Table Manners: Or, How Not to Be a Convention Troll

In honor of Dexcon this weekend, where hundreds of gamers are coming together for a weekend of dice rolling and debauchery, I thought I’d share a few little tips to help everyone make the most of their con (and maybe help break some bad habits at the table before they get started):

1) We’re All Nerds Here
Dystopia Rising creator Michael Pucci likes to open his larp sessions with some variation on the following advice: “Look around you. We’re all nerds! Everyone is here because they’re a geek who loves gaming! Enjoy it!” The message goes double for gaming cons: Leave the hatin’ at home, and focus on the fun instead. Try new things, play new games with new people, maybe learn some new tricks or even a new way of looking at an old game you never would have considered before. We’re all nerds. Embrace it.

2) Stay On Target
Most convention games have between 4-6 hours to hand out characters, explain the rules (for new folks), provide relevant background/setting material to set up the scenario and then actually play out a full, entertaining story, usually with a group of strangers who’ve never gamed together before. That’s a hell of challenge. So do your GM a favor and try to stay focused. Don’t be a humorless jerk about it, of course, but those long-winded war stories from other games can probably wait for the bar afterward, you probably don’t need to keep dropping character to talk about your other convention larps, and that game of Angry Birds on your iPad will still love you even if you don’t play for a few hours. You’ve only got a short time to play, so dive in!

3) Play Nice with Others
Don’t get me wrong – I know some con games thrive on PvP action. (The “everyone make characters for system X and have a huge gladiator brawl” is a storied con tradition, after all, as are the equally time-honored “let’s all make Evil characters and screw with each other” games.) But there’s a difference between your characters hating and fighting and scheming, and the players being at each others’ throats. Even the harshest PvP games are still games, after all, so the goal is to have fun. Be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat, and remember, it’s just a game, so enjoy it, and help everyone else at the table do so the same.

4) Respect the Shower Hour
I know that because of the limited convention time frame, gamers tend to maximize their playing time and minimize other needs like sleeping, eating properly and so on. It’s sort of the nature of the beast, and looking at my schedule for Dexcon right now, I’m no different in that respect.  On top of that I’ll fully admit that I’m no daisy after six hours of larp in a small convention boardroom or five hours packed around a gaming table, and my nutritional plans never seem to quite be as healthy as I’d hope. I’m not going to say that the convention needs to schedule a designated Shower Hour between gaming rounds. (Though, now that I mention it…)  Deodorant, mints, real food, a nap now and then, enough changes of clothes to see you through the weekend and doing battle with shampoo at least once a day – these things not only make you better suited to enjoy the games you’re playing, but your fellow gamers will appreciate it too.   

5) Guys. Seriously.
I hate having to write this one, but some guys need the reminder, so here goes: There are lots of female gamers. I know to some of you it might seem like they just suddenly appeared in the time it took to get another case of Mountain Dew from the garage, but believe it or not, they’ve actually been here for a long time now, and not because their boyfriend dragged them into it. In fact, at a con I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that any lady you see with a badge and a backpack is there because she’s stoked to throw down in an Apocalypse World, or to see her Space Wolves wreck on some Necrons, or because her Gangrel is gonna slit throats and seize Praxis as soon as the sun goes down. So really, stop reciting rules at them like they don’t know what they’re doing, talking over them during planning sessions, offering unsolicited advice on the “best” move to make every time their turn comes up, quizzing their “cred” like the geek SATs, or worse yet assume that sharing a table and some laughs entitles you to share a hotel room later. It’s sad and obnoxious, and it needs to stop. For all the guys who don’t need this reminder, thank you, keep being awesome, and don’t hesitate to speak up and back up a lady if you see some tool trying to pull this sort of bad behavior. For all the ladies in these hobbies, thanks for coming out despite all the crap and the cavemen and the creepers, not to mention kicking some major ass besides.  All too often we’re still like the short boys hugging the walls at the eighth grade dance, the ones that made you roll your eyes and long for the relative social graces and personal growth of high school guys, but don’t give up on us yet. We’ll catch up to y’all sooner or later, maturity-wise. Promise.

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Table Manners is a new commentary and criticism series for gamers and their own little corner of geek culture. Like what you read? Enjoy larping in particular? Click on the BLT or Badass LARP Talk tags to read a different semi-regular advice series for larpers of all kinds. You can also follow me on Twitter @WriterPete, and subscribe to the blog to stay in the loop about future updates! 

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2 responses

  1. Hahaha, so true! I practically lived on the physics and chemistry faculty of my university for the last 6 years (so lots of boys and not so much girls) and both rules 4 and 5 apply so well in this environment. In the whole gaming scene however (I play LARP, D&D, Warhammer 40k and Magic the gathering myself) the guys are pretty tolerant and friendly to me (with some rare exceptions ofcourse). As a girl, however, it is very useful to use your charming smile and behaviour 😛 Helped me win a battle or two!

    July 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

  2. ghoti

    Great list! I would have thought number 1 was common sense, but then I remembered that not everyone has common sense.

    As someone who has both played and run games at a Con, number 2 really speak volumes to me. While there are a few things that can be done to help prevent long start times and more play time, they are dependent on the GM to do a ton of prep work (not to mention spend on paper and ink). It is great when the Players get into the mindset for the game rather than being distracted by any/everything else.

    One thing I want to add is most GMs who run games at a Con aren’t doing it to make a profit. They are doing it to help you have fun. As a good player, it becomes your job to help the GM by getting other players in the game to have fun too. The easiest way to do this is to reach out to other players and get them to stay in character! Of course, it’s always fun for the great GM when a player can make him/her say “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that”.

    Number 3 is helpful too, it is a great way to play. You are there to have fun and so is everyone else. However, sometimes you get a character who is supposed to be evil and/or want to make another character suffer. If your character is an a$$, just make sure you give the other guy (or girls) a good handshake afterwards. Maybe offer to buy them a drink if you were particularly mean.

    Number 4 is key to making new friends at a Con. Or at the least not making your current friends want to abandon you. Besides, no one should want to be the stinky kid.

    Number 5 is an awesome rule. I know plenty of female gamers who know the rules better than I do in a couple of systems. My wife perfectly fits the Gangrel idea you mentioned and can easily stand on her own when playing. If you try to recite rules to her, she’ll give you a glare that will send you running for the hills.

    I also found the less you try to impress them with your knowledge of the rules and just let them play the game, the more they tend to want you on their side. Even more so if you come out of your shell and interact with them in character during the game. Then there is also the benefit that you usually have something to talk about after the game.

    July 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

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