By and large I’ve found that tabletop gaming groups are supportive, friendly, and mostly just looking for a good time. Much like the sailors who come to town during Fleet Week, who strangely expect their scantily dressed ladyfriends (wives?) to wait for them on street-corners instead of in the cafe’.
But because the universe has an ongoing policy of proving to me that everything I love is secretly corrupt in some way, I have on occasion run into exceptions to this jovial game-table-atmosphere rule. In the past I’ve sat down with groups of fellow nerds eager to sate my lust for loot, Mt. Dew, and bad jokes, only to find that I’ve unwittingly stumbled into a den of burn-outs, racists, or irredeemable assholes. Once the game gets kicking I realize I’ve just broken bread with some of the nastiest, emotionally stunted, narcissistic dicks ever to be birthed from Chef Ramsay’s pie-extruder.
In these situations it is perfectly acceptable to bail out. To throw in the towel. To remember that you left a Digiorno in the oven, and set the dial to Scorched Earth before leaving your hospice-care palsied grandmother to watch over your nineteen children. Lord knows I have.
I won’t go into details about why my sensibilities didn’t jive with the group. I will only state that these events turn into one-night-stands, after which both parties are too ashamed to call each other up, as if they now shared some nightmarishly shameful secret about the other party’s funnybits. It’s as if the Fleet Week sailor propositioned the hussy on the corner, except when they adjourned to the alleyway to consummate their love, the hussy lifted her petticoats to reveal a 2-foot-tall bearded biker Gnome, duel-wielding potato peelers, which he pulled from a monogrammed fanny pack.
And in that scenario, I’m proud to say I was the Gnome hiding under the hussy.
So relax, as I recap five tried-and-true methods for getting ejected from a gaming group faster than DJ Jazzy Jeff.
1) Adopt an Accent.
Most players and GM’s will try character accents some time during their gaming career. It’s natural to try a few elvish words or phrases, especially when you’re young and naive and just a little curious. It helps set the mood, and it adds depth to the roleplay.
This is not what I’m suggesting for your protest character.
Look up a famous actor with a notorious speaking style. Try to find that special cadence– the inflection that will derail the game every time you open your mouth. I suggest Christopher Walken or Bill Cosby. Watch how comedians on Youtube imitate them. Learn from their vocal characterization, and practice until you sound genuine, even when you’re making threats to a barkeeper in your over-the-top accent.
The other players will think it’s funny at first. But after hour 3 of hearing Walken f—-up their campaign in amazing style, telling NPC’s how he’s going to cut them if they don’t give him a discount on patent leather loafers, they’ll be wishing they could hate your character to death.
For my campaign derailment I usually stick to Cosby. For reasons that will soon become clear.
2) Add Quirks.
Every character should have oddities surrounding their persona. Veteran players will choose quirks that improve the depth of their character (a seedy history, a prosthetic limb, a gambling problem, etc.) without them becoming glaring faults that gum up the game. But for our purposes, the words of choice here are glaring faults.
Pick quirks that stack poorly together. Give your character an addiction to hallucinogens, and couple it with a love of experimental sorcery. Make them a healthy carrier of some bizarre disease, then turn around and bless them with a love and talent for gourmet cooking. If anyone questions your character’s build, just tell them you’re roleplaying, and accuse everyone else of phoning it in.
For my Cosby-voiced character, I play a Gnome Barbarian who duel-wields knives (read: shivs) which he keeps in a fanny pack, and sports a ZZ-Top beard. He’s tattooed from neck to toe. He has a drinking problem. He’s compelled to send half the gold he earns to a neighboring kingdom where his estranged wife and many, many children reside. And if anyone wakes him from his power-blackout before noon, he will cut them. I also named him Lofty Shorts.
3) Spend Big.
When starting a campaign, most dungeon masters will alot the players a certain amount of gold or credits to spend on equipment. If you get lucky when joining a game that’s already in progress, the DM will assign you equipment and gold to set you on par with the rest of the group. After all, nobody wants to party with the knight in cardboard armor.
