How do you like things GMed?


  • Pitcrew

    How do you approach GMing scenes? What's your way of putting method to the madness? Do you plan things out in depth, or just the broad strokes, or what? How do you decide what people @check and so forth?


  • Tutorialist

    I know for me, personally, I am not that big a fan of letting the players fully control the direction of the scene, like some other people are. I have a plan, and a story I want to tell, and in order to do that, we need to get to B and C and D, starting from A. So I can engineer the events of the story to get us there.

    This doesn' t mean that players don't have an impact. Things can happen faster or slower, enemies can be aided or hindered, etc. But I know some people who will fully change the story on the fly because a major NPC got one-shotted by a lucky dice roll, or the PCs decided to meet at Waffle House on the other side of town instead of back at Home Base.

    People can talk about not liking things being 'on rails' or whatever, but sometimes you just gotta use that fiat.



  • @Derp said in How do you like things GMed?:

    People can talk about not liking things being 'on rails' or whatever, but sometimes you just gotta use that fiat.

    I'll second that. If you leave everything up to player decisions and/or dice you can end up with some really random, nonsensical and lame stories. "So you know that big boss you guys have been working towards for the last six months? Yeah, one-shotted in the first round. The end." or "Yeah this vast conspiracy that was going to drive fun for players for months? Unravelled in the first week." That kind of thing is just unsatisfying, both from a narrative standpoint and from a game standpoint.

    I don't think every story with a plan is on rails, though. I think the most effective plots have a balance of flexibility and direction. You're going to end up somewhere in the ballpark, but how you get there and exactly where in the park you end up is where the player actions come into play.


  • Pitcrew

    I have a broad plan for most things. But sometimes I'll get a group that's bound and determined to make something A Thing that's not A Thing then I have to nudge them along to True Thing.



  • @Derp said in How do you like things GMed?:

    People can talk about not liking things being 'on rails' or whatever, but sometimes you just gotta use that fiat.

    As a player, I'd like a heads up about scenes like these so I can opt out. If a GM has an outcome that has to happen, then I'd just rather not, I'll skim their story on the +Bboard.

    What makes things fun in role playing is the emergent story that happens via dice rolls and the input of other players. Some of my most memorable moments as a DM were when my big badass end boss got one shotted, or as a player someone in the party took out the balrog with one wild swing thanks to the 20-20-20 rule.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in How do you like things GMed?:

    I'll second that. If you leave everything up to player decisions and/or dice you can end up with some really random, nonsensical and lame stories. "So you know that big boss you guys have been working towards for the last six months? Yeah, one-shotted in the first round. The end."

    I will disagree. I avoid rails as much as possible and try to present the world as naturally(?) as possible rather than theatrically. One of the blogs I linked to in the OSR thread actually has an example of a big bad getting smoked in the first round and the players loving it:

    http://dreamsinthelichhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/die-strahd-die.html?m=1

    http://dreamsinthelichhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/gothic-greyhawk-game-35-end-of-strahd.html?m=1

    It's these unexpected, "reality is stranger than fiction" moments that I love about OSR oriented systems and GMing. It can lead to boring moments, sure, but it can also lead to amazing stuff that no amount of GM planning could replicate.



  • @silverfox said in How do you like things GMed?:

    How do you approach GMing scenes?

    By walking in the opposite direction. Sometimes I even run. I've GM'd one scene successfully in my entire life, and even that was later negated by the players involved getting around the consequences.

    I will say, however, that if you leave your character for two months and don't respond to emails about it, you don't get to complain that you didn't get a say in what happened to it.



  • @Ominous said in How do you like things GMed?:

    One of the blogs I linked to in the OSR thread actually has an example of a big bad getting smoked in the first round and the players loving it:

    It really depends on the players and the setup. If 12 MU players show up to a +event expecting a scene where they get to fight the Big Bad, and it's over in 5 minutes because Joe got a lucky hit and got all the glory? I think you're gonna have 9 or 10 pretty annoyed "I showed up for this?!" MU players. It's a very different environment than a TTRPG.

