It’s Just a Game

Tabletop gaming is many things to many people. People can prioritize interactive storytelling, getting together with a few friends, or the pure, fun escapism of it all. But it’s most important to remember that tabletop gaming is just that: a game.

I’m not saying this in the mid-80’s moral panic sort of way. That, “Don’t worry Grandma, I’m not going to start sacrificing the neighborhood pets to The Almighty Gygax, it’s just a game” sort of way. Instead, I mean to say that for once, chill out everyone. I know that Dungeons & Dragons can be a passion — hell, I write for a website dedicated to it and games like it — but we have to remember that it’s also a recreation.

I think we’ve all met those types of people that forget this important fact. The Rules Lawyer. The Serious One. The Spotlight Hogger, The Sociopathic GM. We know the tropes and the warning signs. Bickering with others, refusing to have a humorous encounter or NPC, or letting the game take a hold on real-life friendships. All of these can ruin a session, an adventure, or even an entire group if the troublemaker doesn’t shape up.

Now listen, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t care about these games. Putting effort and care into your characters and play style is what makes groups flow smoothly. To be honest, seeing a player character that you believe in succeed is incredible. Many people first starting out don’t see how that can happen. Words on a page, combined with a conversation between people throwing dice, doesn’t bring pride and joy to mind. But dedicating a little bit of your heart to that character can turn this activity into a lifelong love. Actually caring about the game doesn’t end with the players. A GM that doesn’t dedicate at least a little time to the group will ruin sessions. This may be a game, but it’s still cooperative. That’s its beauty. You’re on the hook for other people’s fun. That means caring about their experience too.  This can take shape in many ways.

Deviantartist WhoDrewThis has got the idea of a lighthearted halfing

Deviantartist WhoDrewThis has got the idea of a lighthearted halfling.

Know The Group You’re In

For instance, if you’re rolling up characters and the barbarian to your right is Dirk Punchface and the wizard to your left is Sir Wandsalot, prepare to have a light-hearted romp through a couple of monsters. If that’s not to your liking, then that’s totally up to you; this isn’t the group for you, and that’s okay. If you want extensive backstory, motivation, secret desires, and other stuff like that, go find a group that caters to that. They’re both fully acceptable ways to play the game. The same love can be poured into humorous, lighthearted characters as any other. What you can’t do is sit at that table, night after night, complaining when your group’s rogue, Theifstie Stealington, picks a bunch of locks to let loose some crazy animal. Because then not only are you not enjoying the game, but now you’re being a fun-sucker. And fun-suckers are the worst.

My first group was filled with irreverent humor; Harry Buttface was our wizard, our Dragonborn was actually a cow-man that could breathe fire, and drunken blackouts were as much a plot-point as ritual sacrifice or astral chaos. People use lightheartedness to break tension, and that’s completely okay.

Even in serious groups, which are just as much fun for passionate gamers, it’s important to remember what you’re doing. You’re sitting around with friends, pretending to be someone else. By all means, go whole hog. I’ve put on voices that you wouldn’t believe because my characters demanded them. I’ve been ditzy women, low-brow bruisers, hell, even a gourmet chef out of his element; when you’re gaming, be who you want. But just be aware that once you leave that table, you’re not that person any more. Whatever slights the warlock Marlowe Eldernight has sent your way, the dude running him is not actually Marlowe Eldernight.

Remember Why You’re There

Tabletop gaming is an amazing experience. That’s why we all love it so much. It allows you to be anyone you want, and to do anything you can think of. Tabletop gaming sets you on the path to control worlds and rise to the rank of gods. Or to steal from the rich and keep all of it for yourself, if that’s what you want. But most importantly, you’re here to have fun with your friends. This is the biggest way that tabletop gaming is different from so many other types of gaming; it’s cooperative. I’ve had to correct so many people about “winning” Dungeons and Dragons, because we’re all trained to compete against each other. For one night a week, or a month, or every couple years, you get to sit down and have fun with your friends. To return to the previous example, if you’re Marlowe Eldernight, stop slighting everyone else in your party. If that means ditching your Chaotic Evil alignment, it’s the price we pay for fun.

GM’s Are In The Game Too

Context is just as much a part of the game as the rulebook. Don’t hold your players to the letter of the law if that means sacrificing fun. You’ll never, say, punch a hole in the bottom of a ship and send it sinking to the murky depths if you try rolling d4 for damage. Reward your players for thinking of awesome stuff. I know that you worked hard on those NPCs trapped in the cargo hold, but now your PCs just threw an exploding barrel at the hull. Deal with it. They’ll know when they’re being railroaded, and it’s not fun.

These are tools, not Gods.

These are tools, not Gods.

Don’t be afraid to punish your players for bad decisions, because that keeps them honest and on their toes. But don’t delight in your players’ misery. Just because you control the villain doesn’t mean you have to always BE a villain. Be fair, be tough if that’s what you’re into, but never be mean.

Finally, please, for the sake of your party’s sanity, remember: For all the amazing highs and heart-punching lows, we’re still just a bunch of people rolling dice across a table.

Posted in Player Ettiquette, System Neutral Tagged with: , , ,

Gen Con 2014 – World Premiere

Hey all, we’re here at Gen Con 2014 premiering the first TWO episodes of the show! If you’re here in Indianapolis we hope you can join us. If you’re not, well, we will be premiering the full show including these episodes this Fall on our YouTube channel.

