More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

More angry Overwatch advice from an angry healer

Overwatch competitive season 4 is upon us and let’s just say that I’m not enjoying it. A combination of bad teams and the unilateral ranking system during placement meant that I ended up far below my potential. However, working my way to more fulfilling games has let me see the dark underbelly of the Overwatch competitive scene and so I am back with more advice for any players willing to listen.

1. Provide cover for your healers. Your healers are a collection of DJs, doctors, snipers and monks. They may have potent healing abilities but they are squishy and fragile, with around 200 hit points each. This means that your healers can’t take a lot of damage before they die or have to retreat. So maybe, as a big, buff tank or high damage offence character, you could maybe take that damage for us? Tanks should be intercepting Reinhardt charges instead of jumping out of the way to maintain their precious KDR and offence characters should be sticking to their healers so the team can actually get heals. Ensuring that your healer is still alive is the best way to win a match.

2. Learn the abilities of the characters you don’t play as. Right before I began to write this piece, I was in a competitive match (we lost). At one point, the team’s Reinhardt was screaming at me via voice chat for me to heal him (I was Lucio). Funny thing was that I was stood right behind him, providing Lucio’s AoE healing abilities. Sadly, Lucio only heals 12.5 points of health per second so to a 500 hit point character like Reinhardt, it can seem like Lucio is slacking off. Players should also remember that characters like Ana and Lucio have heal boosting abilities with substantial cooldowns. Take the time to learn what characters can and can’t do so that you don’t have to waste your time berating a healer for doing their job.

3. Accept the fact that healers aren’t gods. Healers can’t keep you alive in a firefight, it’s part of Blizzard’s checks and balances in the game to ensure balance. To emphasize that, let’s do some math, using the Reinhardt scenario from the previous point:

Reinhardt has a base health of 500 (300 health and 200 armour) as well as a 2000 hit point strong shield. In this scenario he is defending against an attack from Soldier 76, whose primary weapon does 20 damage at the distance he is from Reinhardt, as well as an attack from Hanzo, whose primary weapon at full charge is doing 125 damage. Reinhardt is being supported by Lucio, who has just used his healing boost and is current doing 12.5 points of AoE healing. However, Lucio cannot heal damage to Reinhardt’s shield, only Reinhardt himself.

Reinhardt is a large stationary target, meaning that Hanzo and 76 aren’t missing him. This means that Reinhardt’s shield, something that can’t be healed unless he stops using it, is going to last around 15 to 20 seconds when reload times are factored into the equation as Hanzo and 76 pump 262.5 points of damage a second into it. This has been something of a protracted fight so Reinhardt it already injured at the start of the scenario, sitting at 312 health. This is when he starts demanding to be healed. With Lucio stuck in the 12 second cooldown for his amplification ability, he is stuck doing 12.5 of healing per second.  Reinhardt is calling for healing because shield is at about 400 health, and will last another second and a half.

Here’s the problem- it’s going to take Lucio 15.04 uninterupted seconds to fully heal his teammate and he only has 1.5. Once the shield goes down and the 76/Hanzo combo press the advantage, not only does Lucio come under the threat of fire, at the very most he can only reduce the damage to Reinhardt to between 250 and 226.5 per second. Reinhardt is either going to die or have to retreat to a health pack, as the rest of the team is frantically defending the point.

And substituting any other healing in the scenario doesn’t help. Mercy only need 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt but that’s still double the amount of time his shield can hold for and once that’s down, Mercy can only reduce the damage to 202.5 per second. Ana needs 3.3 seconds to fully heal Reinhardt and even with perfect aim, she only reduces the damage to 206.25. Finally, Zenyatta would need 6.2 seconds for a full heal and then can only reduce the damage to 232.5 per second.

What all of this shows is that if you are under fire, your healer can’t keep you alive, especially if you there is not one returning fire on your attackers. Please accept this.

4. Don’t insult your healers. In another match I played today,  the team’s Soldier 76 boldly proclaimed ‘No Heals’ at the end of a lost round, suggesting that he had not received adequate healing from the team’s healers. My fellow healer and I were understandingly confused, having done a combined total of 17,000 healing across the round. If you aren’t near the healers,we can’t heal you. This isn’t Call of Duty or Battlefield with healers, it you aren’t at the objectives, you’re not getting healed. The player proceeded to get increasingly abusive towards the team healers until, as he had said, we gave him no heals.

