One of the interesting things about our Monsterhearts game that I failed to mention were the ground rules that were set up for our gaming etiquette. I’ve never really managed to get anything like that established for my gaming groups. In the past I’ve tried to ask people for hard limits and gotten little to no response. And since it’s sometimes hard to just get players to read setting information (“I don’t do homework for fun”), I had just given up on the topic. In general, our rules tend to be an unspoken “Don’t be a dick.”
So when we got started our MC, Jason, proposed two basic things: First, we instituted the rule for the “veil.” It’s something I’ve heard about connected to story game groups. The idea is that it’s basically a safe-word. If there’s something you are uncomfortable with, you can just say you want to veil it. Then everyone has to agree that we’re just going to stop what we’re doing. Either fade to black or remove it from the story altogether. As I think about it, especially with the raw subject matter of Monsterhearts, it seems nice to explore these with the knowledge that if it gets too uncomfortable, you can play that card. None of us did, but it was good to know that we could shut something down if we needed.
The second was: No cell phones.
With my usual gaming groups, I run from my laptop. I keep my scant notes there, I do on the fly research while people are talking to flesh out some detail that I hadn’t anticipated. I use my iPhone for dice rolls and research if I don’t have my laptop handy. Other people have their laptops out as well, updating the wiki and stuff. A few people play games on their phone quietly when they are not involved in the scene. There’s always a small feast spread out and lots of booze. We don’t have any sort of “party” that the PCs are part of, so people distracted doesn’t slow the game down. It’s more ensemble cast, with individual story arcs and frequent clumping. I try to keep the camera moving around a lot and quickly, but I’ve given up any notion that devices should be put away.
So this was weird. No low impulse research. I couldn’t research the municipal structure of Virginia when we decided we wanted our fictional town to be in Virginia. I couldn’t immediately find a picture for my character. This isn’t to say it was a problem. It was just so very different from my usual mode of operating. This was a very small group and not having distractions made everything intense. There were very few side conversations. We took occasional breaks just to get up and stretch and stuff. But otherwise we were on task.
I don’t know if I could manage this as a GM. Our other gaming groups are a bit more laid back and social. There are moments that are intense, but also moments where we just socialize and comment on the cheese or the wine. And people have fun, but it’s not as diamond focused. This is probably also my reaction to being “in charge.” I can behave as a player. I don’t behave as well when I’m organizing things, because I run very fast and loose.