“To Be Rude Or Not To Be Rude, That Is The Question”

by admin on March 24, 2011

This is a interesting one, because it involves responding to acted bad manners with real bad manners. So, my role-playing group (think impromptu acting with dice to determine random actions) really likes to get into character, and as such whenever one of us plays a brute they treat the others as you would expect. Now, this is completely okay as far as we are concerned because hey, that’s the idea. As long as the person isn’t being rude in real life, they can yell in a church or call another person a idiot because it’s all in character.

Well, we had a new person join our group, the girlfriend of one of the other members. We meet once a week, and it’s something we take somewhat seriously. We start to get into character and the newbie makes a mistake. My other friend calls her out on it while in character, so he came off as brash and mean. She then steps away from the table and starts to break down in tears. We weren’t heartless, so we tried to explain the situation to her.  However, she screamed at all of us, calling us immature and moronic (I think satanic was thrown in there as well) and then told her boyfriend to never play with us again.

Now, I could understand her reaction if my friend was being legitimately mean to her, BUT HE WAS ACTING!!! She didn’t even listen to us afterwards! Needless to say, she never came to our sessions again, although her boyfriend did. They eventually broke up because she was overly sensitive.  0322-11

Tsk, tsk.  Too bad there was no person playing the role of the avenging angel, pissed off parent or strict schoolmaster to put Mr. Brute in his acted place.

Being that she was a newbie and she promptly made a mistake, I think the gracious thing to have done would have been to step out of character and gently inform her of the correction needed.    I don’t think staying in character should take precedent over kindness to the uninitiated or inexperienced.    It would have cost little in lost time and saved a whole lot of possible drama.   And if she was truly that sensitive, even more reason to extend a momentary kindness so that later accusations of unkindness have the ring of hyperbole to them.

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Allie March 24, 2011 at 8:27 am

I’m not sure I quite understand this post. Wouldn’t the new person know something about how the group works? Surely her boyfriend would have explained it and she would have known that once things got rolling everybody was acting. She sounds WAY oversensitive to me. I don’t think the group member did anything wrong in calling her out in character. It sounds like she just didn’t belong, and it’s probably for the best that she left. There probably would have been further histrionics even if the group member had proceeded as you suggest, Admin. I don’t think the group should have to accommodate a newbie any further than a brief orientation, and even that might not be warranted in this case since she already knew someone in the group. This isn’t a group of kids. She’s an adult… welcome to the “real” world.

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DGS March 24, 2011 at 8:43 am

She doesn’t sound overly sensitive; she sounds like someone who was justifiably offended/insulted and didn’t know the rules of the group. Certainly, she doesn’t earn brownie points for calling people “moronic” or “satanic” (although it sounds like an argument could have been made for the group being accused of being “immature”), but I agree that it would not have been amiss to have extended grace, courtesy and kindness to an inexperienced group member. If that requires stepping out of character, so be it. This is an amateur role-playing group, not a troup of professionals during a dress rehearsal, so I would have cut some slack to someone new to the bunch and someone who is not a professional actor.

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Gloria Shiner March 24, 2011 at 8:53 am

A little maturity all around will resolve all these problems.

Stories like this just leave me shaking my head!

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Caper March 24, 2011 at 9:10 am

I don’t know about the admins comment – only because she mentioned that the newbie was a girlfriend of one of the group members. That being the case, I think I would have expected her to have some idea of how the group ran – either from hearing about it through her boyfriend or him at least briefing her before she got there.

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Maitri March 24, 2011 at 9:10 am

I’ve been the girlfriend trying to join a boyfriend’s RPG. At the first game, I was fumbling around trying to figure out what to do, and the jerk DM (Dungeon Master) said “Oh well you took too long, you’re dead. Next!” I didn’t play again for many years, until I met my now-husband.

The first mistake was in NOT informing the girlfriend before the game began of the roleplaying nature of the group. Not every RPG group roleplays to that extent; I know my current one doesn’t. If she had any experience at all with RPG’s, she might not have known that this one was more hardcore.

When she started crying, all play should have IMMEDIATELY ceased and everyone should have dropped character and fixed the situation. At the very least, the offending player should have apologized profusely, because obviously she didn’t understand that he was acting and she was very hurt.

I don’t think that she was “overly sensitive.” Would YOU like to join a new group, trying to impress your SO’s friends, only to be yelled at and degraded? Although she should have accepted the explanations and moved on. She was probably very embarrassed and ashamed.

It’s always just a game, and personal feelings should always take precedent, IMO.

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Louise March 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

I think admin has a point, that for a newbie you could have stepped out of character and been a little more gentle; however, if you’re in character, you’re on autopilot and I bet the friend said it without thinking. Did the girlfriend know what kind of character your friend was playing? If she didn’t, I can see why his brusque meanness would surprise her.

Having said that, crying and screaming insults is way over the top. Had she looked shocked or taken aback or even blurted out, “Hey, that was mean!” I bet someone would have taken a couple of minutes to explain the character to her. But calling you immature and satanic (and why ask to join a game if you think it’s satanic?) is not the hallmark of a rational person.

