It’s nice to play together


Due to the fact I’m a Level 1 GM (perhaps not so much any more), I read quite a few gaming blogs and articles. I have linked to some of them on the links page of this site, but today I’d like to call your attention to the Chatty DM. There is an interesting article there about Robin Law’s book about GMing  (which I have ordered the pdf for, by the way) and the need to compromise with your players.

So really it’s about finding a compromise and going forward. If you are a Storytelling DM and you play with power gaming butt kickers, make sure to have the beat up on opponents, but feel free to make these opponents matter in the story and leave strange notes on them and have dire prophecies linked the the PCs’ ennemies.  I mean, you’re allowed your fun too.

However, even with all these lessons, there’s a chance that your campaigns will crash and burn.  It’s possible that you won’t be able to meet your players halfway (or they won’t be willing to).

In that case, there’s usually only 2 solutions. You can invest yourself and acquire some negotiating skills and talk it out with your players so that a compromise gets reached and put in the group’s Social Contract.  Otherwise, you can seek out new players that share your tastes or are willing to compromise.

Excuse me for my impertinence, but I thought such negotiation and compromise went hand in hand with GMing. Obviously not, as I got a reply from the Chatty DM.

Perhaps the best way to get my point across is to explain my own philosophy of GMing. I know I haven’t had that much experience, but I do know one or two things about the way I like to approach it.

I see roleplaying as a more or less collaborative process. My friends and I sit at the table and tell a story together. I am the storyteller and furnish the setting and background characters, yet they are the protagonists of my story.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that it is the characters that make the story, and even change it due to certain limitations of what actions they would be capable of performing or, perhaps more importantly, of not performing. This brings me back to a long argument I had with myself when I was writing a series of fan fiction stories which had Padmé Amidala as a Jedi. I was in conflict with the fan in me who wanted to give all the characters a happy ending, as well as the writer in me who knew what was necessary. The writer won, but it is a decision I have regreted to have had to have made, but would not change it.

What does this have to do with GMing? Well, in stories characters tend to develop lives of their own (or ought to, and if they don’t you need to make them more than cardboard cut outs) and this is the on-steroids version of that. My last post shows just how easily a player can take the plot in an entirely new direction so the GM has to run to catch up (though preferably not in a star destroyer).

To be honest, I have been speculating since then about what to do if I was faced with such a situation. And it is rather likely that it could happen when I get back in the chair, since one of my aims when I started playing was to show the players just how much freedom they could have. But back to the point, I think it would have been similar to what happens in the comic Darths and Droids; meaning that I explore the new tangent with the players but keep the plot happening in the background without them and then rub their noses in it at a later stage.

Hey, I’m playing fair but I never said I would play nice.

Before I sign out, I’ll let you in a little on why this has been recently floating by my subconciousness: the fact I am planning the next campaign. One of the players wants to play a clone and I am torn between letting him and not letting him. Not letting him would make better sense for the story, but letting him would make the end of the story even better given that he wants to enact Order 66. I have now managed to make a compromise on this that I know will not only please the player, but make my story a hell of a lot interesting.

And that, in short, is why I listen to the players. It gives a much better game, in the long run.

~ by katanageldar on July 27, 2009.

2 Responses to “It’s nice to play together”

  1. And indeed I am looking forward to this weekend. It’s gonna be a blast. Chuck another Jedi on the barbie?

  2. [...] that would only please myself, I would have stuck to fan fiction. I have addressed this in a previous post, but I see campaign building as slightly collaborative. Not completely, as it is nigh imposible to [...]

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