Unideal RPG Session Coping Mechanisms

I’m stuck in a Zoom-enabled game that I’d really rather not play. Every SINGLE place and person name is a bald-faced pun or a video game reference (not even a letter changed. Just the actual names… Maybe this doesn’t bother other people but its basically like nails-on-chalkboard to me). Adversarial, railroading GM vs. plodding plan players that are determined to avoid harm altogether. I’m playing a character that fits the social context, but isn’t really interesting to me at all (but all the other options were worse - creation options were extremely limited by the narrow custom setting). To top it off, I’m having a bit of a hard time adapting to the flavor of GURPS.

But there’s no way I can obliterate the GM by dropping out or complaining. I’m trying reeeeally hard not to be a stick in the mud.

All this to lead to my question: what are your coping mechanisms for surviving unideal roleplaying experiences? They don’t have to apply specifically to my situation - your tales of struggles will comfort me.


It wasn’t until the end that I figured out what “uni-deal” roleplaying was.

At the end of the 2nd paragraph, I was almost waiting for the punchline: “But the problem is, I’m the GM!”

All that aside, no gaming is better than bad gaming. Why would your leaving “obliterate” the GM? Are you close enough to the GM to just say, “Look, I’m not having all that much fun.”?

  • taking huge risks. if they succeed I gain something cool and if they fail something bad but cool happens :slight_smile:
  • corollary: do the unexpected but not to break the plot just to make things interesting
  • possibly nudge the GM a bit about the railroading I really dislike that as a player. but I’d rather talk to them than just attempt to walk off the map.

If I’m not OK with other people’s humor I will either ignore it or take every word literally and let them explain.

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I’ve played in bad games with most of those features for geek social fallacious reasons, but I can’t give you a lot of tips because I basically left them all and sometimes poached players when I left.

If you can’t quit, can you contrive to be fired?


I disagree. Gaming is meant to be fun. It’s not a job. (Well, for some of us sometimes it’s a job. But it had better be an enjoyable job, given how badly it pays.)

I started role-playing in the early 1980s when the prevailing attitude was that you had to put up with problem players and play in bad campaigns because you’d only know about six people who were interested in RPGs at all. (And I was in London, not a small town in the middle of nowhere.)

My general attitude is openness: I might say (privately to the GM, in the first instance) something like “look, these aspects of the game really aren’t working for me and I’m not enjoying it; is that something we can reach a compromise on, or would I be better to drop out?” (The more everyone else seems to be enjoying the stuff you aren’t, the more I’d weight it towards the “drop out” end.)

The Geek Social Fallacies are a continuing problem. (Link just on the offchance someone doesn’t know them.) There’s a scale of group cohesion here too – @whswhs was in a situation where he could pick a small number of players for a specific game out of a larger local community of players, which is great, whereas my experience is generally that a particular game group tends to stay together as it shifts from game to game.

(Oh, obviously if you don’t enjoy GURPS you are wrong and bad and should feel ashamed. :slight_smile: )


Bad gaming = gaming that is not fun. If you aren’t having fun gaming, no gaming (where you may not be having fun, but you have the opportunity to do something that is fun) is preferable.

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Then I misinterpreted you: in my terminology, no gaming at all is better than bad gaming.

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Completely my fault. I didn’t realize I had completely flipped the sentence and wrote the exact opposite of what I had intended. I fixed my original error.

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Go on, Roger. Tell us again that GURPS is actually simple because all the complex parts are too complex to use.


A decade or more ago, I was in a friend’s GURPS Supers campaign (in fact, he was running it while I was writing the newest edition of GURPS Supers, and he gave my draft an actual playtest). Since it was a supers campaign, I decided to play a character of a type I hadn’t played before: a combat monster—Maria Rosa Vargas Sandoval, “La Gata Encantada,” a 17-year-old Hispanic girl with extremely high dexterity and perception and superhuman speed. Then I found out that the GM wanted the campaign to be about investigating the hidden causes behind the emergence of superpowers. I sat through two sessions where the other players divided their time between searching secret parts of the World Wide Web and using their connections with secret masters of the world to ask questions; in the first one I did nothing at all, in the second I spent a quarter hour or so at the end in a combat encounter that was obviously made up purely to give La Gata something to do. After the second one, I e-mailed everybody to say that I clearly had misunderstood what the campaign was about and created an unsuitable character, and that I thought it best for me to resign.

