Is asking about how a game works a "faux pas"?

edited August 2014 in Story Games
From an unrelated thread:
@2097 is 100% right about real-world RPG culture: I simply have no expectations of fairness or clarity of expectations whatsoever when I play with a GM I don't already know, because even asking about how the rules of a game actually work is usually considered a serious social faux pas.
Is this a regional thing? Because when GMing I've often been asked at conventions how the rules of a game work and I always consider it a good question. In fact, teaching how the rules of a game work is something I obsessively do in convention play and it is not considered offputting or odd. And as a player, I always ask how the rules work and I always get a decent answer (at least, when the answer has been deficient it hasn't been for social reasons, it's been because the GM/group leader didn't quite understand the rules themselves.)

Like, I do occasionally get a bit of ribbing from people who laugh when I say "Hi everyone, I'm Jason and today we're going to play a game called Dungeons and Dragons, here's how the game works. My role is called 'the DM' and my job is..." but I probably get a far greater number of thank yous from people who, even though they may have "already known" how to play the game, they appreciated the refresher or (for games with a lot of flexibility) what my approach was going to be.

So can people share stories of times when this is considered a faux pas or somehow socially transgressive, to ask how a game works that you are sitting down to play?
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Comments

  • There’s no problem asking about how an attack against AC work or how many spell slots you get back as an evoker or stuff like that. The faux pas is asking about prep, sandbox vs “adventure path” etc.

    I sure have gotten a lot of cold looks when trying to bring this up and sometimes I haven’t dared asking. I did mention it, yesterday, but no answer.
  • I never experienced anything like that here in Germany and have gotten good answers to the question as well as answering it myself.

    I think it can appear rude if the one asked reads it as you sniping at the game and wanting to find details to pick at and criticize. Depends on the person if they expect something like that and if they are really attached to and defensive about their system.
  • "So, I see I have these NPCs listed on my sheet here as Contacts. How does that work?"

    "Oh, don't worry about it."
  • There’s no problem asking about how an attack against AC work or how many spell slots you get back as an evoker or stuff like that. The faux pas is asking about prep, sandbox vs “adventure path” etc.

    I sure have gotten a lot of cold looks when trying to bring this up and sometimes I haven’t dared asking. I did mention it, yesterday, but no answer.
    This is the case around here as well. To be specific, I remember having shaken the confidence of a few less experienced GMs when I've insisted on dragging the specific degree of illusion involved in the game out into daylight. One experienced GM was also less than enamoured by a similar event. I don't make a hobby of such, but I think I can remember about three distinct cases over the last decade where a GM has treated questions about their activities as socially transgressive. I've only gotten this reaction with GMs who actually have something to hide, which of course makes a fair bit of sense. And everybody is of course only too happy to explain the "player-facing" parts of the game when asked.

    Overall I would not call this a social standard considering the number of GM's I've talked with vs. the number of those bothered by such questions; rather, it's a strain of thought within the tabletop rpg tradition that one occasionally encounters. It should be noted that regular illusionists are a narrow minority of the roleplayers in my regular circles, which obviously skews the results here - I've interviewed more GMs I've trained myself than GMs of the Nordic freeform tradition combined, for example :D

    (To be explicit, I'm not saying that these GMs are wrong to be annoyed: if your method is to limit information to retain mystery like a stage magician, then of course you don't want to answer questions about it. I've yet to encounter a GM who would calmly say such, of course - for some reason the first instinct is to lie rather than say that the game'll be more enjoyable if you don't know.)
  • I agree with everyone so far! The first time you sit down with a new GM, it's like eating in a restaurant you've never eaten in before. You don't know how the chef here prepares their version of a "Shepherd's Pie". It can be SO different from place to place, it's hard to not feel like some people should just invent a new name for it.

    So in that sense, you can't really expect total clarity until after you've played a session. I also agree that it's very subjective and depends a lot on how and when the question is asked. Tone can matter.

