Last weekend, I was running games at U-Con. It’s a fun local convention near Ann Arbor, MI. Last slot of the con and all things are going well. I get a few people to sit at my table, and a few more people enter the room, and I wave them over gregariously yelling “There’s always room for one more!” I start my game the standard way by asking everybody to talk about themselves. One person asks “About my character or myself?” I say “sure!” And my player tells the group he’s a motivational speaker for Autistic people as he’s playing a crazy Halfling rogue. Great, we have a fun character at the table, so I’m looking forward to this game. The game goes well. I’m loopy from lack of sleep, so my table and I are a little slap happy and having a blast. Until, we hear something from another table. Another GM is talking about some NPC’s and mentioned that they were jumping around like a bunch of “spastic, autistic kids.” I watched as my motivational speaker instantly went from having fun to pissed as he grabbed his phone to text somebody. Whatever what said with that text can only be good things! Right? We finished the game and had fun, but I know he was more than a little hurt by what happened.
Honestly, had I not known someone was in the room with me who would be offended, I might have said the same thing if presented with describing the same characters. But that doesn’t really excuse that kind of offense. We live in a pretty small world nowadays. Not only are characters diverse, but the player base is pretty open as well. The base rules alone mention all the different types of people you can play. But, they don’t mention all the different types of people WHO play. Gamers are not just white guys any more (despite what #gamergate is up to). We’re diverse, and that diversity has some pitfalls.
What do I want you to get from all of this? Well, keep in mind you represent. If you’re running an RPG for the KKK (what the hell would that be?) you don’t really have to worry about who you offend. But, in an open game at a store or a con, words can really hurt. I know more than a few words that will get my blog destroyed by commenters (hurray traffic!), but using those words in an open game is equally as bad. If you’re running a game for Wizards of the Coast, they want that game as open and inclusive as possible. And saying some hurtful things will not only make you look like an ass, it will also make WotC look like an ass. Also, keep in mind you represent you. I’m a big, self-deprecating guy. I make fat jokes at my own expense, but sometimes, that’s not funny to other people in the room. Common sense and reading your audience will make your games that much better. Not just because common sense is good to have, but because you will be as open to as many gamers as possible. And as we become more diverse, the better we all are.
Good luck and good gaming,