My nasty head cold from last week has tapered off to “mere sniffles.” This actually gave me a character quirk idea for a character in a short story I’ve been working on, so it all worked out.
This was a fantastic week for the RPG blogosphere! I have so many quality links here that it’ll probably take you quite a while to make your way through them. Because of this, I’ll do my best to keep my comments brief and on point. No promises on the “brief” side of things, though.
Time for the links!
My most recent failure as a GM is when a player complained (in a nice way) of there not being enough puzzles, traps, thinking, problem solving, etc. in the game. I took his input, swung the pendulum to the far extreme (oops) and created a room packed full of the above (oops, again). Instead of sprinkling traps and though provokers about the area, I put them all in one place. It turned out to be quite boring in the end, and the player that wanted more of what I had just given him was the most disgruntled about the whole affair. I guess the moral of my story is that input should be listened to and reacted to, but in moderation.
Yes! It’s time for a Kickstarter, Dyson! Dyson is contemplating a Kickstarter for some geomorph beer coasters. I think it’s a brilliant idea. He has a poll up on his site (click through and scroll down) where he’s asking folks for input on what they area looking for in such a thing. Do the man a favor and feed him some of your thoughts.
Mike has a great post here about players becoming overprotective of their well-developed characters. After all, if they’ve put in months, years, (decades? ugh) into building out their fine-tuned characters over the course of that time, they don’t want to lose the character because of a single die roll or a string of poor die rolls. Over analysis becomes the norm. Slow game play becomes regular. Boredom becomes acceptable. None of this is good. I love his ideas here for how to keep things moving forward, but I love the mockery one the best. It’s fantastic! What I usually do is that those of us at the table are doing collaborative storytelling. When the story arc is done and over with, it’s time to retire the characters from active play, let them fade into the background of the world, create a whole new set of characters, and find a new story to tell. This is a natural conclusion to a great series of sessions, and works very well for almost everyone involved.
This post is related to the one above, but takes a slightly different angle. This post by Peter covers the area of players being overly cautious in all situations, regardless of age/development of their characters. I have this problem in my current game. I know I’ve mentioned it here before. I’m not sure why all of my players think I’m out to kill their characters, but they really do try and close every loophole they can find before moving forward with a plan of action. I’m not the kind of GM that will capriciously kill off characters. If a string of bad luck or a series of poor decisions brings down a character, so be it. Peter’s post makes a great point that there needs to be a balance between absolute lethality and total success. There are middle grounds in there.
Douglas has a great post that walks through a wide variety systems and how they handle ranged combat basics, ranged weaponry, and, in general, attacking people from a distance. This is a fantastic break down of a lot of different systems. If you’re planning a “shoot ’em up” type game, this is a post to check out and review before picking a system to run the game in to make sure you get the right flavor of what you want to achieve.
I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that the most important person at the role playing table is the GM. No GM. No game. Period. However, the GM should rarely (and then only briefly) steal the spotlight of the game from the players at the table. NPCs, the world, the plot, the Bad Guys, the fellow Good Guys, whatever you use should rarely overshadow what the PCs are doing. Imagine reading a book where a character is introduced and we love the character, then 37 pages explain the physical geography of the world, and another 54 pages go into the political geography (with some back story) and then we get back to the character in their starting village tavern. Would you, as a reader, really want to suffer through 91 pages of cruft that doesn’t apply to the introduced character? Guess what…. neither will your players. If you steal the game away from them, they’ll start pulling out cell phones and tablets and such. The next thing you know, you’re wonderful NPC is competing with YouTube for attention. Not good.
Here’s a follow-up post from Peter about protecting your character… to the extreme. He uses GURPS examples on how to make your character damn near unkillable. I’ve had one player do this in a build out, and I missed it. I just completely whiffed as a GM and signed off on the character build. When Bad Things started to happen, the rest of the party would cower behind Mr. Unkillable. Then it became a fight of attrition, which the players usually won. No fun at all. Check out what Peter has to say about how to make your character invulnerable… and why it’s not such a great idea.
Somewhere in the CP2020 book is a quote that goes something like this, “It’s hard to lean on a RipperDoc when your spine’s frozen in place.” In a game of guns and advanced technology, I gotta say that ingenious use of that advanced tech will win out over bullets 90% of the time. This is a great example of that.
I try to manipulate pauses in my gaming like how Brandon Sanderson does chapter breaks. Many authors (paragraphing here) do something like this: “Bob opened the door and gasped.” as the end of the chapter. That means you have to turn to the next chapter to find out what surprised Bob so much. Brandon’s method is something like this (again, paraphrasing): “Bob opened the door, and the stench of rotting flesh oozed out of his lover’s bedroom. A misshapen lump was hidden under a layer of blankets on the bed.” This is a better chapter ending, because it shows more, lets us in on the surprise, but doesn’t reveal the surprise. It also imposes questions (smell? lump? lover alive? etc…) on the reader. The reader will be more compelled to follow-through with the next chapter opener in the second example. I apply this to my gaming by exposing things that raise questions in the players’ minds just before we break the session. This allows them to mull things over until we get together again. I’ve often received emails with questions (some I answer, some I don’t) that the player just can’t wait to ask. It’s good fun.