Monday, 26 September 2016

Suicide By Cop---per Dragon & We All Need A Challenge

I was reading a blog which has an article by the 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 encumbered.
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.

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