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This problem hit me as both a Storyteller and as player. I joined a "Survival Horror" game of Vampire: the Masquerade; a minor encounter spiraled out of control in the second session. The GM gave us a laundry list of things we'd done wrong (he recently posted it on a meetup site so we'd remember) and berated us for not understanding the unforgiving nature of his game. Some of his criticisms were valid, but he didn't take into account the effect his way of running it contributed and showed little sympathy for people still trying to figure out how he ran things.

This guy also plays in a Vampire: the Requiem game I've been running for a few weeks. After Thursday's game we got to talking, and he basically tore into me based on the way I was running my game (I'm new to the system myself), saying the intrigue was childish, the characters were clumsy and he felt his character should be offered more incentives (read: in-game benefits). He claimed this was "what his character would think", which struck me as the RPG equivalent of "I'm not racist, but..." Again, I can accept the validity of some of his criticisms, but he made no effort to be anything other than condescending, dismissive and rude.

I want to be open to improvement, but I also expect to be treated with basic civility. I've already cancelled my own game for this week (planning to "reformat it") and messaged him, and I doubt I'll be welcome at his game. Suggestions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You say that you've already eliminated him from your game (by ending it) and you doubt you'll be part of his game again. That might not be an emotionally-satisfying end, but there does not seem to be anything left to deal with. What exactly do you need help with here? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 20 '15 at 21:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mainly to double-check my own judgment. I'm never quite sure if I've read a situation correctly. \$\endgroup\$ – JDR Jun 20 '15 at 22:04
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Assuming you told him your thoughts...

You've Already Done It

And the "it" is to not play with this person anymore

You've talked to them. You agree on some points and not others. It sounds like this person's play style doesn't match yours. That's fine, happens to everyone. I consider myself pretty flexible when it comes to play styles and there's still people who I can't play with. They aren't bad people, the just expect things I don't.

Quit playing with this person.

If you haven't talked with them fully..

Talk With Them Fully

Lay bare your feelings on the matter. If both of your aren't willing to work together to come to a happy medium then you need to say goodbye. You do what you should do an any social situation where there is discord.

Now, my final point...

Why did you cancel your game?

It sounds like it's an issue with a single person, not the entire group. Do group or friendship dynamics keep you from running your game? Are you jaded because of the experience? If you were having fun without them, just send their character to the void and keep on going.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm trying to continue/reboot for next week, but there's nothing this week. \$\endgroup\$ – JDR Jun 20 '15 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. Well, don't let a sour patch ruin you. Sometimes people just don't get along. Keep gaming, just without that person. Let them find a group that suits them. Did you let them know how you felt about the way the communicated? \$\endgroup\$ – Codeacula Jun 20 '15 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1; this is solid advice. @JDR I'd also suggest looking through the problem-players tag, in particular these three questions as they all touch on possible motivations for this guy's behavior and provide more advice on dealing with different aspects of the situation. \$\endgroup\$ – thatgirldm Jun 20 '15 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ To emphasize, roleplaying is a hobby. Bad roleplaying is worse than not role playing. If you aren't having fun with someone, talk it out. If that doesn't fix it, find people you will have fun with. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Jun 22 '15 at 5:03
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We're not sure if you read the situation correctly either

Sorry, but I don't believe this question can be effectively answered in this format.

Was he really being rude, or were you being overly defensive? There's no way for us to know. We can read between the lines (cancelling your game over his concerns seems a little over-touchy, so there is a warning sign there) but there's really not enough information or context for us to know for sure.

Are you aspiring to run a game like his, or not really? You talk about being new and it's unclear whether you see your different game style as a desirable target style or just as all you can manage at the moment. Should you learn to take criticism better and be learning from him even if he doesn't express himself the way you'd like? Would that help you achieve your goals?

What is the guy like other than that? Is he a jerk in general? Does he have Aspergers (some folks consider this an excuse for acting in a manner offensive to others, other folks don't)? How is he part of the social circle - are there other problems with disinviting him (or yourself) with the rest of the gaming group?

All of this could require 10 pages of writing from you and 100 questions from us to unpack. So the best you can get is very generic advice.

The Generic Advice For Any Problem-X Question

  1. Make sure you're contributing as little to the problem as possible yourself.
  2. Understand your goals, the social context, and how the "problem" person fits into them
  3. Use interpersonal skills and/or personal mental coping mechanisms to try to interact positively with them
  4. If it's become a net negative to you, given your goals and how intolerable their behavior is, avoid gaming and/or interaction with them.

A book could be written on any of these points (and many have been). Are you "right?" There is no right in this situation. Are you "justified?" That's pure personal opinion. These kinds of things happen, sometimes you can say you're blameless and sometimes you can't, sometimes you can take actions to fix it short of dissociating with them and sometimes you can't.

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"...I also expect to be treated with basic civility."

This is not someone who wants you to make a better game experience - this is someone who likes tearing into people.