Remember this: If you are going to give your healers shit, your healers aren’t going to be nice to you. We own your ass because we’re the only ones who will keep you alive.

What advice do you have for Overwatch players? If you haven’t check out my previous instalment of angry healer advice, click here!


An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

An angry healer’s guide to Overwatch

Hi, I play a healer in Overwatch and let me start by saying “F**********k yooooooooooou”. While most healers in the game are not ranked very highly in terms of difficulty to play, being a healer in Overwatch is a harrowing experience and 95% of this trauma will stem from the actions of your five team mates. And so, allow me to give you a whistle-stop tour to playing Overwatch, from the perspective of an angry healer.

1. No, we didn’t lose because of my actions: Overwatch is a game of winners and loser, every match has got to have one (except in competitive mode but that is more of a points based league so it makes sense to have ties in that area of the game). However, I will guarantee you now, even before we get into the match itself, the team healer will not be the reason we lose. You see, unless your healer AFKs or spends all their time trying to get the gold medal in eliminations for some reason, we spend the game frantically running around the map trying to keep five people alive. Please consider the following reasons why we might have lost:

  • Everyone ran around merrily engaging in 1v1, off the objective battles and so we either failed to defend effectively or never launched coherent group attacks
  • You, in your lofty role of offense or tank, negated the healer of your beleaguered Mercy,  Zenyatta, Lucio or Ana by continuing to engage in heavy firefights will being healed. Remember, your healer is not a god who can keep you alive, most characters will deal more damage than the continuous healing a healer can provide.
  • Team composition was wrong. I’ll come back to this later but maybe the structure of the team was wrong? Think about it, did we really need a Widowmaker in the battle of Illios: Lighthouse?

It’s very simple, your healer was doing the best they could and there are very few viable scenarios in which your healer will be at fault for a defeat. And speaking of how you treat your healer…

2. Healer etiquette: So, you’ve found yourself pinned down with the edges of your screen going red, your character breathing raggedly and your bottom-left health bar in low double digits. With panicked motions, you select a message and I need healing! rings out across the map. Nothing happens, no Brazilian DJ, Egyptian sniper, Nepalese cyborg monk or Swiss healthcare professional appears to bring you back to full health so you can maintain those four gold medals you’ve got going for you. You hit ‘I need healing’ again. And again. And again and again and again until Blizzard times you out for tripping the spam filter. For the love of God, please don’t do this. I heard you, alright? I know that you need healing but newsflash, there are a number of reasons why I’m not attending to you:

  • Most healers use a triage system, like a real hospital. This means we attend to injuries based on severity and in a combat situation, such as an Overwatch match, we also need to factor in strategic value. You might be the best goddamn Reaper in the world but in terms of the game, but I’m going to prioritize this half-health Reinhardt.
  • You may be in an area that I’ve deemed too dangerous to get to. Most healers have low base health and so if there a Widowmaker or high damage offense character near where you are, it’s unlikely I’m going to reach you without dying.
  • If you are engaged in a firefight and calling for healing, no. Like I said in point one, the healers of Overwatch can’t keep you alive. Our healing abilities heal over time and don’t give you a health dump like the health packs, so if you’re engaging members of the enemy team, I’m can’t do much for you.

Furthermore, if you have backed off from the fighting for healers to reach, stand still and get healed. Please Tracer, don’t run around me in circles spamming I need healing, I will just leave you alone. And speaking of annoying things people choose to do…

3. Team composition and character play styles: There is no golden rule to team composition it depends on the map, whether you’re on attack or defend, the game mode and even the composition of the enemy team. However, there are definitely some things that can be said to avoid when it comes to team composition- two to three varied offensive characters is usually a good call, a tank or two never hurts, don’t play snipers on payload attacks, Torbjorn will never be effective on attack period and of course, despite her character overhaul, Symmetra is not a substitute for an attack or a high damage offense character. Once again, a healer can only do so much if team composition is bad enough to mean that you are respawning every three or four kills. As for character play styles, most characters can be utilised in more than one way. Mercy, my main character, can be a straight up healer or more of a battle angel, helping pick off low-health enemies and providing damage boosts while providing healing when necessary. Mercy cannot be your personal health pack, dealing death in 1v1 battles and sticking to a single character as the run around the map. When you pick a main, find the best ways to play that character- for example, Reinhardts who only use charge  and constantly over-extend themselves deserve the terrible KDR that approach brings with it. As a healer, I can’t do much for you if you aren’t utilising your character.

