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Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource' started by DarkLordoftheFins, Sep 11, 2009.

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  1. Imperial_Hammer Manager Emeritus: RPFs

    Member Since:
    Sep 25, 2004
    star 5
    I am happy on multiple levels with many of the recent posts in this thread, from Light's insightful rejoinder to Market Theory all the way down. However, unless this is the first discussion the GMG is having, perhaps we should return to topic? Market Theory is as fine a place as any to discuss, but it seemed that there was already a discussion taking place before it came up (which is the only reason why I ask)? I'll leave that call to Finsy and/or the group as a whole.

    -I_H
  2. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 23, 2005
    star 6
    Light's list of no-no's ought to be read over again, I believe. There's some good stuff in there.

    Also, I have one critique of "Market Theory:" all economic theories are ten years behind what's actually happening. :p
  3. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    Read through them once more and indeed they deserve more attention. They get easily lost in the "wall-of"text" but make some excellent point. If nobody does it first, I´ll have a closer view at them, later.
  4. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Cogitating (stop laughing over there in the back) on the discussion about the Market Theory thus far, I actually have a working metaphor: the Market Theory can be seen as a report on the usual weather conditions in the climate that is the sea of the RPF. There will be occasional storms, doldrums, or gales, but in a very general sense that's the overall phenomena which seem to crop up out here.

    Our boats, the RPGs if you will, sail those seas -- but there are any number of vessel designs that are (a) practical or (b) suitable to sail those waters. The policy on story+rules+character sheet can be regarded as basic seaworthiness, but beyond that it's really the individual captain's choice about what manner of vessel he picks, and how he chooses to trim his sails or rudder his ship. In a sense, the Game Development Group is about seaworthiness; this Game Master Group is about navigating by starlight, tacking, battening down the hatches, and basically knowing the ropes. :D Least that's how I see it.

    Even fits in with 'talk like a pirate day'. Arrrrrr.

    Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, which was how to become a better GM: I agree mileage isn't an essential to become a better GM, any more than one must observe each of the points I raised. I was just interested in teasing out what we mean when we say "Practice", because it's easy to say, but practicing (i.e. repeating) the things that don't work without realising they don't work isn't going to make you any better at it. It just helps to be self-reflective, and frankly it always helps to be honest with yourself. It's very hard to do, I know. This is why you need kind but honest friends and associates who'll tell you the truth about your game.

    Another snippet I'd like to offer before disappearing again (aside from totally endorsing Light's implict point that you have to be having fun, or else why are you running the game) is to repeat something I've said before in the past, and it is somewhat borrowed shamelessly from David Gerrold: I think, subject to further experience, that really a GM is the host of a party, and his players are his guests. A gracious host keeps the music interesting, has entertainments or distractions for his guests, and deals firmly with people who are being idiots to the detriment of other guests. The metaphor isn't exact, since a GM from time to time will have to do unpleasant things to his guests' characters, but I'd posit that is part of the way you ensure the party's a good one -- that you keep it exciting. I think that GMs who use this as a watchword, along with "Pretendy Funtime Games" of course, are basically going to do fine with any RPG they choose to run. But that's my own viewpoint talking: I personally regard GMing as a service to the self in that you feel good helping people have fun and enjoy the creations of your imagination.
  5. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    I love the metaphor about sailing. Saintheart, I love it.

    The range of the party-metaphor is dependend on what parties one visits, I guess. :p Mine are usually more boring than this one.

    So, we seem to make progress about the idea of a good GM.

    Some things to avoid also.


    1. Be aware you play a game - It is important. If you want to tell a story, you´re probably better of in the FanFic forum. Don´t try to force your newest fanon-inventions on your players and expect them to post in aw submissive praises. Don´t present them with powers who are non-canon and simply overpower them. Don´t make posts, NEVER MAKE POSTS, that don´t tag people to tell your story, except you are 100% sure people will like it. 100% not 97%. 100%!

    2. Don´t wait for all to post. Seriosuly. Half CS senders don´t show up, usually. Don´t let all those who wanna play wait until everybody has posted. Move along. I´ve seen games lately that said they waited for another two posters. Sometimes you have to wait, because sometimes situatons need several players to respond. But if one player is in a firefight in New Yorn and the other is doing his laundry in Paris, don´t let the Gunslinger wait, until the Parisian has found a euro to get the mchine started. Update your players. Or they won´t stay. They will loose interest.

    3. Don´t play the lead-character. Simply don´t. Asking players to support you at showing your awesomeness, is not a good way to keep them. And sure, there are games that have GMs playing important characters. And some of them are succesful. Have any of those, ever centered around these characters? GMs can do antagonists. Or support cast. Or even team-members. But you have to letthe others play, too. It is a game.


