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The Douchey DM » Advice, General Gaming, Opinion, Table Politics » Thou Shalt Not Play with Assholes

Thou Shalt Not Play with Assholes

Should subjective tabletop RPG rules be eliminated since they can allow the GM’s biases to influence the game? This rather hot topic has arisen lately, especially regarding mechanics where the GM can reward players for their role-playing. This discussion was started by site called Gaming for Women and we recently discussed it on an episode of the Happy Jack’s RPG podcast.

While misogynistic behavior was the main concern of the article, any time you allow the human element into activities it opens the door for prejudice. I will be the first to admit that this can lead to horrible situations in games and in gaming groups. However, I argue that this subjectivity is imperative to gaming and especially vital with reward mechanics. The human element is the reason we play tabletop games. Otherwise, we’d all just go play video games since they are available whenever we want and don’t drink all the beer when they come over. I have seen reward mechanics bring quiet role-players out of their shell and bring games to a whole new level. If a numbers mechanic regulated the use of rewards, rather than the GM, the same people would always get the bennies! Only the subjective judgement of a GM can evaluate the amount of effort a player is putting into the game.

Some people (read: self-proclaimed feminists) chimed in on my twitter feed and claimed that women may need all subjective rules to be eliminated in order to insure total fairness in all gaming groups. WTF? Seriously? I cannot begin to describe how insulted I was by the idea that women need rules to protect them in RPGs. If you are in a group where you need rules to protect you from a GM’s vindictive actions, get the fuck out of there! We play games FOR FUN! If you are playing with people who treat you unfairly based on your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, beer preference, or anything else, it isn’t going to be fun. Nobody should ever stay in any type of relationship (romantic, friendly, gaming, or otherwise) where the only thing protecting them from abuse is rules. Being empowered includes the power to remove yourself from a bad situation. Find another group, or start checking out online gaming options if the pickings are slim in your area.

Remember Kimi’s golden rule of gaming: thou shalt not play with assholes!

Kimi is an avid gamer, cosplayer, comic reader, and more! Follow her @LadyAdeena
or read her blog at goldenlasso.net!

Written by

Kimi GMs and plays tons of different tabletop systems, but her favorites are the Wild Talents, Savage Worlds, Traveller, and Pathfinder. She is a regular host on the Happy Jack's RPG Podcast , and attends conventions throughout California. Kimi is an avid cosplayer and also loves to make music with her folk band, The Merry Wives of Windsor. You can check out GoldenLasso.net to read more of her articles about gaming, costuming, comics, and more.

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5 Responses to "Thou Shalt Not Play with Assholes"

  1. JimToNo Gravatar says:

    Sadly, it took me a while to learn this one for myself, which is why i have many gamer horror stories.

    The very idea that women need subjective rules irks me. If **ANY** subset of group wants to be treated as equals in a gaming setting, giving them specials rules does the exact opposite. They are no longer equal, they now have their own special rules. This solves nothing.

    It really is as simple as Kimi says: “Don’t play with assholes”.

    Great post Kimi!

  2. Philo PharynxNo Gravatar says:

    I tend to be against special rewards because it tends to enforce the GM’s preferred style of play on the game. This bias, (along with most other biases) are often something subconcious and subtle. In these cases, having a rules set that bypasses this can help.

    Even leaving an asshole is complicated for people without access to other gamers. Is it better to have no gaming, or game with a mild asshole?

    1. Lady AdeenaNo Gravatar says:

      I believe that the player/GM relationship is vital. Like you said, most biases are subconscious. If a player truly feels that bias is impacting the fairness of the game, they need to have a private talk with their GM. I’d say that MOST GMs will take steps to correct the situation, be it by explaining their actions or changing their behavior. The player also has to realize that their GM is human and will screw up sometimes. There is a level of forgiveness and understanding necessary by both parties in this relationship, like any relationship.

      But yes, in a situation where the GM is just being an asshole, it’s better to not game. Maybe this is blasphemy, but no hobby is worth feeling bad about yourself. Most truly asshole GMs don’t need a reward system to make specific players feel excluded, so I’d argue that mechanics are inconsequential at that point.

    2. StuNo Gravatar says:

      I can definitely see circumstances when one would need to not use subject reward mechanics, but I’ve also see the quality of the play (and more importantly the fun around the table) skyrocket when such mechanics are used.

      Seems a shame to discount them out-of-hand.

  3. DerekNo Gravatar says:

    when i game with newer roleplayers, i encourage everyone at the table after a session to say their favorite moment, so its not as subjective as one person saying “this is how you should play” it allows the group to see what the others in the group enjoy. after a session or two, it quickly becomes about roleplaying moments rather than dice rolling.

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