Sunday, June 23, 2013

Getting Your GM In The Mood

The trouble with being a player is that it so often feels like a pretty passive process.  Sure your character is making important decisions but they're often in line with the party's needs and the GM's world.  You know on a cognitive level that your actions make a big impact but you don't often feel a sense of responsibility to the smooth running of the game beyond adhering to a few simple principles that keep the peace and ensure everyone's having a fun time.

This isn't generally a bad thing.  It aids immersion to just let go and play.  Besides, if you try to take a more practical and out of character guiding hand you might make things worse.  Too many cooks spoil the broth and all that.

But what happens if your GM just isn't in the mood?

Their energy just isn't what is used to be.  Their storytelling is getting a bit flat.  They seem only too happy to let out of character chit-chat drone on and on rather than impatiently champing at the bit to rein you all in and move on to the next exciting bit.  You find that the malaise starts to set in.  You can intuitively feel the subtle encouragements towards digressions.  You can feel that your GM kinda just wants to claim a headache and watch TV instead.

This isn't good.  In fact, its quite bad.  You ask your GM if they're feeling burnt out and they give you a lazy drawn out, "Naaaah," that doesn't sound as reassuring as it was perhaps intended.  You ask if something's gone wrong and your GM really can't think of anything much.  Sure there are a few issues they'd like ironed out ... but nothing they can really put their finger on.

They're just not in the mood.

So what do you do?

What can you do?

Step out of the Player Brain for a moment.  No, don't hop into the GM Brain.  Too many cooks and all that....  No, step into the Host Brain.  Your GM doesn't need a second party helping with the plots as they've probably got that covered.  Think about being a host.  Your job is to get everyone in the mood.

What is the mood, though?  Different moods have different requirements.  What is the mood meant to be and what is the prevailing mood at the table?

Let's presume for a moment that the game is meant to be playful and silly yet the actual mood tends to be tense and anxious.  Nobody wants the anxiety but that's where you are.  The game has suddenly gotten all serious.  Have a chat to your GM.  Was that what they were after and the players just haven't kept up?  No?  Then why did it get that way?  Maybe folks are bringing tensions in from outside of the game and there needs to be a thirty minute playful time before session to help them unwind.  Maybe folk just need a quick break and a dip into a one-shot that is really silly.  Have a think about it.  Broach the GM about it (tactfully).

"I've noticed the game has gotten pretty serious and tense lately and it doesn't look like that was what you intended.  If you want it to go back to being fun and frivolous, maybe we could try EXAMPLE, EXAMPLE or EXAMPLe and see if that works."

Try to bring it back to things that either you or the entire group can do.  Offering to put on a sock puppet show before each game is one thing, suggesting that your GM do the same isn't going to get you the best results. 

Remember that the main thing is to get your GM in the mood rather than to make things more fun for you.  Always keep that objective in mind.  It's so easy to slip into thinking about what the GM (or other players) could do to increase your own enjoyment since it's equally easy to assume that your needs match other people's and that what works for you will work for others.

If the in-game mood is a problem you could always see if there's something you can do in-game.  Talk to the GM first, of course, in case you're targeting the wrong thing and just exarcebating the problem.  Once you know what the issue is, mood-wise, make it easy for the GM to run the game.  If the GM is aiming for horror, maybe it'd help to play a vulnerable character who quails in the face of danger and yet doesn't run away from the plot.

What does your GM adore in their game?  Give them more of what they want.

They love to worldbuild but your characters are all about politics and backstabbing?  Show an interest in the world.  Ask about the history behind that sword.  Ask a foreign character about their history.

They love combat?  Keep the chit-chat to a minimum for a little while and focus on getting down and dirty with the violence and remember to use some awesome descriptions.  Also,, it always helps to know what you're about to do before it's your turn as well as how you're going to do it.  That way the turns move more crisply.

Maybe there's something about the room that's a total turn off.  Any seducer knows that its all about location, location, location.  Is there something you can do to help?  Could you make tea when all of the characters are sitting down to tea?  Could you bring flashlights to that horror session?  Could you bring along a music CD that could help set the mood?  Always remember to ask the GM if it's okay, though.  You want to be a help not a well meaning hindrance.

Make it less work for your GM to run a session.  Don't force the GM to spend the sessions corralling you and the other characters.  Go towards the plot for once.  Learn the rules.  Take down notes so you know what to do next session.  Help your GM corral the other players.  Don't leave it to your GM to shut down chit-chat when you could just, y'know, avoid it yourself and gently remind other players to go back in-character. Pay attention and put down the mobile phone, laptop or other distraction.

So ... what have you guys done to get your GM in the mood?  Or is your GM always in the mood?

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