RPG Pundit about using mechanics to substitute roleplay. It got me thinking about some of the advice about GMing that I have had and I was thinking specifically about Robin's Laws of Good Games Mastering. This is a great book and probably my go-to book for GMing skills. It's central piece of advice, "the great immutable ironclad law" is "role playing is entertainment, your goal as GM is to make the game as entertaining as possible". Pretty solid advice. I have had two players quote this too me over the years, usually when they want something that does not exist in the game.
I was struck by two things. Firstly that players do stupid things
and that it usually the players that get themselves killed. Players,
like movie watchers, want a challenge and giving them to much to
easily is a lame way to game.
For me the problem comes around with a lot of players is that
entertainment for them means getting what they want all the time. I
know that role playing is sometimes about suspension of reality. We
are not magic users, superheroes and psychics after all but our
characters can be. Even of the powers can warp reality, the cannot
change reality. I remember a psychic, who was a great martial artist,
was locked up and medicated in a secure psychiatric unit who wanted
to escape. Such places are designed to be difficult to get out of and
if you are pumped full of tranquillizers, this should be even harder.
The desire to escape was probably made worse by the fact that the
other players were not rushing to get him out.
I remember a decision the group I was playing with made to attack
a copper dragon as a way to get out of a dungeon. The call was not
mine but the argument was repeated so often it became compulsive. The
party was significantly outclassed. Four low level characters against
a copper dragon was never going to end well. After the fight, the GM
admitted that the dragon was there to scare off the players and in
fairness, he dropped a number of hints to that effect. The plan was
to get the "battle turtle" to sneak up on the dragon and
stab it through the eye and into the brain whilst it slept. The
warrior of course had a minimum of sneak skill that was totally
offset by the plate mali and other gear that was making him
I think the referee let a couple of rolls slide but when the
warrior decided to shout at another player to get them to shut up.
The dragon then woke up and started talking to the fighter asking him
what he thought he was doing sneaking around a dragon's lair. The
fighter said that he was here to kill the dragon...It was a bit like
shouting allah al ackbar just whilst wielding a scimitar and wearing
a bomb vest before charging police officer armed with a sub-machine
gun. As I have come to call it, Suicide by Cop---per Dragon. Needless
to say, ten minutes later we were talking about what classes would
work out well for our new characters.
People mistake entertainment for getting what they want. My
character lasted long enough to say I told you so three times, which
was pretty entertaining for me.
I think “entertaining” it is more about making the players
work for something rather than serving it to them on a plate. I
encourage players to suggest what they might like to get hold of in
the future. This helps me and them. It gives me ideas for “presents”
and something that players can work to. It gives the players an
interest in the game. Keeping them happy does not mean the next chest
they find has a bunch of +4 weapons in it.
I tend to prefer a cinematic approach. Things are always going
wrong in the movies and in most stories. These are challenges to be
overcome. Problems are the driver to the next scene of the plot, from
there to the next act and the eventual conclusion. For instance, one
shot villains are never as much fun as a larger than life recurring
villain. Where would the fun be if you had all the money in the world
but were so jaded with life there was nothing interesting out there
for you to do.
If you were interested in what the two things were that the
players wanted, one wanted a robotic battle tank in a Fallout game. I
declined this because robotic tanks were not part of the background.
The other was a robotic sex slave. The person asking for that was an
American who I think had been in the airforce. I declined the robotic
sex slaves because it was the right thing to do.