As it turned out, none of them wanted me to drop out, and they reconfigured the campaign to be about action and adventure rather than intrigue. But that wasn’t my goal; I was genuinely ready to drop out.

And that’s what I would urge as an approach. If you’re not having fun, resign. This may get the GM to change the campaign, but don’t do it as a trick to get that to happen; if you’re not genuinely ready to resign—if you wouldn’t have more fun staying home reading a book or making pesto—trying to bluff is likely to work better than you want. But not playing is better than playing and not having fun. Or as Bernard Shaw put it, “You had better take care to get what you like or you shall have to like what you get.”


It’s true that it does, but my approach was actively designed to avoid that sort of cohesion, which I consider undesirable.


Ooh. Pesto.

I have, as I have said before, resigned from several campaigns, even ones that were the only game in town, and my only regret ever has been that geek social fallacies prevented my doing so earlier. No gaming is better than bad gaming. One time I spent nearly two years having sex instead of gaming on Saturday nights, because the games on offer were just that bad — and I didn’t feel that it was proper to negotiate GMs into changing their style or reconfiguring their games to suit my tastes.


Being serious for a moment: I think there are things GURPS does better than any other game. I think that in the hands of a GM who knows it well it can be an enjoyable and fast-playing game that also does a great job of modelling a consistent world that’s largely based on reality, and if you’re going to do a deep dive on learning a system in detail it’s a very good choice because a lot of that learning is transferable across a very wide range of games. But it’s not the best game for all campaigns, or all GMs, or all players.

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Courageous choice, minister!

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I really believe that telling openly to the group that the game is not working for you helps everyone. RPGs require everybody to be on board, and being on board for the same game, with the same tone, playing style, and expectations. It might be that they are open to receive feedback, or maybe you all realize that it’s best if you drop out, and I think this are both solutions that are going to make things better for everyone involved.

In my experience, games work only when everyone is having fun, if you’re into it. If you’re not having fun, it shows, and it affects the rest of the group too. Having a player completely checked out and staying in only out of obligation is worse that having a player leaving, for everyone, it sours the environment and it doesn’t allow the others to enjoy their time either.

I don’t know if these are your friends or regular RPG group, but if your concern is that you’ll be left out, I think that’s something you can discuss with them too.
If you enjoy their company, maybe you can organize something else to do, or even a parallel game with the same people making sure that you set a certain tone before starting playing.

I have a group of 11 people I regularly play with, in different games, and I know some people prefer some kind of games and some stories, some like it crunchy, some like it weird, and that’s all fine, if everyone is clear with what game they want to play before starting. Setting tone and expectations before starting a game is the best lesson I’ve learned in RPGs (in particular when I used to play with a public group in the Before Time). Also, Stars and Wishes at the end of the session exists to avoid situations like yours.

I’d say talk to them openly.

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I’ve never been in your exact situation, though I have dropped out of one-off games because the combination of players, characters and GM looked bad.

I’d talk to the GM about the naming problems and the railroading. If he has trouble with picking names Kate Monk’s Onomastikon is very useful.

As for the players, let them plan a bit, but unless they have huge in-game resources, the dice will ensure they can’t make plans that avoid all risk, and it’s worth pointing that out when they’ve gone from building a plan to decorating it.

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That’s true of all games, though. Each system and setting is better suited for certain styles of play, and less optimal for others. For some people, using an absurdly clunky and cumbersome rules system is part of the enjoyment of the game, because it compels them to cobble together their own home-brew rules, to patch up all the shortcomings of the official, published original.

(Obviously, that was a jab at the über-crunchy Shadowrun rules, and not at all a joke at the expense of any GURPS fans out there.)

“And so can you! Just click this link!

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Sure – but since I’m known as a GURPS fan I thought it was worth mentioning. (There are things I do get fanatical about – personal honour, for example – but choice of game system isn’t one of them.)

These Darn Kids with their FATE and their Blades in the Dark… are presumably having fun or they wouldn’t be doing it.

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There seems to be a bit of a consensus forming! Y’all are right. I’m extremely worried about hurting people’s feelings, but it’s what needs to be done.


I think I prefer less detailed systems - I feel like it allows me to model the world myself, and the realism and consistency are at exactly the level I want them to be. But I’ve hardly played compared to the rest of you, so with experience and time I may have a different opinion.

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