Good casting practice: avoiding conflicts

Over on Facesuck, @NickPitt has raised a good question about casting: every responsible theatre-style GM now asks “is there anyone you don’t want to roleplay with” (or some equivalent) in their casting quiz. But almost nobody tells the players who is in the game when they’re asking this question. Meaning there’s both a danger of under-sharing - not telling the GM about a problem because you don’t think it’ll pop up - and of over-sharing: giving the GM a complete list and flooding them with irrelevant information.

The obvious solution is to let the players know who is playing. This works for cons, where players are assigned before casting begins, but it obviously doesn’t work for one-offs, which usually use a combined signup/casting quiz. It also doesn’t work so well where there are late signups: people might not inform the GM of a conflict with someone because they weren’t on the player list, then have problems emerge when they sign up late and are cast to interact with them.

In terms of how to do this, remember that posting player lists publicly without consent violates people’s privacy. Use an email, or (if its going to be updated) a link-shared google doc. Telling the players who is going to be in the game isn’t telling them anything that they’re not going to find out anyway, so you’re on solid privacy ground, but you should generally tell people you’re doing it anyway just to be on the safe side. Make sure your casting form includes a privacy statement, and make sure it says something like “your information may be shared with other players for game purposes”.

Any other suggestions?

Also while we’re on this: while every GM asks this question, it covers a huge range of possibilities, e.g.

  • “this person is a safety risk and I do not want to be exposed to them”
  • “I don’t get along with this person and I would rather not interact with them”
  • “this person’s roleplaying style is incompatible with mine / they are dead wood and will kill all my plots”.
  • (A subset of the above) “I can’t do romance / other specified plot type with this person”

Usually all the GM gets is a name, which can make it difficult to assess which end of that scale a casting conflict is at. Players might want to consider giving a bit more than a name in some cases e.g. if someone is a safety risk, then most GMs want to know this so they can throw them out, because no-one wants that sort of person around. Likewise specific plot-types, because that’s the easiest thing to cast around (you might not be able to do a romance plot with someone, but they can totally be your obnoxious sibling).

As a GM, my primary interests in preventing casting conflicts are running a safe game and making the game work. If plots don’t trigger because players can’t stand the sight of each other, that’s less fun for everyone. At the same time, in small games, or when three or more people name the same person, it can be difficult or impossible to avoid clashes, and people will just have to cope.

I deliberately don’t post player lists prior to the casting quiz, because I really want to limit the “is there anyone you don’t want to roleplay with” question to cases where there is a serious issue. Publishing a player list encourages people to name people they find slightly irritating or boring, and casting quickly becomes unmanageable if everyone has a huge blacklist.

However, as a GM I am also happy to talk to people via email if they have questions, so if knowing the cast list is an issue, you could always try asking the GM

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I think its helpful to know who is playing for genuine cases where you’d prefer not to name/explain unless you absolutely have to.

But I also think we need to be clear that the question is asked to catch cases where you’d rather not play than be in a game near that person - or that person in that role - and not as a general non-specific preference thing. Every name on the list can become a genuine casting problem, so it isn’t a power that should be used lightly.

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I think if you’re going to ask “Who don’t you want to roleplay with”, you need to know who else is in your game. Naming someone who isn’t even in the game isn’t helping anyone.

In order to avoid @Catnip’s problem, perhaps changing the question to “Who can’t you roleplay with” would be a better, more focused question. I’d be relatively surprised if people listed huge numbers of people on these forms, but maybe it happens more often than I’ve experienced.

Do we actually need to ask the question at all? Most questionnaires have some variation on the “Is there anything else?” box that people can use for specific requests of any nature, without setting expectations that every player gets a veto on who they interact with.

Could not ask the question of who you don’t want to roleplay with at all and leave it to the other comments box at the end. If it is a serious concern then they will take the effort to mention it in there. GM’s have so much to worry about already, I like solutions that doesn’t increase their workload further.