Saturday, June 29, 2013

Seducing Your GM's Creative Brain

We all want to be amazed when we sit down at the table to play.  We want to be immersed in a rich and exciting world that doesn't get in our way (too much) yet still makes an impact.  We want to deal with intriguing and varied NPCs, drive a story that excites us, and possibly learn something new as well as (let's face it) have a chance to either be kick ass and empowered or cathartically exploring a disempowering situation (sometimes even a mix of both).  We want a lot, really.  Most of all, though, what we don't want is to be bored.

Sure every players' interests are different and each players' boredom thresholds are different as well.  I'd be climbing up the walls if I had to cope with a dungeon bash where the creatures come thick and fast and combat (perhaps a few traps) are the bread and butter.  You might adore that but despise weirdly nonsensical horror settings where the atmosphere is so thick it could choke you and survival means a hundred different brands of stealth.  We might have a bit of trouble if we're in the same game but if we're not than it hardly matters that the minutiae of our preferences are so different.

What matters is that our GMs are feeling creative, stimulated and innovative.

How to do that?

Well, one thing's for sure ... don't drain those reservoirs by making them spend more time troubleshooting than being inspired and planning ahead.  Deal with your own issues with other players by being tactful, assertive and willing to compromise.  We need to help each other balance the limelight and not get in the way of vital pieces of plot that one person might enjoy more than the other.  Why not send Little Miss Stealthy in to the building alone to do something that seems simple when the GM indicates its a worthy option?  Why get between Mr. Combat Brawler and his guilt free bashing of some thugs by shooting in the air and scaring them off?

Also, why run away from the plot (rather than the creatures) when a tweak or moment of bad judgement on your character's part could set them irrevocably on their course?  Why not help another character make that leap as well by pointing out why it should matter to them?  Sure realism and character immersion is important but every hour of character corralling on your GM's part is going to be a brain drain.  Calculate whether that hour of plot fleeing is really worth it.  If it really, really is (and sometimes, such is life) then go for it but perhaps make it easy next time.

So now that we've gotten What Not To Do out of the way, let's look at the positives.

Firstly, what makes your GM's eyes light up?

During the next session, actually sit back and pay attention to that.  Is it when you pick up that notepad to go over the old clues?  Is it when you have a eureka moment?  When you described that awesome spell in all of its gesture-word-effect glory?  When you helpfully mentioned a rule that the GM was about to look up?  When you admired the prop they provided?  When you stayed in character?  When you happily bantered out of character?  When you provided your own miniatures, pencils, dice?  When you shouted everyone pizza?  When you actually donated dice, miniatures or even a book to the GM's cause (gaming is expensive, after all, especially for GMs)?  When your characters got along?  When your characters fought?  When your character had a little freak out moment in the corner?

Next of all, what does your GM talk about when they talk about games?

Some GMs will talk about the convoluted plots from their old games - they're dying to have you really roll up your sleeves and get investigating, politicking, asking all those questions.  I mean, they're bubbling over with all of these old plots they may not have had a chance to reveal.  When you get a peek at it, they get to make more plots!  When you don't uncover any of them, they have all of these old murky plots stewing and being boring.  The same thing can be the case about exposition.  Show interest (you may need to set boundaries so you're not swamped) and they'll build you a better world.

Some GMs will talk about neat combats, spell-tactic-equipment mixes, cool descriptions, and fantastic imagery - such as the last time you mounted a giant bee rather than killed it and used your powers to force it against the enemy.  That's what they want.  They want you to be larger than life.  They want to be able to imagine the imagery later on.  They want you to get excited by the combat, to sit down with the book of feats or fighting styles, and to weave together a scintillating experience out of your encounters with their monsters.  Show your interest and they will craft better encounters.

Some GMs will talk about character growth.  Your characters are their Sims though instead of manipulating them around a scene they manipulate the world around them and see how they react.  Welcome to the petri dish!  They'll talk about that time Jo had a BSOD moment when he failed to reach his daughter in time.  Or about that really neat argument the two characters had over who really killed that monster.  Or how the grizzled character actually ended up having a soft spot for orphans.  Give them more of those moments and they'll start thinking about how to get the most out of your character.

GMs will generally talk about a variety of different parts of their campaign but pay attention to see what they enjoyed and how much they enjoyed it.  Bear in mind, though, whose leading the conversation.  If another player won't be quiet about, say, cool roleplaying moments than the GM is bound to talk about them even if that's not what excites them the most.

And remember that when a person is satiated is when they're most generous.  Just like giving your combat-loving pal a chance to beat up some vampire minions means he's more likely to sit back and let you interview a suspect to pick up some extra clues, so to does letting your GM get what they want make them far more prone to giving you more of what you crave.

So how about you guys?  How do you seduce your GM's creative brain?  Or if you are a GM - what seduces yours?

1 comment:

  1. I certainly appreciate it when players seem interested in the details of the setting, or in things like culture, rather than considering it as set-dressing. It's when people pull up some bit of setting you'd forgotten you even mentioned, and rationalise their actions around it. Or when they spend time in and out of game actually delving into the setting and NPCs when they didn't have to for plot reasons. Inventing kobold culture on the fly for ten straight minutes is hard work, but boy is it rewarding.