    If the players felt like they were on rails, you've failed (even if they actually weren't). If they leave fulfilled because they felt like they influenced the outcome, who cares if the GM had a specific outcome in mind? No one will ever know the difference.



  • I have a broad outline and try not to get too married to it, though I find an outline of some sort essential for not just letting things peter out into nothing. Some high points I want to hit but nothing so detailed I'll get stressed if the players do different stuff.

    I don't GM much anymore these days but I've recently seen a one-shot PrP of mine spun off into bigger things by ST staff, which has been heartening that I don't suck and made me wanna do more again.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in How do you like things GMed?:

    It really depends on the players and the setup. If 12 MU players show up to a +event expecting a scene where they get to fight the Big Bad, and it's over in 5 minutes because Joe got a lucky hit and got all the glory? I think you're gonna have 9 or 10 pretty annoyed "I showed up for this?!" MU players. It's a very different environment than a TTRPG.

    I agree. That's a failing in current MU* design.

    If the players felt like they were on rails, you've failed (even if they actually weren't). If they leave fulfilled because they felt like they influenced the outcome, who cares if the GM had a specific outcome in mind? No one will ever know the difference.

    The Quantum Ogre is one of the oldest discussions in the OSR. I lean on the "never" side of illusionism, but, if you truly can pull it off and somehow guarantee that the players are never able to discover the illusionism, have at it. I don't trust myself to not screw it up.

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-how-illusion-can-rob-your-game-of.html?m=1

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-slaying-quantum-ogre.html?m=1

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-ressurecting-quantum-ogre-and-having.html?m=1

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2013/07/on-corpse-of-quantum-ogre.html?m=1



  • The problem with having things too open-ended is that the goal isn't always reached, thus there isn't always a 'point' to a scene or plot. Obviously one doesn't want to be lead by the nose, but at the same time in a situation that's too open-ended one also faces the problem of being able to do anything so nothing of worth gets done.



  • The only game I ever felt comfortable enough GMing was (for some unknown reason) Shadowrun 3e, on Denver.

    ...

    And 90% of the time, I just pulled numbers out of thin air concerning NPC stats and armor, and one time accidentally gave them like. 60 karma pool worth of rerolls by mistake.

    Aaaaand people still kept showing up to my plots. So really I think it all boils down to 'ig you run it, they will come', even if what you run is trash.

    Followup" Later, I got Post Traumatic Mush Disorder from some bullshit and, honestly, still have issues RPing my own characters, let alone trying to GM.

    So. You know. Fun?


  • Pitcrew

    I come up with a premise and a rough idea for an end game, then let the players do what they want. I tend to have scenes where a thing happens and they react to it, and from there they do follow-up, RP fallout, etc. I try not to have a 'right' and 'wrong' way to resolve the plot, and often let them try some crazy shit. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.



  • I have few key details that are static. Like how npcs feel and react to things, various environments, and how npc abilities work. Past that I move by the seat of my pants.


  • Pitcrew

    Recognizing that my own GMing methods are not those used by everyone else, it honestly depends upon the plot line that I'm running and what the end goal is. When I know what the end goal is of a story (Is it to create a long story arch? Is it to create character development? Is it to just have something to do?) then I know how I will approach it.

    If it is an intro or some part of a long story arch, then I have specific points of information or occurrence that need to get conveyed and those will be planned. Example: I ran a plot line not to long ago, it had the intended consequence of a) increasing "crime/gang activity", "ousting a corrupt group" and "bringing in an FBI group" that were meant to be part of a longer story arch. The players coming into the scene (of which I limited signups to 5 people) knew that the scene was going to be potentially dangerous, depending upon their actions, but not immediately dangerous to them. I also set a time limit on the scene, what I had in mind would be done in 3-4 hours. (Never ending scenes have happened to me before, they tend to be meandering and pointless and frustrating to me.) I began the scene by having everyone describe, rather mundanely, what they were doing within a fairly large area where something was taking place.Then I blew up a Starbucks. What happened next was entirely character reactions to that, to the situation that had happened - some reacted by quickly leaving! Some reacted by leaping in to try to help people. The scene of what happened was scripted in-so-far as the thing that happened, but beyond that thing (that I knew would create the long term things that were planned) the rest of the scene was player driven.

