Saturday, April 30, 2011

Be a better player. Article two.

GM - “The bartender hands you your drinks and points your group over to the corner booth as an answer to your question. A lone figure sits there alone in the shadows, most likely the contact you are supposed to meet.”

Player 1 - “I take my glass and give the bartender a nod and start to make my way over to the table.”

Player 2 - “Doing the same, staying right up behind him.”

Player 3 - “Looking up at the bartender 'So how long have you worked here?'”

Player 4 - “Heading for the table... you're what?”

GM - “You three start making your way over as the bartender looks at you (points to player 3). 'Long enough man.' he says in a grumbling voice.”

Player 3 - “Really, several years I take it?”

GM - “The bartender looks around wondering why you're asking 'Yeah....'. Meanwhile the rest of you make it to the booth as the man in a business suit looks at you with a cutting glance.”

Player 3 - “I always thought about being a bartender myself. How hard is it to get a job at it?”

Player 1 - “Ah hell here we go again....”

Have you seen that before? The guy that just wants to roleplay conversations with nearly every single NPC they run across in the game. It doesn't matter just how throw away they are, how clear the GM makes it that they are not important, or how much everyone tells them to move on. For some reason they just have to have that conversation and nothing will keep them from it.

Yeah that's the subject for this article. 'I want to talk to them' or 'Shut up and move on'.

Now in most game worlds there is a large population of people. They are the backdrop, the added bit of realism, all going about around the PCs either in crowds doing jobs or just standing around. The GM will point them out from time to time to fill in some world detail, usually the ones the PCs come into contact will be the main ones. Shop owners, deal makers, waitresses and such. Others are simply flavor to fill spaces. The crowds dancing at the clubs, patrons in a bar with drinks in hand and shoppers milling through a mall.

The point to remember is that most of these are the faceless masses. They have no names, no faces, no background. Simply there to provide flavor, to fill the void so the characters aren't walking through an abandoned empty world. Some are there to sell the characters that monoknife or repair their armor.

So why do some folks feel the need to walk up and talk with everyone of them? I mean seriously I've had players do that. They decide their character wants a cup of coffee and they want to get all in depth with the person behind the counter. This is while the rest of the group is waiting for them... and waiting... and waiting some more.

Okay here is the deal most GMs will make it painfully obvious who you need to talk to and who is there to interact with. Just watch for the ones with the extra flavor in their description, that's usually a clear sign. Why else would they go through the trouble of coming up with it for no good reason. This is a lot of the time they will walk up and talk to you and start the exchange. Others are so obvious the GM might as well tell you to talk to them.

Don't forget to look for the clues that you need to shut up and get back on track. If the GM is basically feeding you two or three lines and then going back to the rest of the party for a while that's a big one. Especially if they are all leaving you behind and going on with the adventure. When the entire group starts bitching at you about it... yeah that's another sign. These sound like common sense but you would be surprised.

So don't expect to have a long extensive conversation with the swamp snails in Talislanta and not be left behind. Try not to bog down the game on meaningless talk with the lady selling Silverhand Tickets at the booth in Cyberpunk. Just don't...

That's my bit o' rant for this time. Next time maybe I'll cover something like 'Nothing freaks my character out' attitude, or the 'I'll be there and not show up' syndrome.


  1. [that NEVER happens!] in [] to denote sarcasm, lol

  2. I think I'm THAT guy... sometimes.
    I suppose I get a feeling of immersion when I imagine that I can start up a conversation with any NPC I meet... or at least try to. It's one of the big differences between a 'real' RPG and a video game RPG... where there are the 'flavor' sprites walking around and the 'clue bearers' I'm SUPPOSED to talk to.
    It's not like I do it all the time... and when I do I usually have at least a slight notion of how it might progress the plot, if there is one.
    When I've been the GM and players have started up chats with insignificant NPCs I've just about always ran with it, and enjoyed it... maybe because I feel that part of my job is to offer up potential for distraction... vs. their trying to keep on the path. I mean, most locals don't care about their search for the Wand Of Tart Summoning... but if asked they're more than happy to talk about the weather and the big storm last year that carried off Frau Gutterhagen's prize heifer and how the Burgermeister always smells of rotting meat and... on and on.
    I guess it's a matter of taste.

  3. Some people have a need for random conversations in-game, especially if the game is pretty roleplay-lite and plot heavy. In so many games it gets to the point where you're really just Name + Class + Mannerisms because you never get to know the other PCs let alone any NPCs. What's your clerics hopes and dreams? Why'd the rogue take up stealing? Who was the wizard's mentor?

    These little details can really deepen the story though a lot of times the player might not even realise why they're seeking out such chats and so it devolves into talks about the weather because, well, it can get a bit awkward asking prying questions of near strangers.

    Everyone varies with their tastes in this, though, so sometimes it might be enough to develop a bit of a signal or come to an understanding that they get one or two random conversations a session and must remain focused aside from that.

    And, of course, there are players who have random chats simply to hog spotlight.

  4. Man, I think I love you after reading this! I keep ranting about stuff like these to my friends and they say I overreact and that I do not allow them to roleplay. They fail to understand that it is a team game, and you have to respect the others. And the others don't want to have to wait for roleplaying of no consequence.