Editor's Note: Hi folks. This has been a long time coming only because of it has been sitting in my Inbox for about 27 years, and not because of any lack of drive on Jack's part.
Remember you can get your questions on you game, your career, on life and relationships answered by the man himself. Just drop me an email at email@example.com with "Ask Jetpack Jack" in the subject line to be possibly featured in an upcoming installment. - B
Hello, and welcome to another thrilling edition of Ask Jetpack Jack, where we love to hear about your problems, since it makes us feel better about ourselves.
This edition continues our award-winning exposé on games and gamers we’re calling ‘Gaming 101’ with some ideas on how to take the random assortment of people you found and turn them into a cohesive unit – in other words, a gaming group. Forming a new group is kind of like making the A-Team, only without the attitude, penchant for firearms, or a bitchin’ van. (If you do have a bitchin' van, please leave a pic with price details in the comments.) You have to make sure that the team works together, has a cohesive view on how the game will be played, and each member has mutual respect for everyone at the table.
First and foremost is working on party cohesion. Most people take time to grow comfortable with one another, especially if your gamers are not known to each other outside of the table. One of the best things you can do as a Dungeon Master would be to find ways to foster this little community. My personal favorite is to allot time at the beginning to have people talk to each other, discuss their lives, and basically goof around. This is also a great time to have a meal – food is always an excellent conversation starter. Snacks during the game are also great, especially if everyone beings something to share. Of course, there will always be problems whenever you get a group of people together for any length of time, but we will address that in a later episode. Now then, once everyone is inoculated to each other’s brand of crazy, you can address the gameplay style of the group.
Gameplay style, in my not-so-humble opinion, is both the least and most important aspect of your game. Having fun is always rule #1 when it comes to gaming, but what does that mean? What your group finds ‘fun’ can vary wildly depending on group composition. Is the group looking for an epic tale of the likes of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? A political thriller akin to George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series? Or is the party looking for an absurdist romp through all the tropes, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail? There is no right way to game, I’ll say it again for the people in the comments: THERE IS NO WRONG WAY TO GAME. In fact, a little nonsense now and again can be a good thing – anyone who has listened to our actual plays knows our games run the gamut, and we enjoy all of our games. Picking your game style is an issue you need to bring up at the table, and making sure everyone is on the same page will help with conflicts in the long run.
Finally, we need to address an often overlooked but important aspect of gaming, that of comfort levels. People are, by definition, unique in their experiences, and as such, they will have boundaries that need to be both identified and respected. This topic will get its own article at a later date, but I feel that talking about group dynamics without touching on this issue would be a bad idea. A good rule of thumb at this time would be not to address anything taboo or graphic without letting your group know, and only as a DM. Players should not move into these areas, just as a general rule.
Well, that about covers the basics on group composition. Tune in next time, when we talk about how to wrangle these suckers…I mean, players....into a game that may be outside their realm of experience. This is Jetpack Jack, signing off.