View Full Version : What Are Your Gaming Atmospheres Like?

12-07-2007, 04:13 PM
I've gotten a lot of feedback so far on what materials are brought to a game and what kind of sitting arrangements players/gm's often play in. However, I have not received any feedback on what kind of atmosphere your games have. What is the environment like? Are you in a group full of people that play their in game character the entire session or with a group that talks more about non-D&D topics than they do play the game?

I thought I had a very concrete idea of what a real D&D session would be like but when I stumbled across some of the D&D sessions that people uploaded to YouTube, Google Video, and Veoh, I was shocked. Not only was is beyond laid back but more time was spent goofing around than playing the game. I never believed that games would be so serious that a spectator would swear they were watching a broadway production but I figured there would be at least some roleplaying.

Most of these GM's aren't really even laying out a story. They're just giving a BAREbones account of what is going on so the players know where they are and what they are killing. Maybe this is how things are played though? Maybe this is just how the dungeon crawling aspect of the game usually is and the rest of the time more RP is going on? I guess I always figured it was like an interactive novel and that anybody taking on the role of a GM would be capable of painting a world in the players minds. It seems, based on these online videos, that D&D is more of a sociable board game like Monopoly or Yahtzee.


12-07-2007, 05:01 PM
My group has always been pretty laid back. Unless the GM barks out to get on back track, then there is usually some joking or screwing around going on behind the scenes; mostly related to the current session or past sessions.

12-07-2007, 05:25 PM
yeah, I got to say that I would like it to be a little more serious but there is usually a fair amount of joking around and story telling.

Xaels Greyshadow
12-07-2007, 05:27 PM
I have played in groups that were far to loose for my playing tastes, and I have played in groups that were freakishly serious, to much so for me. Right now I am playing with a group, 1 session for about 5 hours, that was extremely fun. Not much sideline stuff, no freakish deep submersive role acting. Everyone was fairly focused on the game. The DM really has it together and things were very fluid. I am playing again tomorrow night and really looking forward to it. It's another thing that kind of all boils down to the DM controlling the game. You get to decide how much horse play or sideline comedy you want. If the players don't fit the bill of what your looking to have for a game, they will either stop participating because you expect too much seriousness or because there is too much cutting up. Best thing I think you can do is get your gear together and throw your lines in the water and go fishing if you get my meaning. Eventually you will have a "Chemically" balanced game. Time always prevails. Where is Wiley? I would love to come and play. Been checking out Ptolus and it looks to ROCK!

12-07-2007, 05:56 PM
I tend to prefer a more roleplaying oriented, less cutting up type of group, myself. My gaming group back in Dallas swings a lot more in the other direction. When we first started the group up, I was a lot more heavy handed in trying to keep them on track, but eventually we naturally gravitated towards a happy medium that we could all live with. It definitely is going to vary depending on the group -- and I have always found that if I have a really engaging story going, my players tend to focus on roleplaying a lot more. In fact, I can remember some very intense roleplaying sessions with the same group where there was very little said out-of-character.

12-07-2007, 07:54 PM
The ambiance really depends on the group.

The convention games are probably more what you were expecting - folks don't know each other as well, there are strict time constraints, and the dungeons are typically more lethal. This tends to cut down on the chatter, and folks are trying to impress strangers so they put a little more flair on their roleplaying.

As far as descriptions and such... well, you may find some modules that have what we call "the dreaded boxed text" which is the long description section that makes the players eye's glaze over. Bad DMs at conventions will read it verbatim in a monotone. Lazy DMs at conventions will skip it, and just draw out the room and place monster tokens. The DMs I liked would read the players at the table and determine what they thought was interesting and relevant, then paraphrase those parts as if it was interesting and relevant.

As far as dramatic roleplaying - try to find some LARPing to watch. Live Action RolePlaying. This is much more like a play with character sheets.

My own games tend to be more mission/tactical/puzzle oriented, since my players mostly don't care to spend a lot of time throwing out "thee's" and "thou's".

I'd say more than 50% of my session time was wasted with chit-chat until I moved my game online. Don't know why, but the games are much more productive this way.

12-07-2007, 09:48 PM
Well first, we draw a pentagram on the floor with chalk and salt. Then we draw other runes and put down candles. Turn out all the lights and then all wear our character's clothing to really get into the character. And then we sacrifice a goat, chicken, and a aardvark to summon up the evil spirits so that we can channel a really good D&D game. Oh, and let's not forget the blood drinking.

Really, just a bunch of geeks sitting around a long table eating really bad food, and having fun.

12-07-2007, 11:06 PM
Moritz, consider yourself lucky that I wasn't drinking anything when I read your post!! HAH!