4. I see your medals and raise you actually winning the game Overwatch awards gold, silver and bronze medals for number of eliminations, number of eliminations on the map’s objective, time spent on the map’s objective, amount of damage done and the amount of healing done. I’m sorry to tell you Mr. Four Golds, but these medals don’t actually mean anything. You see, medals don’t actually reflect how the game went and more reflect your play style and class preference sure you got gold eliminations but your team was shut out on Oasis because you never once stepped on the point. Let’s take me as an example in the most recent competitive season- I played 48 matches and from those 48 matches, I won 61 medals, 44.3% (27) of which were gold. However, my actual record was 15 wins, 29 losses and 4 draws, which is not fantastic. There are also 48 matches in 3 regular seasons of the NFL so I crunched the numbers for the last three seasons of pro football (splitting the ties and adding two to both the win and loss totals because ties are uncommon in American Football) and found that I am the St. Louis/LA Rams of Overwatch (they’re not very good if don’t follow football). The thing is that, as I mentioned before, medals are weighted towards certain classes- eliminations go to offense and tanks, damage goes to offence, defence and tanks, objective time is weighted towards defence and tanks and healing is almost exclusively for the supports (unless your supports really really suck or your Roadhog spams his health canister). And so, if your team is screaming for you to switch from Symmetra and play someone else, don’t argue that you shouldn’t be the one to change because you have two golds and a silver at the moment.

5. Let’s be nice to one another (to an extent): Peer interaction is an integral part of human life. However, when you lose (or are losing) at Overwatch, you might be tempted to scream at the other players on your team. But here’s a quick guide to how to do this:

  • If your automatic response is to tell someone ‘KYS’ or something as horrific as telling someone to kill themselves, log off Overwatch and go rethink your entire life outlook because why in God’s name do you think that is even a vaguely acceptable thing to say someone?
  • ‘It’s just a game, why are y’all getting so salty?’ is the gamer version of ‘We have to respect a Nazi’s right to believe what they want’. It doesn’t help anyone and in case, it’s just a game is correct but I come to enjoy myself on Overwatch, not slogging through the chore of bad game after bad game. I have a right to get angry if people aren’t pulling their weight, impacting on my enjoyment of how I choose to spend my free time.
  • Don’t belittle the other team by saying they won by carry (one player did all the work). They won, suck it up.
  • Don’t blame your healers

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say, I guess I should put some cliché Overwatch rant trash at the end of this to drive up views so here goes ohmyfinggodsymmetraisobrokenandneedstobenerfedandwhiletheynerfhertheyshouldmakeTracercannonstraightbecauseitspoilsmyheadcanonalsothepayloadshouldmovefasterandIshouldnthavetopointmygunatpeoplebecauseaimingishard (Note: This is parody and does not reflect the viewpoint of the author). But yeah, I can hear Genji screaming for healing so I better go devote all my attention to ignoring that. Thanks for reading, what advice do you have to Overwatch players, are you also an angry healer? Let me know in the comments!

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job

If you trouble yourself to keep up with the modern vernacular, then you may be familiar with the term ‘First World Problems’. Originating in 1979 and gaining popularity with the rise of memetic internet culture, a ‘first world problem’ is an issue or occurrence that inconveniences us but rapidly appears trivial and insignificant when compared to larger world issues. Wikipedia lists ‘slow internet access’ and ‘getting a bad haircut’ as examples of the phrase and Saturday Night Live recently did a sketch based around the concept. From a psychological perspective, a ‘First World Problem’ would be considered something that, while inconvenient, does not threaten the achievement of any stage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Essentially we label our trivial problems as ‘First World Problems’ because we like to reassure ourselves that this is the worse it gets for us.