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Ruth March 24, 2011 at 9:15 am

As someone who played RPGs in college (and still does, when she can find people to play with), I think part of the fault lay with the boyfriend. He should’ve sat her down and explained how the game was played before bringing her. I explain it to people as a collective story that we create and act out together. The DM/GM controls big stuff, but that everyone participates in creating it.

So if this guy’s character is a jerk, then he should’ve told her to watch out for this guy’s character because he’s a jerk while playing. One of the guys in my group was an actor, and had a very bitter character. He was quite good at it, but then after the game he’d perk right up. For people like that, it’s a fun way to make stories and to practice acting.

There are RPG etiquette guides out there, I think they consider it the responsibility of the person bringing the new player to set them up for the experience, explain what will be required of them and what’s going on so far.

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Wink-n-Smile March 24, 2011 at 9:22 am

Many of these gamer-groups operate on a sink-or-swim basis. However, they should first explain the situation well.

I’m curious about what sort of mistake the newbie made. Was it a technical mistake, as in she didn’t understand how the whole thing worked? Or was it that her character made a mistake, due to a failed die-roll? If the first, then, by all means, step out of character for a moment and explain how things work. If it was her in-character mistake, then the other players responding in character are part of the game.

The game master had responsibility here to explain everything well, make sure it was understood, and make sure that the new person was having a good time. It might have been a good idea to take Mr. Brute aside, at first, and ask him to tone things down, for a week or two, while newbie gets her feet wet. Not EVERYTHING has to depend on the dice, and the GM could very well have stepped in as avenging angel or strict schoolmaster.

When I played, the GM was not above using the “hand of God,” to keep players in line. Of course, that was part of the fun. He had rules about what types of characters we could play, and certain types were reserved only for more experienced players, and even more experienced groups. Therefore, if a newbie were to join us, we’d all be limited, until the newbie was no longer new. This gave us all incentive to help the newbie learn the ropes as soon as possible.

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Just Laura March 24, 2011 at 9:24 am

I’m going to respectfully disagree with the admin, only because it sounds like she might not have much experience with role-playing (which is fine).

The gf was going to a role-playing game; the title itself is self-explanatory. They are role-playing. It is not real.
I’m sure that prior to the gf showing up to play, the bf likely told her about the game first (why else would she show up if she had no prior knowledge?) It appears that the group realized when she began to cry that a better explanation was in order, so they came out of character to calm her. Instead of allowing the explanation, she launched into name-calling. I don’t see how the OP and friends have done anything wrong. Had they continued to remain in character and further chastise her, I could see the admin’s point. But they immediately tried to rectify the situation, and she launched into a tirade.

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Snowy March 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

Speaking as a role player, it was rude of your group to assume that on her first night she’d be ready to handle everything your group had to throw at her, and that she could let in-character harshness roll off her back. Her first session few sessions should have included plenty of disclaimers (“My character thinks you were being careless,” “Okay, what I’m about to say is my character, not me, okay?”) and support (“Okay, now that Brute has had his say, I want to let you know I did that for three months straight before I figured it out! So don’t worry, there’s a learning curve.”)

A lot of role players take “it’s just a game” or “it’s all in-character” as an excuse to let loose with some frustrations or another part of their personality. Some are truly in-character, but are far too convincing for an outsider. Your friend was obviously in one category or the other.

So I’m with admin. When you’ve got someone new, helping them takes priority over being in character. The idea is to make it fun for them so they stay (and get comfortable enough to know that in-character jabs are not real), not to toss them into a trial by fire and then complain when they get upset.

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Just Laura March 24, 2011 at 9:29 am

One more thing to further clarify that the girlfriend had to have a slight understanding of the nature of role-playing ahead of time – before showing up to a session, one must create a character. This can take an hour or more, and I’m sure the boyfriend helped. She certainly didn’t come into this blind.
I’m sure we’ve all been horribly offended by something initially, only to have our anger ameliorated by a gentle explanation. To ignore the explanation/facts and continue on a rant is rude.

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Auryn Grigori March 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

*Raises hand* Live Action Roleplayer here (mostly I just do NPCing [non-player character, kinda like an extra, we are also called crunchies] now). Not the OP. This is why we have new player orientations before we ever… I repeat ever…have someone play the game. We also have legal forms. We make sure that anyone who even thinks that they want to play knows what’s going on. We have signals for going out of character. We do this because, crazy thought here, we want players to come back. We actually want people to enjoy going to gaming. Now, do some players act like jerks? Sure. We do boffer weapon fights, and there are some people who will forget that boffer weapons can hurt when swung hard enough and repeatedly on the same area. Mostly, I have taken note of which players are prone to this, and will do my level best to avoid that person in game. I also try to be careful of it, and do apologize if I have hit someone too hard, or in the wrong way, which will happen in the heat of the moment.

