Friday, June 5, 2015

Standards Turned on Their Heads.

Over the last few months I have become completely enamored with the idea that the best individual to run a module is someone who has little affection for the dominant themes of the adventure. You can see a bit of this expressed in the Ravenloft post I put up a few days ago. See one of the problems that I think hampers our creativity as Game Masters is when we develop a fanatical devotion to the source materials and begin to convince ourselves that there is one, true way to run the game. We look at Tolkien, Moorecock, Howard and say, "If we're going to play then it has to be just like this!" We develop these simulations of their fictive worlds where every blade of grass has been lovingly craved out of the intellectual terra firma of our imaginations and we limit ourselves to the confines of what has been done; rarely allowing ourselves to stretch our own creativity to its limits.

I'm tired of such things. They're boring and they stifle what's possible. But their worst sin is that they make your games predictable. I can't stand that feeling that everyone knows just what I'm going to do or what I'm going to say. It disgusts me; makes my skin crawl.

More later. 


  1. I also dislike all that baggage married to setting / subject matter.
    I have a buddy, who is not interested in RPG's at all.
    He has however shown interest in the "song of Ice and Fire" RPG. He knows every~thing about SoIaF and Game of Throwns. (read the books watches the show, can quote story lines and plots ect...)

    I have neither read the books nor ever seen the TV show.
    I don't know if I could run the game for him.
    My knowledge base could never match is expectations.

    So We both loose out in a way.

  2. Dragonlance is the one I think of when I hear this. When the adventures came out you had a camp who had read the books and a camp who had not. Most of those who read the book went along with it and how it should go and how the character would act. The other camp just wanted to play without the restriction of the fiction that created the world.

    If I use source material that folks know, the way I get around it is move the time ahead of when the story ended. That way you can still have the background and get the feeling from it even though now it is changed from before. Say you playing in Middle Earth, the name Mordor is still going to carry a lot of darkness even after the big S was eliminated. This way you don't have to be beholden to what happened in the books.

  3. Relaxation seems to be key to mastery of every endeavor. Its true for martial arts and its true for roleplaying. Even in horror games and high octane stuff, it's critical that the DM/ST/GM relax her/his grip on the details of the story. If they care too much, then the GM gets it into their head that each scene must begin and end a certain way. The only way for EVERY scene to begin and end in this certain way, is for player agency to be compromised. Quantum ogres pop up like weeds. Thinly veiled plot devices appear. The Deus ex Machina machine spins up. A GM can't completely have it their way, especially not in the begining.

    But, if they let things ride in their campagin, especiqlly when its still young, they will have the oppurtunity to see the direction their players are heading and will see what makes them pay attention. Then, the GM can can develop a plot thread based on those direction the players are already heading. In Ravenloft, for example, the origonal plot line may have been to confront the dying king whos dreams haunt his dark domain, but when the player take unusual interest in the village where mist turns people into toys (toys that try to kill people as tirbute to a "god" who will restore them to normal life), then it would behoove the GM to develop his plot thread to have something to do with the toy mist, rather than the dreaming king (unless she/he can tie them both together...)

  4. I have created worlds. I have borrowed worlds. I have done some of the inbetween.

    I don't mind playing in someone else's playground for a while. I don't see is as stifling creativity but rather one as freeing me to worry about the things important to me and then having the freedom to look up the things I don't need to create.

    With a setting like Mystara or Greyhawk I can pretty much do what I want in my corner of the world and when the players want to move outside the lines, well I have a book here that can help me.

    I guess anymore I just don't really have the time to build worlds anymore. Just dungeons and sometimes a town or two.


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