You get faster internet with EE…and a computer the Russians can’t still hack

Now the reason I’m talking about ‘First World Problems’ is because recently, an acquaintance joked that the Biblical figure Job, if he had been familiar with the concept, may have wished for first world problems. If you’re not familiar with the story, Job is described as being “perfect and upright, and one [a man] that feared God, and eschewed evil” and so God, so firm in the belief that Job’s faith will not waver, tells the Devil that he is free to utterly ruin Job’s life in every imaginable, with the exception of harm to Job himself. Being, you know, the Devil, Satan decided that this was a great idea and spends the subsequent thirty or so chapters. God is right to put his faith in Job, who for the large part just kinda takes it all on the chin. Even when he snaps and demands to know why this is happening to him, a true man of God, and God’s reply is less than satisfactory, Job apologizes for snapping. Eventually, Job gets back everything he lost and lives on to see the next four generations of his family. The thing is that saying that Job would have wished for First World Problems is missing the point of the book of Job because if he were to wish for something less, then he would be casting aside his faith in God.


When something bad happens to us, it’s very easy to shift the blame to someone else or something else. When you fail an exam, it’s easier to blame it on a bad question; when you end a friendship, it’s easier to blame it on the other person’s lack of commitment. The easiest person to blame is God, it’s why ‘Goddammit’ appears to roll off the tongue so easily. We find it so easy to blame God because he’s not going to come down and personally defend himself for the transgression of you dropping the coffee pot and so we feel like the blame has been taken away from you. The worse the problem, the better it feels to blame the silent higher power.

But here’s the thing. Ignoring your problems doesn’t make them magically go away and the same goes for shifting the blame- if you blame divine intervention for the that D in calculus, you’re going to fail the resit as well. Sometimes life is out of our control but the times you do have some say, take responsibility. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which god, if any, you follow, taking responsibility for what you do is still a liberating action. So the next time something doesn’t go your way, have some faith that all is not lost and take some time to see how you can make things better.

Ben talks society: Sex Education II

Ben talks society: Sex Education II

Loyal readers of my blog may remember that a few months ago, I penned a piece advocating the introduction of more effective sex education in the United States, due to their widespread usage of abstinence-only education. Well today, I want to expand on the framework I briefly mention at the end of that piece and talk about the things that need to be discussed with children and teenagers and young adults in order to give them effective and comprehensive sex education.

1. The basics: Let’s start simple- everyone should be taught the basic anatomy and processes of the human reproductive system. There is no better place to start comprehensive sex education than having students be familiar with their, and their partner’s, genitals and reproductive system. The processes, which would seem more like a biology lesson, are also important to teach because this can be expanded on in later lessons, such as those concerning pregnancy and birth control/contraception. Teaching the basics in a thorough manner not only gives young people a solid basis to work from, it also stops sex being this magical, unexplainable alien where something happens.

2. Having sex: It is important to present everything to do with actually having sex in a neutral light. I believe that the paramount lesson is that students know that it is their choice whether they become sexually active and how long they remain active for. That means there is no judgement for becoming active and there is no judgement for staying inactive. However, it is also important to teach people about the legal aspect of becoming sexually active namely, in my opinion, the federal/national (and state if it differs) age of consent and what is meant by ‘statutory rape’. While it is impossible to prevent teenagers from engaging in sexual intercourse if they so choose, the best things they can take away with them is knowledge of the legal aspects surrounding sexual intercourse and a thorough, fully informed knowledge of consent. The CDC estimates that 80% of 15-19 year olds have received at least some education on ‘how to say no’ but I don’t believe that goes deep enough. Sure, the basics of consent (you must gain someone’s explicit verbal permission to have sex with them in order to have sex with them) are probably some of the more crucial lessons that can be taught to young people, as is the importance of them knowing they have a right to say no AND say no at any point during sexual activity but I think consent education needs to go deeper. If a partner is under the influence or alcohol or drugs, they may not be able to give their fully informed consent (and before you rage at me in the comments, yes, I know that a lot of people ‘hook up’ while under the influence of alcohol. Doesn’t negate the need for informed consent). Furthermore, it is important for people to know that consent does not apply to all acts and activities undertook in a sexual encounter; is not transferable and does not apply to any sexual encounter other than the one the consent was gained during. It is also important to reiterate the whole explicit consent thing, adding that a potential partner’s clothing or demeanour do not constitute consent, nor does any preceding non-sexual or sexual activity.

