Tables or Couches?

edited February 2006 in Story Games
This may seem weirdly trivial, but how many folks actually play tabletop games at a table?

I ask because we are pretty much entirely a lounge around on couches or out on the deck sort of group, (with beer or coffee, but not both at once) and I sometimes wonder if that means anything.

-Rob D.


  • edited February 2006
    We play at a table for Dogs - all the dice.

    For other games, not so much. Living room floor and couches.
  • Dogs is the only game I play at a table regularly -- being able to see all the dice is important.

    I also have played a lot of my HeroQuest A Game of Thrones games at a table, because I had to play in the conference room rather than in my own comfy condo.

    Whenever I can choose to play where I want, and am not playing Dogs, we sprawl about the room.
  • I like a table rather than couches. Sometimes couches can almost be too comfortable, if that makes sense.

    I dig sitting around a table. Its important to me.

    Though I've run games in a living room on couches, I feel a lack of connection that a table provides.
  • Judd,

    Now that you mention it, I did a lot more "acting out" when I was at a table. It was easier to jump up and run around the table and swing fake swords and people's heads and shit.

    But now that I'm older, so much older, and sit in a deep soft couch I don't do that so much anymore.
  • Couches & chairs.

  • edited February 2006
    I think i prefer tables the best, for both RPGs and other "tabletop" games - it is easier to keep track of dice & pens & stuff, easier to move around, easier to write things down, and all that.
    Plus uncomfortable wooden chairs keep people from falling asleep! ;)

    I've actually played about half of my games in other settings: lecture halls, sitting and/or standing on open floor space, around the couch and coffeetable, and sitting around a computer lab.

    (And not neccessarily with the games you would expect - every year i play at least one Risk game sitting on the floor...)

    I try to avoid the couch and coffetable situation as much as possible.
  • I have couches- and a coffee table. Best of both worlds.
  • edited February 2006
    I do both, though my regular Thursday group lounges back on pimpin leather couches while rolling dice on a makeshift table-oid. I prefer both, but when I'm running something more serious, I find it's more helpful to stay focused when sitting in a chair at a table.

    In fact, this year I'm saving up cash to get a better dining table, 80% of my motivation is "create a better place for gaming". It's hard to find comfortable dining chairs, though.

    Here's the one we're aiming for:
    or this one:
    (without the weird chairs or green shit)

    Luckily, after tax returns and ultra-discounts of having one of the largest furniture storerooms in the world about an hour away, I'll probably be able to get this baby for half price in the next few months!

  • My group is, with a few exceptions, strictly the table sort. Lots of dice and papers and maps and books to keep track of.
  • My Sunday group actually plays in a conference room that isn't used on Sunday evenings, and I appreciate it very much -- but then, the Sunday group is very specifically devoted to disassembling the games as we play them, not really revelling in the game in and of itself.

    When we play with my brother and sister-in-law, we uniformly make them "gaming and dinner" events, so there's a table there, too.

    Don't really like gaming on couches or on the floor. Prefer a nice table.
  • Right now I'm in two D&D3.5 games, and the miniatures and all pretty much require a table. It's with two separate groups though, and with one of them we sit in chairs around the table, and in the other we sit on couches and wander over to the table only during combats.

    When I've played other games over the years since I got out of college, it's been a mix of the couches and the tables, usually depending on what was available, rather than an intention on our part to promote a specific sort of gaming atmosphere. I will say that Amber Diceless works better without a table though, IMO.
  • My AD&D 2e group plays at a table as well, like Michael's because of the miniatures. Our GM has one of those mats where he draws on all the time.

    When I used to play wity my friends in Germany, we would lounge on my bed. It was a sofa that you could pull out to a queen sized bed, and we usually just left it pulled out.
  • I prefer playing round a table, but usually play on sofa's out of convenience. My ideal would be sofa's around a large coffee table, I think.
  • I have always preferred not only a table, but a table in a neutral space. Restaurants, conference rooms, or coffee houses work best.
  • In the past, it was usually a table. But my last group lounged on a sofa and comfy chairs around a coffee table--a very nice vibe that I would like to replicate again. But my current home doesn't allow the same nestling around the coffee table effect, so we're back to playing at the table.
  • I do both as well. Lately though it seems we have been more at the table then the couch. I think it's because we just don't have a really good table near our futon.

    Lisa P
  • I much prefer a table to a couch.

    My ideal game environment would be to have conference chairs as comfortable as the ones in my office, around a table that's JUST the right size for everyone around it to be able to reach about 2/3 of the way across without getting up. I haven't got enough money for the first, and I've never found a table the correct size for the second.
  • I like to game with coffee and biscuits. It's messy and you need sort of a constellation of large and small tables, to keep the food and books separate, but it is wonderfully casual and comfortable.