I prefer my groups to be relatively serious about the gaming experience - and even if there are side conversations, if I ask someone what's going on, they had BETTER be able to tell me - even if it is a bit sketchy.

12-08-2007, 01:13 AM
It depends greatly on the make-up of the group.

My Wednesday game has 3 20ish guys, one early 30s, and one early 40ish year old guy, and me. (2 comic book nerds, 1 wargame nerd, 1 old time D&D nerd, 1 goth nerd, and me) Everyone is friends with everyone and they are very laid back. There is a lot of joking around, teasing, inappropriate sexual humor, random talking, and bad eating habits around the table during play. They are up for anything, even any random boardgame or cardgame that might come along.

My Sunday group has 1 in his late 20s, 3 in mid-late 30s, and me. ( 1 complete Star Wars fanatic geek, 1 Star Trek geek, 1 computer geek, 1 collector geek, and me) All are professional men who prefer more role-play and exhibit very goal orientated behavior. I am not real strict about stopping out of character chit chat, but I generally do not need to worry. We usually spend 30-45 minutes 'catching up' with each other before we begin to play. Twice in the last couple years, we started catching up and never stopped to play.

The difference between the two groups is sometimes like night and day. That is the way they want to play though. I have one friend who could no longer play on Sunday, so he wanted to switch to Wednesday. After two sessions, he blew up and refused to play with the immature bleep holes. Different strokes for different folks...

When I ran an open game at a local shop, I was far more strict. I tried to direct more, because I felt I had to keep the game on track and moving to keep people happy. Most knew each other in passing, but weren't really friends. It was a very different dynamic than my other games.

It is all up to you as to what you like or will tolerate. I am pretty happy no matter where the game takes me, so long as I am gaming. Most people are far more picky with what they want from a game.

12-08-2007, 04:43 AM
... but my ideal gaming atmosphere is a usably tall table (I hate feeling like a pixie or hunching over a coffee table) that is big enough to seat eight people comfortably (I'm still on the six man party kick). After that, reasonable temperature control, no wind, and a minimum of non-ambient noise (no TV's/radios, etc...). I like the bulk of the players to be experienced, but oddly enough I like when there is one new person, because they can ask you questions about the game that cause you to stop assuming and appreciate it all over again. I like the players to have motivated characters not just characters that sit around the tavern until the plot hook comes along. As far as the DM, I like someone who knows enough of the rules to be able to extrapolate rules for grey areas and not want to disallow every non-core rulebook because they're scared. I do have a prejudice against 3rd party stuff, not because it's broken (there's WotC stuff that is broken) but because 3rd party stuff tends to be broken in ways that cascade so much more dramatically [I'm looking at you chronomancy].

12-08-2007, 05:51 AM
Just like you'll see for anything else D&D, there are as many opinions on Gaming Atmosphere as there are gamers. Personally, two aspects about what D&D drive the atmosphere for games I run:

1) The game is supposed to be fun.

2) The game is supposed to inspire imagination.

If either aspect is lacking, the game suffers, in my humble opinion.

To keep things fun, I allow people to play around, crack jokes, talk out of character, etc. There is a time and place for that, and I always like to have something lighthearted in any given session to let off some steam and some tension.

For imagination however, it takes a more serious approach and good preparation. When the characters reach a peak of a mountain and see the valley below, when they enter a multi-level cavern filled with slaves and slavers, when a dragon suddenly flies overhead and roars in challenge, I want the players' imaginations to soar. Half of making this happen is atmosphere... if players are spending time thinking of the next witty comment they're going to miss it.

Of course you can't be a boar and force players to alllow this experience to others without limiting fun, but there are ways to encourage people to listen more intently at times. Music, body language, your own attitude can affect the players and build dramatic tension at an appropriate time. And well read boxed text, or well prepared paraphrasing can help build imagination. Even for homebrew, *prepares for gasps* I prepare "boxed text".

12-08-2007, 02:27 PM
I don't know if I have posted this here yet or not. Our group has adopted the Mr. Hand theory (a la Fast Times at Ridgemont High) of gaming.

Mr. Hand Theory:
If it's your time and it's my time, then isn't it our time?

What this means to us that we all are sacrificing our precious time to have fun, so it should be enjoyable and fun for everyone.

So, we joke around and throw about light banter during game sessions. Usually when something serious or important comes up, the GM barks for us pay attention and we all shut up. This usually is when combat is about to start or something important to the plot or storyline.

Box text has become an evil word in my group due to one of our original GMs. He's retired from gaming now, but he only ran games strictly from modules, and, consequently, we had boxed text crammed down our throats. We couldn't react, plan, say or do anything until the box text was finished being read.

Personally, I don't have a real issue with box text; other than most I have encountered is just way to lengthly. If I write some myself or use some from a published source, I usually just paraphrase it back to the players. I have usually read it several times and can skim it and hit the highlights.

