Monday, March 14, 2011

Wasted Time...

"And I know what’s been on your mind
You’re afraid it’s all been wasted time" - The Eagles (Album: Hotel California, 1976)

Have you ever said to yourself, "Well, that's five minutes that I'll never get back?"  I started thinking about wasted time the other day while I was watching someone spend an inordinate amount of time to decide what their character was doing in a game I was in.  Ironically, the person eventually decided to "delay". 

Of all the different things that irritate me in gaming, it's waiting, when I (or the rest of the table) shouldn't have to wait.

There's two main examples that most irritate me.

1) Waiting for late players.  I think of the two, this is the one I struggle with the most.  It's not just in gaming, but in work, or any other part of my life.  If I have an 8:00am meeting, I make damn sure that I'm at that meeting by 8:00am, or that I phone to let people know that I will be late, and that they should not wait on me.

I know there are people who are habitually late for just about everything in their lives.  I'm not one of them.  To me, when you keep people waiting on you, you might as well be saying to their faces, "My time is more important that all of yours put together."

There are exceptions, when waiting for someone is unavoidable.  If a player says, "I don't get off work until X, and I will pick up food on my way over, and I know I will always be 15 minutes late for the game.", I can work with this.  The person had the courtesy to tell me they would be late, and that they were doing what they could to mitigate the circumstance.  I can respect that kind of thoughtfulness.  I just wish people would try to be this thoughtful.  What I usually see, and what p1sses me off is people who don't give any warning about their tardiness, and show up whenever it's convenient to them, and then don't even apologize for their lateness.

My dad, who at 71 years old, is even more of a curmudgeon than I am said that he used to have work meetings where one or more participants were chronically late.  He said that his boss used to get angry at him for asking what time the 9:00am meeting was going to be, and for leaving the conference room to go get work done instead of sitting there waiting - saying "Please give me a call when you are ready to start the meeting."

I wish I could understand what goes through people's minds when they arrive late to gatherings to find everyone waiting on them.  Are they thinking "oh, jeez, I hope they aren't too mad.  Maybe if I don't mention it, everyone will pretend I wasn't late.", or are they thinking "oh good.  Everyone is here.  I'm glad that I took my time, so I don't have to stand around waiting like these chumps." ?

Okay. enough of waiting for people to arrive.  Once we are all at the game table, the other type of waiting that bugs me is:

2) People who take inordinately long turns, when they could be done in just a few seconds.  Things I've seen at the table (with confessions as appropriate):

a) People watching sports on their laptop, and when their turn comes, they have to have the combat situation explained to them.  Every turn.  (I will confess to using my laptop of iPad at game tables.  I've curtailed a lot of this since I began to realize how much waiting on people to take their turns bugged me.  And I try to be aware of what turn order is, if I do surf while waiting.  And a lot of my iPad use is looking up spells and powers and rules to try to be ready on my turn.

b) People who appear to spend zero thought on what their character might do, until everyone is waiting on them to make a decision.  Come on.  If there's six players and a DM, you can see when your turn is coming up.  Or at least who is right before you.  Look at the map.  Look at your options on your character sheet.  Have a plan.  I know the tactical situation might change before it gets to you, but have some idea of what you would like to do.

c) People who are utterly unready to do anything, and complain that their character is unable to be effective at the current moment, and take a long time to eventually decide to "delay".  Just about every game system I've ever played has some mechanism to delay until you or your character is ready to act.  If your turn comes, and you don't have an action to implement, just say "delay".  Everyone at the table will think you are a tactical genius who has a plan that you are just waiting for the correct moment to implement.  Not a dolt who couldn't be bothered to look at the battlemat.  Really.  I promise.

d) People who take a long long time shaking their dice.  I admit to generally going shake-shake-shake-shake-shake, when a simple shaka-shaka-shaka would probably suffice.  But every once in a while, I see a player who seems like they are really hoping to have all eyes on them as they spill out their dice onto the mat.  Maybe this one is just me being petty.  But it does irritate me.

