These really are the things I could do without.
This guy I’ll call Bob. Bob liked to roleplay. He liked to get right into character. The thing is, no matter what kind of character he played he also liked to argue. And when I say argue I mean shout, loudly, and also let the in-game argument spill into the real world and then beyond the game.
Let me give you an example. After a particularly long and boring session of Shadowrun (I wasn’t running it!) he decided his character was going to take umbrage at the fact that another PC was spending quite a long time deciding on what equipment he wanted to take on a job. He started by calling him out, in character, and when the PC answered him back he took it personally – that’s when the shouting started. ‘What the hell is wrong with you? We’ve been here for ages! We’ve got a damn job to do and you’re just pussyfooting around buying junk! What the hell’s the matter with you?’
At first you think, ‘Good roleplaying, Bob!’ But when Bob then starts to refer to the player by name and not the character, making comments about laziness, tardiness and general personal observations you begin to realise that there’s no roleplaying going on here. Upon being challenged on the fact that he was taking the argument outside the game his volume went up. And up, And then up a little bit more. It got so bad that anyone trying to say anything at all, even if it had nothing to do with the initial argument, was shouted down. After the game he declared that he was just playing ‘in-character’, but in my experience whenever anyone says ‘it’s what my PC would have done’ they’re usually just trying to justify why it was they were acting like a moron.
But it had nothing to do with character though, did it? Bob had gone off on one because he was bored and frustrated and, whether he realised it or not, decided to take his frustrations out on another player. When that player tried to answer him back – in character, I might add – he took actual offence that his demands had been questioned and let the fact that he wasn’t enjoying the game get the better of him, and the result was his personal comments and remarks aimed at the player and not the player character. He let real-world emotions influence his in-game emotions. The rising volume was simply a defence mechanism, as far as I could tell, in an attempt to ‘win’ the situation with decibels rather than reasoning. It was obvious that he knew what he had done wrong and, instead of admitting to it or letting it go, exacerbated the situation by winding himself up and raising his voice.
As a GM I’d have called a time-out straight away and asked Bob to calm down. Any attempts at using the ‘I was just roleplaying’ defence will still be met with a five minute break and a request that the voices are lowered. Rising volume in response to that request will then result in an immediate stop to the game. This is simply one of the things I don’t put up with in my games. Any arguments that I feel are spilling out of character – and it is glaringly obvious when that happens – are halted with a curt warning and a reminder that we’re playing a game and any continuation of the climbing volume and attitude stops the game completely. And that’s it. I don’t have any words of wisdom about emotional states and handling people with kid gloves. This is simple bloody-minded rudeness and it’s not something that I, my players or my neighbours should have to put up with.
Roleplaying isn’t a spectator sport and players don’t attend to sit back and watch other players have slanging matches.