|Yes, you've seen it before, but I couldn't resist.|
A question has come up: "What's an 'open table' game?"
It's a term of art used by some of old timers for the kind of game sessions we'd run at conventions or other events; the game session gets started at a certain time, but anyone who wants to play simply sits down at the table and wades right in. There may be, as I had at Gary Con some years ago, pre-registrations; I had twelve people pre-registered for that game, and about six actually showed up. The remainder of the 18 people I had in that game were all 'walk-ups'.
So, I did the Free RPG Day event as an open table; the lights on the display attract the eye, the graphics tell them what's going on, and the cake is the bait to get them to sit down and play. Once I get them into the chair, they're hooked. And, I really should note, they do tend to have a pretty good time. There are some disadvantages to this, though; one - and first and formost - you as GM have to take what walks up to the table. Most of the time, it all works out - and Phil's Tekumel is pretty tolerant of things - but on occasion things do take a less-then-optimal turn.
Late in the day, about an hour before we closed up shop for the day, I had a young man come by the table and express an interest in playing. He wanted to play a D&D class, 'The Rogue', and I had no problem with this; what I ran into issues with was the D&D player-character viewpoint of 'The Murderhobo'. This term of art, as I understand it, applies to mist D&D PCs who wander around killing and stealing for the XP (experience points) and have no real connection to the world setting that they live it.
I expected trouble, and I was right.
This very nice young man was quite lost in a game session that had 'open sandbox play', with no 'directed adventure path' that was obvious or being laid out by the GM. He did do a good job of playing a Rogue, but ran into issues with the locals' who kept pointing out that there are consequences for one's actions. He eventually punched out two of the local temple guards, under the PC assumption that since these are 'mooks' and NPCs, they are fair game for the PCs. What he did not take into account was that the guards are part of a larger group, and pretty quickly he was on the run across the rooftops being pursued by the temple guards, the Legion of the All-Consuming Flame's Provost Guards, and the entire rest of the player-character party which had gotten more then a little cranky over his Rogue-ish antics. (Things were getting a little tense, at the table.) The Rogue stole a fishing boat, paddled out to sea, and the player was a little surprised when the rest of the party stopped the pursuit at the shoreline and waved him a fond 'Bon Voyage!"
He could not figure out why they'd stopped chasing him, until the Kzin warrior asked for a time out and then explained to him that if he'd spent a little time asking the other PCs about the local scene, they'd have told him that nobody in there right mind goes for a casual swim in any open body of water on Tekumel. He dismissed all that, as he was an experience gamer equipped with a bionic arm with all sorts of lasers, plasma cutters, and other high-tech stuff. He did not seem to grasp why I'd kept having him roll dice every round, until the first tentacles started arching up over his boat.
When the game session ended, he was standing up on the overturned hull of his boat, finding out why the people of the Nyemesel Isles venerate the creatures they call 'The Children of Mretten". The rest of us Tekumelyani call them "Akho, The Seizer of Ships", and the other PCs in the group called "The Kraken".
Considering the amount of laughter and sheer glee, I think we ended on a high note. Even the Rogue said he'd had a good time, and learned a lot...
And "Release the Kraken!!!" has gotten to be a running joke, thanks to Meredith the Assassin. :)