    But I think expecting "fairness" is a slippery semantic slope. It needs unpacking. Some people interpret fairness as "the GM will never tell a lie to you", some as "the GM will treat your creative input just as they treat their own", some as "the GM will not try to kill your character", while others simply see it as "the GM will treat all Players equally". Certainly that last one is more universally expected than the others.
  • I think it can appear rude if the one asked reads it as you sniping at the game and wanting to find details to pick at and criticize.
    Exactly.

    Yeah, there’s also a lot of nerves and tension with being GM, some people feel like they really put themselves out there and don’t want their hard work (be it sandbox prep or path prep) to be in vain.

  • I've only gotten this reaction with GMs who actually have something to hide, which of course makes a fair bit of sense.
    That’s not my only experience. I really pushed the limit (in email correspondence) with one GM trying to find out his degree of sandboxness vs illusion and it turned out he was squeaky clean and on the level. Kind of burned a few of the bridges with him but... hopefully I still can get in a game with him because he is a brilliant GM.
    (Rickard, I am talking about Anth here.)

    Just goes to show that even these GMs more than raise an eyebrow when trying to figure out the style.

    I have another GM in my past, Martin who was very secretive about whether he was running a sandboxy set up, a rail, illusion, or wholly improvised. I suspect a mix. I know that he spent a lot of time on prep.
    I was very interested in discussing prep and GM techniques with him but he was very secretive and, above all, he did not want to know to what extent my own GMing at the time was improvised (which it was — I’d think of ideas before hand but it was all inside my head) since he wanted to fully immerse himself in my games.

    So I say yes, there are a lot of potentials for faux pas in this regard.
  • The problem is that way too may GMs think that "surprise" is an important game element and try to keep it even from before the start of the game. And the worst of it is that they apply that concept at some of the game mechanics. @Deliverator, in your example it's easy to read that answer as "I'm going to surprise you later with that part, it's part of my act and if you're prepared for it, it won't have the same effect"

    But then again, that GM isn't realizing that anyone can interpretate from that answer that there's a hidden agenda. Once a player takes note of this fact, the social contract is changed in his mind and now this game has another level: "you have a hidden agenda and I'm going to find out what it is either to help you or act against it if I don't like it." Add to that any judgement the player can make about that person a priori (he's hiding something from me and I don't like it / I like a GM with the guts to lie in my face, let's play) and the gameplay will go either the powergaming or the collaborationist way.
  • Considering it further, saying that only illusionist GMs react negatively to queries about their system is a bit exaggerated - as has been noted, perceived criticism also plays a big part. It matters whether you're asking because you want to learn their excellent style, or whether you're accusing them of cheating with the dice, for example. Both are sort of "asking about how the game works", but the intent is completely different.

    Let me rephrase my experience: given an equally amiable social context, the GM who is loath to explain their method has in my experience been concerned about the asymmetry of player perception and the "ugly underworks" of the game. The one experienced GM I truly managed to piss off in this regard didn't want to ruin the post facto interpretation of their session by revealing how much of the content had been pre-planned vs. how much was spontaneously initiated by player choices, for example. This was sort of understandable in that the events surely felt cooler for the players who bought into the idea that they'd initiated them themselves.
  • Finding out that some of the coolest things had been our unexpected interactions with objects and items that were in the dungeons as written was so awesome. If the DM had changed or improvised how those objects and items worked it would feel less awesome. I don’t know why.
  • Anyway, this thread took a weird turn: what we meant in the other thread was the “rules” as in CA and workings/prep. It should not be a faux pas to ask about player-facing rules.
  • Around here, if your thread doesn't take a weird turn, it's probably banal. :-)
  • I can see asking about the preparation, philosophy of the GM, stylistic choices and other "director's commentary" to be something you might want to do after the session. Especially if there are time constraints. The GM and other players at the table might want to stay away from that meta-level of discussion too, while the game is running. Like running the commentary track on a DVD, to come back to that comparsion, it can distract from the experience you originally showed up for. No matter how informative it is, some would say it is best to see the film first. And I would respect the wish of the other players (including the GM) to table a discussion on technique till the game is done. So I guess it would be faux pas if it interrupts play too much and takes away from player's enjoyment.
  • I think I agree with the following: it's not usually a faux pas to ask how the player-facing rules ostensibly work. It is a faux pas to ask if you're going to be able to use them reliably.
  • Immersion! That's a huge factor as well around here, a significant percentage of the rpg scene consists of people with pretty hardcore character-immersion play habits. In that context you need to realize that it's not kosher to break the kayfabe by talking about the system. "The best system is the one that gets out of the way" is the ruling sentiment in this sort of context, and discussing the fine points of how it works and what it does during game-time is the direct opposite of getting out of the way.