If he really wanted to help you, it would be more of a focus on things you can work on starting out (not expecting greatness fresh out the gate), it would be also pointing out what you did well, and how to bridge what you are doing well to what you could improve, and it certainly wouldn't involve posting it online publicly as a humiliation tactic.

People who don't treat you decently certainly aren't people who will help you have fun, and based on the criticisms he's giving you, it sounds like he's not having fun either. Well, the easy answer to that is don't play with him.

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You have put a lot of stuff into your question and I have broken it into a number of more concise questions:

1. Is it appropriate for a GM to critique "poor play"?

Yes.

The GM in a RPG serves a number of functions: a) creator and player of the world b) impartial referee and c) coach, particularly to new players or new to the GM. If the player's and GM want a debrief following a session or adventure can be mutually beneficial: for the players it can show where they missed clues or options that would have made things easier and for the GM it can show areas where he a) failed to communicate enough or, more rarely, too much information, b) over or under-estimated the player and/or character capability and c) used ideas and techniques which were or were not fun for the players.

2. Does "poor play" include poor understanding of or reaction to GM or campaign style?

In general, No.

I refer to my answer to My PCs have a plan that will get them all killed; how and why should I save them? where I discuss player agenecy. In summary, agency is:

Players making informed decisions that have reasonable consequences.

The information resides with the GM, it is their job to ensure that the players have it. How explicit that is depends on the style of the GM taking into account the skill of the players and always remembering that things that look crystal clear from your side of the screen may be opaque from the player's side.

3. Is it appropriate for a player to critique the GM's story or characterisation of NPCs?

Yes.

But such criticism should always be in the form of "I didn't like ..." or "I would have preferred it if ...". This is part of the two way communication that allows the GM to make sure they produce stuff both they and the players want to play.

4. Is it appropriate for a player to demand more "motivation" (intrinsic or extrinsic) for their character?

In character, Yes.

In a situation where a mission or adventure is being pitched to the character, they have three options a) "No", b) "Yes" or c) "Only if ...". Which means, a) they ignore the hook, b) off we go! or c) an NPC needs to negotiate a fair reward (remembering that negotiations can fail). A GM interested in agency should not (or at most rarely) force the characters into situations where they feel the reward is not worth the risk. If that means they pass on your pet adventure then so be it; maybe they will come back to it, maybe you can use it in another campaign.

Out-of-character, No.

If the player didn't feel the character would be appropriately rewarded; why did he take it on the adventure rather than letting it spend the night in the pub?

5. Is it appropriate for a person to use their character as a mouthpiece in the real world?

No, this is My Guy Syndrome and your analogy with "I'm not a racist, but ..." is very apt.

6. For all of the above, how do I deal with interactions that I find condescending, dismissive and rude and show little sympathy for alternative points of view?

You deal with those types of interactions as you would any in the real world; appropriately.

First of all, recognise that you are responsible to your reaction to what they say, not them. Your emotions are yours, not theirs.

Second, admit the possibility that they may not intend to cause offence. Some people, for whatever reason, are more assertive of their opinions and less accepting of alternative views than other people. This is why we have partisan politics :).

Third, employ strategies to deal with it.

There is a story which has been often quoted (I cannot find an original source ) that when Field-Marshal Montgomery was robustly (“They’re balls, sheer balls, rubbish!”) criticising General Eisenhower's strategy, Eisenhower reached across, touched Montgomery on the knee and said: “Steady, Monty! You can’t speak to me like that. I’m your boss.”

Weather it is true or not, it is a perfect example of how to deal with criticism that has descended into abuse. Even if you don't have the authority of being Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, you always have the right to politely state that you find what the other person is saying to be offensive and that your offence arises from how they are saying it not what they are saying.

Once the circuit of abuse has been broken, you can guide them towards more non-confrontational language. For example, you can ask that they phrase their statements as "I would ..." not "You should ..." which implicitly allows for different opinions.

If the persist in abuse then naturally, as politely as you can, be very, very rude!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand why this answer has been downvoted. An explanation would be polite and useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Jun 24 '15 at 17:39
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I think the answer to 1-5 question is yes, it is appropriate if critiques are made in an assertive, constructive and positive way.

But you must keep in mind that even well intentioned and well exposed critiques can hurt feelings, or make someone, if not angry, sad.

So, I usually keep critiques to myself unless:

  1. The person have explicitly asked for them, or
  2. A problem is really spoiling the fun and should be addressed.

That said, critiques may be justified or unjustified. In this question, it seems that the person has difficulties adjusting his expectations about how other people play and what they do in game. He may be a controller person. But just how you put it, we haven't heard the other side of the story.

About question 6, rude criticism is inappropriate, as anyone can figure out. The way to deal with it is how you deal with that kind of bad behaviour in real life, there's no difference. If I had to give a suggestion, that would be: stay high in a moral position, don't go at the same level, and kindly explain why you played the way you played, why you think the critiques ares unjustified, and once explained yourself, state you won't make the situation a big deal. Once everyone has made their point, further discussion is unproductive and will only ruin the game, so ignore further attempts to argue.

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