So what is the point of this rant? Yeah, the person may have been overly sensitive to the play-acting. Maybe. But it sounds more to me like you did not lay out the expectations of the game beforehand, only explaining to her after she had already felt hurt and angry what in the name of all fuzzy bunny slippers was going on. And then acted surprised and shocked when she did not accept your excuses for her treatment. However, this is a learning moment. This is the moment when you can decide, hey, maybe I want more people to roleplay, so lets lay down some expectations so that way everyone is happy. Or at least content.

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many bells down March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

Okay I’m going to jump right in, since I’ve played D&D for something like 25 years and say: you don’t treat a new player like that. RPG rules are confusing. D&D is on its 4th edition now, so even if you did know how to play, the rules may have changed.

Now girlfriend may have some issues of her own – I don’t think it’s cool to tell your significant other to never play a game with his friends again – but a little patience with her might have gone a long way.

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LovleAnjel March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

This is why, when someone wanted to join our RPG group, they came and watched the first part of a session before their character was “introduced”. This gave them a preview of the characters and dynamics in the game. The person who brought them over also gave them the “bios” of the other characters before we started.

Maybe this girl was a bit of a drama queen, but it sounds like she was ill-prepared for an RPG orc. She could have bowed out of the game at that point and declined further participation. It was rude to yell and call people names before forcing her boyfriend to flounce with her.

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Rattus March 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

To me it reads as though they did explain the situation to her once she broke down. And if that is indeed the case, I think the woman could likely do with some therapy – the initial reaction seems a little oversensitive, but the behaviour subsequent to the explanation appears to fall under the description of guanopsychotic.

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Maitri March 24, 2011 at 9:41 am

Oh and I’d also like to add that many males who play RPG’s bemoan the fact that there aren’t many women out there who also play. Is it any wonder, when things like this happen? Women *are* usually more sensitive than men. If men want to promote RPG’s to women, making it more female-friendly is a step in the right direction. There’s a stereotype that men who play these sorts of games tend to have poor social skills, and stories like this only enforce it. (My friends that play in my game are sometimes lacking in the social skills, although my husband isn’t).

That said, there was no need for her to call everyone names. I do wonder what exactly the actor said to her to provoke such a response.

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AS March 24, 2011 at 9:46 am

I have been in several plays (both on stage and doing back stage work) as well as in Improv comedy troupes. I have never had someone correct someone else in the role they are playing. I have always corrected people as myself, because I don’t think others would seriously otherwise, and I might hurt someone else that’ll hurt my conscience. We take breaks during Improv practice sessions to discuss the previous scenes we act. As far as I know, even professional acting troupes do not correct mistakes “in the role” (I know a few professional Improv troupes and some professional stage artists and a movie actress).

That said, I understand that every group is different, and maybe you people have conversations as the character you are playing, if all of you have agreed to that. But I do have to agree with the admin – this girl is new, and made a mistake. You haven’t said what he said, but if he was being “brute”, I am assuming he said something very hurtful. So basically, this group member pointed out an actual error to a newbie in a very brutal and hurtful way because he was “just acting”. All of you might be used to it, but it takes some time for a newcomer to get used it. It might have been humane to relax the rules a little for a day, or atleast for her, and explain to her graciously. The person I am sorry to say, but I think she was right in saying that you people were immature. This girl is sensitive, but I don’t think she was acting overly sensitive.
She does not have any say on whether or not her boyfriend should play with you people. I think it is good for her that they broke up though.

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Elle March 24, 2011 at 9:50 am

D&D is *very* overwhelming to new players. There’s a lot to keep track of (flanking, shifting, opportunity attacks, power cards, effects, skill checks, house rules, and even what dang die you should be rolling). And it is entirely possible to go out of character and say something like “No, you don’t want to do that because of XYZ.” Honestly a lot of new players don’t really get into the playacting part of it until they’re fairly confident of the rules.

I would frankly have a *lot* more sympathy if the OP mentioned actually apologizing for the misunderstanding. Granted roleplaying is a large part of the reason you play the game (hence the term “Role Playing Game”) but it’s possible to be a vicious sonuvagun in game and still be polite and welcoming to new players.

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Dear! March 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

I would have to disagree with the EHell dame this time. Yes, the young man COULD have stepped out of character and corrected her, but that was not the point of the game. They were showing her exactly how it works, so that she would learn.

This young lady should have gathered that this was something that these people take seriously, and it’s alluded to that the group explained to her the rules and how it works. If she was warned that the “guy who pretends to be the mean guy will be mean” and she burst into tears regardless, AND then continued to throw a tantrum when the group tried to be nice, she was just being a baby.

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mslily March 24, 2011 at 10:08 am

I would say it was a combination of her being oversensitive and not really understanding what she was getting into when she joined the game. I used to play Dungeons & Dragons once in a while with some guy friends. Half the time I had no clue how to do anything or what it meant if I did, but I worked that incompetence into the character I was playing. A good DM (person running the game) can also work with your blunders and make it into a comical situation.