    I handle character development scenes similarly, where each individual scene is treated a bit like a book chapter - I have a specific thing meant to come up/be handled within their individual PRP, say for example something from a character's past is coming back to haunt them. The introduction scene might just be them having something happen that reminds them of that past, or they see/think they see someone they know, etc. Quick, 2 hour scene, right there, they can involve a few other PCs if they choose, if not then it's NPCs. The next chapter is a more direct interaction with that thing/person, then the next they go to confront/or spy, to learn more about what is happening. But each of these turn into little "mini-scenes" but I do put a bit more preparation work into these than I actually do the larger things, because you don't know just how soon you will need the details.

    And then the "just something to do" scenes, those are a bit more broad and open. Usually a social event? Open to however many PCs want to jump in (though I do still set a time-limit, usually 4-6 hours depending upon what it is and what's happening). I set a scene, I occasionally toss out something pre-planned that is ambiance and watch in the event NPC interaction is called for.

    I've been in this hobby for a long time, I didn't actually like trying to GM much of anything before playing on The Reach (which was a few years ago, but in the overall of how long I've been doing this it's not been that long ago). Around that time I started participating in these real-world "Game Mastering" competitions and befriended a number of professional GMs who gave me a lot of tips to help me get more comfortable and challenge myself doing it. So while I was on The Reach I started taking those tips and doing little scenes - I ran these things I referred to as "Choose Your Own Adventure" plots, where I would have X-number of people sign up, every person was to give me a story element for the story to be told (I think one of them the story elements were: Puzzle Box, Music, Green Light, Skull. Another one had: Mall Santa, Tinsle, Light Saber and Baby Jesus (That was a Black Friday story, which itself was an element.). But I would run these "mini-stories" for 4-5 random players, usually last about 3 hours, and found myself getting a lot more comfortable with it as well as overall good feedback from the players involved (because I would ask, that was the point of trying to improve for me.).



  • @Ominous said in How do you like things GMed?:

    The Quantum Ogre is one of the oldest discussions in the OSR. I lean on the "never" side of illusionism, but, if you truly can pull it off and somehow guarantee that the players are never able to discover the illusionism, have at it. I don't trust myself to not screw it up.

    Yeah, similarly - if you can consistently entertain groups of 10-12 PCs just by "winging it" and never pre-ordaining anything, more power to you! I can't. I have no philosophical objection to the Quantum Ogre. If they go to the forest, they get to fight an ogre and have fun. If they go to the plains, they get to fight an ogre and have fun. (Presuming that fighting an ogre is fun in the first place). Seems like a win-win to me.

    Some flexibility is still required though. To use the example from one of your articles:

    Bandits to the east - we go west! ack, bandits here too!

    That's railroading, and the players will pick up on it pretty quick. When the players are going to great effort to do (or avoid) something, I think that good GMs will give the players something for their efforts.

    But to quote a different part of the article:

    If they enter your rioting city, and decide to leave, let them get the hell out of there if they wish. . .

    I mean that's fine, but at the same time... players can't go out of their way to avoid the plots handed to them and still expect to be entertained.

    "The Starbucks just exploded!"
    "OK we leave and call 911."
    "Um. OK. Cool. Thanks for coming. Event over."



  • Communication is key. Most of the time it seems that we plan an event (or whatever you're calling a scene/plot/shindig) first, and gather players to that.

    I think we also need to try and focus on the opposite: Get a group of people, and then do a thing. Not to imply that this isn't already done, but it definitely needs to be more prominent in our organisational minds. You need to find out what kinds of stories the players are interested in, and how best to accommodate each of their specialnesses in order to best bring their character to the fore at various points.

