Thursday, April 11, 2013

Extra Credits Advice Useful For Games Mastering, Part 1

While a pen and paper or LARP roleplaying game is distinctly different to a videogame, we can learn from videogames the same way that movies can learn from books and plays.  While we should never try to ape videogames, we can take a look at them to see what aspects or factors can work, which aspects can allow us to draw some of the same enjoyments from roleplaying games that we do from videogames, and also what doesn't work.  A videogame with heavy exposition, for example, can really help you identify how annoying and boring that can be.  While you could learn the same thing in books and movies, videogames have greater freedom and choice (though never as much as a good roleplaying game) and therefore the similarities are more easily noted.

So after that explanation on why it's worth looking to videogames for advice, here's a list of links from the Extra Credits guys that can be useful for Games Masters.  I'm bound to do another article on this later as there are far too many good videos with that group to list all in one article.  So here's the start.

Differences in Scale vs Differences in Kind discusses fundamental game principles that affect people's interest and excitement in games.  In other words, it is better to include greater variety (in Kind) rather than simply adding more of the same thing, i.e. more monsters or bigger ones (in Scale).  Of course, there are limits where too much variety becomes silly.

Intrinsic or Extrinsic Motivation discusses how sometimes we keep doing things in games that we don't enjoy in and of themselves, but which allow us to access something we do enjoy.  Sometimes this is worth it.  Sometimes not.  As different players have different interests, at any one time the party will have some who are extrinsically motivated (i.e. dealing with story to get to the combat) while others are intrinsically motivated (ooh story!).  This is absolutely fine, so long as at least someone is intrinsically motivated by it, including the Game Master.

Starting Off Right talks about the different sorts of methods used in videogames to start off a game well.  In truth, in roleplaying, a Game Master normally gets at least one session at around four hours to hook the players so you have more leeway than in a videogame's first five minutes.  Players also generally don't have the ability to just switch to a different Game Master on the drop of a hat so the pressures aren't as intense.  Still, it's good to try to build a compelling start and this video goes over a number of different categories of beginnings (bearing in mind that a few of them can be blended together).

Horror Protagonists discusses how horror is most effective with vulnerable protagonists which is one reason why it is difficult (though not impossible) to run a horror game in a medium to high level Pathfinder campaign. They also discuss how horror can also come from the trope of "The Monster is Me" where the protagonist turns out to be evil.  Watching this video made me think about how this is something that the various World of Darkness monster genres tries to play with.  Of course, it can be difficult to reinforce the reality of this without irritating and alienating your players or letting it slide into the wish fulfillment and power fantasies that often (but don't always) underpin most people's attempts at playing evil characters.

The Beast Macarbe talks about three types of monsters.  The abstract monster where you put people in an uncanny situation with an abstract monster that you learn very little about, the monster that either "represents or brings out the worst aspects of our characters" such as Pyramid Head from Silent Hill or zombies causing humans to do terrible things, or the monster that represents some awful aspect of humanity in general, such as how vampires represent greed, gluttony, and the fear of being buried alive.


  1. Hey Shannon,

    Good links. I never knew about them, even though I have been at the Penny Arcade site before! As a budding rpg ref, the more tips the better.

    David S.
    Minnesota, USA

    1. I learned about them from their original place at The Escapist website. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'll put up some other good links this weekend.