    Illusionism and immersionism are traditionally good bedfellows here (Nordic freeform playstyle is pretty much auteurism+illusionism+immersionism), so they sort of reinforce each other when it comes to GMs who dislike talking about what they're doing: on the one hand you don't want to reveal your tricks, and on the other hand you don't want to disrupt the character immersion with peeks behind the curtain.
  • +1 to Eero for saying Kayfabe.
  • There’s no problem asking about how an attack against AC work or how many spell slots you get back as an evoker or stuff like that. The faux pas is asking about prep, sandbox vs "adventure path"
    What specifically did you ask?

    If someone asked me "Hey JD, how did you make this scenario?" that would be one thing. If they sneered at me in the middle of an encounter and snapped "It doesn't matter WHAT we do, does it?" the that might be different.

    I've gotten GM methodology questions at cons before and it isn't considered strange, speaking generally.
  • "So, I see I have these NPCs listed on my sheet here as Contacts. How does that work?"

    "Oh, don't worry about it."
    That would be a weird response here, unless you asked in the middle of someone else talking or something.

  • Oh, and please don't feel like you're derailing, anyone who has experiences with questions to other players about game stuff breaking your local mores/practices, I'm interested.

    One thing I noticed is some of you are talking about long standing games (2097 and e-mail exchanges), others about general practices (Eero's game-independent interviews), and my OP specifically focused on con games. I think these contexts matter, a lot.
  • "So, I see I have these NPCs listed on my sheet here as Contacts. How does that work?"

    "Oh, don't worry about it."
    That would be a weird response here, unless you asked in the middle of someone else talking or something.

    It'd depend on the situation. I can see that being accepted if it was worded like "Don't worry about it right now" or "Don't worry about it for this scenario."
  • If someone asked me "Hey JD, how did you make this scenario?" that would be one thing. If they sneered at me in the middle of an encounter and snapped "It doesn't matter WHAT we do, does it?" the that might be different.
    In this case it was more the latter than the former.

    But in other posts in the thread I have outlined some other discussions I have had with GMs, even GMs I've played several games with, even general questions, and even not in the same evening as we were gaming, and it has been hard nailing these things down. CA and social contract is hard.
  • Eero nails the context I’m in with his post.
    Nordic freeform playstyle is pretty much auteurism+illusionism+immersionism.
    A.k.a. my wasted youth.
  • edited August 2014
    In my experience, most rpg players tend to play in one general style, and don't really know enough about how it differs from other styles of play to easily articulate it. So it can end up being pretty pointless even to ask, sometimes.
  • In my experience, most rpg players tend to play in one general style, and don't really know enough about how it differs from other styles of play to easily articulate it. So it can end up being pretty pointless even to ask, sometimes.
    It wouldn't be done with one question and instead be a whole line of questioning and possibly a conversation explaining playstyles to them. So that takes time and requires interest on both sides.

