Table Manners

My policy is that I don’t talk real world politics on my gaming blog and related social media. The companion YouTube video is here.

That being said, to all who don’t get it, manners and basic human decency are NOT politics.

“Famous” people on the news, such as celebrities and politicians and their heinous behavior, if they don’t have a connection to TTRPGs are out of the scope of my blog.

However, when there are people at game conventions or involved in other aspects of the TTRPG world acting in ways that shed a bad light on the game, that is within the purview of my blog. I want more players. Women want to play the game, not fend off creeps. 51% of the population should not be discouraged from playing. The more players, the easier it is to play, and the longer campaigns and game groups will last.

NOTE: I am not “vaguebooking.” I am intentionally leaving out specific names and situations to address this in a way that will endure. This is a first step. I have not yet decided how to approach the topic of specific individuals whose names and actions have been called out on various social media. I will say that I am greatly disappointed and saddened to learn of these things. I am not afraid to speak truth to power. I want my words to be clear and direct and on point. I have spent hours on this post. All after writing a rant to get it out of my system so that I can get to the point of TABLE MANNERS at the game table. This has been on my mind for some time, and I worked very hard to stay on point and not address places where I am sure someone will take issue with what I said or the way I said it.

As my mother often said, “Common sense ain’t so common.” This is true of too many men when it comes to interacting with women, other men, and people who self-identify in ways that “real men” think they are compelled to try to be the alpha male.

Unfortunately, we need some ground rules for general decent behavior.

Table top RPGs exist as a means of entertainment, and social gathering. That is, they are meant to be FUN for ALL participants.

If you are a GM, don’t let your players be jerks to each other. If you have not yet mentioned this at your table, and it comes up, then you give the offender one chance (depending on how blatant and heinous it is), and clarify your table rules. The next time, must be the last. To avoid stumbling into this issue, bring it up *before* it happens in your current group(s). Make it a basic rule mentioned up front when you have a new group. Use it at conventions, if you run convention games, or at the FLGS is you run games in a store.

If you are a player, say something. Defend your fellow player from the harasser. If the GM is the harasser, the entire table should call it out. If it happens after that, get out. Before it happens, mention to your GM that you’d like a blanket rule for the table. If the GM resists, then it isn’t the table for you.

If you are the player who is being harassed, if it is the GM, call them on it. If no other player supports you, get out. If it is another player, ask the GM and other players what they’re going to do about it. If they do nothing, or sadly, side with the offender, get out. If the GM and players come to your aid, and they can work it out so that you feel safe and comfortable to stay, then you have the option to stay. I suggest going to your GM before you join in, to ask for a clear no-nonsense table rule about harassment of others.

If you are the GM and are being harassed, if no players rise to your aid, and the offender is “oblivious” when you call them on it, then you should end the game. If other players call them out, try to work it out so this is the last time. BEFORE this happens, make this a table rule.

In all of the above cases, if it happens again, the offender should be the one to leave.

In summation, here are specific suggested TABLE MANNERS you can use at your table:

  1. We are here to have fun.
  2. Everyone is to respect everyone else at the table.
  3. Harassment of any kind is not tolerated. Comments about appearance or personal traits are not allowed.
  4. Player vs. Player/PC vs. PC actions are not allowed. The group of player characters is a party that is working together. NOTE: There may be valid reasons of game mechanics where a character goes against the party, such as being charmed by an NPC wizard. There may be a reasonable way that a character does something harmful to the party. If it is something that the whole group finds reasonable and acceptable, that is OK. Other than a character being under magical or other influence, I don’t have a good example. However, things come up in game play that no one can foresee. [If anyone has other good examples, let me know.]
  5. If you feel you have been treated unjustly by the GM or another player, please let us know. That is not OK. NOTE: This is NOT about rule interpretations or game mechanics. This is only about common respect and decency. Any rule interpretation/game mechanic that goes against common respect and human decency should not even have an opportunity to be an issue. The tricky part is when this happens after the game, or between sessions.
  6. Add in your own rule for the line in the use of language that suits your intended pool of players: G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.

If you want a game that have player vs. player or “adult” themes, these rules still apply. Number 4 will need revision to suit that style of game. All the players and GM should be on the same page about what form of role play is too far. Other than a general rubric to ensure that all are INFORMED and CONSENTING adults with mutually agreed behavior rules, I don’t know what to add. That is not a style of play that I would find interesting, so I can only mention it generally. I leave the details of this aspect to those who want to play that type of game.

My Table Is Open

I don’t care who you are, what you look like, your opinions on politics, religion, or any other category you can think of. If you want to play a game that I am running, are there to actually play the game, and will treat everyone there with respect, you are welcome at my table. I have played with people who I know have vastly different opinions on some things than I do, and we have had fun.

These rules should also inform our public, private, and online behavior. For example, when messaging a woman, who plays in an online game on Twitch, comments about her appearance have nothing to do with the game, unless she dressed up for the part. Comments should be on point, and related to the presentation of the costume and the game. Trolling and other behavior that proves one to be a sphincter is contrary to being a good ambassador of the game. 

