Thursday, February 4, 2010


This isn't directly Star Wars related, but since I was just at a 'con', I'd like to talk for a moment about gamers. Now, I've known for about as long as I've played that the hobby attracts a certain kind of person. And for the most part, those people are just average guys (and a few gals)—a lot like I consider myself to be. But then there are the stereotypes that the general public associates with the game. I could protest as much as I wanted that they aren't true for the majority, but I can't deny that your stereotypical gamers do exist. In fact, I met several at 'Vermincon' (a convention in Vermillion, SD) last weekend.

On the one hand, it is actually pretty good for my self-esteem. I mean, I'm nothing special. I could lose a few pounds. But you know? I have a house, and a job and (as of tuesday) a new car. I've never lived in my mom's basement. I'm not doing too bad. I don't know, maybe the guy with the gut, walking around wearing a snuggie as a robe all day is secretly a millionaire playboy, but...I kind of doubt it. Then there are the guys with the weird pimp hats and/or cloaks (though, in their 'defense' they were LARPers.. no gamers). Yeaaaahhhh. Oh, and the guy who just came up to Steve2 and I, out of the blue, asking if he could 'run a weapon by us'. Whatever THAT means. He starts by referencing a TV show I didn't know, then makes some long-winded and oblique references to a sling-shot and spurs. After five minutes of 'conversation' with no end in sight, Steve and I managed to excuse ourselves...and ran. Yeah.

On the other hand, its people like the aforementioned—who do indeed seem to be in the minority—that seem to draw all the attention and reinforce the stereotypes that make me keep my gaming habits pretty much 'in the closet'. It probably sounds terrible of me for saying this, but damn it, it would be nice to just be able to do something I enjoy without being labelled a 'freak' just because of Snuggie guy or Sling-shot-spur-guy. I mean, there are PLENTY of other (personal) reasons I could be labelled a frea- err.. but, I digress.

Oh, and then there are the anecdotes. Okay...let me go over this for any gamers who might be listening. Anecdotes are best when they're short and punchy. Quick set up, punch line, then 'g'night' everybody!'. I do not need a complete history of the character you were playing at the time, or a treatise in the gaming universe they lived in. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE swapping gaming stories. Love, love love it. But going into too much detail is...well, too much. Thankfully, my immediate buddies seem to realize this, and tell some really great anecdotes (aside to buddies: *flaps hand open and closed* "Shut your whore mouth!").

Suffice it to say that the situations above both amuse and frustrate me.

Now, beyond the previous superficial stuff, I encountered a few other things that were both humorous and a bit irritating. The first of these was the d20 discussion—primarily regarding D&D 4th edition. It is no secret that the d20 system is not my preference. But if other people like it? Well. More power to them. What I do NOT like is people condemning a game system as a whole because of their personal preferences. There were a few discussions on this, most of which I side-stepped as much as possible. But the attitude was still prevalent in some.

I guess what I found most irritating (and funny) was the attitude and advice given to me by another gamer. I have nothing against the guy. He runs Star Wars d20. He uses the ALL the source material in the Expanded universe as Canon. That's his preference. Fine. But while swapping stories with him, I began to detect a bit of an 'attitude'. To me, it seemed he was rather disapproving of my campaign, or at least the details in it. See, someone at WotC (in what I deem to be their attempt to D&Dize Star Wars) decided that Tusken (and several other races) just could not be Jedi. As far as d20 goes, Tusken are essentially Orcs. Mindless, brutal opponents. Thus, the fact that we have a Tusken in our party, and he is a Jedi, rubs this gamer the wrong way.

Now, in the D6 sourcebooks, they have this lovely little short story about a young Moisture farmer getting trapped out in the desert at night and accidently stumbling upon a Tusken singing over the corpse of its dead bantha—giving it a burial tribute. It was just a snippet of information, but added a great deal of depth to the Tusken as a whole. It made them more than 2-dimensional bad guys. Yes, they were barbarians, and occasionally brutal, but they weren't evil (at least not all of them). So sue me if I prefer this version to the d20.

At another point, this gamer (after watching a bit of our session), actually took me aside to point out that the NPCs my guys were fighting were actually much less powerful than the PCs. I knew full well that was the case. In fact, that was kind of the point. At the power level of my campaign, not every NPC or challenge is going to be at an equal level to the PCs. If I did so, then the game would be a constant (and frustrating) escalation where the players powers would ALWAYS be at parity with their opponents. They would never get the chance to 'cut loose'.

The NPCs that the group were fighting were very good for NPCs, with 7D skills and training in combined fire. And my players, even as they defeated them, noticed that their opponents were well above average, even if they did beat them handily. And that was kind of the point of the encounter. To introduce the fact that they have an enemy/rival out there with access to some really good people. My players are smart enough to realize that these NPCs DO present a very real threat to the 'average' guys that make up the rest of the Republic and its allies.

So, yes. I had a reason for introducing less-powerful people. But that goes against what is evidently a d20ism: The Challenge Rating. This is something that is supposed to ensure that players always fight things roughly equal to their ability to face them. I am not a fan of this system. In fact, having encountered it in RPGs before, I find it very frustrating. Take 'The Force Unleashed' (please!). As your guy gets more and more badass powers, he finds himself facing more and more people who are partly (if not entirely) immune to them. To this, I say—what is the freaking point? It is much more realistic (and satisfying) to have the players encounter challenges below AND above their abilities. It is more dramatic and dynamic that way. And I DO occasionally throw stuff at my PCs that is too much for them to handle, whether it is sheer numbers or incredibly skilled opponents. The key is—they (usually) know, In character, when to cut and run and when to stand and fight.

Honestly, and I don't want to sound 'pompous' or anything here (too late!), but I think there are stages that most gamers (and GMs in particular) go through. Like the gamer in question here, there was a time where I took any rule doled out by West End Games (the maker of the SW D6 Game) as LAW. But as I matured as a GM, I began to realize that not everything works as written, at least not to my liking. I also realized that with experience, I probably knew as much about the game as its designers did. I felt more comfortable to branch out on my own, as it were—both in the rules and the setting itself.

So in short, thanks for the advice, but I think I'm doing okay.

Ahhh, Gamers. Gotta love 'em. From a distance, of course.


  1. Don't forget those gamers who see a convention as an excuse to take a 3-day leave from Hygiene.

  2. You had me nodding and giggling. It has been a VERY long time since I was at a con (96 i think), and what you say rings true. You seem to articulate exactly what I think. thanks, mate.