| Back to RPG Index
© 1998-2001 Dru
All rights reserved.
How to Host the Perfect
I can't count the number
of times gamers have written to me with this plaintive cry for help: "Dru,
you have to help me! I'm expecting eight of my gaming friends over tomorrow
and I simply don't know what the proper etiquette is!" Well, never
fear. Here is your answer at last.
The first thing you're
going to be concerned about before hosting your little RPG soiree is the
condition of your house, apartment, or half a dorm room. For most gamers,
nothing short of an emergency call to Merry Maids Cleaning Service will
do—and tell them to bring their haz-mat suits. If you can't afford
a cleaning service, then you'll have to brace yourself for an inspiring
hour or two of housework.
Think of it as an adventure.
Your goal is to unearth the carpet, discover the true color of your bookshelves,
and solve the Puzzle Box of Bedmaking. Along the way you're likely to
run into a variety of slime monsters, dust bunnies, creeping dooms, and
long-lost kid's toys. But never fear—you'll be facing them with
your Scrub Brush of Cleansing, your Spray of Antibacterial Doom, your
Dusting Cloth of Obliteration, and your Broom of Sweeping. If you have
kids, spouses, or roommates, you have a pretty good chance of shanghaing
them into being your adventuring companions, too. Stick a colander over
your head, put on some rousing battle music, and go forth to Fight Evil
and Greasy Kitchen Stains. Don't forget to use a lot of heroic one-liners,
too (e.g., "Take that, dirtball! Die, scum-bucket! I'm going to wipe
you off the face of the earth, slimer!").
The end result should
be carpets, chairs, sofas, beds, and toilets that your guests aren't afraid
to sit down on, and kitchen counters and a refrigerator that they aren't
afraid to set their food down on.
First, remove easily
broken family heirlooms from the party space. We're not saying gamers
are clumsy, but several hours' worth of unbroken caffeine, sugar, and
salt intake, combined with the tension of battle, does tend to make most
people a tad hyperactive. If you have swords or guns on the wall, you
may wish to remove those, too, for similar reasons. Even fireplace pokers
should be regarded with some thought, as overexcited gamers have been
known to duel with the fireplace tools, to the detriment of each other,
the furniture, and the carpet.
your furniture and rug. Oh, that's right, they aren't manufacturing that
stuff anymore. Well, make sure there are flat, out-of-the-way surfaces
upon which your guests can set their food and drinks, away from feet and
flailing elbows, and on surfaces that won't be irrevocably damaged if
something damp or hot is set or spilled on them. If you're sitting around
the dinner table, of course, this is less of a concern, although spilled
drinks still pose something of a hazard both to the carpet and to the
character sheets and books sitting on the table.
Third, remove any kiddie
or pet toys on the floor that might unwittingly cause unsuspecting guests
to break their neck when they step on them. Also, go outside for ten minutes
and then walk back in and take a deep breath. If your party area smells
like used diapers or dirty catboxes, remove the offending objects and
spray a strong disinfectant/deodorant around the area. Lighting scented
candles or spritzing the room with your favorite aromatherapy spray is
optional but likely to be appreciated.
Fourth, get rid of any
nonparticipating children, pets, spouses, roommates, and so forth. If
you can't just lock them in the back yard or a spare room, fob them off
on a sitter or bribe them away with a movie pass, if that's what it takes.
There, doesn't the place look so much better without them cluttering up
Fifth, turn off any
electronic devices you don't plan to use as part of the game. That includes,
yes, televisions, stereos, and even (gasp) computers. They are distractions,
and you want your RPG party guests to pay attention to each other, not
your nifty new DVD player, right? Asking
guests to turn off their cell phones and pagers is a bit tricky, etiquette-wise,
but asking them to set the machines to vibrate is usually an acceptable
compromise ... and sometimes has pretty humorous consequences when the
machines go off and your guest leaps a foot out of the chair.
Sixth, take a moment
to place brand-new, empty trash bags into the trashcans, and make sure
you have a wastebasket in the bathroom if you're going to be gaming with
women. Tsk, don't ask why, boys, just listen to Auntie Dru and do it.
Ah, there we go. There's nothing like nice, empty trashcans to add a touch
of class to a get-together. Don't worry. They'll be overflowing again
by the end of the game.
What is a party without
party decorations? This is where you should let your imagination go wild!
I suggest stone-flecking your walls with those nifty little spraycans
you can purchase at most craft stores....
Oh, very well. If you
must have something easier, then so be it.
As RPG host, you have
two decorating choices: Make an Effort or Easy Cleanup. Which you prefer
will undoubtedly depend largely on how often you host games, how many
people you can rely on to help you clean up afterward, and how much you
trust your gaming friends around your good stuff.
