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The Zen of Jerk
By Alex Loke
I feel it is time to provide a warning. I am not here to provide Sage-like advice. I am not even here to provide Wisdom Flavoured Sage-Drink. My goal, much like the RIAA, is to provide entertainment to you, the people, through callous misjudgment and to the Editors of PTGPTB by providing easy avenues for casual litigation. In fact, if anyone is brave — or indeed bored — enough to try, sending one of the Steve's (it doesn't matter which one, they're actually the same sexless bio-template that has an occasional epiphany like 'let's start an Origin Awards scam' and can prodigiously count toothpicks when you drop a pack) an email with the subject line 'Intention to Sue' and prepare for the flood of fear-inspired urine.
Anyway, back on topic. By the way, you may be familiar with this sentence — usually it's a fair indication that the writer has to achieve a certain word minimum but has very actual little content to do so. Not that I'm trying to pad my work out here. It's not like they pay me. At least I'm not trying to baffle you with esoteric double entendres.
Anyway, back on topic.
Cheap mise en scene here. A meeting of two alpha geek titans. Hiroshi Yamauchi, CEO of Nintendo. Steve Ballmer, no introduction needed. An army of Microsoft lawyers with twitchy litigation fingers. Cue background J-Pop.
A Michael Bay panning shot (truthfully, the first draft had a typo 'panning shit'). They enter the offices of Nintendo. Dinky little LCD monitors dot the wall, depicting equally dinky little digital puppets. The doors open, like magic. They have arrived five minutes late — a casual affront to Japanese efficiency and punctuality.
The room is full of incense smoke. Kneeling before a tiny altar is an elderly Japanese man who waits, patiently, not choosing to immediately recognize his visitors. He murmurs a final prayer and stands. Even though they can only see him from behind the height of the table and up the Microsoft delegation knows that he is wearing full Samurai regalia. Hiroshi Yamauchi knows the intimidation game as well.
Both ignore the casual slights. They play a high stakes game. No words are exchanged. Ballmer sits without invitation at the end of the table, whereupon one of his cronies removes a sheaf of paper from his briefcase where we see 'Acquisition' clearly across the head of the sheet. Ballmer reaches into his casual jacket and pulls out a gold pen. He signs with a flourish and pushes the paper out in front of him.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a servant appears to retrieve the paper. He bows respectfully to Yamauchi and then backs away. Yamauchi does not even need to read it. He pushes it away. The servant leans in close to hear Yamauchi's words. He translates, verbatim.
"Ballmer, why don't you suck my tiny yellow balls?"
Yamauchi leaves the stunned Lawyers XP at the table, standing to give a short bow before leaving through a secret panel in the wall. It is then that they see Hiroshi Yamauchi, 77 year old CEO of Nintendo, elder statesman and creative wunderkind has in fact, not even bothered to wear pants. Checkmate.
That story was a dramatisation.
Apparently it never happened. It was fabricated by someone else — a jerk. A jerk wrote a pretend interview with another jerk. Jerks.
The point of the story is this — jerks come in all shapes and sizes, from all different social stratas and financial backgrounds. Role-playing attracts it's own kind. You too can be a role-playing jerk!
Also, I needed to pad out the story.
Morally you can't justify being a jerk. Luckily you don't have to. You now live in a protected shell where the only thing that can harm you is physical violence and deep-rooted childhood clown related-traumas. Luckily the best forum for being a jerk is the Internet, which gives you anonymity should you fear the former. The latter run free with wild abandon, but you needn't worry. They mostly come out at night. Mostly.
As a role-player, your audience will be socially introverted. In fact, years of social conditioning will teach them to accept abuse with the dead- eyed vacancy of a bank teller or social worker.
So where does one start?
The Game Begins
Arrive late. Not Fashionably Late. Really Late.During the first session the GM will be most forgiving of one's flaws. In fact, he or she may hold off the session in idle talk and snack time (which can kill a game faster than your drunk and abusive hillbilly father deciding it's time to tell your friends that he always wanted to be a 'fee- chur dancer' in Vegas — then doing the 'dance of seduction' in his tighty whiteys). That is, till you arrive. The key is to pick when the GM loses patience (which varies). Wait outside and keep peeking in through the window if you have to, or constantly call to ensure that they hang on just that little bit more. For your own amusement, during each one of these calls, provide them with an escalating fictional story which seems more and more implausible as time wears on. Ideally, you will arrive at game, covered in monkey blood wearing no pants (both conditions you ignore). It's best to open with a line like: "Well, now that that's behind us, who's up for some hard-core gaming?" Or to save yourself some time and effort if you've genuinely got no time, just arrive late. If anyone asks why: "Shut up. That's why." Punctuate the game with quiet sobs.
Anecdotes in and before the sessionEveryone loves anecdotes. They can eat up precious game time too. Tell them all you want. Always have one prepared, otherwise you cross into 'stupid jerk' territory. If imagination fails, tell the same one over and over, just start them with 'it reminds me of the time when.' Of course, if your anecdotes have a point, all you're doing is being a jerk to the GM. Phrase the anecdotes like a joke, but don't add the punch line. Tell it with some enthusiasm and the poor inoffensive players will offer a weak laugh as validation. They hate doing that.
Create a CharacterPeople feel comfortable with stereotypes. Being that your task is to create as much discomfort as possible, you should recognise and use this. Keep in mind that the character should mirror the jerk aesthetic you wish to achieve. What class/race/gender/character path/clan you pick is irrelevant since you'll probably have a better time acting against type (a cleric that doesn't heal, a fighter that doesn't fight). If you need to role dice, always roll behind a screen. It is important that you mix bad results with good when you manufacture them. High rolls for relevant statistics (Strength/Constitution/Body), low for irrelevant ones (Charisma/Soul/Wisdom are all good choices). Thereby, you can excuse boorish in-game behaviour as a result of your lacking in social or mental characteristics. It's best to be able to take a fair amount of in-game punishment (you will be, believe me) and still be standing — also the best jerks are the ones that aren't subtle. Subtle jerkism can be lost on the wrong audience.
The Game BeginsCheating at dice is an art form. Unfortunately, it is not one that the jerk should practice. This is not to say that a jerk should not rely on deception to attain their goal — far from it. The best dice cheats are beyond suspicion. The jerk is not. To be a jerk is to walk a fine line between discovery and suspicion. Remember that an unrecognised jerk is not a jerk at all. One must linger between the two — not delicately skirting the fine white line but blocking one nostril and snorting it like some culturally obsolete glam-rocker off a week-dead junkie hooker. Ideally everyone should suspect you, but no-one can prove it. Interrupt anyone at any point. It's easy to do, whether you burst into song or offer a polite rules correction. Be careful not to go too far. Setting one's self on fire to protest a judgement call could be considered excessive. However, use these interruptions sparingly and for crucial moments only. Using these devices too often ruins their significance. It's like watching an M. Night Shyamalan film. Forever. Creating the correct mood when GMing is about timing and preparation. It's best to phrase your interruptions in the form of a barely relevant question.
Next Issue: The Game Itself
Alex Loke is a regular contributor to PTGPTB and proof positive that there is a fine line between genius and madness.
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