Monday, June 23, 2014

Epiphanies in Game Play

It's important for Game Masters of every stripe to realise that not only will players sometimes be dense, requiring a great multitude of clues to point them in the right direction, but also that sometimes they will suddenly tumble to the answer. They may do this with astounding quickness, taking a few disparate details and joining them together, either because they're genre savvy to a few general details or because of a sudden leap of logic that just fits the pieces better than any other current alternative. Either way, it's important not to take their realisation away from them because that breathless moment when an epiphany strikes you is a golden opportunity that players very often remember. If you steal it away from them, negating it using GM fiat, then it becomes quite disappointing and the moment will instead be remembered as "That time I was almost awesome but then the GM blocked my moment." Now while a certain amount of genre blindness can be expected and the player shouldn't use out of character knowledge to help them (such as suddenly declaring the tome should be burnt or the artefact shattered when they know nothing of their sanity draining effects in-game), other moments of genre savviness should be respected. After all, not every genre detail is illogical. In crime fiction as in reality, the murderer is likely to be known to the victim and copycats are a distinct possibility. If the players are in the middle of a serial killer investigation and thus picks up a few clues on one death that doesn't quite match the others, they have every right to start knocking down the husbands' door demanding answers. Sure, your player may have relief on a little bit of genre savviness to figure it out but they're not trained police investigators so they need every edge they can get.


  1. Very true. It's particularly complicated when you get into more modern games where *characters* could reasonably expect to have both genre knowledge, and some idea about how these things work in reality picked up from the media. So the characters can end up having metagame knowledge to work off...

    Thinking about it, the idea of tropes and clichés has been around forever, just in more limited ways before genres diversified so much. Mediaeval plays have stock characters and plotlines, early novels were riddled with copycats and clichés, and even legends and folklore have some pretty clear types. So it's not unreasonable for characters to display a certain amount of genre knowledge even in period games.

    Another good reason that occurs to me is, if you start intervening when players seem about to take a deductive leap because they might get there too early, that's going to discourage a lot of fun stuff, both in dealing with the early success and its consequences, but also in the consequences when (like so many detectives) they actually get it wrong. I want to see players pulling a gun on the wrong suspect and leaving themselves open, or arresting someone innocent and getting into trouble, or having to come up with urgent fallback plans because they just burned the Tome of Demon Dismissing.

    1. hehe, turning tropes on their heads to surprise players can be oh so satisfying....