One of my favorite sayings is don’t take everything personally. You don’t have fun and you keep others from having fun. This doesn’t just apply to this situation, but anything you can think of. Like how some people get mad when they play Monopoly or card games.

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Samantha March 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

Sorry Admin, but as far as I can see, they did “step out of character and gently inform her of the correction needed”. The OP says “We weren’t heartless, so we tried to explain the situation to her” and “She didn’t even listen to us afterwards”. Sounds like they tried both when it happened, to which she blew a gasket, and after the fact, presumably to give her some time to calm down a bit.

I would honestly love to know what the boyfriend told her in warning about the group and the game. I know RPG groups I’ve been in have had SO visitors a few times and while we’re not as heavily into the full out acting as this group seems to be, we’ve never had a reaction like this girl’s because the understanding is that anyone who’s bringing someone to the game is responsible for making them understand what they’re getting into. A lot of the time, one-off members actually ask to play a bad guy, which does lead to a lot of gruffness and “meanness” directed towards them – which then normally gets evil laughs and even more outrageous and funny “evil” from them.

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Lily March 24, 2011 at 10:34 am

I don’t agree with admin at all. Newbie was being oversensitive. She obviously knew what the group was about since her boyfriend was a part of it – abnd, they broke character to explain themselves and she still yelled and stormed away. My best friend is oversensitive and this sounds exactly like her behavior. She wonders why she cannot keep a boyfriend and everyone in her life walks on eggshells around her because she takes everything so personally. I’ve distanced myself over the last few months because of it.

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Leslie Holman-Anderson March 24, 2011 at 10:38 am

Madame Moderator, I agree — momentarily stepping out of character to explain the situation would have been the right thing to do. I suspect this group has been playing together for a long time without adding anyone new, though, and the ‘offender’ simply forgot. Having briefly played an RPG a long time ago, I can see how that would happen.

That said, though, the ‘sensitive’ girlfriend sounds like what in my community we call a troll. Trolls engage in exactly the three-step attack demonstrated here: (1) they come into a group, creating all kinds of drama with their inability or unwillingness to adapt to its rules/norms, (2) they refuse all efforts to explain or comfort, and (3) they then, citing how ‘hurt’ they are by everyone else’s ‘insensitivity,’ make unreasonable demands of the group– in this case demanding that the boyfriend never play with his friends again. It’s manipulation, pure and simple. The group, and the boyfriend, are better of without her.

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Mouthy Maven of Ravenloft - Just Beyond the Forgotten Realms March 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

Ok – so I was totally ready to get all up in arms about this one when I read “So, my role-playing group…” as I was SURE the admin was going to bash RPing, however, Miss Jeanne I COMPLETELY agree. I am a die-hard (hehe get it…DIE-hard…ok hush it’s early) RPer from DnD to White Wolf and Rifts. I have played with my share of newbie’s as well as been one – and a female one at that.

I completely understand where the OP is coming from and he and his party members probably didn’t know any better than to react the way they did. According to the rules they were totally in the right and if they had had another experienced RPer playing with them for the first time it probably would have been fine but they didn’t, they had a brand newbie – a girl brand newbie.

I totally remember my first time sitting down with my now fiancé and my brand new bag of dice (green with gold flake – I was so proud) and all of his closest friends for my first “dungeon crawl.” I was so scared. I was the only girl, I had never played before, I had never met these people before, and I really wanted to impress my BF with my “mad skills” (of which I had none…). I was lucky enough to have a very caring group around me to teach me the rules gently and not get mad when I added too many bonuses to a roll (easy to do). However I have also played with “serious gamers” and I’ve been corrected “in game” and if you don’t have the skin for it – it can hurt. Especially if you are new and trying to be “good.” I kinda see why she reacted that way – even if she did waaaay overreact.

Before I incur the wrath of the feminists, not all girls are weak little shy things – I know that – but if this girl was “too sensitive” then the boyfriend should have noticed that beforehand and properly informed the other players, especially if they had a “jerk” in the group.

I see both sides on this one. Role-Playing is about knowing your fellow players as much as it is about the “game.” I wouldn’t roast anyone for it but I agree with admin’s assessment that next time a little kindness and understanding would go a long way.

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Calli Arcale March 24, 2011 at 10:41 am

“We weren’t heartless, so we tried to explain the situation to her.” It sounds to me that they did step out of character to try and explain what was going on. Now, bear in mind, we don’t know what the mistake was. As a gamer myself, I suspect it wasn’t a mistake made by the player (misunderstanding the rules, for instance) but a mistake made by the character (searching for traps and rolling a critical failure, which causes the character to screw up in a way that hurts the team). In this case, responding in character makes sense. It also makes sense to *break* character when realizing that her feelings had been hurt to explain how it all works.

OTOH, if it was a mistake made by the player rather than the character, then it should have been responded to out of character — just as you don’t go answer the door in character when the pizza guy arrives, you don’t need to be in character for your real-world interactions. Just the fictional ones.