Digital Arcanist
12-08-2007, 02:44 PM
I look at this way: The players are children who scream for a playground to entertain themselves. As a DM you spend a lot time and some money to build this awesome playground with all the equipment the kids could ever want and they can use it when ever they want. Mindless chit-chat and distractions like television and laptops are tantamount to the children staying home to play video games instead of going to the park.

I play in a place that is environmentally comfortable and has no television. I like well-lit places to discourage people from passing out during late nights. I like to drink while hanging out, but I don't allow alcohol until the game is over. I like to play some soft music for ambiance and I am the only one who can use a laptop.

I like to see something happen when I play whether its a progression in the story or some enrichment in the personal stories of the characters like building a business or building a meeting place for the party. 5 or 6 hours is a big commitment when you have kids, spouses, and everyday chores to finish each weekend.

12-08-2007, 05:03 PM
Good call DA.

I do not allow television, radio, computers, cell phones, random friends who are just watching, or any such nonsense. There are too many ways to be distracted as it is.

I am not a fan of background music, though I know many who are.
I have tried the games that allow the consumption of volumes of alcohol, but they always end badly. I would not recommend it either.

I have played in bathrooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, dens, basements, garages, kitchens, common rooms, dorms, vans, buses, game shops, libraries, parks, etc. Candle light might sound cool, but it can be very irritating also. The best is a comfortable well lit place with a nice big table and some elbow room. Places that are too comfortable can be bad as people will nod off in the comfy chairs and plush sofas.

12-08-2007, 05:12 PM
I was hoping I would get responses like this. I personally feel the atmosphere is crucial to maintaining the RP element. Other than ambient, non lyrical, music I feel that any outside forms of entertainment would only serve as distractions. I really like the idea of not allowing other players to have laptops. When I had access to one in school I was constantly checking my email and browsing my favorite websites. I realize that fun needs to be the main theme but believe that the game should generally serve as that entertainment and not regular idle conversations. If players are getting bored, constantly distracted, or would rather talk than pay attention to the story, then I think I'm probably not doing too great of a job as a GM.

One thing I do plan to do is screen all of my players before I start a real campaign. I need to know my players won't flake out on sessions and that they know what to expect from me as a GM and from the games that I host. More importantly I need to know they are what I am looking for. When I run a campaign I plan on doing a great deal of "out of game" work and want to make sure that said work does not go to waste. I really appreciate all of the feedback you all have provided me with. It has renewed my faith that there are players out there that fit the bill for what I consider to be RP Casual.

12-08-2007, 06:07 PM
Ok, I could, but it would cripple my experience a lot. What better way to pass note to the DM w/o obviously passing notes to the DM, for summoner types, I have all my favored critters on speed dial, same with spells, maneuvers, NPCs, cohorts, and other simple, but rule intensive information.

I'm not made of money, and I'm not going to print it all out especially when I have it all organized digitally; combine that with a web folder, and you never have to worry about forgetting your character sheet again...

12-08-2007, 06:14 PM
yeah, when we used game face-to-face there were no electronics or background music. Now, on the rare occassion when we get to play face-to-face again, we all have laptops.

I no longer create or use paper character sheets. They are all electronic word documents.

12-08-2007, 08:14 PM
One thing I do plan to do is screen all of my players before I start a real campaign. I need to know my players won't flake out on sessions and that they know what to expect from me as a GM and from the games that I host. More importantly I need to know they are what I am looking for. When I run a campaign I plan on doing a great deal of "out of game" work and want to make sure that said work does not go to waste.

When starting a new gaming group, set your expectations at the beginning. Let them know you like to put effort into the sessions and first and formost you want it to be fun, but to ensure the fun you have a couple ground rules.

Easier to set the expectations at the beginning and then trying to fix it later if it does go downhill.

Also, make it clear you are learning and want feedback. You'll prolly have to adjust your style a little to make sure you're giving the players the game they want.

12-08-2007, 08:45 PM
we all have laptops.

I no longer create or use paper character sheets. They are all electronic word documents.
Digital is the way to go, at least for my group.
Half of us, including me, use electronic characters, dice, and reference material on laptops, phones, and media viewers. RP'ing without technology can be done, but it's easier for us this way.

12-10-2007, 11:56 AM
Moritz, consider yourself lucky that I wasn't drinking anything when I read your post!! HAH!

I prefer my groups to be relatively serious about the gaming experience - and even if there are side conversations, if I ask someone what's going on, they had BETTER be able to tell me - even if it is a bit sketchy.

At one time, years ago, I was more anti kibitzing than I am now. It wasn't because I was a serious gamer (because I'm always that), but it was because of Sam/Clay who would always be talking and trying to be the center of attention when the rest of us were trying to game.

