at playing despite such an obvious handicap, and things are less boring when they're around.
Above-Average Guy/Girl. Being a gamer is one thing. Gaming like you care is another. I don't mean being an obsessive moron who talks about gaming ALL THE TIME, tries like hell to wring every possible advantage out of a system, and then whines when their character dies anyway. I mean putting actual effort into making the game enjoyable for everyone, not just yourself. Yeah, even when you know that with the current mix of players, the campaign will self-destruct in three weeks, tops. You might help the gamemaster by actually having a backstory and motives for your character (after all, it's easier to make non-generic and thus non-boring plots if they know what's in your past and what you care about) - one that's actually interesting is best, but if not, what the hell. This is gaming, not novel-writing. Or you might turn in a fun performance as your character (you did make them someone who's worth paying attention to, right?) - sure, not all of you have the style or acting skill to do things that will amaze your fellow players for months to come, but I refer you to my earlier "what the hell" comment. Or maybe you'll just do something simple like buy your own damn book, be willing to try a new RPG, postpone a huge argument over the rules so the evening won't get derailed, or bring drinks for everyone. Anything that shows you have an interest in actually making this fun counts, and means you rock!
Veterans With Actual Social Skills. These may be gamers who've been at it for longer than you've been alive, or it may be someone like most RPGnet denizens - not necessarily old, but has taken the effort to learn about a lot of different RPGs. Either way, they have a passion for gaming, probably own an enormous collection of games you've never heard of, and are willing to tell newcomers anything they want to know. Hell, if you're lucky, they might even loan you some of their more interesting stuff. Of course, all this only works if they aren't social retards. But the ones with actual social skills are great, as they have a lot to teach (and are socially aware enough to only lecture about gaming when you *want* to hear about it) and can make new gamers feel at home in record time.
Long-Distance Gamers. Being antisocial, I hate meeting new people. But it's much less annoying when they're people I "know" from online and already like, at least when they're just as cool in person. Meeting them year after year at conventions or wherever (and having them buy you all the drinks and engage in all the sex they've promised you) gives you something to look forward to whenever it turns out that you have to live for another year. Of course, the fact that online gamers are the only players some of us even have makes them nice, too.
Gamemasters. Playing the part of an entire world isn't as hard as you might think when you phrase it "playing the part of an entire world", but there's still about a million ways it can go wrong. Hell, if all your players are employed, even getting them all in one place on the same day might be hard. Gamemastering is a largely thankless bitch, and while there's a world of difference between a merely competent gamemaster and an outstanding one, anyone who's succeeded in actually entertaining a group of players week in and week out deserves a round of applause. (Especially if they don't even demand that you bring your own damn food or say things like "No, I'm not a 'gamemaster', I'm a STORYTELLER". Blah.)
Stubborn Bastards Who Play Their One True Game Forever, Amen. Some RPGs never die, because they have gamers like these to keep them alive. Sure, continuing to run campaigns, websites, and mailing lists in the face of out-of-print-ness won't return the game to print often enough to constitute even 1% of the time, but what the hell. I have a soft spot for anyone who refuses to let a good premise, setting, idea, or system fade away. And while it may be kinda sad, depending on how you look at it, let's face it - enjoying dead RPGs requires much less help from nostalgia than enjoying dead video games.
Fan Content Providers. These are the fans and professionals who write reviews and columns, draw comics, make websites, run mailing lists, contribute to magazines, volunteer at conventions, and otherwise create content that - while not necessarily RPG products in and of themselves - give the fans that much more to enjoy and, as such, help keep gaming alive (at least, the ones that don't actually suck do). It's because of one of them, after all, that you're getting to read this at all.
Industry Professionals Who Happen To Not Suck. One of the best parts of going to conventions is meeting game designers and artists, even when they're not running demos, offering special deals, or otherwise doing anything of interest when you see them. Lots of them are in this industry because they love gaming, and it shows. They're usually helpful, willing to happily mingle with fans, and have an even chance of at least trying to enjoy your anecdotes about playing their game (hey, I still have my signed Fading Suns 2nd ed where Andrew Greenberg wrote "Enjoy more Torture skills!"). Even outside of cons, they're worth a lot - role-playing is a remarkably friendly industry, and its pros have been very generous with advice to newcomers who bother to ask them. Granted, a few game designers are asses, but the non-asses are worth your time - and money.
Rebecca Borgstrom. Rebecca is a nice enough example of the above category to be mentioned separately.
Game Designers Who Sucked But Got Over It. Most game designers who make asses of themselves will stay in Idiot Mode for the duration of everything. But on rare occasions, they'll evolve out of it. Imagine my surprise when Todd King had a positive reaction to me after I wrote a 15,000 word review trashing his beloved SenZar, or when the much-hated Raven c.s. McCracken offered to send Darren MacLennan a free copy of The Ultimate Adventurer's Guide after Darren wrote the most caustic, personally insulting review of World of Synnibarr I've ever seen. While that doesn't mean you have to start liking their games, I can appreciate it.
New Gamers Who Actually Get It. This is probably a good-natured friend who tried gaming to humor you, but took a shine to it. This guy or girl is great because they don't have the bad habits that plague more problematic gamers, thus allowing you to easily mold them into whatever passes for your ideal gamer. They don't ignore your advice or warnings, don't argue with you on the rules, don't try to create ass-numbingly stupid characters that never fit, don't feel resentful if someone else's character is more badass, and don't throw colossal hissy fits when they screw up badly (or don't get the rilly kewl whatever the party just found). Better yet, they ask this-is-interesting-tell-me-more kinda questions about your game's setting (even if your game is, swear to God, frigging SenZar), their closeness to you makes it easy to determine what will and won't go over well with them, and they can be persuaded to at least try new games. Sure, they aren't the most fascinating or colorful role-player (most of their characters are just variants of their real life personality), but they're non-dysfunctional and will actually show up for games. What more do you really need?