    With this in mind, railroading to such an annoying degree as in @faraday's quoted example won't need to happen, as you'll already know what the players want to do, and will have constructed your story (or whatever) accordingly. They don't want to fight bandits, but want to investigate x, y, and z? If they successfully evade the bandits, they get to investigate a crime scene, or whatever. If they don't, then they can connive a way out of combat.

    Construct a story in a way that the players will want to follow your breadcrumbs, and give plenty of ways for them to gather those breadcrumbs, and you won't need to worry about railroading or fighting ogres or anything else.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in How do you like things GMed?:

    I mean that's fine, but at the same time... players can't go out of their way to avoid the plots handed to them and still expect to be entertained.

    "The Starbucks just exploded!"
    "OK we leave and call 911."
    "Um. OK. Cool. Thanks for coming. Event over."

    You're gonna have players who do that. I had a player who did that when I ran the aforementioned scene and exploded the Starbucks. 1 player called 911 and planned to leave. Another player whipped out a phone and proceeded to video as much as they could get. 2 other players jumped in to try to help. And the 1 PC cop that joined immediately after jumped into help. I have found if you involve players who aren't necessarily 1 person and their 4 BFFs you are more likely to get a random selection of responses - not just everyone going along with 1 person.

    It helps, I think these days with mushing and running plot (or +events, if you will) that when you set up that +event giving some kind of summary of what is going to happen. If I announce "Come to Starbucks for a memorable time!" and fail to indicate a reasonable # of players to be involved or timeline for it to run - it conveys a very different thing than if I say "Something dangerous will be happening in this block of the city on this day/time - if you have cause to be in that neighborhood, I'll take the first 5 signups and it will last X-amount of time." then I have communicated to them what I am doing/what the risk might be/and that I expect the players to give me that amount of time they have signed up for as well as I am giving that time to them.



  • @2mspris said in How do you like things GMed?:

    You're gonna have players who do that. I had a player who did that when I ran the aforementioned scene and exploded the Starbucks. 1 player called 911 and planned to leave. Another player whipped out a phone and proceeded to video as much as they could get. 2 other players jumped in to try to help.

    Sounds like perfectly reasonable responses to me. If you want them to investigate the exploded Starbucks, give them a reason to care. Give them a reason to violate their sense of self-preservation.

    Sure, sometimes players just don't get it, but other times it's that they're not being given enough impetus to go down the rabbit hole.


  • Pitcrew

    @Tinuviel said in How do you like things GMed?:

    @2mspris said in How do you like things GMed?:

    You're gonna have players who do that. I had a player who did that when I ran the aforementioned scene and exploded the Starbucks. 1 player called 911 and planned to leave. Another player whipped out a phone and proceeded to video as much as they could get. 2 other players jumped in to try to help.

    Sounds like perfectly reasonable responses to me. If you want them to investigate the exploded Starbucks, give them a reason to care. Give them a reason to violate their sense of self-preservation.

    Sure, sometimes players just don't get it, but other times it's that they're not being given enough impetus to go down the rabbit hole.

    Absolutely, those were reasonable responses to me. If I want only the players who will do a specific thing, then it's my responsibility to say that from the start. And I wanted pcs to be doing what they were going to be doing when that happened, to me that is the point of running something for players - otherwise you might as well just write up a narrative and post it to a bboard's news reel. The GM is responsible for providing NPC reaction to what the players are doing - the PC who elected to call 911 and leave? She did have to figure out how she was getting out of there. Her car was parked close to the explosion, she couldn't get her car, she was going to walk out - but which direction when a crowd was rushing to get away as well, will she dive into the crowd and potentially get hurt? Will she go a different route, etc. The PC who videoed the entire thing later told a cop she had it all on video, but refused to give over the recording, etc - that turned into plotline that also went on for a few weeks. Communication is key, but it's also important to be flexible.


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