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Hal March 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

Interesting to me is the mention of assertive, brutish characters and no mention of kind, accommodating characters. The girl is better off away from these immature bullies. Remember how the nasty or rude person often says, “I was just kidding.” Or he says, “Can’t you take a joke?”

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Annie March 24, 2011 at 10:53 am

Long-time lurker here… I don’t know, I’m of two minds on this issue. As a tabletop RPGer myself, I understand the situation. There is always a push-pull of trying to make the game as immersed and fun as possible while also making sure everyone is following along. The term for discussing the game out of character while it is happening is called “meta-gaming” and the less there is, the better the game is for all involved. Yes, it is good to be polite and helpful to the new person – I am the youngest and least experienced in my current campaign so I know how that feels – and Mr. Brute maybe should have held back on her very first move.

However, it IS integral to the game to stay in character as often as possible. That’s like letting someone who’s playing soccer for the first time pick up the ball and run with it because no one wants to bruise their delicate ego.

If I’m reading this correctly, she burst into tears from one in-game quip! Imagine if her character had gotten attacked in an encounter, or heavens forbid, actually die in the game! If one actor making one comment was enough for her to denounce the entire group as “immature”, “moronic”, and “satanic”, well, why was she playing in the first place? Her imagination is not in good working condition. Hopefully she never goes to a dinner theatre or other event where an actor may say something to her in character that she doesn’t approve of!

All that being said, yes, it was up to the DM/GM (the one in charge, who is not in character and sets up how the game is played) to politely and quickly correct her mistake. This story clearly says, however, that everyone immediately broke character and “explained the situation to her” although “[s]he didn’t even listen to us”, so I don’t know what more you could ask for. The admin suggests that “the gracious thing to have done would have been to step out of character and gently inform her of the correction needed” and that’s exactly what happened, if I’m reading it correctly.

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ellesee March 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

I have to kindly disagree with the admin. I think any character can put a Mr. Brute in his place :o) Like a cute fluffy kitty.

How was the group to know that she was overly sensitive? Role-playing requires a tough skin and I’ve met people who can dish it but can’t take it when it’s on them. Usually it is afterwards that we discover the sensitivity of the newbies and then help them afterwards.

I think the issue here is that the newbie was embarassed and decided to lash out at everyone instead of taking in the the explaination and graciously moving on. We weren’t there so we don’t know what mean things were said by Mr. Brute. Plus, they did the right thing by nicely explaining afterwards. I wouldn’t toss the OP’s friends into ehell, but I would push in the newbie for being rude after the group tried to console her (I think anyone calling anyone “satanic” deserves a spot in ehell).

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Luna March 24, 2011 at 11:03 am

I was a sometimes participant in my brother’s D&D group a few years back, so I’ve been the newbie and I’ve dealt with newbies. Mistakes happen a lot when you’re first figuring out a role-playing game. Our general rule was to consider a newbie’s first meeting as a practice meeting. We would stay in character with each other, but be ourselves to correct mistakes or give advice. If there is a leader like the D&D dungeon master, let them correct mistakes if you don’t want to leave character. After a few hours, the newbies will get into the rhythm, but you can’t just throw them in all the way.

My reading of this story is girlfriend-taking-an-interest. She may have had no interest in being there apart from supporting her boyfriend. We had a few of those in our group, and it always took them a little longer to get into it. To her, none of this would have come across as acting; it was just a “brash and mean” guy tearing into her for making a newbie mistake.

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Isabelle March 24, 2011 at 11:04 am

I am a woman who plays roleplaying games. Definitely, when I started, I made a lot of mistakes. The group I was playing with was extremely kind to me and gently explained the mistakes and how to better play. It takes quite a bit of time to get the hang of it. And, yes, someone explained to me the whole “staying in character” and things said in character and all that. To me, it sounds like the girl wasn’t informed properly of what to expect. And I do believe that it was just bad taste of the guy to say something rude or mean to her while she was learning… in character or not.

She obviously overreacted too. But let’s just say that it sounds like she wasn’t set up for success.

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Shannon March 24, 2011 at 11:36 am

This sounds like a fairly young group to me, considering the “Lord of the Flies” dynamics at play here: taking a game too seriously (aka, the chorus “hunters” who start stabbing people for real), ostracizing a weaker member (the girlfriend, aka Piggy), and eventually sticking her head on a metaphorical pike (the literal pike almost happened to the erstwhile leader).

I’m sure it’s hard to switch gears when in the moment, but she would have been better served by an apology if she was offended, vs. an “explanation.”

I’m highly sensitive myself. It’s just how I’m wired, and while it’s gotten better as I’ve aged I still tear up easily. When I’m upset I don’t want to hear that what hurt me is no big deal, part of a game, etc, and that I should chill out. A sympathetic, “Hey, you OK?” works much better. Being shouted at is a particular thing that sets me off, so I feel bad for this poor girl.

