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Wandering Damage III

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On June 4, 2008 @ 7:32 am In Crock Pot | 9 Comments

Random Thoughts on Gaming, Gamers, and Other Things.

Every now and then, I’ll hear or think of something that seems cool, but isn’t worth an entire blog post. When I collect a few of these nuggets o’ wisdom (or dross), I’ll post ‘em here under Wandering Damage, along with something amusing or geeky I overheard at Gen Con.
-Telas
  • Game mastering is an art form. Don’t let any overeducated elitist tell you any differently. If so-called artists regularly had to structure their art around unstable factors like player characters, repaint entire vistas on the fly, and balance all of the disparate elements that make up gaming, all for the pleasure of a nonpaying audience of less than a half-dozen people, there would be far fewer galleries in the world.
  • An adventure may well contain a moral, but it should not push an agenda.
  • A minute spent goofing off at the table is a minute not spent gaming.
  • All of the GMing advice or game theory in the world is useless unless you actually get behind the screen and run a game.


Things Overheard at Gen Con:

  • “I would have taken an earlier flight, but I had to get my comics.”
  • “A golf cart would kick ass right now.”

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."




9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "Wandering Damage III"

#1 Comment By arthurb On June 4, 2008 @ 7:38 am

A minute spent goofing off at the table is a minute not spent gaming.

That’s true, but I’m not convinced that goofing off at the table is a bad thing. I’m a GM, not a school teacher: if everyone’s having fun talking about the latest episode of Heroes or something I’m not going to get all huffy about it. While I do like to make sure the game keeps moving, I don’t get all “We’re here to play, damnit! We’ve got to cram as much gaming as we can into the session!” – I like to have half an hour of shooting the shit before we get down to business, and I don’t mind if we go off on tangents occasionally (my players are quite good at not doing so in the middle of important scenes, so it’s not atmosphere-wrecking).

The more gaming feels like work, the more we’re missing the point, and having someone coughing and insisting that we stick to the business at hand reminds me of stuffy business meetings.

#2 Comment By ChattyDM On June 4, 2008 @ 8:01 am

I’m with ArthurB on this.

I’m of the cheetoism school (We are together to have fun, shoot the breeze and eat snacks together). The gamke used to be a lot more important, but now it’s the social glue that binds us.

It is important… but goofing off (talking about series, movies and watching youtubes) is now part of our experience.

However, goofing off while in the middle of a scene whne most players are ‘in it’ is frowned upon.

That being said, the artist as GM comparaison is pure gold!

#3 Comment By Micah On June 4, 2008 @ 8:08 am

Amen about the morals vs agendas. I’m a bleeding heart liberal, but when I get to the gaming table, it’s to kill bad guys without thinking too much about it. I don’t want to get in a strange alternate-reality debate about same-sex marriage or racism or that sort of stuff. I game to escape the real world.

On the flip-side, I do like to insert some ripped-from-the-headlines type stuff into the game (suicide bombers, terrorism, drug use, etc) since the players can instantly understand and react to it. Still, when I do use these elements, it’s usually with a simplified good vs evil stance to it so the players don’t have to think too much. None of the whole “the kobolds come from an impoverished social class, so it’s not their fault they’ve turned to a life of selling drugs”

Sell drugs = evil = roll for initiative.

#4 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On June 4, 2008 @ 8:15 am

Wow, quick replies!

On the “goofing off” thing: it’s okay to goof off; we all do it.

My BA in Economics just wanted to point out that there is an opportunity cost for doing so. ;)

#5 Comment By ChattyDM On June 4, 2008 @ 8:35 am

Argh… slayed by economics! :)

#6 Comment By DNAphil On June 4, 2008 @ 9:30 am

It’s worst for you Philippe as Telas’ opportunity cost is in American Dollars.

#7 Comment By brcarl On June 4, 2008 @ 10:26 am

Re: morals vs. agendas
I dropped out of one group a little over a year ago because the DM seemed intent on making all of the player’s moral choices quite ambiguous. While I respect his interest at exploring ethical issues via gaming, I’m an escapist at the table. My tough choices should be things like “axe vs. sword” or “wand vs. potion”, not “current authority vs. social justice.”

Re: goofing off
The quote, as stated, strikes me as a bit harsh. Like others have said, most groups accept or even encourage some degree of non-gaming fun at the gaming table. Where it becomes a problem for most groups is when some people want to game at the same time that others want to goof off. That kind of thing can be solved with (everyone together now!) a good social contract.

#8 Comment By David Reese On June 4, 2008 @ 11:30 am

I think it’s interesting that the avoiding agendas point comes up in the same post that emphatically states that game mastering is an art form.

I agree that it’s an art form, and I would say that playing a character is also one, but it makes me wonder about the agenda bit…

It seems like there’s a lot of good art that has some agenda to it. Protest songs, spirituals, even graffiti (like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/filippominelli/2046317179/) all come to mind. If running a game is a legitimate art form, why would games shy away from such topics?

Now, certainly, this is a social contract issue: if your group doesn’t want morally ambiguous moments, or if they think you’re going overboard, that’s another story. But I appreciate the long tradition of speculative fiction exploring and questioning social assumptions, and I like to play with that a bit in my game.

Maybe the difference is in raising questions rather than pushing forward an agenda…

I could get more post-modern and suggest that all created worlds push forward some kind of agenda, it’s just that some are more blatant/conscious than others, but I won’t go into that here. :)

#9 Comment By Martin Ralya On June 4, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

I’ll be the Lone Voice of Dissent (TM) and say that I view GMing as a craft, not an art or a science — though it’s a craft with a heavy dose of art and a small dose of science involved. OK, now that just sounds like a cop-out definition… ;)

This is my favorite Wandering Damage so far, and I like the list format.


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