3. Risks and prevention: A thorough biological education is as important as a thorough socio-sexual one. The discussion concerning the risks of sexual intercourse should be a candid, non-judgemental one. Unprotected sex greatly increases the risk of the transmission of and STI and greatly increases the chance of a pregnancy. At this point, it is important to note that an STI should be treated just like any other disease or illness, you should see a doctor and have it treated before you transmit it to someone else and before it does lasting damage to your body. Condoms should not be presented as the be all and end all of STI protection/contraceptive. Granted, they are one of the most commonly used but there is a plethora of other methods that can be implemented, which should be explained to people. Abstinence should not be presented as a preventative method as, while it does prevent STIs and pregnancies, it is also incompatible with an education that teaches people that it is their choice whether to become sexually active: “Listen, I know we are both ready to have sex and want to have sex. That’s why we should use abstinence to ensure we don’t end up with an unwanted pregnancy” is not a line that should be used in a non-judgemental, sex-positive sex ed program. It is also vital to note that no birth control is 100% effective and so regular sexual health checks should be done to ensure that nothing is slipping through the cracks.

4. Pregnancy: This is where it gets a little tricky. Pregnancy is caused by sexual intercourse and it is a risk that can stem from sex. However, depending on where you live in the world, how you choose to deal with pregnancy is a choice you may not even get to make. Abortion has been technically legal in the United States since 1973, following the conclusion of Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court case that ruled that the right to an abortion is protected under the rights provided by the 14th Amendment. However, depending on your state. you might find that you must fulfil other pre-requisites in order to qualify for an abortion. In the United Kingdom, you are eligible for an abortion up to your 24th week of pregnancy. The important thing is that the decision to have, or not to have, an abortion is yours and yours alone (and yes, I’m talking to women exclusively now). I am a firm believer in the mantra ‘your body, your decisions’. Sex ed should teach that a woman’s decision is hers to make, regardless of external pressures. Sex ed should also provide sources of further education on the matter (also, according to some state law, that’s actually illegal). Either way, the decision is for the pregnant party to make, not her parents, not her parent, not anyone but her. I also recommend that the film Juno be used as part of sex ed when it comes to pregnancy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantastic story about a high schooler who gets pregnant and chooses to put the baby up for adoption. On that topic, students should also be made aware that choosing to go through with the pregnancy does not mean having to take on the responsiblity of caring for a child and so they should be introduced to the post-natal options, such as adoption.

The course: I believe that sex ed should be taught as a compulsory, multi-part course in order to provide all students with a comprehensive look at sex, sexuality and the issues surrounding it. Parents should be allowed to excuse their children from taking sex ed as that only perpetuates the problems caused by inadequate sex education.

So that’s my proposal for a more comprehensive and thorough sexual education. As with my first blog on the topic, this mainly applies to the United States, where the issue of inadequate sex ed is more prevalent.

How do you think sex ed should be taught? What do you think should be included? Let me know in the comments below!

Ben talks university: How to make the most of your free time

Ben talks university: How to make the most of your free time

Societies at university are great way to utilize your free time. They can serve any purpose from creating a career stepping stone to improving your social life to just giving you a place to unwind that isn’t the library. However, I do have some advice concerning societies that I would like to share with you:

  1. Consider commitment and expenditure: Sorry kids but life ain’t free most of the time. Many societies will require a membership fee. As the former member of a society exec, I can assure you that this money is not spent on cocaine and handouts for the exec; instead it is spent on events for the society as well as their own expenses, such as transport hire and equipment purchases. This fee can range from less than £5 to near and above £100. At this point, consider how willing you are to commit to a society. In terms of a sports society, are you looking to stay healthy, learn a new sport and stay active during the week or are you looking to be the cream of the crop and represent your university? This decision will affect how much time and money you will need to put aside for that particular society. Furthermore, while the wakeboarding society sounds awesome, will you actually have the time to justify the £50 membership fee? Even low-priced societies will factor into this equation- I spent the most of my first two years as part of my university’s roleplaying society and that particular iteration of a roleplaying society ran tabletop roleplaying games in a ten week campaign structure- there is no point joining a society if you aren’t going to show up half the time. So how do you deal with this? Well, most societies will host an introductory session and I would encourage you to attend these in order to see if the society is for you. It will also give you a chance to meet current members and ask about issues such as amount of commitment and potential future expenditure.
  2. Societies may not do what they say on the tin: Let’s say that politics or social justice is your kind of thing, I’m afraid to tell you that you’re chancing your arm if choose to specify. Groups that fall into this category, such as political organisations and liberation movements such as LGBT societies and feminist societies, may have a ‘group ideology’. For example, the Labour Society may follow a particularly far-left viewpoint or the feminist society may emphasize a particular branch of feminist thinking. Many of these organisations will utilise an open forum discussion format for their main meeting and so you may feel that it is not worth your time to attend, especially if you hold an opposing viewpoint. There is nothing worse than attending a society meeting were you feel alone and isolated because everyone else holds ‘the society’s opinion’. If you do decide to stick it out, be warned that this may work against you if you choose to run for positions on the exec, as people may feel that you would be a detriment to the society’s image. Just remember that while everyone is entitled to their opinion, that sentiment may be lost on some if everyone around them shares their opinion. Also, as my father likes to remind me when I have issues with societies, most of these groups are made up of young adults and teenagers who have no real world experience and have no idea what they are talking about.
  3. You don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid: Again, this mainly applies to activist groups and political organisations but, just because you are member does not mean you are automatically obligated to participate in all the society’s events. Imagine that you are a member of the environmental society and the exec announces that they are organising a protest at a local refinery, where they will be chaining themselves to the gates of the complex. It may be easy to hypothetically say no but as a psychologist, I can tell you that everyone else is saying yes, responding with no becomes a lot harder. The society may have done wonders for your confidence and social life but you are still the priority. Keep yourself safe and happy, both physically and mentally. If people think less of you because you don’t participate in some events, that is not a society you want to be part of. Oh, and before we move on, if a society ever asks you to do something illegal or legally dubious, you probably want to get out of there.
  4. Try new things: Your university experience will depend heavily on what you make of it. There is no obligation to join any societies during your time at university; there are other ways to make the most of your 3+ years. However, if you are interested in joining a society (which you probably are if you’re reading this blog) then don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst thing you can do is join a society halfway through third year, found it’s awesome and then wish you had joined it in first year. University is all about discovering who you are and so trying new things will really help you find the true you. Don’t feel bad if a society isn’t for you, life won’t cater to your specific interests and sometimes things just don’t work out. But try something new, you never know if you’ve found a new hobby until you give it a test run

What advice do you have when it comes to societies? Let me know or comment below!

Ben talks life: Planning a quiz night

Ben talks life: Planning a quiz night

Pub quizzes or quiz nights are often a fun way to bring way to bring a larger group of people together. However, if done wrong, they can spell disaster. Here are my tips for writing and running a quiz night.

  1. Think about venue: Before you even get to the quiz, think about the venue, are you hiring out a community or is your house large enough to host? Your choice of venue will determine the number of people you can potentially invite as well as costs for things such as food and drink- if you’re hiring an external venue, you might be able to snag a private bar or at least a buffet while if you’re hosting at your home, you will either need to budget for refreshments or implement a bring and share policy. The venue can also determine the atmosphere- are you going for something a little more verbose and public or quiet and intimate? Take all of these factors into consideration when thinking about venues.
  2. Think about tone: What sort of event are you going for? Do you want to instil a real sense of competition or this is a group of mates looking to cheat and yell abuse at one another in an affectionate manner? This will help determine how difficult you make the quiz when you come to write it and what sort of prizes (if any) you offer to the victors. A more serious tone will dictate prizes and better quality ones at that while a jokier, laidback quiz could see you offer small, cheaper prizes or some sort of alcoholic leverage, such as you buying the winners a round. The best way to figure out the right tone is to think about whose coming- don’t write aMastermind-esque level of questions if you’re putting this on for your university friends.
  3. Tailor your quiz to your audience: Once you get round to writing your quiz, make sure to keep it interesting. If you go down the classic route of science, history, geography, sport, make it a mix of quiz night staples and maybe something a little more obscure. That said, make sure to tailor your quiz, if you are running a quiz for your particularly nerdy friends, a round on sport may not go down well while if you are dealing with a larger, more mixed group of people, aim to have a broader array of rounds.
  4. Be sure to read the room: If you also take up the mantle of quizmaster, make sure you are reading the room at all times. One of the worst things you can do is have the crowd turn against you. Here are some behaviours to look out for:

Rowdy, restless: If the crowd appears to be becoming rowdy and restless, consider taking a break at the end of the round. This is most likely due to a little too much quiz all at once and allowing people to cool off may improve people’s mood as the event moves on

Boredom, increased rowdiness: This is a sign that people are getting sick of the quiz. Your best option here to reach the end of the event sooner rather than later. The longer you force people to hang around, the worst it is going to get

Frustration: The quiz may be too difficult or obscure, consider making the next round a little easier.

