Sometimes, what you want to be playing is a game filled with explosions and danger, action and adventure. And what you get? Well. Try being stuck in the world of Mills and Boon with your action hero. And then when you want to play a herbalist who wants nothing more than to tend to the flowers and snuggle with a beau or two, what happens? Weird War Three.
What’s going on?
It could be any number of things, but here are the most common causes:
- The GM and players have not been open and honest in discussing what they want from the game they are about to play.
- What you want, and what your group wants, are at odds.
- You are playing the wrong game.
Let’s look at these more closely.
A Lack of Honesty.
There is a tendency among roleplayers to kinda just assume that everyone wants the same thing from a game as themselves. We like to think of ourselves as a pretty amenable lot, and so when things start to go awry, we are likely to go along with it rather than speak up. But time and again games start with a group of players getting together and deciding what to play, and very rarely does anyone pipe up and say:
“I would like to play an action-oriented game with hints of intrigue and romance. I don’t want investigative stuff, because I don’t enjoy that.”
“I’d like to play an investigation-heavy game with occasional peril, but not a huge amount of combat.”
You get the idea.
On the occasions I’ve seen this conversation actually take place, what I’ve then seen is a chorus of agreement from all the other players involved… only for it to become all too apparent once the game is established that the rest of the group doesn’t want the game that they got, even though they agreed to it.
They asked for explosions. You gave them explosions. What did they want?
Apparently they wanted fluff and kindness and I’m not even certain that I can think of too many RPGs which cater to that.
Honesty. Every group will be happier with it, so you must strive to encourage it.
Your desires are at odds with the group’s.
This one is actually staggeringly easy to fix. After being honest, your group has confessed that they would quite like a romantic comedy RPG with amusing mishaps and star-crossed singing teenagers, and you’re still yearning to play Die Hard With A Kick-Ass in the Ghostbusters of Doom. If they are honest, and you are honest, then you have two choices:
- Suck it up and play Glee: the RPG, or
- Politely decline the invitation and try to find another game.
Be reasonable. Be fair. But be honest. It really is better to not play at all than it is to play a game which will frustrate you every single session, and upset the rest of the group because they will know that you are unhappy, and they won’t know why, and that will lead to…
You are playing the wrong game.
I have seen this so many times that it confounds me. Players who would like to play happy-go-lucky actresses to whom nothing bad ever happens, so they find themselves a World of Darkness game to join. Players who really enjoy hanging out in-character in coffee shops making small-talk about the weather day-in, day-out, so they make themselves a housewife in Delta Green and proceed to avoid any storylines with as much dedication as a cat shirking rain. Players who want to play the heroic loner who doesn’t need a group in… well, frankly, just about any game there is.
McClane makes a great action movie character, but a lousy roleplaying one, unless you’re in a single-player game with your GM.
Why people force their concepts into games which do not fit them, I do not know. But I’ve seen it time and again over the past twenty years, and each time it disrupts games and makes not only the player unhappy, but those around him as they struggle to accommodate the sore-thumb PC. They bend over backwards to involve him in the game, introduce him to storylines, help him integrate with the group, but no! He wants nothing to do with the plot, or he’s such a really awesome loner he’s gonna do it all by himself!
So if you are finding yourself struggling, sit down and identify the things you want from a game. Action? Political intrigue? Romance? Superheroes? There are hundreds of games, and somewhere out there is the right one for you.
Find a group, and use honesty when doing so. Either through your FLGS or online, set out a Wanted ad, and outline what you’re looking for. You may end up forming a new group, or joining an existing one, but if you are open about what you want your chances improve dramatically. Just remember that it might still get sunk if they aren’t equally honest with you. All you can do there, my friend, is chalk it up to experience and go hunting again.
And for goodness’ sake, pick the right game. Don’t try to play My Little Shadowrun: Friendship is Magic. It won’t work, unless you are doing it with a very intentional sense of irony and are prepared for your character’s naivety to be shattered IC.