  • But in other posts in the thread I have outlined some other discussions I have had with GMs, even GMs I've played several games with, even general questions, and even not in the same evening as we were gaming, and it has been hard nailing these things down. CA and social contract is hard.
    Well, you might have a hard time nailing down my CA too since I don't believe in the GNS classification of CA. :)

    But I am surprised that they wouldn't discuss social level issues. That is pretty normal game group discourse around here.
  • The one experienced GM I truly managed to piss off in this regard didn't want to ruin the post facto interpretation of their session by revealing how much of the content had been pre-planned vs. how much was spontaneously initiated by player choices, for example. This was sort of understandable in that the events surely felt cooler for the players who bought into the idea that they'd initiated them themselves.
    I'm happy to tell people exactly how I come up with a game. However, I once got into a discussion with a player where I explained that a game we recently finished was generated largely in response to player action, and the person expressed their disenchantment - they felt that preplanned content was different from improvised-on-the-fly content because in the first case they were discovering something that already existed. (I suppose in a way this is about retaining player agency and consequences in failure as well as success. This was an investigation, a genre in which one is generally supposed to be discovering events that happened before.)

    So if you were their player, I would not surprised if some GMs were hesitant about answering your questions because perhaps they also had a similar experience and wanted to avoid an answer that you would dislike (and if the "how I create material for games" was not a part of the same page discussion beforehand - I don't think it generally is). However, talking to GMs you don't currently play with and not getting an answer would be weird.
  • edited August 2014
    My experiences usually stem from GMs or players trying to emulate a particular established setting. When I last played in a Star Wars campaign, for example, I had to ask questions to establish not only what my character knew but what I "should" know. The GM was a Star Wars fanatic and watched, read and breathed the setting; my fanaticism remained mostly with the movies, the old Knights of the Old Republic video games and not much else. So, when he said, "This is the Old Republic," that was really vague. When I asked about Force capabilities, was I allowed to be creative or limited to a mode of thinking? How about the Jedi Code? This translated to other games: Forgotten Realms? Which books and characters are present? Dragonlance, Dragon Age and Mass Effect settings have a similar level of setting related understanding.

    While it may seem antagonistic or, at least, a measuring contest, as a player, I also don't want to ruin the GM's and group's experience. If an NPC is hiding behind crates, sniping at PCs, the last thing I want to hear is that it is un-Jedi like to push the crates and pin the NPC to the wall. While the former never came up in play, I have had a player turn to me on one occasion and say, "A Jedi wouldn't do that." Which led to me asking, "Eh?" Then citation from player followed by citations from GM brought the game to a halt for a quarter of the session. By which time I had already bowed to their considerable knowledge and waited my turn to affirm that I'm still doing what I said I was doing. While I used to scoff at first sessions as pitch sessions, my latest experiences demonstrate why they're beneficial: get a broad stroke agreement on what the setting is then build from there.
  • edited August 2014
    IMO it's completely not a faux pas not to assume any system knowledge, as your players will likely come from many different roleplaying backgrounds (storygames, adventure path games etc.) and many different levels of experience with specific systems, and indeed with roleplaying in general. No, you're doing absolutely the right thing JD.
  • Adversarialism is generally the deciding Factor behind whether something is faux pas or not.

    As mentioned above, is this a civil inquisitive look, or are you "dragging something out" to make a point?

    Asking ANYTHING with the intention of making a point out of it is generally faux pas in play scenarios. It puts people on edge and detracts from the immediate experience. It makes things personal and reflect people's character rather than just explore the game.

    Ask yourself: by asking this, are you ready a fight or just curious? Same goes for the answerer.
  • I think it depends a lot how, when, and where it's asked.

    Tom: Hey wanna play in a game I'm running this Saturday?
    Dick: Maybe, what is it?
    Tom: Generic high fantasy rpg.
    Dick: What's the table style? Sandbox, linear pre-prepped, hierarchical, communal, etc?

    Perfectly fine.

    Tom: The guard is having none of it. He fixes you with a cold stare that leaves no room for doubt that you're not going to be allowed to pass.
    Dick: So what then, this is all authoritarian illusionism here?
    Harry: Dude, don't be your name.

