How Not to Play Tabletop RPGs

In my previous article, I gave you the skinny on how to play Tabletop RPGs, but I feel that it would also be important for you to know how NOT to play a Tabletop RPG. Like in my previous article, I will explain the how-nots in the view of Star Wars: Saga Edition.

To put it in a sentence, you should not play the game in such a way that it taxes the fun out of the game for people.

But to give you a more specific idea or two about where to start with the above, I could go over examples of how not to play a Tabletop RPG, but first, I want to tell you about That Guy.

That Guy

Maybe you go to work, or school, play games with other people, go partying with other people, or whatever it is. Some of the people at those places are really cool, but others stick out like a sore thumb, because of some habits or behaviors they have that in general don’t work out in the grand scheme of things. In some way, those people don’t fit in, and not in a good way. That person is That Guy. You know who That Guy is in your life, and I know who That Guy is in mine.

Don’t be That Guy.

And a piece of advice, if you cannot find That Guy, you are That Guy.

So what does That Guy have to do with Tabletop RPGs? Tabletop RPGs are social games, but they tend to attract a lot of people that have difficulty working with other people. I’m not saying people who have a hard time in social situations shouldn’t play Tabletop RPGs, but who I am talking about are those who simply don’t try to improve themselves in the game- those who don’t see their behaviors as a problem.

But whatever it is, That Guy can suck the fun out of a game quickly. There are many ways in which That Guy can destroy a game, but some of the more common ones are listed below:

  • Not working with the Players or GM.

It is so important to work with the other Players and the GM, as you are as much part of the game as they are. If you’re being rude to the others, the game becomes less fun for everyone.

  • Not giving any warning when they won’t be present for a game, or will be late for it.

A Tabletop RPG is not a job, but attendance is still expected out of you. If you’re going to be late or absent, then don’t keep the other players waiting for you. Sometimes, you just can’t make a game or two because of reasons, be they your job, your family, or even that you’re not feeling good or are too tired to be in gaming shape.

  • Being a “Backseat GM” or a “Backseat Player”.

Have you guys ever went out driving, and that guy in the front or back seat is telling you to stop at the stop light, or to go left or right, as if they were the ones driving. Those are the kinds of people we call “Backseat Drivers”, and they are often quite annoying to have around when you’re driving, even though the backseat drivers are trying to help.

The same concept happens to GMs too. Sometimes, a player would tell the GM how to GM their game (I for one am very guilty of this one) like its their own, even if the player didn’t mean to be condescending and was trying to help. The Backseat GM is still annoying to the GM. If you want to give the GM advice, ask the GM if they want some advice first before you give it to them. Otherwise, if the worst that is happening is that the GM is taking the game in directions you would not have normally taken it, then just sit back and enjoy the directions the GM is taking you, and then see just how deep the rabbit hole can go.

Then we get the “Backseat Player”, and the GM is often the perpetrator of this one. The “Backseat Player” is often the GM, though sometimes its another player or an observer of the game. Whatever happens, the Backseat Player gives off the impression that they’re trying to play a character that is not theirs to play. This is annoying in much the same way that the Backseat GM or the Backseat Driver is.

  • Not showing any common courtesy.

What I mean by this is, suppose That Guy made a psychopathic character, and then decided to say, “I will kill the questgiver!” Or “I will burn down the orphanage!” Yes, killing is a pretty psychopathic trait, but at the same time, when you go on a murder spree like that, you’re draining the GM of any way in which they can present you with situations, and the players would likely be very upset too.

Even if you make a complete psychopath, you still have to abide by common courtesy. Let the questgiver live (at least until the other players got what they could out of him), and then maybe cut off his head in a way that adds to the game (Like maybe you want to kill the questgiver because you want to frame some other jerk you encountered a while back for murder, that could give the GM a lot of stuff to work with, just don’t get caught by the more “goody-two-shoes” PCs!)

But if you make a character, and don’t follow common courtesy, even though your character doesn’t care, thats not ok, because that character’s behavior is no fun for anyone else, and when people aren’t having fun, then thats a problem. What you need to do is figure out how to behave in character in such a way that gives the other PCs a time to shine.

Like suppose you made this psychopath, and you want to kill the questgiver and frame some other jerknozzle, but one of your companions is a Jedi Knight, who is out to bring peace and order throughout the galaxy. Make sure that this killing gives the goody-two-shoes Jedi Knight a chance to shine when they investigate or something.

Just make sure this kind of stuff adds to the game, and the GM will figure out how it plays out in the grand scheme of things. The best times in a game are times the players nor the GM ever expected to happen.

But always, always, ALWAYS practice common courtesy, no matter your character.

  • Inserting references and other less savory things in the game.

Its the rule that when a group of people meet around a table, that they’re going to go off topic and get goofy once in a while. Thats ok. But what I’m talking about, are when those off-topic comments and worse things begin to cut into the mood of the game, and make the game drag for everyone involved.

Typically, those comments have to be non-stop all the time. Many times when playing Dungeons and Dragons, the steriotypical That Guy would constantly make Monty Python and the Holy Grail references. I love that movie, but its no fun when That Guy ruins it for everyone.

But it could get worse. Some That Guys make characters that have no place in a setting. For example, making Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, and inserting him directly into Star Wars. There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from Sephiroth, but it all goes to the pits when you try to take him and plop him into a setting where he has no place. One thing I heard when taking classes on writing fiction was that nothing is original, but that the real challenge lies in making it authentic. So how does one make Sephiroth authentic in a Star Wars setting? You take inspiration from Sephiroth, perhaps he has a customized Vibrosword that’s exceptionally long in order to “Decapitate others from a farther range”, and perhaps hes seen so much war and death that he has become a bit of a jerk due to not taking life so seriously anymore. Really though, there are many ways in which to make him authentic, but if you’re just putting him directly from one setting and into another, then thats a problem.

Then other That Guys insert their fetishes into the game. Doing that stuff is creepy, especially when the others suspect that it is a fetish. Yes, everyone has their kinks, but I still wholeheartedly recommend you keep them to yourself. If you do insert your fetishes, make sure its so well concealed, that the players nor the GM will suspect it. But also keep in mind, the players and the GM likely also have dirty minds, and can detect that stuff a mile away.

  • Harassing others at the table.

This happens only in a few groups but it has happened. Some players can’t leave another person alone for whatever reason. That stuff gets scary, and creeps the other folks out. Don’t do that.

So in Summary

Don’t be That Guy who sucks the fun out of the game for everyone else.

How Not to Play Tabletop RPGs

Star Wars: Rebirth Arreen