Whilst it doesn’t look as though I’ll be running, or even playing, anything soon, I have resolved to do things differently the next time I do.
I plan on asking the players what would they like to play, and how would they like to play it.
Revolutionary, I know.
It’s like a whole new paradigm of thinking. Well, it kind of is for me, as I got into GMing because the guy running the Vampire: the Masquerade game I was playing in really was doing it wrong.
This has bred in me a habit of just ‘doing stuff’ to the player characters, hoping it’ll work and getting frustrated if it doesn’t. I’ve never really stopped to ask the players what kind of game they’d like to play or how they’d like to play it.
Which I guess is kind of basic error, one that I presume (hope) other GM’s make.
If they don’t, then I really am crap…

I used to try to get players to write up detailed character backgrounds, but going forward I think I’m going to ask about what style of game they would want to play instead. I’m presuming that by this point we’ve all agreed on the system and setting, and we’re now designing characters.
What I think I should now be asking includes:
– What kind of conflict do you want to face? Physical combat, physical obstacles, political intrigue, social challenges, a mixture of two or more, something else?
– What is your character’s ultimate goal / win scenario?
– What is stopping your character from achieving this goal?
– How do you all work together as a team?
– What would help you to really enjoy this game?


2 thoughts on “Gaming resolution / Stop being a bad GM

  1. I think there are basically two opposing campaign design stratagems; the first – as described above – is where you announce a general intent to run a particular game, and work with the players to build a game around their character concepts and expectations – either by taking in backgrounds or two-way discussion from the beginning.

    The second is the one where you come up with a rigid plot and setting, declare your intent and let players who are interested come to you.

    Both work, IMO. I guess the former is more common when you have a regular gaming group and want to start a new game; certainly (when i run games) I tend to build my games around the players, not least because it's easier than coming up with ideas myself, but I've played and run games with more restrictions on characters (“You will be playing crew of a small starship engaged in mostly-legal transfer of goods and peoples,, and must have close ties to the captain”) and they've been just as much fun.

    It only falls down if your intentions for the tone and setting aren't correctly communicated at the start – I remember one time where the GM didn't convey that the game was to be in the style of a family action drama tv show, and one player played his uncompromising native American warrior to the hilt. Either could have worked but the contrast led to a bit of a falling out. As long as everyone knows the ground rules, set games can be lots of fun.


  2. I totally agree Andy, I just feel I've tried the former to the exclusion of the latter.
    I've always planned and plotted the games out in advance and the players have had to fall into line. That or we just stat characters and then fudge it.
    A prime example of these approaches not working would be Aberrant.
    The first games I ran were simply 'create a character. Aren't super powers cool', which totally failed to go anywhere. It was just random fights.
    Then there was the game where you played the Mayor of the city. I'd plotted and planned that one out, and expected you all to just fall into line and engage in the plot like good little geeks, and instead I got the Mayor, an anarchist, a murdering vigilante and a boring cop. Error.

    So I'm looking at a different approach, maybe just so I can say I've tried it.


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