    Probably not fine.
  • If it were asking about sandbox vs. prescribed events or something in-between, I'd fully expect the GM to answer me on that, and have never encountered otherwise. Whenever I've asked about how they prep things, they've been delighted that I've been interested. I think this comes a lot down to making sure all the players are on the same page, or else people will be disappointed when it turns out they were playing a different game than they expected.
  • Some of us (including myself) answered the first part of the quote; the part about "expectations of fairness or clarity of expectations". But with a more careful reading of the OP, I think JD's question is really about the second part of the quote, in which Deliverator's exact words were "the rules of the game". JD's verbage seems to support that reading, so now I assume this refers to the RAW, not the GM's personal body of technique or anything about the module.

    In that case, asking how the game works is perfectly natural behavior for a person considering any kind of game ever, and the optimal answer is "Have a seat, I'm just about to show everyone." Of course if play has already begun, if you're interrupting someone, breaking anyone's immersion, wasting group time, throwing people off with your question, etc, that's just rude. You should probably save it til there's a break, or til your turn comes up.

    So...
    1. Total clarity, while nice, cannot necessarily be expected until having played. Depends on exactly what, when, why, how and whom you ask.
    2. Asking about the RAW is natural and normal. Just don't be an ass.

  • edited August 2014
    Well, I think the rules of the game that we're actually playing is a combination of the rules in the book and the methodology by which the people at the table are applying or intepreting them, as well as the actual application or interpretations themselves. Please don't think I wanted a limited discussion, so far the discussion has been good, but I would really like more specific examples of times people asked about something related to game play (whether it be methodology or content) and felt they had crossed a social line.
  • Back when I was in high school, playing AD&D for the first time with a bunch of guys who'd been playing it for a while, we'd occasionally have a very adversarial campaign in the old DM-vs-players meatgrinder style. Maybe one out of eight games were like this.

    And in those adversarial games, it was definitely not cool if you asked the GM about anything complicated or unusual, because the assumption was that any information the GM had would be used against everyone. So if you wondered whether a particular combination of spells could, for example, make killing a dragon easy, you kept that shit quiet until you could have a sidebar with one of the other players to work out the details. Under no circumstances could the GM hear even a whisper of it until you were ready to uncork your diabolically convoluted and torturously detailed plan, because if he did, you would expect that every dragon in the universe would already have prepared a defense against it. Accidentally revealing a plan to the GM in advance was the kind of thing that would definitely put you on the rest of the group's shit list until you found a brilliant way to make it up to them.

    But that was a very specific kind of D&D game, and it wasn't even the kind that we played most often. If the GM didn't say up front that he was going to kill the hell out of everyone and we'd all better be ready for that, we didn't need to play everything so close to the vest. A well-timed surprising plan would always be welcomed, but if you reality-checked it with the GM and the rest of the group in advance it wouldn't be a big deal, and the GMs generally stuck with "the bad guys only know the things the bad guys know, not everything the GM knows."
  • I think it depends a lot how, when, and where it's asked.

    Tom: Hey wanna play in a game I'm running this Saturday?
    Dick: Maybe, what is it?
    Tom: Generic high fantasy rpg.
    Dick: What's the table style? Sandbox, linear pre-prepped, hierarchical, communal, etc?

    Perfectly fine.
    That’s not really been my experience. It works sometimes but sometimes not. As I mentioned upthread, one of my brilliant sandbox DMs eventually answered some of the questions, the other has been more open about process, whereas my old GM (who also played in games of mine) was a lot more secretive even after many questions.
    And this has been questions over breakfast, questions over email etc etc, not “in the moment” questions like belove.
    Tom: The guard is having none of it. He fixes you with a cold stare that leaves no room for doubt that you're not going to be allowed to pass.
    Dick: So what then, this is all authoritarian illusionism here?
    Harry: Dude, don't be your name.

    Probably not fine.
    That’s been my experience as well but that’s more understandable for a few reasons:
    • the player’s questions are usually either in affect or interpreted as in affect (I know my own question last saturday was at least as rudely phrased as Dick’s here, so understandable that it got no answer)
    • the GM was probably already straggling ATM [since a situation came up that triggered such a question] and trying to solve a perceived table problem, and not good time for questions
    • the group or GM might try to find immersion or a good mood

    There’s a reason why there should be an answer though: it’s the perfect opportunity to be clear and show by example how the process works since everyone understands the working example.