  1. Avoid subjectivity: The worst thing you can do is present questions that the participants can argue with you over. If you are including somewhat subjective questions, such as customs and practices in a foreign country during a travel round for example, you can simply turn it into an objective question. Rather than asking: “Should you tip when visiting Japan?” you could ask “According to most travel websites, should you tip when visiting Japan?” that way you have turned an argument about the intricacies of tipping in a foreign country into a simple yes or no answer.
  2. Maintain control of the event: You will get participants you think it is alright to argue with you throughout the event. However, make sure you always remain in control- if you let one person start to rebel, more people will join them. The best ways to do this are including breaks to let tensions ease, deducting points to show trouble players that you mean business and if needs be, taking them aside during a break and calling them out on what has become disruptive behaviour.


Ben talks roleplay: 5 tips for first time GMs

Ben talks roleplay: 5 tips for first time GMs

Tabletop roleplaying can be a wonderful and entertaining experience for all involved but, as anyone who has led a game will tell you, your first time at the helm can be a daunting experience. So today, I would like to offer some tips for people looking to run their first games.

  1. Research is your friend: When setting out to create a game to run, there is nothing better than settling down for a few hours and researching. Make sure you know about the time period you are setting your game in, the location you are using, local laws and customs, attitudes towards certain groups etc. This will give you confidence and prepare you for any questions your players may ask you. This will also give you a degree of flexibility in-game as you can use your knowledge to tailor the experience to the players and their characters. Example: Jack wants to have a firearm. In your setting of 1930s America, you know that this would not be out of place but you do warn Jack that due to the prevalence of mob violence, being seen to openly carry a firearm may cause unwanted suspicion and hassle for his character.
  2. Think about pre-genning: You may have read this system core book from cover to cover and feel pretty confident about leading the traditional character generation but you’re worried about screwing up on the day. You have two choices- veteran players (see my next point) or pre-generated characters. Something you might want to consider doing is spending some time prior to the game creating a selection of characters to help familiarise yourself with the character generation process of your chosen system and then offering the pile of pre-made characters to your players. This may also help you keep a hold on your game by creating a collection of particularly relevant characters. Example: You are all set to embark on your high seas adventure game. In preparation you have created a number of pirate archetype characters such as the swashbuckling captain, the cowardly first mate, the grizzled navigator, the young and eager gunner and, of course, the woman disguised as a man.
  3. Get some experienced players: While I myself did not use this avenue, the members of my university’s roleplay society are not only fortunate enough to have some truly wonderful experienced roleplayers, the society also offers a day of one-shot adventures solely run by new GMs. If this is also the case for you, congratulations. However, if not, it would be a good idea to wrangle some more experienced players into joining your game. That way, you can fall back on their experience if you get stuck and they may also be more forgiving than newer players, having been in your place in the past. Experienced players will also be more sensible and not jeopardise your game…in theory.
  4. Be prepared to improvise: So you’re in the middle of your game. You are methodically working through your ten page Word document when suddenly; the players decide to take a course of action you hadn’t anticipated! What are you to do? Firstly don’t panic, it is near impossible to perfectly predict what your players will do. Always leave yourself some wiggle room and if you try to shove players along a set path, they will attempt to jump to the side. Like a kitten or a puppy at bath time, they know what you are trying to do and will resist you to the bitter end.
  5. Be careful when populating your setting: The world of a roleplaying game should be a living, breathing environment but be careful when creating it. Everything should have a purpose and, yes, being a red herring counts as a purpose. As the GM, you are responsible for setting up questlines and making sure that if undertaken, resolution is available. While it can make for amusing filler, players will slowly be put off from your game if they have to battle through thousands of enemies or wade through hours of conversation with grumpy fishermen who have no relevant information whatsoever. While it is important to ensure that your world feels alive, this is a game and so your world’s inhabitants do need a purpose as to why they exist.

What advice do you have for first time GMs? How did your first time as a GM go?

If you enjoy roleplaying, check out the start of my ten part diary about the nWoD game I’m running on Thursdays!