Spirit of the game.

So kiddies I want to talk about the spirit of the game.

It’s not a 60 hit global creature that can only be killed with the blue sword; nope it’s the bit where fair play, expectations and the rules have a car crash while someone scream s ‘no scope is fine!’

I think in the uk the mindset that monopoly is a game so d and d is a game so lrp is a game and they are the same because the word ‘game’. I mean there is a whole raft of things about win conditions, how trying to ‘win’ actually is impossible in lrp, but that’s not what im talking about.

The bit I’m talking about is good play within the spirit of a game in regard to rules without slagging any systems off.

So what I have been pondering is, as a player do you have a responsibility to not break a rule set and play within the spirit of the game. In my elitist opinion, yes you do. There is something wonderful about shared writing and shared art that lrp hovers around the edge of. It’s a shared place, sure there is conflict as all good narratives other than my neighbour totoro has, but at the end of the day it’s a shared space. I genuinely believe that actively trying to subvert a system, trying to exploit loop holes etc is no different to not taking your hits. Yes it’s cheating.

BUT NO IT ISN’T! Yeah tell that to people who use exploits in mmorpgs, FPS’, etc. It’s the same thing. Shut up. You are the lrp equivalent of a teenager no scoping while talking smack about someone’s mum and maintaining an erection only cause they think they are hardcore. No really, you are.

There is, in my opinion, an implicit social contract that says while all the kiddies are playing in the nursery you don’t take a shit in the corner and announce you are clever for doing it.

What do I mean by that? Well first up the idea of balance in lrp is bollocks, there is none. You cannot balance hard skills like charisma, physical fitness or the fact some people are just smarter than others. It’s not possible, nor should it be. You cannot put a metric on how hot I am (literally set that one up for you lot.)

However there is a set of rules that you work within. And those mechanics can be exploited and used in ways that they shouldn’t be. Or certain power builds that skew game play arrive. Within table top, computer games and wargaming this is balanced on a regular basis.

Have fun getting your money back from GW cause they nerfed your thing that you were spamming like a twat. Just for you game team folk thinking about nerfing something and feeling sad about it.

Now its no secret I would be happy with the removal of mechanical rules from most games (that was very specific to a friend, note mechanical rules….). I believe that when you strip rules out, say ‘yes, but’ rather than no and set explicit expectations of what the game is and what its boundaries are you are golden. (Yes rule sets ar boundaries, but you know what I’m getting at…..shussh).

Certainly in all my time playing low rule set games people tend to stay within the boundaries because the of the social expectations are ‘Don’t be a fucking twat’ and there is nothing to hide behind such as ‘But the rules say I can.’

When we hit rule systems there is a subset of player that goes game on and will ‘game’ it. Now that’s cool and all, if you enjoy that. I’ve heard this called ‘playing hard’, ‘Playing the game’ or ‘hardcore role-play’. This is false logic, playing the mechanics is not role play. In the same way when I role dice and move the top hat I am not role playing a slum lord, I am using a mechanic. Mechanics can support role play, it is not the other way round. Unless it’s the 90’s, then it probably is….I’ll be over here with my katanna.

Problem is this is actually fine unless you are specific about the game you want to run. Yeah, this kind of behavior…..50% of it is on us game runners. You gotta name the spirit of your game, say what it is that you want. You know like in lrp rituals, if you don’t say exactly what you want someone’s gonna fuck with you.

So how do you get to a culture of players and crew to take responsibility for ensuring that the spirit of the game stays intact?

I’m not sure. I think the only thing you can do is set clear expectations, tackle issues head on and don’t be afraid to say ‘You’re taking the piss’ and remember it’s okay to say no (and if you get badgered or bullied remember this mantra ‘I hear x system supports the style of play you want.’)

Actually on bullying, I have seen players genuinely try and bully stuff out of refs while I’ve stood next to them my jaw slowly dropping to the floor (and refs act like conceited tosspots, but that’s for another blog) and it’s interesting that often when you talk about it in other systems the response is ‘Oh, yeah I know x, they are known for that here too.’ Yes sweeties, we talk to each other.

On the positive side reward good rp in kind, give failure a positive place in the heart of your system and pay attention to those players who actually take responsibility for not damaging a system and help it grow. (I can actually hear growling at that one, however I mean it.)

There is a cool thing around behaviour management that we spend more time and attention on the high tariff behaviours than on the positive ones because we have to deal with the high tariff ones as chairs flung at high speed rarely resolve themselves with tactical ignoring.

The people who are working within the spirit of a game? They don’t throw chairs. Once you have put the furniture back, they are the ones you want to give your attention to. And the chair throwers? Well they aren’t kids in a school who are doing it because of complex behavioural issues and you aren’t a teacher…… so it’s okay to burn their shit to the ground.


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