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tankgirl March 24, 2011 at 11:42 am

I dated someone for many years who participated in various roleplaying games (tabletop types), and I was often around while they were playing. I never saw anyone take their “acting” to the level where it would be considered mean. This was with many different GMs and players.

So if I had been a part of this group and someone snapped at me “in character”, I would have been hurt as well, and I have years of being around that environment. I certainly think the reaction of the girlfriend could have been better, but honestly, I think the group was at fault for not explaining ahead of time that things could and would get so heated. In fact, I’m a little surprised that the girlfriend was the first to take the excessive acting seriously, and I can’t help but wonder if even more experienced players would have balked at the tone of the game.

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Girlysprite March 24, 2011 at 11:51 am

As a roleplayer, I wonder what kind of mistake it was. Was the mistake in or out character? If the mistake was made in-character, and the player was familiar with the concept that character were really played out, she shouldn’t have acted like she did.

Example where brute did not make a mistake: Let’s say she played a mage. the party is attacked, and the brute charges into the enemies. The girl, as mage, casts a spell which makes vines pop up and hold everything in an area, including the brute. The brute gets angry (as he caught in the spell too) and yell ‘Damn you mage, you sort is supposed to be intelligent, but you is stupid!’.
While this may come across as brash it would have been ok if the style of play would have been comminicated clearly and she accepted this.

What would have been wrong: The girl plays a mage, and wants to cast a spell on a monster. She picks a 6 sided die. Brite yells ‘you need a 20sided die for that spell, 6sided die is stupid!’.

I hope people can understand the distinction here.

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Erin March 24, 2011 at 11:53 am

She may have overreacted a bit, but I have to agree with the admin – it’s the easiest thing in the world to break character, and it was inappropriate to respond to a newbie’s simple mistake with something that makes her cry.

My husband is into RP games, tabletop and live-action, and every time I’ve played, the narrator has been kind enough to let me step out of character and ask questions before I commit to an action. Whoever was running your game should have done that, too.

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Lucy March 24, 2011 at 11:54 am

Speaking as another role-player – if she was a new player are you 100% sure she knew the difference between acting in character and out? If she was new to the group she may not know any of you well enough to understand you were not simply shouting at her and, though I agree she over-reacted, she may have been unsure/worried trying to keep up with an experienced group

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Thel March 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I have played my share of roleplaying games, and what we used to do when a newbie made a mistake was to call for time out and explain what s/he did wrong, and usually repeat the action letting the new person correct the mistake. It doesn’t detract that much from the game, and makes new players more comfortable (and more willing to play again in the future!). Actually, if a newbie was coming, the game would generally be simpler and more introductory that what we would normally play, so that the new person could get the feel of it and decide if s/he wanted to go on with more regular games, where calling out in character would be par for the course. Also, the new person would see the in-character interactions between the more experienced players, and see that it was nothing personal, but still we wouldn’t address a new player in a rude way (of course, in character) because there is a high chance that the person will take it amiss, even if not overly sensitive.

Note that I’m not saying the girlfriend was right to overreact and call you names, but I believe it could have been avoided. Then, as Admin says, if she was to throw a tantrum she couldn’t very well blame it on your (perceived) rudeness. I know many people who have been put off roleplaying games due to a bad first experience, and I have found that a bit of coddling at the start goes a long way.

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Ashley March 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I honestly think that the OP was correct to stay in character. The whole point of RP is to stay in character, so if you explain mistakes while in character, it only adds to the effect and can actually help newbies learn more effectively. So I am sorry, but I do not agree with admin on this one. If you have to break character every five minutes to explain something, it ruins the flow of the game, which can cause more confusion about the rules, and who is in character and who is out of it, and whose turn it is, and so on. Replying IN character helps get new people into the swing of things. For example, I was once at a pirate festival that a town near me throws every year. There was one vendor who was dressed as a pirate and absolutely committed to his character. If someone asked him a question about what he was selling, he would reply like a pirate. A number of people were taken aback by this. I was also dressed as a pirate, and used to RP, so I carried on my conversation with him in a very pirate like manner. Soon enough we were swapping pirate jokes, and had the crowd laughing and getting into it. We were showing them how it was done. It works.

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Lola March 24, 2011 at 12:17 pm

This whole story is strange – one of the major players, the newbie’s boyfriend, is completely MIA. While she’s being abused *in character*, what is he doing? Why is he letting the situation to escalate into tears and screaming and insults? Why is the situation occurring in the first place? Has he brought her into the group without explaining what goes on and how things work? Very strange.

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Amanda March 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm

As an avid roleplayer myself, I’m inclined to agree with Admin on this one. Her status as a newbie should’ve cut her some slack, especially if the in-character/out-of-character difference wasn’t explained thoroughly to her before the game. After the fact, it can almost sound like making excuses for the player of the brute character. Even with a group that really likes to get into character, there are times where it’s necessary to step out of the role for a bit to soothe over hurt feelings, and I do believe this was one.