  • edited February 2006
    Has anyone written a game that should be played in bed?

    Perhaps Breaking the Ice, but that seems better suited to a small table at a coffee shop. Jumping into bed seems to be putting the cart before the horse.

    Playing Under the Bed in bed seems a little creepy. Or Little Fears, for that matter.
  • ...I am now so very, very tempted to buy Under the Bed and run it with the requirement that we play sitting on the bed in pajamas. With flashlights, and the lights off.

  • edited February 2006
    The Monday Night group that meets at my house plays at a medium-sized coffee table, but the main piece of furniture is a couch-futon. I prefer having a writing surface, at the very least.
  • The question I always had wasn't "table or couches" but "is the GM separated from the rest"? I've noticed in a lot of gaming environments that the GM is either segregated by things like screens or even by quality of furniture. (I've also noted some things you can see about "favoured players" by how close they stay to the GM.) I generally like a little space because as GM I want to be able to get to ALL of my references.
  • That's part of the reason I don't like GMed games. It's divisive.

  • That's part of the reason I don't like GMed games. It's divisive.

    Because of couches? Thats a silly reason, as it is probably the easiest thing to fix, and not very accurate for most of the games I've seen.

    These days we sit around the living room, which means I always get the wors seat when I host because I'm always the last to sit down (bed-time for the kids is always at the time we start gaming).
  • No, no, because of the necessity for different physical tools. I've been the worst-seat GM too, although usually I am the restless wandering GM.

  • These days I'm a couch and coffee table gamer. The coffee table is a 42"x60" board on some milk crates, a nice size for the battlemat with room for dice and such around the edge.

    I don't mind a table, but in college, I came to like the living room type setup because it gave more space for me to spread out my stuff as GM.

    The biggest disadvantage of couches of course is the ease of falling asleep. The separation of folks can be a bit of a problem also.

  • Y'know what I'd love? A game that could be played by people milling around in several different rooms, with a knot of excited play in the kitchen (even though people are supposed to bloody well stay out of it).

    No, not a LARP. An otherwise-standard "You are imagining things and resolving them in your head, etc." sort of thing ... but geared so that it could take advantage of the more spontaneous, mingling feel of a cocktail party.

    The more I think about the social aspects of this hobby, the more stodgy we seem. I mean, really! Sitting around tables, looking grim and serious? Bring on the powdered wigs and servants in jockey costumes.

    How about a game that you have to play to the accompaniment of rock music so blaringly loud that you can only make yourself understood by leaning over and shouting hot, damp, excited words into your target's ear?

    How about, in short, games that fit into venues that you'd actually want to attend on their own merits?

  • Great. Thanks, Tony. I'll never get that idea out of my head, now.
  • edited February 2006

    It was the servants in jockey costumes, wasn't it? I worried that would be over the top.

    Me, I can't shake the image of a hot girl I do not know leaning over to shout just an inch away from my ear "My warrior-bitch is totally challenging your poncy fop to a duel! I'm gonna go get some dice and another jello shot, be right back!"

    That would be the greatest game ever.

  • Yes, it would.

    Write it now.
  • Tony - you're dreaming, man.

    Don't pay attention to me, though. I'm an old traditionalist. I like games with GMs and sitting around tables. My preferred method - sitting on the couch or floor, with a large coffee table to play on. Playing without actual coffee is also a crime.

  • Why the "not a LARP" qualifier? I mean mingling games like that are awesome, and their death (for me) has always been any kind of system where resolution involved breaking the social flow. Most LARP or pseudo-LARP(my favorite) games have systems that save you that headache so you can keep doing the fun shit. It's a good goal, and LARP starts a hell of a lot closer to it (plus LARP doesn't mean "I cross my arms! I'm Invisible!" any more than RPGs mean "I kill the Orc with my sword!"). Discounting that seems to be shooting the idea in the foot.

    Except the yelling over music part. That, I admit, would drive me to madness quite quickly.

    -Rob D.
  • Tables and chairs for me thank you. Here in J-land I've played many a game sitting on the tatami or the floor (sans cushions, backrests or any other sort of comfortable accessory) and I always get cramped up. On the very few occasions where we've just sat on couches I feel...unfocused. My dream is to build one of those uber-tables like the one they used to have in the WotC game center in Seattle.
  • edited February 2006

    Yes, it would. Write it now.

    Uh ... yeah, okay. Not "now", but "eventually." Misery Bubblegum isn't that game, but I have some ideas.

    Tony - you're dreaming, man.

