Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Common Courtesy

When I was younger I used to get pretty miffed when people would commit to a game I was running, and then at the last moment bail. Sometimes it was cause to cancel, and sometimes it wasn't. But it was always disruptive in some way, shape or form.

We've all run games where we're NPCing a PC. It's no fun. Not for the DM (extra work), and not for the players (missing a comrade who might pull their bacon out of the fire). Either way, it's always better having the entire compliment of gamers at the table. Plus, heck, it's just a lot more fun having the whole gang there. After all, it is a social game, right?

As I grew older it became more and more difficult to schedule a game. People end up having commitments....that's reality. I get it. But there was an interim period there where people were approaching the game in a "sophomoric" manner while engaged in a more grown-up schedule. In other words, they'd often "forget" to call, or just plain old not show up. In high-school and college this was, while not commonplace, understandable. But as time moved ever onward, and we all had lives outside of gaming, it became a hassle.

Fast forward to today. Here we are, many of us are "grown up" with lives of our own. Some have families. Many have jobs and responsibilities. Those days of just not calling or showing up late (or not at all) w/out a word of warning, are plain ol not acceptable. Scheduling games is just not an easy thing anymore. But if you leave a whole gaggle of adults out to dry w/out any excuse or advanced warning, you're not making any friends.

How many chances should a person get before this becomes a hassle that is left by the wayside of life? My initial response is two. I would say, that if a person completely messes up twice and inconveniences a group of people to the extent that they're sitting around for hours twiddling their thumbs (and making calls to a turned-off cell phone), something needs to change.

If you haven't guessed yet, our DM bailed on us last night. This has NEVER happened to me. I know, odd. But seriously, in 30+ years of gaming, I've never had a DM just not show up w/ no word of warning. So we sat around last night chatting for about an hour and a half, then gathered up our things, walked outside to our cars, and drove away into the night.

With a simple phone call we all would have been mollified.


Anonymous said...

For quite a while our deal was that all the players had to call by around 7 or 8 Friday night to say whether they would be at the Saturday night game.

If you call and say you will or won't be there, and you follow through with that, you get bonus XP.

If you say you won't be there and you do show up, you just don't get any bonus. This prevents people from going safe and always saying they won't come.

If you say you will be there and you aren't, not only do you not get the bonus but you lose an equal amount, and your lost XP is divided by everyone else at the table.

Furthermore, the DM would never call people to let them know if the game was on or off. You had to call to find out. If you had called in any case, and the DM told you the status of the game, and the status changed, he would call you back then. But otherwise it was on you to call and make sure. We had a few times where a player who didn't call showed up and the DM just shrugged and said "no, sorry, there was no game tonight".

That said, the reward for playing is to get to play! If you couldn't be there but you called to say that, you'd still get your bonus XP. The XP reward was for calling, not for playing.

And a wishy-washy call of "I might play" was counted as a "no".

We kind of stopped the XP thing because we realized that the people who called anyway were still doing it, but the people who never called didn't start. So it didn't have its intended impact.

Now if a player says he'll be there and doesn't show, the DM makes sure to put in treasure that he would have wanted. While I'm against that sort of deck-stacking, I can understand the reasoning.

Gamer Dude said...

Interesting approach, to be sure. I have another group that I play with, guys who I've known for nearly all of my life...and we are pretty lackadaisical about our schedule for the most part. We get together only once a month and it's generally for socializing. D&D is just an excuse in that case. So while it's pretty uncool for someone not to show up w/out an excuse (some of us drive over an hour to get there...), it's usually not a game breaker (we've generally got up to 8 players at the table).

But when the DM bails...that's a bigger issue.

UPDATE: The guy apologized via email and said that his girlfriend was in a scooter accident and needed some TLC. That's all good...but what happened to a phone call to the 5 guys he just stranded?

Jeff Rients said...

I know it's lousy to bail with no word but if my wife was in an accident I wouldn't think about D&D night at all for quite a while.

Gamer Dude said...

You're right of course Jeff. If anything happened to either my wife or my daughters D&D would be a distant second...

I don't mean to sound like some kind of an asshole at all. I'm cutting the guy some slack, he's a friend and I owe him that. I might sound like I'm vilifying the guy, but, as with everything, there's more than one angle to this story.

Ripper X said...

The DM not showing up? Well that is a call for some goofy geeky movie night. The best geek nights involve D&D but sometimes we just got to chill out.

I remember one game that I was DMing, we ate dinner and then everybody got their stuff together. I no more then started to start the game when my dumb beeper goes off. Thankfully it was just somebody wanting me to order new meds at work, but it scared the crap out of me, I thought that I was going to get called in right then and there, which is the nature of my work.

That is the closest that I have ever bailed on any group. DMing is serious business, normally it is the players which complicate things. Folks who show up regularly, get special treatment! The logic is that you just can't trust someone who bails constantly to have a major role in the game.

Gamer Dude said...

Hey Ripper,

Yeah, it's aggravating at times, to be sure. Movie night is a good idea though. The big issue in this case was that the guy who was hosting the game had thrown his back out earlier in the day and was in serious pain. He didn't take any of his meds so that he was "clear" headed during the game...and he didn't want to cancel cause he thought that it would put people out. This is one seriously nice guy, I'm telling you.

Anyway, it's probably for the best that we didn't play anyway. This way the guy w/ the back issue got some time to medicate and seriously blob out and rest that back of his.

I'm going to start bringing my Castles and Crusades sandbox stuff in the car. If this happens again, we can play that instead.

So many options actually.


Christian said...

I was just having a conversation with a guy in the water about the number of times you let some jackass get away with burning you. Two is the number.

The first time, it might be a fluke. The second time, well, that person needs to be called out because at that point it's personal.

Sorry you got flaked on. Accident or not, guy should have called you on his way to his GF's place. Part of being an adult is being able to manage stress, emotion and responsibility.

Gamer Dude said...

Hey Christian,

Well, it all came to a head on Friday. Turns out that he went to a movie that night with said "injured" girlfriend. The tickets? He got them from the shop he works at...owned by one of the players. Ruh Roh Raggy!!

Think the owner / player might figure that one out? Yeah. So two of the players dropped out once they found out the depth of the deception. And then the DM dropped out himself as well. In short, that little maneuver cost us the group.

Ah drama...I hate it. All I want to do is play D&D.

Chgowiz said...

I had to do this last night. I was 5 minutes away from getting to the game store and got a call from my wife. We're raising our granddaughter and had an emergency. I flipped the car around, called the gamestore to tell them to hand out my apologies, called the one person without a computer, after I got home, I got to the group's email list and posted an apology.

I still feel like an ass, I hate canceling last minute. The emergency wasn't as bad as originally thought, but when it's family or illness, there's just things that happen. I still feel guilty though.

Gamer Dude said...

Hey Wiz...

I absolutely know what you mean. I've been on both sides of the coin.

So that you guys know what's happened, everything's been patched up. The guy came and apologized to each of us individually and we're nearly back together.

I say "nearly" because we're not going to be playing D&D 4E in the near future. A couple of the guys just want to do something different. So, I've been asked to run a C&C game! Which is cool.

So there is something good that comes of this whole debacle.

Chgowiz said...

That's cool - I hope you guys have an awesome game.