Now in my gaming, since I've no players like Sam/Clay, I'm a little more laid back, just letting it go and it normally flows nicely. Plus the gaming group is smaller. This past saturday there were 8 of us, as opposed to the numbers being in the teens. So far easier to control.

Inquisitor Tremayne
12-10-2007, 12:09 PM
Our games are laid back in the sense that there isn't any pressure to "perform". The only pressure we put on ourselves is to show up to the game. But peoples lives do get in the way and sometimes you can't make it to a game, no big deal.

When we game, the only non-D&D discussion comes when there is a lull in the game, if the GM is looking up a rule or we are having technical difficulties with our online player. Otherwise we are pretty good at tasking ourselves to stay focused on the game.

We also don't force anyone to play the role of their character. We leave it to whatever you are comfortable with.

Most of our time is spent discussing the parties next move; do we help save the princess, do we look for the hidden map, or explore the dungeon...

One thing I might suggest to you Mulsiphix is not to force it. While you may have your expectations I am kind of getting the sense you might be idealizing it too much. Getting everybody together and having fun is the most important thing, enforcing your version of fun on everyone usually isn't fun for everyone else.

Trust me I learned that lesson the hard way.

12-10-2007, 05:35 PM
I do expect to learn a great deal as far as "how things go in real life" once I start gaming with others. I seek to find players for long term campaigns through standard adventures. These players should naturally feel inclined to be very RP-esque. The group for a long term campaign probably won't be bigger than three to four other people so it shouldn't take forever to accomplish this task. I also plan to have a very open mind. I want to make sure I am providing a great experience to my players and I realize this will require some, probably several, changes on my perceptions and the way that I handle the game if I am to be successful ^_^

Digital Arcanist
12-10-2007, 09:37 PM
This may be the single most important rule you will ever hear pertaining to the actual act of role-playing.....

Not all dwarves are Scottish.....in fact I've never met a Scottish dwarf so leave the horrible accents in the car.:mad:

With all of us showering you with tips and tricks the most important thing is to find the style that is comfortable for you and your players. If you aren't comfortable with the way things are going then you tend to be cranky and we all know that a cranky DM is a smiteful DM.....:D

12-10-2007, 09:55 PM
This may be the single most important rule you will ever hear pertaining to the actual act of role-playing.....

Not all dwarves are Scottish.......

Of course not, Mountain dwarves are Scottish while Hill dwarves are Irish. Everybody knows that high elves are French and wild elves are Spanish!

12-11-2007, 12:50 AM
Anybody ever come across an Italian accent among elves? Seems most natural. "This-a knowl-edge is-unt-a fora you" ^_^

12-12-2007, 08:00 AM
Anybody ever come across an Italian accent among elves? Seems most natural. "This-a knowl-edge is-unt-a fora you" ^_^
I thought gnomes, although yitish works too depending on political correctness.

I actually had a DM who would only allow you to play an elf if you used a French accent! :eek:

12-16-2007, 01:43 PM
The group I used to have was really good in balancing play mechanics with role-playing. Our DM was skilled enough to take old AD&D and D&D 2.0 campaigns and convert them pretty much on the spot to 3.5. We all had a tendency to quote pop culture references (Family guy stuff, etc) but we were usually good at somehow tying them into the game as a part of role-playing. Every so often we got out of hand, and the DM would say something like 'Okay, the giant meteor falls on your head and you die." To which we would be like 'what meteor?" and the response of "Oh you didn't know? Guess you should get in the game, huh?" That was usually enough warning that we were straying to far.

As for atmosphere, it was usually the players bring 'tribute' to the DM (In the form of ice cold Budweiser bottles) and whatever music his wife was playing at the time. Occasionally, the gaming would be broken up by the DM's wife shouting 'NERDS!' or by a random-encounter with his twin babies, but with enough patience and humor, anything can be accomplished.

I can't stand groups that are so into the game that you immediately become the bane of the group if u mention anything outside the game universe. I look at role-playing as a kind of improv comedy stage show, like blue man group, where somethings will happen and somethings wont, and you just have to roll with the punches.

Oh, and just for the record, a good soccer-hooligan gutteral british accent goes amazing when playing an Orc. And if you want a good laugh, try playing an Elf that has a german/netherland accent. Not masculine like Ah-nuld, but more of a polka-dancing, shorts-and-suspenders wearing german. Go on, give it a try. Just imagining it makes me smile.

Thriondel Half-Elven
12-18-2007, 10:28 PM
my old gaming atmosphere was less than average. my players would talk out of character and crack jokes. a joke is ok every now and then. but he did it quite a bit.

other than that it was ok. though we rarely had enough room to play. but we made it by.