J is for Jerks
From the Dictionary of Fearless Gaming.
For Andy, Vera, and you who need to see this.
I co-ran a workshop at a convention back before the pandemic began. It was a round table of talking about the hard stuff in running games. From mechanics to social issues. The thought was if there are ten folks in the talk, there are ten other experiences and possible solutions to a thing. It was a good event. Toward the end, an attendee made more of a confession than a problem statement. They had an experience, a rough one, and I feel like they were still trying to get a grip on it. The other attendees came through for that person with so much support… more than anything I alone could have said. That person watched two jerks in a past game bully another person and wasn’t sure what they should have done but did nothing at the time. I heard they regretted doing nothing and couldn’t put that event, that inaction, to rest —but I’m no doc.
Sitting down and playing games with folks, strangers or not, is an intimate thing. We get changed for good or ill. Playing games is also a luxury. Don’t cheap out on them. It is your time, your energy —you can’t get a refund on those things. I don’t piss in other folk’s cereal, but I do need to know the tone of the game we’re about to play; I’m not in for bonkers and zany. I’m not in for rules lite if that means we’re not using the rules of the game. I say this from the same place where I don’t like okra or Harry Potter. We know plenty of folks love that stuff. It’s all good. Just not for me. Be stingy with your game time. I got a finite amount of time for games, I want to enjoy as many of them as I can with as many friends and strangers as I can. I don’t have time for games I’m not going to enjoy or games with hostile, janky jerks —and you don’t either. Here’s something else, the more age these folks we’re at odds with have, the more likely it is you’re not going to change their disposition. I’m here for the game experiences.
I joke that Burning Wheel RPG broke up my 3e D&D group…truth is, we had problems before I brought that game to the table. I still live in the same city as those jerks, I’m civil with the ones I run across. We just don’t game together anymore. I’m telling you that need to hear this, You can leave. You’ll find another group —no doubt. In that new group is a shot at better game experiences. One of my closest gaming friends and friend IRL came from me finding a new group to play games with and easily a half-dozen more great friends from that move.
“But I’ve been friends with these folks since Moses.”
That’s a real quote I got from a friend asking for advice. Lots of fears are packed up in that statement. You leave that group, you find a new group. Re-engage those folks outside of games and see what’s what. You might still be friends, just not the kind that game together. Real easy for me to say, but my friend has to do the work. It’s scary, sad, and non-trivial. I promise you, it is worth it.
“The way it works is you do the thing you're scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.” -Major Gates
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