It is such behavior both in and out of the world of gaming that has led to all women groups with women GMs. Understandably they want to feel safe to play a game they love, or to discover a game they are curious about. Ideally, every table should be open to everyone that wants to play game X in genre Y. Since we do not live in an ideal world, those who don’t like the idea of a table limited to women need to get over it. That is a sign that there is something wrong.

It may not be you or your group that does this, but some sphincter somewhere did something that lead to this. Instead of complaining about all women games, complain about the idiots that ushered so many women into wanting that type of play environment. If you want every table everywhere to be open to everyone, then call out bad behavior.

Whether you use my suggested table manners, or your own variation, it should be clear that there is no room for violations once the rules are shared and agreed to. This should be true at conventions, game stores, private homes, or online.

The goal is for all at the table to have fun, and be waiting in anticipation of more fun at the next session.

I welcome CONSTRUCTIVE criticism of my suggested Table Manners.

Review – Lost Hall of Tyr

I received a pre-release copy of The Lost Hall of Tyr, by Doug Cole of Gaming Ballistic, currently in the middle of a Kickstarter with 16 days to go. It reached the base funding goal yesterday. I am late with my review dues to my computer dying. Now that I have the replacement up and functional, I was able to read this 52 page PDF.

This is a Norse/Viking based setting. Doug has written many articles on his blog, in recent months, about his work with a Viking/Norse re-enactment group. They study history and martial arts based on Viking weapons and armor.

Doug developed this from a scenario he ran at GenCon 50, back in August. It allows the players to engage in grappling with encounters, should they desire it. The grappling mechanics are based on his 2016 Kickstater, Dungeon Grappling. It is a D&D 5e adventure for four to six characters between 3rd and 6th level. NOTE: I am a big fan of his model for grappling as seen in my review of Dungeon Grappling. I have follow up reviews of the final PDF, book, and eBook here.

The introduction makes clear that this is a scenario designed to showcase Dungeon Grappling. It is also set in the world of Etera, which is the setting for the forthcoming Dragon Heresy RPG.  Three ideas in bullet points makes suggestions for incorporating this adventure into an existing campaign.

The first 30 pages are the adventure. There are three pages about wilderness travel and weather. Fourteen creatures are presented in the bestiary section, with one per page. The final two pages before the OGL are quick-start rules for grappling.

The various stages of the journey to retrieve the mcguffin weavean interesting adventure in a Norse inspired world. It is not all combat, or more specifically of the hack and slash variety. There are some twists on creatures from how they are often presented in RPGs, making them new creatures. There are a lot of ideas in here that one could pull out and use in their own games. Several of these ideas can be used with any genre and ruleset.

What I liked:

  • The layout, background image/color, and font are easy to read on screen.
  • There is a hazard table for random occurrences for the overland journey.
  • He has an interesting mechanic for how to deal with a rickety rope bridge.
    • In addition to the bridge itself, several methods of crossing the bridge or crossing in other ways are suggested.  Skilled players will be able to come up with other ways to cross.
  • Another interesting mechanic is included for dealing with river rapids. After a certain number of failed checks to avoid drowning, an individual enters “combat” rounds with the river and takes damage for each round they fail to keep their head above water.
  • Several of the encounters are for creatures that will attempt to grapple, giving the opportunity to use the grappling rules.
    • There is a quick start of the grappling rules.
    • Each creature in the bestiary includes their grappling stats. Player characters will need to calculate their grappling stats. I would recommend doing so as part of character creation or for pre-gens the GM supplies.
  • The pages on wilderness travel bring in realistic amounts of food and water requirements.
  • Since mountains are involved there are mechanics for dealing with climbing. An example is also provided.
    • It includes methods for avoiding falls, and how to save yourself or others from a fall.

What I’d like to See:

  • Since this is a pre-release and not the final PDF, it has several issues with missing words, or words out of order. I know these will be addressed in the final copy.
  • There is no table of contents, but like in Dungeon Grappling, I know it will be hyperlinked to the different sections.
  • There are placeholders for many pieces of art and all the maps, so the layout is basically complete.
  • I did not see anywhere in the PDF what number and level of characters this adventure is for. This is a helpful piece of information to know when selecting it for ones players or creating pre-gens for one-shots or convention play.

Conclusion:

I backed the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter because I liked the initial grappling rules from The Manor #8, as mentioned in the review I linked above. Doug does good work, and gives regular updates after the close of the funding campaign, and delivered three months ahead of the delivery deadline. Based on that experience, I would expect similar efforts to deliver this Kickstarter.

This is a neat adventure that gives one lots of ideas for running a hexcrawl style scenario in 5e. If you are a fan of the OSR and are curious about 5e, this will fill that need. For those wanting to see an adventure with dungeon grappling baked in, this is your chance. For 5e fans that wander about old school style of play, this guides them through the process.

I find this an imaginative way to blend the Norse mythology and the fey of that mythos with 5e and the dungeon grappling mechanics. I am curious about the art and maps missing from the pre-release PDF. For $7 you can get the PDF, and $20 gets the PDF and softcover. There are tiers for multiple copies. All backers get their name in the credits.