My own group has a semi-related problem sometimes. Not only do we all really like to get into character, many of us make characters close to our own personality and sensibilities. Frequently in-character actions and opinions clash, spilling over to out-of-character interactions during the game, and we all need to take a moment to step back from the character sheets and dice for a bit to calm down, talk things over, and get back in the gaming mood again before someone’s feelings are seriously hurt.

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Elea March 24, 2011 at 12:27 pm

This is something with which I have experience. I am part of an RPG group as well and things can get very…coarse in game. We all understand the difference between the in-game actions and attitudes versus the out of game behavior. At times some of us have played characters who butt heads at every turn while out of game we are good friends. We can role-play a heated argument with plenty of expletives and violence, yet later, once we are out of character, make dinner plans. However, I can imagine how confusing and upsetting it would be for the uninitiated to even set in and hear some of the things going on in-game let alone actually participating.

There was some responsibility on the boyfriend’s part to explain what could be expected during game play. He should have been familiar enough with the group dynamic as well as his SO’s temperament to know that she may need some information beforehand. You wouldn’t send your girlfriend onto a football field before explaining that tackling, while not appropriate in day to day life, is fairly standard practice in-game.

I don’t find the group at fault in this instance, but rather the boyfriend who ill-prepared his girlfriend (in the gaming world it is usually up to the person bringing the newbie to educate them on rules, group dynamic, and what to expect in-game…show them ropes as it were). The girlfriend was certainly guilty of being too sensitive and immature the moment she started name calling and refused to listen to the explanation.

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Michael March 24, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I have to agree, when one is THAT new to D&D or whatever the role-playing game, one would expect a LOT of out of character nudges. (The DM should have stepped in) Heck we’re playing now with a friend’s girlfriend and she’s fitting in quite well. When my brother’s character got snide, she learned how to throw her chaos-bolt back at him. :)

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ferretrick March 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Maybe the best thing would have been for your friend to step out of character in his correction, but I know in the heat of the moment in a roleplay everyone may be really in “game mode.” In any case, certainly it sounds like the group made every effort to apologize and there is no excuse for the level of rudeness she returned.

Given that she resorted to accusations of Satanism over such a minor incident, I strongly suspect the girl was out to make trouble and ruin the evening from the beginning. It sounds like she did not approve of boyfriend’s role playing hobby, got dragged there by boyfriend (the old give it a chance strategy that NEVER works), and then made a scene and tried to cut him off from his friends. Frankly, if it had been me, she would have been dumped on the spot, publicly. I don’t tolerate relationships where I’m told who I can and can’t play with and what activities I can or can’t participate in.

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Maitri March 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Lily ~ I don’ t know how old you and your best friend are, but speaking from experience, she will hopefully become less sensitive as she gets older. In my 20’s I was just like your BFF – quick to take offense, everyone walked on eggshells around me. I got married at 32 and was still that way a little, but it was fading as I became more comfortable in my own skin. Now that I’m 36 and have 2 kids (one of whom says “I see your big butt!” all the time, thanks Son), and taking anti-anxiety medication, I am 99% the opposite. I think time and maturity takes care of a lot of that (although the Zoloft helps!) You might want to suggest that your friend speak to her doctor.

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lisastitch March 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Since she was a newbie, I agree that it would have been much better to step out of character and explain what she was doing wrong. Among other considerations, it’s easier to explain some of the conventions of role-playing out of character. Otherwise, it would have been nice if one of the players–in character–had said, “Hey, take it easy on her” and explained what she needed to do.

She may be overly sensitive, but if somebody had jumped all over me the first time I played D&D, even if they had subsequently explained that they were just acting, I don’t know if I would have continued playing. We play RPGA, not home campaigns, and there are characters that I would rather not play with, even when I like the person. Your group could have been kinder to a newbie.

That said, she does need to learn to accept an apology.

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The Elf March 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Count me in as another long-time RPGer, and I was the girlfriend at one point. It’s hard to learn a whole new kind of game in the middle of a campaign with seasoned vets all around. I see multiple fails.

Failure 1, the boyfriend didn’t really inform the girlfriend of the heavy acting this group likes to do. Some groups are hack-n-slashers, some do LARP and there’s everything in between. We’re a mix. In our group we a “voice” or something to signify in character vs out of character. At one time I played a half-orc barbarian (INT 6!) and really played up the brute aspect. She was pretty thoughtless and exceptionally crude. A good person, fundamentally, but so socially inept. I actually drank coke quickly specifically so that I can let loose some in-character belches. But everyone knew what was an in-character thing because I delibertly lowered my voice and spoke in simple sentences. Loads of fun!

Failure 2, failure to prep the new player by the gamesmaster (GM). Surely he sat down with her to create a character? I sure hope he didn’t hand her a premade, as developing your own character really adds to the role-playing. At that point, he should have walked her through a sample scenario with her boyfriend so that she gets the idea of how the game works, both in game mechanics and in role playing.

