Monday, April 17, 2006

Jumping the bear holding the shark

Recent conversations with various friends of mine have now got me thinking about games that jump the shark.

Now this is not a knock at anybody's game or anything, It's just that it goes along with my idea that RPG's need to be handled much like scripting and producing a television show.

Shows eventually jump the shark. Even really good ones.
So do games. This is not to say you can't run a good game or larp for years on end. I've done it. But it's often a good idea to consider your exit strategy for that day when you are wanting to pull the plug or your players are wanting to pull the plug for you.

But in thinking about jumping the shark, one wants to naturally consider what you can do to forestall such things. As long as the game is enjoyable and consistently so, why stop playing it? So hopefully, i can come up with a few possible things that can enable you to create a memorable game even if you are on the downslope.

1) Announce the Eschaton.
Okay, maybe things haven't been as hot as they were. It may also be that you've been having a lot of problems with illness, conflicts, exhaustion, bad or no-prep, and maybe you know that the game is ailing. Rather than just let the game slip away into nothingness, why not just pull your players in and say to them. "Look. This isn't as groovy as it used to be. We can, of course, play something else, but i would just as soon wrap the game up and not leave it hanging."

You have no idea what sort of freedom this may give your players. As a game master it allows you tie up loose ends and maybe open the door for some new thing later on down the line in the same world. The approach here is to realize that the network has cancelled the series, so it's up you, to finish up the series in a satisfying way for the fans.

Examine what worked in your game. Who were the bad guys that the players hated with every particle of their being? What were the elements of the game that moved and affected your players the most? Why not bring some of that back?
Pull the best cards out of the stack and shuffles them back in. Maybe that will breathe some life back in.

3) Fuck it. It's time.
Many times, i find myself in the unpleasant position of planning the metaplot of a campaign on a very long time line, and really enjoying that sort of thing, only to find that it's making it impossible to concentrate on what to do for the next game session. Gah! This drives me to distraction...or at least, it used to before i realized that it was because my brain was trying to tell me something. WHY must it be in the far off future? Why must you wait for the players to be powerful enough? You can always adjust the power levels of the players upwards if it serves your purpose...And your purpose is to get to the fun part of the game. Fun for you and fun for them.

4) Hey...Remember that background of yours?
I have a theory. I ain't really sure how potent this theory is, i'll be interested in hearing from you on this point, but many times, GM's will be more interested in creating a basic storyline and then start weaving the characters stories into it at a later date. However, i am begining to think that the faster you get the personal stories into the mix of the game and RESOLVE them, then there is a greater tendency for players to get involved with the basic GM storyline.
Now it's important to gather the intent of the player as best you can. If your player has a background hook that is simple and discreet, there's no reason you can't include it in the first adventure. if however, your player has a hook that is obviously meant to be strung out over time, (Like a vendetta against a mob family or a quest to rid the world of vampires) Then you can still string it out, but you can also make a decision to cut to the chase later.
This has a number of benefits. It helps your players get into the game because they know that you are playing attention to what they are trying to do with their characters. It enables you to deal with their stories and maybe get them out of the way, if they are in the way. and if it turns out that their stories turn out to be better than yours. (which happens.) Then see 2 above.

Sono Finito


At 11:23 AM, Anonymous ScottM said...

About your point 4-- yes, exactly. If you cater to your players (by including the elements that excite them), then they'll pay you back in spades-- with complex characters who embrace the consequences of the GM's plot.

At 3:51 AM, Blogger trollsmyth said...

I have never, ever found putting the players at the center of the campaign to be a mistake. Never.

- Brian


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