For Make an Effort decoration,
you will be working to capture your game's ambiance. If, for example,
you are hosting a fantasy RPG, you might pull out your heavy glass beer
mugs to serve drinks in, drape the sofa or chairs with velvet blankets,
set your good brocade holiday table runner across the table, and set out
a few candles in heavy brass candlesticks. For a science-fiction RPG,
you might serve drinks in clear plastic or colored aluminum cups, cover
the furniture with sheets so everything is grey, black, or white, and
remove everything but your most modern-looking chrome objects d'art. You
may choose to be as classy or cheezy as you want and/or can afford to
The drawback to Make
an Effort decoration, of course, is that it takes time and effort, requires
ownership of at least some props, and will need to be cleaned up after
For Easy Cleanup decoration,
you're going to try to catch the mood in the easiest way posssible. The
fastest way to do this is is to stop by the local party store and buy
paper plates and cups in a suitable color or design for the type of RPG
you're running. Yup, Cinderella for your fantasy RPG, little rocketships
for your science fiction RPG, Halloween stuff for your horror game. Party
hats and noisemakers are optional.
The best part about
Easy Cleanup is that you can throw away the cheap plastic or paper plates,
cups, and flatware afterward, to avoid another round of Cleaning House.
Food and Drink
A good party requires
good food and drink. Again, some effort must be made to capture the game's
ambiance. For a fantasy game, I suggest you buy a roasting turkey, about
two pounds per guest....
You people have no interest
in working at this, do you? Very well. A proper game requires that the
host provide hors d'ouvres in the four basic food groups: Salt, Caffeine,
Sugar, and Grease. Offer some variety here; for example, not everybody
will enjoy Cheetos. Provide some Sour Cream and Onion Doritos, too. Red
Vines are perennial favorites, as is anything containing chocolate. An
older gaming group might tolerate a bowl of grapes or a plate of carrot
sticks and dip, but don't overdo the healthy stuff—unlike the chips
and candy, if these items don't get eaten, they won't last in the cupboard
until the next game.
Drinks should come in
combinations of Sugar, Sugarless, Caffeine, and Caffeineless, unless you
are absolutely certain what your guests drink and can cater specifically
to their preferences. I have found as a general rule that the more women
and the older the group, the more likely that there will be a request
for sugarless and caffeine-free drinks. The party host serves alcoholic
beverages at his or her own risk—keep in mind the age of your guests,
their likelihood of getting into a crash on their way home if they drink,
and how much damage they may wreak on your house after a few beers on
top of all that sugar and caffeine.
Don't overlook Kool-Aid!
Red is essential to those vampire/goth games (it stains lips and tongues
so well), and blue or green are excellent science-fiction colors. Plus,
Kool-Aid is cheap and plentiful. Tang works well for sci-fi games, too.
If you wish to extend
some effort, choose snacks that reflect the game. For example, gummy treats
come in shapes to suit any gaming need; Old West games require BBQ-flavor
chips; and cyberpunk games are nothing without Mountain Dew and Jolt and
For those running Call
of Cthulhu or other games involving twisted and strange events, I suggest
ambling through the fruit and vegetable section of the grocery store for
snack ideas. Lychees, cheremoya, baby eggplant, blood oranges ... there
are all sorts of weird-looking fruits and veggies in those aisles that
you could use as a centerpiece for a horror game. Heck, lima beans would
be enough to send some people screaming....
For actual dining, a
good host should offer an array of menus from restaurants and pizzerias
that deliver in the area. Etiquette demands that the host make the call
(since the host knows how to give directions to the house or apartment),
but that everybody pitch in for their share of food and the tip. Don't
forget the tip. Those poor saps are working hard for their money while
you're sitting on your butt gaming, after all.
Should the host decide
to cook for the group, food that captures the flavor of the game is best—roast
beast for a fantasy game, jambalaya for the gothic New Orleans horror
game, nuke'n'puke TV dinners for the cyberpunk game. Cooking should not
be permitted to interfere with the flow of the game, although in extreme
cases, such as when one is elbow-deep inside a turkey while stuffing it,
cooks may politely request somebody else make a die roll for them.
The host is not obliged
to check with guests about any eating restrictions such as allergies,
religious prohibitions, and so forth, but it is considered polite and
may prevent unexpected trips to the hospital from disturbing the game
flow. In general, however, it is the guest's responsiblity to protect
his or her own life or eternal soul by notifying the host when the invitation
Music should suit the
game's genre and mood and be quiet enough to talk over. Guests should
be given some input into music selection, as it isn't fair to argue that
your entire k.d. lang collection is more than suitable for the swords
and sorcery game you are hosting.
During the Game
The perfect host will
make sure that all of the guests are having fun and eating and drinking
well. Gamer hosts, however, may be satisfied with simply drawing a map
to the refrigerator and the trash can and letting everybody fend for themselves
After the Game
Alas, a hint or two
about helping with the dishes or taking out the trash on one's way to
the car is enough to make most gamers vanish without a trace. Thus, it
is often up to the host to shoulder the post-party clean-up. The host
may wish to go to sleep and deal with the mess in the morning, hoping
that perhaps a miracle will occur and spouses, children, or roommates
will magically whisk everything away overnight. Hosts with money may wish
to make a follow-up appointment with the Merry Maids they hired for the
pre-party cleanup. Others will simply need to follow step one—Cleaning
House—all over again.
originally written August 16, 1998
Back to top of page