    But yeah, I’d buy that the many cons outweigh the pro or possible pros.
  • I would think it very strange if a GM didn't want to talk about what's going on under the hood. And if they got huffy about it, it would be a clear sign to walk on to some other event. But the only time I've ever encountered that, that I can recall, was an hour into the most horribly boring railroad ever. And I did, in fact, get up and leave. I'd normally expect the GM to enthuse about they craft.
  • edited August 2014
    2. Asking about the RAW is natural and normal. Just don't be an ass.
    Oh yeah, it's OK for the players to ask if the game is RAW or a hack of said game, but also I think it's incumbent on the GM to explain to potential 'rules mastery' enthusiasts (not mocking them there btw) whether or not they're running RAW or not, especially if they've junked a large section of the combat rules, say, because they think they're clunky or whatever.

  • Ok, RAW + House Rules.
  • 2. Asking about the RAW is natural and normal. Just don't be an ass.
    Oh yeah, it's OK for the players to ask if the game is RAW or a hack of said game, but also I think it's incumbent on the GM to explain to potential 'rules mastery' enthusiasts (not mocking them there btw) whether or not they're running RAW or not, especially if they've junked a large section of the combat rules, say, because they think they're clunky or whatever.

    This is the thing that's related to many of my poor experiences, since I'm a system-mastery savant. "Oh, you don't make people roll to confirm criticals in 3.x? Why the fuck didn't you mention that up-front?" (Since it actually messes with the math of the system quite a bit.)
  • I can definitely see where someone on the end of "I don't use the written rules that much" might get annoyed at someone asking about them a lot.
  • And, y'know, there are people I know who have said things at parties or in forum threads to the effect of "I don't use the written rules that much," and I know not to play with them. What bothers me is that I have to make "I don't use the written rules that much" the *default assumption* when playing with strangers.
  • edited August 2014
    One of my Special Skills when I sit down to a board game is that I am really good at reading rulebooks and understanding them and often explaining them to other new players. If it's a complicated Fantasy Flight Games product then this usually includes me making several exasperated comments about how poorly their book is organized and how they should hire an editor.

    Given that story-games is mostly people who Care How Games Work, I imagine I am not the only one in this conversation who is good at this. I am often worried that this role makes me kind of an asshole but I think it is worth it because learning new games is hard. But it's especially so because I know that if I sit down with people who have played a game before there is a good chance that when I ask how the game works they will get flustered an defensive. Because explaining rules is a challenging thing, and the skill that I have has come from really working on it and thinking about it a lot, and running lots of games for strangers and giving little spiels about how the rules work that are quick and efficient and informative and sometimes amusing even when you've heard them and I get a lot of practice.

    People are embarrassed that things are hard to explain, because it's a kind of public speaking and it is scary. Of course house rules make that way worse (and don't get me started on people who house rule a FFG boardgame after playing it one time without thinking through the full repercussions).

    So: I ask for a quick introduction to the game, but I know that it is ultimately less disruptive to ask someone to pass me the rules rather than asking them to explain something, unless they are a person who has already demonstrated a certain ease.

    On the other hand, I love leading games because I actually love explaining rules to people and entertaining their questions, especially inventive ones or ones that approach the text from a different direction than I am used to, or when things suddenly click in the mind of a new player and they double-check that things are actually really neat. It is one of the best things about games.
  • And, y'know, there are people I know who have said things at parties or in forum threads to the effect of "I don't use the written rules that much," and I know not to play with them. What bothers me is that I have to make "I don't use the written rules that much" the *default assumption* when playing with strangers.
    That's an interesting question too. At cons I rarely play in groups led by others, and as I say, in my con games I obsessively tell everyone what's going on to hilarious detail, being, as I am, a complete narcissist obsessed with soaking up as much attention as possible.