To really throw the game, try to keep your purchases on the down-low until the session starts. That way when you reveal that your character is hoarding copious amounts of duct tape, chocolate bars, liquor, and condoms, it will be too late to retcon the world’s worst shopping spree.
During one game wherein I was dubbed New Fish, I was given enough gold to make up for ten levels of missed dungeoning and looting. The DM foolishly credited this to me in gold–pure, glowing yellow gold–with instructions to equip myself with magic items fit for a hero.
With my recently rolled (again) Biker-Bill Cosby-Gnome, Lofty, I sent half of this largess to Lofty’s wife and children in Treknerdistan. With the remainder I purchased a bag of holding, a custom open-chest suit of leather, a gold medallion, forty basic daggers of “various make and size”, and a low-axle carriage with reigns that stretched all the way to the rear benches. I.E. I was rocking a monogrammed fanny-pack full of shivs, and cruising around in a lowrider.
4) Defy Stereotypes.
One of the biggest mistakes I see in tabletop gaming is players assigning modern ethnic stereotypes to a fantasy realm. I’ve heard gamers lay on thick Eastern Bloc accents, or adopt a lazy southern drawl, or speak with the elegance of the Queen’s English. Accents give the game some flavor, sure. But you have to remember that while you’re imagining a night-elf wearing a turban, coughing out a vaguely Arabic accent, the other players will be visualizing this guy:
Sometimes we forget that high fantasy already has stereotypes in place, thanks to every author after Tolkien trying to be Tolkien. Some of these are stereotypes you’re familiar with. All gnomes are tinkerers. All elves sing beautifully. All dwarves love to drink. All orcs are dumb brutes. All humans taste delicious with ketchup.
It’s up to you to defy stereotypes. Roleplay an ungraceful elf who loves speed metal. Introduce a bookish dwarf with myopia, who keeps up on all the latest fashion trends. Invent an accent from whole-cloth, and pretend your Orc is a wise ambassador from a distant land. Your goal is to make it impossible for the group to pin down exactly what your character is, where he hales from, or what color his skin is.
While playing Lofty Shorts with a particularly distasteful group, I learned that one of the players at the table was vaguely racist, and I was asked time and again whether my Gnome was Mexican, African, or Redneck (as if these are important in the fantasy world). Throughout the night I would only admit that he’s Gnomish, which infuriated the shit out of the group.
5) Roleplay The Shit Out Of Your Abomination.
During your blaze-of-glory, no holds barred, slapstick tailspin trainwreck of a game, it will be your job to stay in character. Both in the game and out of the game. Because one of the hardest things to do when you’re tying together an accent, a bizarre backstory, and a sideshow collection of personality quirks, is to keep a straight face. So when you’re turning someone else’s game into a giant novelty gag, I want you to repeat after me; “I’m staying in character.”
Staying in character will be your shield when the rest of the party starts slinging accusations your way. They may tell you you’re ruining the game. Or you’re messing with the group’s mood. Or you’re derailing the plot. But you know better. You’re guaranteeing that the dicks who invited you to the table never call you again– and you’re staying in character.
Lofty Shorts sleeps in late. He drinks. He spends money lavishly, often drawing attention to the party. His alignment is Neutral-YOLO. He always backs up the other party members when they are bluffing or intimidating; but he always takes it a little too far, like a gangster backing up his “brotha”. During one session this machismo attitude culminated in Lofty burning down a bar and fleeing town, all while the other players were on main street fighting a duel he slept through, making everyone in the party wanted men.
On the way out of town Lofty failed a drunk-driving check, was captured by the baron’s men, and executed after he tried to pull a potatoe-peeler on Johnny Law, all while his lowrider burned down to the axles in the background. understandably this left the rest of the party up shit’s creek.
That was only the forth time Lofty the Cosby-voice Gnome was killed in action.