Failure 3, the mistake occured was one of game mechanics, not storyline? That’s what it sounds like to me. If it was game mechanics – say failure to count all your hit adds and as a result just barely miss, then the in-character thrashing is uncalled for. That’s when someone, particularly the GM, needs to freeze the action and walk the new player through the game. Yes, it slows everything up. But you should only have to do this a few times before the new player picks it up and goes with the flow. If the game was a storyline one, then the brute character was in the right to react that way, but another character should have softened the blow a bit with a counter-argument if it was appropriate to do so.

Failure 4, her reaction. Screaming? Accusations of Satanism? WTF? I agree with previous posters – she didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Conclusion: Your gaming group is better off without this girlfriend as a player, but they better learn from this in case there’s a next time.

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KissofLye March 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I have to disagree with the admin on this one.

And I have to express my annoyance at several of the people in the comments as well. Saying that just because she’s a girl they should have been easier on her? That’s…that’s just mind-blowing. In that instance she’s a role player, a new one sure, but a role player, just like everyone else. Her gender doesn’t really matter. Nor does her bursting out into tears. Were she a male would you be inclined to feel as sorry for her?

I think she was over-sensitive. Unless he called her every horrible name in the book and insulted her family and her cat, there was no reason for her to burst into tears over one incident and then shout accusations of Satanism at the group when they tried to comfort her. It seems to me that she didn’t want to be there and really, she wasn’t suited to being there. And I’m very glad that the boyfriend broke up with her. No one wants a S.O. who tries to forbid you from seeing your friends as though they were your parents and you a naughty child.

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The Elf March 24, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Forgot failure 5, that she then demanded that HE sever his ties with the group. Um, no. She can leave if she want to; no one is forcing her to stay. But she also needs to let him do his own thing. I’m not surprised they broke up.

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Elizabeth March 24, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I feel like a LOT is missing from this story. We assume the boyfriend went over it with her beforehand. I’d like to know if he actually did and how detailed he was. How much did the group explain to her before the game started? Who was the DM and what were they doing when this happened? What was her mistake? What exactly was said that set her off? I think we would need to know all of that before a proper assessment can be made.

If we are going off of what was in the story then I get a very different take. It seems no one explains the whole “in character” thing until after mistakes are made and she is upset, so I can understand her initial reaction. Depending on what was said warrants whether or not she was over reacting during her fit. I don’t think she should have given her boyfriend the ultimatum, just decline to be around them in the future.

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Illusionmajik March 24, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Lady Gamer Here… Been doing table top/LARPing for over 16 years. The whole thing sounds like a debacle for all sides. However, bulk of the responsibility does NOT lie with every player tho. It lies with the GM, the boyfriend, and the Girlfriend. The Girlfriend is a random new element being introduced to an established group. The current players are well aware of each of the other characters, and how their player runs them. They’re comfortable with each other and each others’ style. The Girlfriend doesn’t know the group’s dynamics, how things work, how things are handled, etc. The boyfriend should have made her VERY aware of this. And should have been helping her rather than focus on his own character or playing and leaving her to flounder.

The GM/ST (Storyteller) is responsible for introducing the new player to the system and to the world and the players/characters. The GM is also responsible for letting a new player know when IC (In Character) is taking place and when OOC (Out of Character) is taking place. Boyfriend & GM also should have introduced her to the players and had them describe their characters beforehand so as not to be startled. The new player should have asked questions

If you muck up IC, it doesn’t matter if you’re a new player or an old hand. There are consequences for each roll of the die and each action taken. It sounds like that’s what happened here. Its unfair to the rest of the group to have to completely shift gears in how their characters respond. If you mess up in character, be prepared to be yelled at, teleported, killed, turned into a mushroom, or have nose hairs ignite. That happened to me because I wasn’t aware of the social/political dynamics of the world. Players have to roll with it. (After I screwed up, I asked the DM what was going on and why what I did was a mess up IC. A good DM and good players will be happy to pause for a bit and explain). If you end up with an OOC reaction to an IC event, then pause the game and let everyone get their heads back on.

If you jocked up the rules, then the GM should have stopped the game and explained where she borked up. When you bring up an OUT OF CHARACTER a mechanic or rules screwup you are NOT IN CHARACTER. Unless the OOC screwup was announced though, the players wouldn’t know that there was a screwup. But verbal attacks out of character are a HUGE no-no and should be an instant ban. Likewise if you’re yelling at a player during an OOC issue (and you’re aware of it) and you blame it on being IC, you’re banned as well. If you’re not aware of it you apologize profusely.

We’ve always used hand signals or something similar to denote if we’re out of character (Crossing fingers and holding them up. Flipping over character sheets. Holding hands in Time out signal) and we need to speak. Maybe the group may want to implement that and let any new player know about it. That way they can glance at someone who’s super angry and see that “Oh their sheet’s up. They’re playing their character”

Meh, just me weighing in.

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Annie March 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

If the boyfriend in this story is anything like the RPGers I know then she will have been THOROUGHLY prepared, they never shut up about their games in general! (Meaning this lovingly!)

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