Managing the Table

dnd-party

As a DM, you wear a lot of hats: story-teller, actor, number cruncher, rules master and mediator, to name a few.  Players create their characters and, for the most part, they spend every session making decisions for and acting on behalf of that character with little else to worry about.  When they leave the table the game is ended; they may think about the game or their characters a bit between sessions, but not like we do.  DMs think about the game constantly, how to make it better, what went wrong or right in the last session and what challenges they can present in the next one.  I guess what I’m saying here is players have it easy compared to DMs; running the game is a lot of work.

Of course, when I say DMing is a lot of work, it is certainly a labor of love.  We do what we do because we love doing it, and because that one session that goes perfectly makes up for all the others that don’t.

In a perfect world that’s all there would be to it.  Unfortunately, there’s another job the DM must do: manage the table.  Like any group of people, a table of players is inevitably comprised of varied backgrounds and personalities, not all of which gel easily.  If there is to be a game at all, the DM has to ensure that each player is included and is comfortable.  Specifically, it often falls to the DM to mediate between players and, in extreme cases, decide when an individual player is simply too disruptive to be part of the game.  That’s the real point of this article – how do we, as DMs, tackle the job of table management?

Suppose you’ve invited four friends to play an ongoing campaign.  Suppose these four friends know each other in the most minimal sense – they are each a friend of yours (perhaps one is a workmate and another is an old gaming buddy, etc.), but they are not that familiar with one another.  What do you do when it becomes apparent that one of your friends/players is the only one that isn’t gelling well and is disrupting the game?  It’s not an easy subject to breach, particularly because now a decision concerning the game can turn into a decision concerning your friendship with that player.  People don’t like to be singled out, particularly by a friend.

The only real answer is to try to get to the root of the problem.  Perhaps the disruptive player is a particularly insecure person who is intimidated by the others.  Maybe they don’t know the rules as well as others or don’t feel as smart as them.  Your first effort as DM and friend should be to let the player know that it takes all types at the table.  Some players are experts at the rules, even more so than the DM, but their ability to think outside the box (outside the rules, even) may be lacking.  Find the strong points about the disruptive player (great imagination, keeping the DM on his toes, etc.) that contribute to a great game and reassure them that these qualities are valuable.  At the same time, you have to address any issues, including the disruptions at the table.  It’s usually best to do this away from the game, on a personal level.  With some luck, you may find common ground and restore order on gaming night.

My introduction about the many hats of the DM and all the work we do is leading somewhere.  While you try to address the feelings of the disruptive player, be honest about yours as well.  The fact is that a disruptive player derails a session into which you’ve poured a great deal of work and preparation.  When a session fails to move the game and story forward in any meaningful way, it often feels like your work was wasted.  Try to get the player to empathize and thereby realize how disruptive they’ve actually been.  Be nice about it, forgiving, but make it clear that wasted sessions can’t continue.  Hopefully it all has a pleasant sitcom ending where everyone understands what it takes to make a great gaming night and no one is left out.  But what if it doesn’t?  What if the disruptive player is clearly not going to change their behavior?

The bottom line with table management is that the game needs to satisfy everyone involved on some level.  The DM needs to feel they’ve presented a great hook and interesting challenges, while the players need to feel they’ve accomplished something and impacted the gaming world with their decisions and actions.  That can’t happen if there’s always a player bringing attention to their self and constantly derailing the game.  That’s when you as DM have to make the tough call and tell your friend/player that they’re no longer welcome at the table.  It should already be clear why, since you’ve tried to smooth it out previously.  Ideally your friendship will survive.

It’s the toughest call you’ll make as a DM, deciding when enough is enough.  It’s the point when a game stops being “just a game.”  Everyone is dedicating their free time to it, especially you, and everyone deserves to enjoy that time.  It really is as simple as that.  If only the managing part was!

Sight Mechanics in World of Tanks

WTE100

A real point of confusion for World of Tanks newcomers is the combined concepts of View Range, Radio Range, Spotting Distance and Camouflage.  View Range is the physical limit to your tank’s sight – tanks outside of this range cannot be seen.  Radio Range determines how far away from your tank a broadcasting or listening ally can be in order to be heard or hear you.  Spotting Distance is the distance from your tank at which a moving or stationary tank will be “detected”.  Camouflage impacts detection by counteracting the Spotting Distance with a modifier.  Some tanks have inherent camouflage values which are better than others.  Lights, for example, are generally better at camouflage, as are many Tank Destroyers.

It is important to firstly understand the difference between View Range and Spotting Distance.  Just because you can see 320 meters does not mean you will notice an enemy tank that far away.  Spotting Distance is always significantly less than View Range.  Enemy tanks within your Spotting Distance can be detected and continually viewed.  Enemy tanks within your View Range but outside of your Spotting Distance are visible for as long they are spotted by an ally within Radio Range.  The most literal way to look at View Range is the range beyond which tanks will not be rendered.  Even if an ally spots someone and is within Radio Range, your View Range limitations will prevent the spotted tank from being displayed outside of them.  View Range and Spotting Distance are positively affected by binoculars and/or coated optics (equipment options).

Camouflage reduces an enemy tank’s Spotting Distance relative to your vehicle and vice versa.  It is an inherent statistic for each tank which is further modified by factors such as camouflage paint (about a 5% increase camouflage rating), a camouflage net which is equipped (25% increase to camouflage rating), terrain features (bushes, fallen trees, etc., varying in impact), and so on.  The stronger a tank’s camouflage, the shorter an enemy tank’s Spotting Distance is in relation to that tank.  Camouflage rating is affected negatively by movement as well as firing your gun (the sound effectively gives away your position).

Putting it all together, suppose you are in a medium tank, proceeding across the open field of Malinovka, and an enemy tank destroyer is hunkered down behind a bush on the opposite side.  Your tank has coated optics, increasing effective view range and spotting distance by 10%, slightly reduced because you are moving full speed ahead.  Your camouflage rating is relatively low while in motion, so you are fairly easy to spot already.  The tank destroyer is stationary, concealed behind a bush, has deployed a camouflage net and is using binoculars to observe the field ahead.

Suddenly you are given the warning that you are “Detected!” while you have not spotted any enemy tanks so far.  Your medium tank, taking into account the Camouflage Rating, has entered well within the View Range of the tank destroyer and furthermore just entered its Spotting Distance.  As soon as the tank destroyer spots you, any other enemy tanks within radio range of the TD and within View Range to physically see your tank now have you on their mini map and main display with a red (or purple) icon.  Meanwhile you are closing in on the tank destroyer, even though you can’t see it.  The tank destroyer fires at you – whether a hit, a miss, a penetration or a bounce, the tank destroyer suddenly appears ahead, because the gunfire negates the camouflage rating temporarily.  Let’s assume it’s a hit and your medium is tracked.

Your reaction is to request fire on the tank destroyer, but a few seconds later it disappears from your view.  That’s because the tank destroyer’s Camouflage Rating has been restored, and it is now considered outside of your Spotting Range.  At the same time, the tank destroyer has also disappeared from view of any allies who are not within their Spotting Distance from the TD and were relying on your Radio Range to help them see it.

Quite likely you’ll have taken more than the one TD shot because other enemy tanks who can see you will be firing at a stationary (tracked!) target.  At this point a newcomer is tempted to think that the tank destroyer’s player is somehow cheating with a hack of some kind.  However, because you now know how spotting works and why tanks just disappear, you’ll curse your luck and move on, right?