Here’s where you can find us:

World Premiere screening with Dom Zook & Ivan Van Norman to answer your questions.

Saturday, August 16th at 5pm in the Westin Capitol I room.

A follow-up Q&A and feedback session is here:

Sunday, August 17th at 11am in the Westin Grand Ballroom III

Hope to see you there! We’ll be giving away tote bags and buttons at the premiere!

And stay tuned tomorrow for a little Where’s Dom challenge!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

ST Reviews: Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set

Starter cover

After what feels like a thousand play-test packets we now have the final product in our hands… sorta. For now we only have the appetizer that is the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Starter Set but it’ll have to do ’til August when the new Player’s Handbook comes out. July 3rd marked the soft release for stores within the Wizard Play Network. Those lucky stores got their hands on the box set while everyone else would have to wait until July 15th. Our team’s been poring over the starter set non-stop for the past week and they’re finally ready to weigh in. Read more ›

Posted in How We Roll, Review Tagged with: , , , ,

Tools Every New Gamer Needs to Start

Nomadic Lass - D is for Danbos with DiceNew to the world of pen and paper role playing games? Not sure what items you’ll need for your first campaign? To assist your quest for tools, this article will guide you on how to search for items that will fit you as a gamer.

Read more ›

Posted in How We Roll, Player Ettiquette Tagged with: , , , , ,

Live Stream Goes Live For EVERYONE

Hello everyone!

So we are gearing up for our gameplay live stream TOMORROW, Saturday, June 21st starting at 12pm PST. We hope you can join us. In fact…

Due to some requests from fans, not to mention our ultimate desire of being available to anyone, we will be opening up the stream. You no longer need a password to view the stream! Just login to at 12pm PST tomorrow and you’ll be able to watch, chat, and laugh along with us as Ivan takes us through our paces.

Please invite your friends, your family, your players – anyone who you might want to introduce to role-playing games. When we go live we’ll post a link on our Facebook and Twitter and Google+ so be sure you’re following us there to be notified.

We’ll be playing for about 4 hours, so tune in anytime between Noon and 4pm (PST). And while we’re playing be sure to join us in the chat room, tweet at us, leave comments on our Facebook, ask us questions and more! We’ll be taking breaks throughout the game to answer and chat back with you as we can!

LET’S GET READY TO DUNGEON! See you tomorrow!



Posted in Actual Play, General Tagged with:

World Premiere Announcement

Another month has passed and we’re closer than ever to sharing this show that YOU have helped create! Here’s a little video with a couple announcements in it, but in case you can’t watch it right now the info can be found below as well. Including a world premiere date! Read more ›

Posted in General, Videos Tagged with: ,

Player Etiquette: Respect the Host

D&D Pathfinder Edition Game

D&D Pathfinder Edition GameThe rules of socialization during a game are as essential to learn as the rules of any RPG. Most importantly, however, is showing respect not just to your fellow players but to the person who is hosting. By using this guide you can level up your skills in social etiquette.

Read more ›

Posted in Player Ettiquette Tagged with: , , , ,

How My Players Ended My Campaign Ten Sessions Early

I never thought it would happen to me but my players found a way to end my campaign ten sessions early. Let me back up…
Read more ›

Posted in General Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Digital RPG – Shadowrun Games

When I was 13 I went on a camping trip with my family. I noticed that my older brother was taking a break from his usual Star Trek or Star Wars or D&D novels, and was instead making his way through a Shadowrun book titled “Never Deal with a Dragon.”

Being the inveterate, inquisitive pesterer that I am, I asked him about the book… and he begrudgingly opened my eyes to the world of Shadowrun. Read more ›

Posted in Digital RPG

Why I Like Saving Throw – by Tyler Rhoades

Role playing games are hard. Playing any RPG requires several important things:

  • time — each session will easily take up an entire night, and a regular weekly game is required to get anything done because only a little bit can be accomplished in a few hours
  • effort — if you want to know how to play a game, you will have to read…and read…and read…and even then you’re only really going understand a fraction of what you’ve just read
  • patience — for exactly those two reasons given above; very little can be accomplished in a single night, and most of the night is spent reading what you’ve written
  • like-minded friends — you may have a lot of friends, or only a few close friends, but cobbling a group of 3 or 4 individuals to play an RPG can be tremendously difficult

I think there are a large number of people who are interested in RPGs, but there is no viewer-friendly place for them to cultivate that curiosity. Some people may just be casually wondering how RPGs work. Some might actually play the game, if they could just figure out how. Some of them might have played at one time, but are rusty. Some of them might play regularly and just want to watch someone else play for a change.

That’s why Saving Throw exists. The idea is to create a visually interesting, viewer-friendly show that will educate the casual fan, and (hopefully) entertain the hardened grognard. Learning how to play an RPG is intimidating, and complicating that is the fact that RPG players can be intimidating. What we at Saving Throw are saying is, “Hey, don’t be afraid! This is fun!”

On top of that, we’re not just a “teaching” show. In addition to our tutorial episodes we’ll be showing actual gameplay from our weekly sessions, which should be as entertaining as they are informative.

It’s a tall order, sure, but I think we’re up to the task. This Kickstarter campaign will help us immensely, and will allow us to generate the content that we want to bring you. Click this link right here. Thanks for your support.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

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