I had an interesting experience the other day. I know what you’re thinking and no it wasn’t erotic or involving some kind of bodily function….but good guess. I was actually in the gym where I overheard a neckbeard and his trainer talking about D&D. FYI I am incredibly voyeuristic, a fancy word for being nosey, and eavesdrop on people’s conversations constantly. Normally their conversations touch on comic books, movies, and general geek culture forcing me to constantly roll a will save to prevent myself from hiking up my gym shorts and dropping truth bombs all over their face, neck and chest like some kind of weird geekkake scene. So when they started talking about D&D I literally had to drop a weight on my foot in order to keep my mouth shut.
The neckbeard was talking about this D&D group he was thinking of joining. I guess he went to observe a session recently and was describing a little bit of the interaction. He noted that it was a pretty large group that was frequently at odds with each other but that the DM did a pretty good job controlling them and keeping them in line. As an example he talked about this one player that was constantly trying to sell everything that party came across like mundane weapons and items and crap. Several thoughts blazed into my head at these comments.
The first was sweet Jesus has no one asked this guy WTF is up with that..or at least queried Aspergers? I don’t think it is just the DM’s job to deal with this kind of behavior or as the neckbeard put it “keep them in line”. The same goes with the rest of the shenanigans of player infighting to blocking to dickishness or whatever you want to call it. Where does all this stem from? I certainly don’t have enough information to go on to analyze this game. The issues could just as likely stem from the DM “controlling them and keeping them in line”. I understand that this is not an uncommon occurrence in gaming circles given the frequency these things get vomited up on the various rpg forums. I often wonder if this dynamic is a leftover of our adolescence as an unconscious expression or repetition of our struggle to separate and individuate from a substitute parental authority figure. Do some of us get locked into this view or perception of how gaming is meant to be based on our early experience with the DM as god/game interface and the players as petulant children leaving a flaming bag of dog shit on his doorstep? If I have to be honest though the 12 year-old me would have been all over stuffing the Inn’s drapes and silverware in my bag to try and hawk for a couple copper pieces to use to make the filthy beggars fight kumate style. I don’t know what the answer is aside from some actual self-reflection. But I definitely know that I would literally pull the chute on any experience that even remotely approached what that neckbeard was talking about, let alone willingly join it.
The second thought I had was sweet Jesus why would selling mundane gear even matter. I know I might be in the minority and perhaps I have been playing 4th edition too long but I just tend to hand wave money for pretty much anything. I know it’s more of a simulationist/immersion thing and I don’t necessarily mind that as I have been in games where I have had no problem giving my buy in. It is just that as a DM, and to a lesser extent a player, I really can’t handle the minutiae of it. In real life I can barely manage my checking account let alone some kind of fictional global or regional economy, or god forbid a barter system. But like I said to each his own.
For those of you who think that this story was a pure fabrication that I have used to promote my pro-collaboration agenda based on the fact a neckbeard would never be caught dead in a gym let alone hire a trainer. I can assure you the incident in question was absolutely true and this sweet, graying, balding, heavyset, neckbead who apparently lives with roommates and takes public transit because he doesn’t have a license seems very committed to making some positive lifestyle changes, and you should cut him a break.