Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Knowing the players AND A-Z challenge thoughts

Yeah, I know. I am at letter "K", what should be 13th when it's already 27th and there are only four posts of this challenge left (if you count today in). Yes, A-Z challenge. I did fall from the bandwagon and never could climb back. Of course, this month has been busiest ever.
Fortunately, I have had time to play roleplaying games once or twice a week and also got a new product this tuesday (will read it, then talk it).

So, basically I just continue now handling the letters in order. I am glad if I get time to do them within this month! Let's see... 16 entries/letters to blog, four days left including this one. So it's "only" four by day? Not that bad, but problem is, do I have time or endurance. Let's cheer me to end this challenge my own way!

Phew, got that out of my burdened heart. So, for today's "challenge" topic which is letter "K", which stands for...

Knowing The Players

How to be most efficient Game Master? Well, there are many tricks to be good GM, obviously experience is one even though unexperienced GM's can run great games as they might be more open minded and not so rules- or setting focused as older GM's.
But how will knowing your players help you be better GM?

High-Fantasy For Cyberpunkers?

If you want to play your gaming session safe, pick a game and genre what your gaming group likes. If your group likes cyberpunk games with guns and style, they won't necessarily be that fascinated about and idea playing elven in magical green forest. If they in the other hand want to play said elven, they wouldn't necessarily find space ship pilots that fascinating.
If you know your gaming group, and know what kind of games they like, it's the safe bet. Most certainly when you guys know that you are playing next Friday, but the game isn't chosen yet, take the safe one. You might take another game for option, but don't rely on it too much.

But sometimes it might be good to try out something totally different for a change. You don't have to run dozens of sessions to complete a game, but it could be one-shot or last for few sessions. Game what lasts for 1-4 sessions I think adult gamer can bear and see through, even if the genre doesn't gratify him. That's the only way to know for sure, to try it out.

And if whole gaming group finds some game totally unbearable, there is nothing that forces that group to continue playing it. You gave it a try, didn't like it, not a big deal. Go try something different, and go back to the game you do enjoy gaming.

I personally remember when I was 11-17 my gaming group liked fantasy genre. I did want some variety to that, but other's didn't warm-up for my ideas. I did run a few short campaigns, but my gaming comrades never were as excited, as with fantasy genre. (Side note: Luckily I got one friend who enjoyed gaming. What game we did play was not that important. If the story was great, he liked it. Usually we played one-on-one with him because of that.) But today, fantasy is possibly my least favorite genre. Or it was.
I have always liked Praedor, but it's not this fantasy with elven folk and magical beings and such. It's more down-to-earth, where your character might die in one bad blow of opponents weapon or catch wound fever.
Still, when I last year tried Dungeons & Dragons 3. with my girlfriend, I was positively surprised! We both don't fancy fantasy that much, and D&D's been in my personal hate list since D20 started to eat other systems (new prints of fascinating older games all in D20 roar). Still, we liked it. Basic adventuring, with a big A. Still, fantasy is not my favorite, but I can play it and even find it fresh change every now and then (after gothic-punk cities with Vampires).

Know What Your Players Want Adventure To Be Like

Even though you know what genre your players like, or what game is absolute no-no even though genre is right it's good to ask your players what kind of adventure they would like to have before you start to spend time writing it.
This scenario is an example, but I think it has happened all over the gaming community numerous times. Your player want fantasy, and you suggest D&D what is fine with them. Then you fix day for the first session what is few weeks from now. You start to write your adventure for those players. You write background story, draw maps, write stats... you do this awesome dungeons with monsters, puzzles, treasures, trap doors, traps... Then the gaming day comes and you start to roll characters. You notice, that players do these characters and describe them all wrong. They don't suit your dungeon, they get killed there!

At the above examle there were few problems. First, even though genre and gaming system were decided, Game Master forgot to consult players about their characters. GM should know or have a idea, what kind of characters players are planning to write. Or players should know what kind of adventure player is going to write before they start planning their characters.
If players have no clue about adventure plans, they don't know what kind of characters they should do so they might do what they like to do and it's sheer luck them to match the adventure.
Also, if players don't have any idea what kind of characters fellow players will write, the character party in worse case scenario could be totally unworkable.

Few good things starting a new game is to tell players what kind of idea your next adventure will have in general. You don't need to detail it too much. It's enough if you just tell, "it's going to be a high adventure traveling all around the world", or "OSR Dungeons" or "political scheming amongst the elite". Now players will know what to except, so they can plan their characters better.
Another way is to ask players what they want, or what kind of characters they want to do and build the adventure around them.
Or you could sanctify the first session to roll characters, so whole group is planning and taking part in first steps of creating the upcoming game.

So, in my opinion it helps things a lot, if players know what your plans are and you know what players want.

1 comment:

Seth said...

I wasn't even cognizant of the A-Z challenge until April was about halfway done, so you're actually ahead of me by a fair margin! Wonder how many folks will continue to work their way through the alphabet in the next month or so.

Frankly, I think viewing it as a goal of getting 26 posts will be a tremendous coup for many blogs, and generate a ton of interesting content.

As for getting player buy-in for a particular game, it's nice that places like Obsidian Portal make it easier for DMs to pitch a campaign world to PCs, or even collaborate with them on building it before the game begins. Plus, games like DFRPG are actually codifying the process of having players help build the campaign, so that everyone's not just aware of what they're getting into but committed to it. I love having access to that buy-in from the players, since it's very useful for me to bounce off of their goals and aspirations in planning the adventures.