April 14th, 2006

Is this just me whining?

Am I the only one who is dismayed by how hard it is to get a game group together and keep them coming on a regular basis to a game?

I live in a big city. A capitol city as a matter of fact, so you would think there'd be no shortage of gamers, and yet there does seem to be.

I guess the real nature of my complaint is that in this town, the gamers here seem to think that gaming is something you do when you have absolutely nothing better to do - and that if ANYTHING even slightly more interesting comes down the pipe gaming is dropped in the dust in favor of it.

Am I the only person with that problem? Is it just me?

In two of the last three campaigns I have run I have been 'blessed' with at least one (and in some cases 2) 'transubstantial' players. These guys are the ones who's lives and commitments always seem to work out such that they can be at game only 50% of the time. Some Transubs (as I call them) have perfectly good reasons for their absences, they really do. Some don't. Some blew me off for a convention or in some cases for the opening of a movie.

In the end it's all the same, I let it go on for a while and then sit them down and have 'the talk', which goes something like this:

Me: We should talk about your attendance my friend, I'm concerned.
They: Yeah, geez, I'm real sorry but stuff happens you know?
Me: Oh absolutely, but you see here's the problem. As a player in my game, the less you show up, the less contribution you can make. You end up left behind when things move forward as a group, you lag behind because you aren't getting the XP the rest of the group is getting. In short, you're getting half an experience and you're making twice the work for me.
They: (hackles up) What do you mean?
Me: Well, you see, when I sit down to write the gamescript/story outline for a session, I plan for you to be there by default unless you've warned me you won't be. When I find out you can't come, I have to go back and rewrite the script, sometimes making some major changes to the story to accommodate your absence, which means in effect I have to write two scripts.
(author's note, imagine what happens when two or three people can't make it!)
They: Aww, hey man, I'm sorry but you know stuff happens, real life and so forth - I had good reasons not to show.
Me: I'm sorry to say this but ultimately your good reasons have nothing to do with the matter at hand. You see, the nature of my objection is not one of morality. I'm not your High School VP. I don't care WHY you're not here. Ultimately this all boils down simply to the fact that you're not here. Past a certain point you stop being a player and become a guest star in the game, and while I have been running games for more than 20 years I still don't know how to handle guest stars in them.
They: So what are you saying?
Me: I'm asking you if you want to be released from the game.

Now, some take this better than others. I have had all sorts of reactions to this. Some take the opportunity to quietly bow out, some get really mad because they think I'm kicking them out (which I'm not). Some get weepy and promise to be 'better' (with variable rates of success). The reactions are myriad.

But having 'the talk' with gamers in my town can be a dangerous thing. In this town, (especially after the introduction of LARPs) gaming became political. People don't seek out the 'best' games, they play with those in their normal social clique - which makes a perverted sort of sense really, but it means that a certain old retail adage "People who get bad product or service from you will tell 10 other people that they're pissed" actually applies in this situation. My town is a town where the gamers have fragile egos and asking them to take responsibility for their own attendance at game can be a road to actually losing prospective players.

To make matters worse, one must be doubly careful with the 'lynchpin' gamers. These are gamers who have some influence over a larger number of other gamers - sort of like the trendsetters in High School - and when they get mad, suddenly you find whole blocks of people not wanting to game with you. Now, this is MUCH more a LARP problem around here, but it happens a little in TT too.

Am I the only one who has problems like this?