    Yes, that's true. That's what we do, isn't it?

    Why the "not a LARP" qualifier?

    Because LARP puts people firmly into the mindset of what they can achieve by character action, and I don't want to throw away the great strides we've made by recognizing the importance of player desires.

    Like, in a LARP, I would never, ever say "Okay, what I want next is to be sure that the prince, my master, has an heir by his new wife. My 'Favored of the Gods' has got to play into that, right?" It's just ... critically different mindset, y'know?

  • We always play at a dining table. We like writing surfaces and place to hold books, maps, papers, coffee and stuff.
  • I really prefer non-table space, just because it's more chill. I would like more games that don't require a communal pool of dice / cards / table in the center, but that's absolutely necessary for Dogs.

    Although, I guess if you had a small dice table in the middle of the room, people could be lounging wherever, and just stroll up to the table when they're in Conflict Mode.

  • Because LARP puts people firmly into the mindset of what they can achieve by character action, and I don't want to throw away the great strides we've made by recognizing the importance of player desires.

    I question that assumption. :)

    Of course, people keep assuring me that all the theory we've got for the tabletop is 100% translatable to LARPs, and maybe they're right. I'll totally buy that the bulk of LARPs are in a particular mode, but hell, so are the bulk of tabletop games.

    But I'd just be careful not to dismiss them too casually lest you end up wasting efforts on problems that have already been solved.

    ANyway, I admit, there's a stronger likelihood of it looking like a CCG or Stikfas game anyway, so maybe that's the real place to look. :)

    -Rob D.
  • Actually, my preferred or at least most common means of playing is behind a computer, with the other players half a continent away.
  • I once played Stalking the Night Fantastic for 14 hours straight while driving across the midwest. I guess we stopped for meals.
  • I ran a vampires game in 1987 for nineteen hours, five of which were in a hot tub, and I was propositioned by three different players. It really is a shame I'm not gay.
  • I almost wrote a first-Ronnies entry for Suburban+something that was about keeping up with the Joneses. Each player had a family of characters with one or two main providers and 2.2 kids. Each player made resource choices between rounds. Each round was an Roach-style event (before I'd seen that game), like The School Christmas Pageant, the Community Picnic, the PTA Meeting, the Annual Golf Tournament, and so on.

    I envisioned curious seating arrangements for the different events. Theater-style seating for the Christmas Pageant, traditional table seating for the Picnic, a board-room setup for the PTA Meeting, and walk-around play for the Golf Tourney. Certain events would lend themselves more to walking around and having private conversations and other events would force a group discussion.
  • The thing about seating arrangements is that you don't want to ignore the fact that only 7% of the impact of your communication is the words you choose and 38% is tone, speed, and inflection. The remaining 55% is appearance and body language (reference). If you hide behind a table (or GM screen, ack!) you'll seriously limit your ability to communicate effectively.

    In college, I ran games in a classroom. Players took small conference tables and got comfortable and I GMed standing up. Of course, their body language was half-hidden by the tables, too, but this was D&D 2nd Edition and I was doing too much of the talking anyway. ;)
  • I think Tony is absolutely right in saying that we should be designing around this stuff. Not just making games that need to be played at a table, but where playing at a table (or in the kitchen) helps produce the effect of the game.

    I know that some of the games I like playing involve accumulating stuff on the table for everyone to look at. They deliberately produce a sort of collective puzzle-solving behaviour--planning, organizing, sorting. And that can be fun. Likewise, sitting comfortably back in couches.

    What choices can we make with these arrangements.
  • Actually, it works both ways:

    (a) how can we design games to be played in different contexts to different results?

    (b) how can we design games to be played in contexts that are convenient and appropriate for the market to whom we are selling?

    I'm in California; I do not own a house. I play in a boardroom. Contrast my environmental reality with all those Midwesterners who own or rent houses cause the real estate is cheaper.

    In a way, (a) and (b) are the same question -- it's merely taking the physicality of the game situation into account when designing.
  • Joshua, in most cases, I don't think the game comes to a screeching halt because you're playing on a conference table instead of a coffee table. Even if you need space to roll dice and stuff, there are creative solutions to be had. But we ought to think of these things, yes.
  • But we ought to think of these things, yes.

    S'all I'm saying.
  • Let me add a request: games to play while cooking. Generally speaking, the dice / implements / sheets seem to get in the way.

  • Heh. Games where the acts of cooking are part of the resolution system. If you play the game well, the recipe turns out tasty. If not, not.
  • Actually, I'd counterpropose that it might be practical to make a game around mixing drinks. :)

    -Rob D.
  • Over the Bar, 2.0 -- Mr. Lehman, suggestions?

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