Saturday, October 29, 2011

Game Master Philosophy

Another from Roleplaying Tips Weekly Blog/Newsletter http://www.roleplayingtips.com/issues/txt/530.txt


What's your philosophy of running a tabletop game?

It varies by type of campaign.  Although after writing this out I seem to be converging ToEE towards style I preper.


OSRIC ToEE 

1. What sort of environment does your story take place in? Is everything random? Semi-random? Carefully planned?

World of Greyhawk before 2nd edition stupidness.  Magic is common but not a technology replacement.
Mostly player triggered semi-random consequences. There are some events that I roll randomly to see if one happens.  But mostly world reacts to players.  For instance they wiped most of Lareth's minons but went back to town before dealing with him.  Instead of sticking around for obviously powerful party to return, Lareth being 18INT/18WIS decided it was time for strategic retreat and moved into the Temple Proper.  Player inaction also triggers events.

2. Does your environment support the characters, challenge the characters, or both?
Challenge players.  There are many, many factions.  Some strictly for or against characters.  The rest will ignore, help, hinder party based on what that faction learns about what PC's are doing.  There is opportunity for much support, mostly ignored by players even when waving it infront of them.

3. Do character actions have a meaningful impact on the environment?
They could.

4. Does the environment have any laws that differ from the laws of our universe?
Of course, this is fantasy!  There is magic, gods & demons that exist, etc.  Things that may trip up players but their characters would know or rules issues (many new players), I warn them about.  For instance Paladin's detect evil ability requires vocal/somatic and thus is clearly visible and considered rude to do on people.

5. Are your characters regular joes or heroic types?
Above avg joes & semi heroic abilities (cause AD&D expects some level of munchkinism).  ToEE campaign is LG so "heros" in that sense.  But, death and failure are very possible.  There is no guaranteed happy or heroic ending.

6. Are the dice weighted in the characters' favor or is the universe unforgiving?
Worse than unforgiving.  If players rely on dice/mechanics over wit and strategy they will fail.

7. Should the characters trust the GM? If not, why not?
Not as NPC / Monster, obviously.
Yes for rules (although I make tons of mistakes etc.  Overall I strive to be fair.  Also, never penalize players for my mistake)
For rest,  in a way no and yes.  I challenge *players* (which is the yes part.  DM role is to challenge, otherwise might as well do collaborative storytelling or play computer RPG)  One way to challenge is subtly using psychology against them.   For instance if they know they are in a race to get through area.  I will give them every opportunity, temptation even, to dawdle.  Just by providing a word or two extra description on something will often lead players mistakingly believing that something to be vastly important and waste inordinate amount of effort on nothing.



Labyrinth Lord / OD&D mashup Gold & Glory

1. What sort of environment does your story take place in? Is everything random? Semi-random? Carefully planned?
Exploration based sandbox.  Crazy mashup of Science Fantasy, Steam, Post-Apocalypse, and anything else that catches my fancy.  The world is unknown (to characters) everything must be discovered.  There's tons of stuff placed on map ala JG Wilderlands or Carcosa (btw some of that in there also).  Many, many random tables for fleshing out, filling in blanks.

Despite that I consider it carefully planned, lots of (learnable) internal logic.

2. Does your environment support the characters, challenge the characters, or both?
Indifferent and Uncaring.  There are few if any self-less "good" NPCs/Monsters.  Everyone has their own goals and agenda, just like in real life.

3. Do character actions have a meaningful impact on the environment?
They could.  But, only if characters do something meaningful.

4. Does the environment have any laws that differ from the laws of our universe?
More so than most campaigns.  The Wilderness and Dungeons are "Mythic", they don't follow any rules.  Goblins don't have ecology, they are in this room to eat you!

5. Are your characters regular joes or heroic types?
Outcasts and "failures" of society.  If they had skills (say blacksmithing) or even ability to settle down make a farm & family.  They sure as hell would be doing that rather than risking death and worse poking around in dungeons.

6. Are the dice weighted in the characters' favor or is the universe unforgiving?
Random.  You lose control over your fate if you leave it up to dice.  It's almost always better to anything other than dice rolling. (better to trick dragon out of treasure than fight for it) No skills, descriptive adjudication.

7. Should the characters trust the GM? If not, why not?
They should (but probably don't) trust that I'm not out to kill them.  They shouldn't (but probably do) trust that I'm gonna only provide challenges they can handle, that I'll lead them along a path of success, that campaign world exists to provide them regular, safely acquired, parcels of treasure and experience.

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