Thursday, October 4, 2012

Forgiving Players

As much as I like talking about adventure structure, plot hooks, and ways to engage the various player styles, in truth, players are a remarkably easy audience to deal with.  I think its because they're not truly an audience.  They're also actors, writers, planners, and artistic designers and so are more immersed in the story and therefore less judgmental about it.  In short, they don't care if your game slows to a crawl for sessions on end so long as they enjoy the crawl. 

If it's fun, it works.  If it's not fun, it isn't.

I think that's where we Storytellers can get trapped within our own craft.  We think we need to compete with movies and books and videogames and so we try to wrestle the players into accepting the roles that would be necessary to make those mediums work.  That's the wrong way to go about it.  There's a whole bunch of rules of thumb about how to make a neat ending and an exciting beginning or how to craft a stellar investigation scenario but they are all rules of thumb.

They are all subservient to the Rule of Cool, the Rule of Participation, and the Rule of Collaboration.

The Rule of Participation is basically that everyone should be able to get involved and feel like they matter. 

The Rule of Collaboration is a simple enough matter that people need to understand they are working together and that trying to destroy the game for one person, or ignoring their needs because they differ, just undermines the whole experience.

As for the Rule of Cool....  Your group's perspectives on what is cool or not cool may vary.  Even within the group there's bound to be different perspectives on what is exciting and what is downright horrible.  Trust me, when I get excited about something in a game my partner (also a player) tends to wince and ask me if he'll think it's awesome or if he'll just get depressed.  I'm a horror fan so often times there's a streak of trauma inherent in what I think is cool.  The Rule of Cool is also one of the reasons why I wince when my players take events out of context to wow other people.  Sure, they think it was cool.  I think it was cool in context.  Other people, though, with no understanding of how it came to be will think its ludicrous and dumb.

As an example, in the Demon: the Fallen solo game that I am playing inside my character, Shaitan, is dating Belphigor, head of the Faustians.  It's a legitimate relationship, too, though a hidden one. 

Erm, yeah....  Right....  Doesn't that sound dumb?

Those who know about Belphigor know just how unlikely this is.  He was a heroic Namara Knight once upon a time but on his return to Earth he became a greedy, cold-hearted, grubbing Fallen who only thinks of himself.  Surely he's ONLY doing it to use me?

The relationship itself took me by surprise and followed after my character's heroic self-sacrifice with giving him my youthful and optimistic host (after accidentally causing his assassination when he tried to eat my ex-vassal who tried to betray me to him but whom I guiltily had to rescue as our history meant I understood the betrayal), a host whom during the possession I went down to Torment 2.9 so he got to actually experience what a low-Torment host was like, all of which meant he had a sudden ephiphany and came out at Torment 4, and I technically out-rank him as a Lord / Lady which probably makes me one of the few people his pride would allow him to care for.  It being politically advantageous couldn't hurt, either.

Some people would doubtless STILL think its dumb.  That's okay.  Depending on how you regard Torment, how you've personally come to think of Belphigor, whether you prefer self-sacrifice to end in vain, and just how dark you like your World of Darkness will all have an impact.  Other people would've thought it cool if a kiss from a low-Torment Fallen was enough to make him fall head over heels and plummet in Torment.

It's all good.  It doesn't matter what other people think.  What matters is whether everyone enjoys it and thinks it is a fun idea.  Your players, or other players if you are a player, will forgive you quite a bit if they enjoy it and often even if they don't but they see that you are enjoying yourself. 

So all of you Storytellers out there: Give yourself a break and rest a light hand on the wheel.

Often that helps them have the most fun of all.

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