Sunday, November 26, 2006

Flash, Dash and Panache!

It's so easy to lose the basic idea of gaming. One can get wrapped up in the minutia and twitch of gaming. One can be lead astray by various philosophies and mechanics of gaming. One can get to wrapped up in the social dynamics and the inevitable politics of table top play and Larping and lose the thread.

There is one simple reason that players play games. There is an equally simple reason that GM's do what they do.
That is, Each wants to tell an ENTERTAINING story.

People wanna do cool stuff.

So it's nice, on those occasions, when you run into a GM or a player who is in sync with your idea of what constitutes entertainment. It's really neat when you run into a GM who is unafraid to say, "Okay, you'll have to roll a...Oh fuck it. It's looks good on film. You do it."

Now. I am a big believer in the concept of game balance. I am a big believer in making sure that changing the world is hard and that each antagonist ought to make the players sweat...But, i am coming to the realization that there are also times when you should cast that shit to the wind.
Players in a game are looking to star in the own personal film or book. Ruthlessly crushing them at every turn is no way to work. and it inhibits any attempt at heroism on their part. They become like office workers, ruled by fear and uncertainty. Not even sure that they can reliably do the one thing they've spent the most points on.
By that same token, When players are too timid and run from anything smelling like a plot, Well. It's not going to be a lot of fun for you to GM Is it?

So it's important to occasionally lean in to a crazy plan that just might work. It's important to occasionally throw the players a bone. It's important to occasionally give them a bit of help when things look darkest. I once read that the work of screenwriting is to take your guy. Put him up a tree, throw rocks at him, and then somehow figure out a way to get him down from the tree.

In other words, not only are you responsible for getting them into the situation in the first place. Not only are you responsible for making that situation worse, But you also must pay attention to the players as they try to help you tell a compelling story by getting the guy back down from the tree. There is a wonderful term invented on for a specific type of GM problem. There comes a point in some games where it all comes to a screeching halt because the players haven't found the one tiny clue necessary for them to move. Or maybe they have the clue but can't seem to figure out what it means. And the GM is not being much help with his attitude of "C'mon guys. this is SO easy!"
It's analogous to the problem of certain computer puzzle games like Myst. where occasionally you're caught because you can't seem to find the clue that may only be four pixels wide. The term is "pixelbitching" and it's a problem of lazy GMing. Actually, that might be a little harsh. It's more of a case of mental passivity. Mental passivity in a game is the death of it. for players and GM's alike.
In any game of that sort it is ALSO part of the GM's responsibility to make sure each and every part of the puzzle gets in the players hands by some means or other. It's ALSO the GM's responsibility to gauge how sharp players are on any given night and give them a bit of help if they need it, and keep your mouth shut if they don't.

As players it's important to occasionally embrace the idea that it's more important to tell a good and gripping story rather than be protective of your character. It's okay to throw caution to the wind sometimes. Swing from a chandelier on occasion. It's healthy.
Of course, you should probably try to do these things in games that support them. Swinging from a chandelier in a game of Adventure! is par for the course, whereas in a game of Gurps, might require 3 separate rolls.

Sono Finito