June 23, 2013
The Girl Who Sat On A Tombstone, And Laughed
Many years ago, I took it upon myself to run a game of Vampire: the Masquerade for some friends of mine. As I was telling them about the game and what it was about, they asked if another friend of theirs could join. I was fine with that, as up until that point, the two of them were the only players I had lined up. I knew this third player, but not closely. They made a more formal introduction and, come game day, we all sat down and I began assisting them in creating their characters. Not long after we began, my latest player’s phone rang. It was his sister, asking if she could come over and watch. I was not sure about having a spectator to the game, as I am more of the preference that people try it out for themselves, but she offered to bring pizza and other goodies for all of us. What gamer can refuse free pizza? We enthusiastically welcomed her into our gaming circle, even if it was just to watch.
Partway through the game, the characters found themselves in a cemetery. They were following a lead regarding demonic possession among the human herd of one of the character’s Sire. As the Storyteller, I was doing all I could to build tension through narrative, and just as I was about to have one of the demonic thralls make its move, our spectator began laughing. She was talking on her cell phone at the time, not being distracting, mind you, as I had honestly forgotten she was even there. It was only when she laughed that the narrative crashed and we all found ourselves at a loss.
It went something along the lines of “And just then, as you approach the open grave, you hear (laughs)… a girl, sitting on a tombstone. Talking on her cell phone. Laughing.”
Everyone, save her, went quiet. Then, almost in unison, we all began laughing hysterically. I cannot explain it, but something about all of the tension, the suspense, the dread, suddenly falling away was incredibly funny at the time. At first, she had no idea what we were laughing about, so we told her that we just found a young woman there in the cemetery, talking on a phone, laughing while this group of vampires was out hunting humans possessed by some horrific demonic entity. She apologized, of course, but then started laughing along with us. From then on, no matter what game we played be it Vampire or not, she was always “the girl who sits on the tombstone, and laughs.”
When running a game, distractions are something you need to watch for. Players playing on computers, messing around on their phones, having side conversations with one another when the action isn’t focused on them, pets, and various other things can seriously hamper a game’s pace. As a Gamemater, especially, this can be particularly irritating, as we put a lot of time and effort into preparing these games. However, sometimes a small distraction isn’t all that bad. Certainly, they can add a level of levity, or even humor, to a game. Taking a game too seriously, and snapping at players or observers who are distracted, is something that can take all the fun out of a game much faster than any single distraction ever could.
So, in closing, I thank you, girl who sits on tombstone and laughs. Thank you for the fondly remembered reminder that, above all else, as long as people are having fun, that’s what really matters. Oh, and thanks for all the free pizza.
Image Credit: Dmitrijs Mihejevs / Shutterstock