    Would you (not just you) say that convention game-leaders adhere to the written rules more, less, or about the same?

    In my very limited experience they adhere to the written rules more because they tend to see themselves as teachers of an existing thing rather than creators collaborating with a long-standing group.

  • The houserules I often encounter at conventions are simplifications. Like leaving out parts of the system that take a long time. Like for example leaving hit locations out of The Dark Eye. Which can be pretty easily announced. But in general it is close to rules a written (or well in some cases rules as understood, if the GM is teaching and did not get everything right). Especially with smaller and less well known game RAW is used. (I personally try to do it as well).
  • Yeah, no. Everyone everywhere (very, very slight exaggeration) that I play with, unless they're running a game they themselves wrote and often not even then, simply does not care to even try to play with the rules of the game.
  • That would just be considered very strange here, with exceptions like things Biest names.

    I played GURPS at a con in Phoenix one time and the guy put in the description that he was going to be using a long list of advanced optional rules explicitly because he wanted to show people what an ultra-detailed GURPS experience was. It was very much worth it.
  • Most of the convention games I've played here in Australia don't use any rules text at all, even if you get a character sheet. The general attitude seems to be, unless it's D20 that everyone knows, it's not worth trying to teach people a new ruleset, even a simple one, in a three-hour Con slot.

    I've always run my Con games by the system though, since I was doing it partly to demo my own game. No point claiming to be running a specific game system if you just freeform it!

    I'm also happy to discuss my GMing style, although I recognise some players might not appreciate having the curtain drawn back. I did make attempts in the past to talk about GMing with one of the other GMs in our group at the time, since I was trying to express my interest in player-led games where character decisions have an effect on the world, whereas he seemed pretty set on knowing how the story was going to play out ahead of time and basically just having the PCs go through the experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was not very willing to talk openly about the subject, even in our between-game hang-out time.
  • edited August 2014
    Whoa, that's an interesting one. So people at a convention can (are socially permitted to) ask about GMing "style" in Australia but game leaders normally don't actually present the mechanics of the game they're leading?

    Like, it would be normal/not a faux pas to ask "hey, is this game improvised?" or "did you have a set of encounters in mind when we started" but it would be unusual/not normal socially for a game leader to say "so in this game you do X and the mechanics work like Y"?

    MIND BLOWN
  • Yeah, seems strange to me as well.
    When I play a system that is new to me at a Con I would expect to come away with at least a basic understanding of the mechanics and what the game is like.
  • Well my tendency to be happy to talk about my GMing style is not linked to the freeform nature of Con games...

    Usually at a Con you get a short blurb that says what the game is about, and then you might get a character sheet that is either basically just a character study or might be an actual Character Sheet. I can't say I've ever seen a lot of discussion about GMing approach, although sometimes the GM will announce up-front that they "basically run freeform (as in rules-less), maybe roll a die if something's in the balance." Some might be happy to talk about their GMing style more in-depth (especially at the after-party), but the last time I went to a Con was as I was only just breaking into the theory side of things.

    I've played in a lot of games that were advertised as Systemless, which could be anything from "listen to the GM tell you a story" to full-on collaborative freeform. I've also played in a game of Dragon Warriors (run by a guy whose material's been published by them) where I don't remember doing much with the mechanics apart from maybe an occasional skill roll while getting dragged along by his "plot". I played in a game of Feng Shui where, despite having full Character Sheets, the GM completely winged it without dice because he said it was "more fun" that way.

    For games advertised as running under a particular system, If I were to ask how the mechanics actually worked, I'd tend to get deflective responses about preferring to run the game freeform - and I believe this is because people think the rules take too long to explain, and there seems to be a general preference for "pure roleplaying" rather than mechanical bean-counting of any sort (apart from D&D/Pathfinder, which I don't play at Cons).

    It was a little disappointing to say the least, since I was trying to play a range of games to increase my breadth of understanding of new systems.
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