Okay.  So those two general areas really bug me to wait.  I will mention the one thing that I don't mind waiting on.

***)ROLEPLAY.  If a player/character wants to play their role by berating an NPC, or by describing their action with more flourish than "I move to here and swing" by saying something like "My character grows a knowing smile as he meanders behind these boxes, ducking for cover and shouting taunts at his foes: 'Death to you, oh goblin enemies.  Be ware my wrath!'", I don't mind this at all.  This is the reason for roleplaying (at least to me).  Enjoying the actions that your character!  Suspending disbelief, and being that character, if only for a few seconds.  I don't even think I'd mind if someone ate up a whole bunch of table time so that their character could have some development (other than me - I always feel like I'm taking an inordinate amount of table time.  I have fun, but don't want to pull the fun from others.).

***)Rules verification.  Surprisingly, this does not irritate me either.  If someone is trying to figure out how a spell works that they don't use very often, or how tripping works, or how their dog works, and they are doing it as part of their action plan - I really don't mind waiting a few minutes for them to get things right.  (I know that I'm still looking up spell text fairly often when my turn comes around.  I think it's just part of the territory in playing a spellcaster).  There's probably a firm limit somewhere here as to how much time is polite.  I mean, if you are running animal companions, and summoned creatures, and other things that require lots of information, it's only polite to have as much as possile written down beforehand, so that people don't have to wait on you for every single turn.

Okay.  So general rules of courtesy.

1) Be punctual.  Show up on time, and ready to start at the appointed hour.

2) Be prepared. Plan for your character's action when other people are acting. 

3) Be courteous.  Remember that there is a whole table of people that are waiting for their turn too.


  1. I agree on lateness - but more so: people that can't even be bothered to say if they will show up at all. If I'm setting aside 5-8 hours of time to hang out with you; PLEASE do me the courtesy of letting me know that you intend to show!

  2. There's also another factor that I didn't mention. If a game has a set time, say 7pm-11pm, every minute that a player is late takes away game time from everyone.

  3. I was once told by a player that they weren't worried about being on time because its just a game.

    Which made me feel really stupid for the amount of time I, as the Game Master, had invested in trying to entertain the entire group.

    Unavoidable lateness once in a while makes perfect sense. If you are going to be there within 15 minutes or so, its probably faster to just show up. But if you know you aren't going to show up, or its going to be more that 15 minutes, am I a jerk for being a bit upset when I don't hear anything?

    Especially when I have me phone and my laptop, and I'm checking for calls, texts, and e-mails.

    Sorry, venting a bit.

  4. In a game with six players, one of them is 15 minutes late. That means that the other five players and the GM are sitting around for 15x6 person-minutes, or 1.5 person-hours. Even though you are slicing it differently, it's still the same as if you kept one person waiting for an hour and a half.

    You know what, it is only a game. And if you don't have enough courtesy or respect to tell the people who are going to spend their time with you that you might be late, then perhaps you aren't someone that I really care about gaming with. (shaking fist - argh).

    Yes. Life happens, and sometimes you are late because life just got in the way. Everyone understands that. But why does it seem as though it's only certain people who are consistently late?

    I guess the even worse case is the person who cancels without even bothering to tell you. And the whole group delays starting for a half-hour or more, only to give up on that person eventually. Again, I'm wondering what goes through someone's mind when they blow off a social engagement (that's what a game is, really). "hehe. those chumps..."

  5. Yeah, and sometime that worse case situation is followed up by an "oh, sorry" a week later by PM on Facebook, with a valid reason, but leaving the GM wondering why this valid reason couldn't have been brought up in a more timely manner.

    Sorry. Again, venting.

  6. I am giving my formal announcement that i will be probably be late every week. i apoligize in advance and my lateness is not about making you wait. Its about taking care of things at home before i leave and avoiding the fight that would come with that.