 

 

RPG Community Spotlight

I have slowly been dipping my toes into YouTube as another creative outlet for my RPG ideas. Like most, I have been a long time subscriber to various channels that interest me. Today, I’d like to focus on highlighting four RPG related YouTube channels and what they have to offer. If you are not already following them, check them out and see if their content is useful to you. I have a companion YouTube video here.

Bill Allan

Bill Allan
Bill Allan

Bill Allan covers a variety of RPG topics, from cons to building terrain. He has a background in television and video production, so he makes high quality videos. His skills led him to take the lead in the live feed of the Maze Arcana events at Gen Con 50. Bill is also very helpful in sharing his knowledge so other You Tubers can improve their videos.

His various videos from Gen Con 50 were very cool for those like me, who weren’t there. Being able to see a bit of the museum showing the history of Gen Con and RPGs and other table top games was very interesting and satisfying.

Here he discusses how to run monsters in RPGs. A few helpful hints, and perhaps a few you haven’t thought of.

You can find Bill on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Vimeo.

7D System

Gareth Q. Barrett - 7D System
Gareth Q. Barrett – 7D System

Gareth Q. Barrett has two channels, I’ll focus on 7D System today. The focus for this channel is Gareth’s 7D System, but there is a lot of system agnostic content here. He produces high quality videos with music and all the fancy things one comes to expect from a YouTube video. He is also very generous in his sharing of tips to help YouTube newcomers improve their own videos. There are a lot of ideas and insights here.

He is a talented artist, and produces some impressive drawings on camera. Check out his Monsters for RPG Games playlist.

Gareth likes to mix things up so you never know what manner of speaking you’ll find from him. I really like his video on minor changes to the way you speak to help roleplay different characters – Acting and Voice Acting.

You can find Gareth and 7D System on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.

Questing Beast

Ben Milton - Questing Beast
Ben Milton – Questing Beast

Ben Milton is a regular and prolific producer of quality content on multiple internet outlets. He has done a lot of reviews of games and modules. Actual books are presented onscreen and their pros and cons are highlighted.

He has also developed his own simple and free RPG in the OSR minimalist style, called Maze Rats, available as PWYW. He has a love for the OSR and it shows in his posts and videos.

As a school teacher, he works with kids in an after-school RPG program, playing in the old school style. He shares his experience and how the kids learn and evolve through play.

Ben is a talented artist and has done some cool maps and has videos showing how he does particular map features. He also does maps for commissions.

Recently, he started interviewing other creators on YouTube in a series called Old School Academy. His first guest was Zak Smith.

He is very active on OSR topics on Reddit, G+, and Facebook.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, Art Station for his maps, Tumblr, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.

WASD20

Nate Vanderzee - WASD20
Nate Vanderzee – WASD20

Nate Vanderzee has a broad spectrum of RPG videos on his channel. One series is on teaching people how to play D&D 5e from scratch. He assumes zero roleplaying experience, and no familiarity with the rules. His strong onscreen presence reassures the viewer that he knows his stuff.

As with anyone teaching something new to others, he assumes no prior knowledge. Many of his videos can be applicable to teaching the basics of any RPG.

Nate also draws maps, has unboxing videos, reviews, DM & player tips, miniatures & crafts, and shares about video games. He also does maps on commission and has a regular map drawing livestream. He has the site Sellsword Maps if you want to see examples of his work.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+, and his blog. He also has a Patreon.

OTHERS

I want to make a quick shout out to Jorphdan (the ph is silent) for mentioning me in his YouTube video spotlight.

Jorphdan has a channel dedicated to the lore of the Forgotten Realms. His intro video is hilarious and sets the tone for what you can find there.

His other series are about D&D Cosmology (the planes of existence), a vlog and campaign diary, and live play.

You can find him here: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and G+.


+Matt Finch has launched a new project, Old School Gamer Radio, a just completed Kickstarter, with the YouTube Channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. His earlier series on the OGL is a must see for anyone publishing under the OGL.


Cody Lewis of Taking20 has a fast growing channel. His start was showing people how to get the most of Roll20. He has branched out into all kinds of efforts this year. I wrote about his channel here, and reviewed a 5e module he co-wrote here. Cody is a welcoming and generous supporter of all RPG creators.


Matt Collville has a fantastic channel. He is focused on getting more people into the DM seat. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I have picked up something from each of his videos. I first wrote about him here. Matt has not enabled ads on his fast growing channel, but he funds it with the sales of his fantasy novel series. I recommend his novels. I still need to write up reviews of them.

QUICK LIST

There are more RPG related YT channels than I could practically cover in one article.  Here is a quick list of some you might want to check out.

Chalice in Chains

AskaPathfinder

Dum Dum Die Podcast

unMadeGaming Also on Twitch.

Nerd Immersion

Encounter Roleplay Also on Twitch.

DawnforgedCast

Tabletop Terrors

Wyloch’s Crafting Vids

theDMGinfo

Black Magic Craft

Gamer_Goggles

You can view the companion video on my channel here:

https://youtu.be/LdOag7VwYLQ