Sunday, October 25, 2020

Be The DM, 1

 OK, I've run plenty of games and I've talked with and read the thoughts of many other DM's. One thing is certain; No two DM's are the same.

I have seen those opposed to any kind of storyboarding at all (they call anything that isn't completely player oriented as being railroading) and I have seen those who believe Players really only want to be directed through an adventure ala a train conductor.

Ultimately, there isn't even one way to play.  One for the experience.  The adventure IS the reward.  Another where there is something to win, a goal to reach, an objective to achieve.

People play games for both reasons.  To just relax and have fun as well as to win or compete or overcome a challenge.  Some like to combine the two.  enjoy the ride while achieving something specific.  It doesn't have to be one or the other, although it can be.

The thing is, if you're going to be all one or the other, you need to make sure all the players are in agreement with that.  If some are all about the experience and don't care about "winning" and some are all about winning specifically, it isn't going to be a great game for everyone.

It's not a good idea to be dismissive of either approach.  As a DM, I run games based on the AD&D1e/OSRIC game and rule systems.  This is non-negotiable.  I have no problem with people wanting to play another game system or type, but I won't be the DM.  I don't always have to be the DM.  It's like playing poker for me, the dealer chooses the game they want to deal.  Everyone can take turns being the dealer.  I think that brings more fun and diversity to a group of gamers.

Here's the issue with that when it comes to RPG...  Not everyone wants to take a turn as the dealer.  Not everyone wants to be the DM. Not everyone is a good DM even if they want to do it.  I think it's like public speaking in a way.  It can be very intimidating, even a fearful experience to some people.

So usually only a few people are the DM, and more often than not, it usually ends up being one person in the group with everyone else preferring to be a Player instead. 

So yes, the DM picks the game they are going to run.  the choice the Players get is whether to sit that one out until someone else's turn comes up to run a different game or they take a turn as DM themself.  Part of the fun of being a DM is getting to build something and see it run.  I think of it as kind of like setting up a domino run or even a model railroad and then setting the train on the track or tipping the first domino and see what happens.  There's something very cool in that.

In my experience, most Players want to win a game.  They make up the majority of players.  They want to defeat an great opponent, overcome some great adversity, win lots of points and rewards and somehow come out a "winner".  Whether it's as part of a team effort or individually, they want measurable success.

The recreational roleplayers are enthusiasts.  They want to poke and probe.  To inspect and interact. They see an adventure as the more they get to play at the character and the environment they are thrown into, the more fun and successful it is.  They really don't care about rewards and points and impressive feats and setting records.  They don't want trophies.  They just want to play.  They get bored easily and the more storyboarding there is, the less they like it.

As for me, I want to appeal to both aspects as much as possible because I can see the benefits of both.  I want to try to give as much and get the best of both worlds as much as possible.  That's a tall order.  It's not easy to accomplish and it requires Players who ar flexible on either side.

If there's any Players I dislike DMing for, it's inflexible ones. To me, it defeats the point of RPGs to begin with.  TO me, to have any interest in RPGs is to be flexible minded to begin with.

SO, when I run games, there is some storyboarding.  It helps set the stage.  It gives depth to the characters and places the the Players interact with.  It helps build suspense and even build some emotional investment into the experience.

It makes the roleplaying part of the game more interesting, more to explore with more meaning to it while at the same time, giving Players something to achieve.  It provides purpose and something to "win" at at the same time.

I don't like to make things necessarily exclusive.  Like, there's not just one way to solve a problem or fix something or even to "win".  What I try to do is create opportunities.  Put them out there to be explored and attempted.  If Players take them up, great.  If they don't, other opportunities are just around the corner.

THEN.  And this I think is important.  I keep track of achievements.  I have a "record book" like "Least arrows fired to kill a Balrog" or "Most goblins killed singlehandedly."  This gives Players over a period of time to have bragging rights for favorite characters and have memorable moments.

Players like to have shared experiences.  But if all the experiences are mundane and unmemorable, then what's the point?  This is the essence of the game. The fun of being the DM is creating those moments and having Players enjoy the experiences you provide.

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