Some of my fondest gaming memories happen far away from the gaming table. I love nothing better than hitting the local for a pint and a post-game recap. I’ve spent hours with my group at hookah lounges and coffee shops pouring over the details of campaigns, rehashing old glories and exploring new possibilities for future sessions. Unfortunately, I can’t always devote the wee hours of my mornings to late night diners and gamer talk. You’ve got to sleep some time, you know? Happily, there are always online forums available as an outlet for geek-outery. Unhappily, you wind up losing a load of context the moment you start typing.

These meta discussions can get a bit abstract, so let me offer up a recent example. Take the story of my fallen paladins from a few weeks back. That’s a fairly detailed tale from the table, but there’s a problem with it. My fellow forum-dwellers can never get a 100% clear picture of how I presented the scenario. How much did I emphasize the phase spiders’ use of language? How clear was it that they were trying to protect their eggs when they attacked the party? How did my paladin players react when they realized they were being penalized for an inadvertently evil act? All of these details are readily available if you were there at the table. In the black and white world of the internet, however, it’s all down to guesswork.

If you’ve ever asked the wider community for feedback chances are you’ve been called a terrible GM, accused of violating the spirit of the game, and otherwise informed that you’re having bad wrong fun. I tend not to mind. I write this comic because I love talking about games, and I love hearing other people talk about games. If I’ve got to take a few lumps for my less than brilliant decisions, so be it. However, I think it’s important to remember one very important detail before hitting that “post reply” button: Different people prioritize different modes of play. The micro-culture of the individual group is going to factor into whether or not any given ruling was the right call, and applying your group’s preferences to another guy’s game (e.g. “PVP is bad” or “I won’t play with min/maxers”) can lead to miscommunication.

My point is this. When I’m OP, I find myself paying closer attention to the more measured responses to my post. I’m talking stuff that is less, “You are an awful person and I would never play at a table like that,” and more, “We would probably handle that differently at my table. Here’s why.” At the very least it makes me less likely to cry into my keyboard and complain to my illustrator that the internet is being mean.

How about the rest of you guys? Have you ever gone to a forum looking for advice and wandered into the abuse department by mistake? What happened? Let’s hear it in the comments!