    Which brings up the idea of lead-characters in general. From a GM standpoint, good or bad? />
  6. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    Personally, I think bad in general ... unless it's an NPC who isn't going to turn into the GM's personal Mary Sue.

    Two reasons for that:

    (1) If you're allowing your lead character to be run by a player, your lead character is therefore dependent on the presence of a particular player. If they drop out you're left in a rather embarrassing situation, to say the least.

    (2) Prejudice, which ties into the Mary Sue thing above and to warnings about not playing your own game. Favour one lead character with all the interesting story stuff and other players might get jealous.
  7. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2002
    star 6
    Speaking as a player, I very sincerely detest it when the GM plays the game's lead character. It should just never be done. It's basically railroading, and sidelining your players, and it's just unfair all around when a player in the game is also the GM and thus has the power to determine the results of all actions and usually uses that power to be awesome. No no. I can't remember the number of game OPs I've read through, thought were pretty good ... and then the second post details the GM's characters and I hit the back button ... but that's a rant for the GDG.


    Regarding lead characters played by players, though, I'm on the fence regarding this one.

    On one hand, it's like Saint said - if you hang a storyline on a particular character and that player leaves, it's very difficult to progress past it (moreso than if a more 'generic' character's player disappeared), and the presence of lead characters leads to resentment from the rest. I'd also imagine it's a bit hairy playing the lead character in the first place, so you're not doing the player any favours there.

    On the other hand, if it so happens that midway through a game one player's character stands out from the rest - by all means give them more important and interesting things to do. It might smack of favouritism, but they've earned it, surely.
  8. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    I am not completely sure of it. Actually I always tried to avoid it, but especially if some players fall behind, loose interest or begin skipping in and out, others take center-stage. That can´t be helped. It is deserved. And that interesting characters make GMs have interesting thoughts is no new syndrome. Case-by-case.

    So, what about those players you know you can rely on? Surely, they have their trust earned already. I think in the end Codex09 is right about that point, when it say you should treat all characters as Protagonist and never, ever make them sideroles. That is for me what makes small games more demanding and rewarding sometimes. You have three guys, and these three totally count! That´s a good way to have leads. If you have 30+ players, that is no option, obviously.

    So, what about having one character everybody loves? I got one of these hanging around in my games. And that character can´t be helped becoming sort of a lead. Reliable, well-written . . . if I try not to make him one, it does by itself. That is something a GM shouldn´t stop. The others seem to enjoy it. I always have back-up plan concerning his/her plot to not rely on her.

    So, what about having a plotline that centers on one character? May he be the main char or just a driving plot-device. Well, you said it. It´s all or nothing, then. If it works, it will work. If he leaves, you can lock the game. It is a matter of taste. Might be better to do, if you have the names and phone-numbers of the other pal, as it was with us germans, always. But you can´t force someone to post.

    So, what about you being the protagonsit of your game? Why players then, I ask? Write a fanfic. Well, maybe people will find it boring and you hope to gather an audience by starting an RP instead. Believe me, people will find it boring nevertheless.

    So, what about having no lead? Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. People enjoy the ride? Everythings fine. Everythings totally fine.

    So, what about plyers putting so much work into hteir story, writing so well, paying so much attention to detail, they seem to have the games centered around you. Are they open? Because if so, other players should get a chance to play along. yes they do? Lucky GM you are, having those players. ;)

    Conclusion: Based on the specific case "leads" can be good but hold great danger. Evaluate it for yourself and if your not sure of it, avoid it. If you got no lead, that means nothing.
  9. Sinrebirth SWC and EUC Forum Moderator

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Nov 15, 2004
    star 7
    Wholeheartedly agreed. Thus Darth Insipid hasn't been the main villain in any games I've ran. :cool: Hate that concept, 100%.

    As an aside, if some players want some freedom to learn the GM ropes, I'm very willing to take on some co-GMs if they require somewhere to play around in. 129 ABY has returned to its simpler roots - i.e. the plot is actually neatly summarised in three short paragraphs - so it has some space for people to have fun in. [face_peace]

    EDIT: As a last, if people want to get involved with me, please contact me through this thread, and make sure you're a member of the Group. I won't accept PMs, and certainly not from non-members of the Group. :p

    If that wasn't clear, I'm signing up as a Game Master Teacher. [face_peace]
  10. Hammurabi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 14, 2007
    star 4
    All this talk of Market Theory, I'd just like to add one thing:

    Market Theory works. It's legit. You can't run a decent game in less there's demand for players to play that game. But there's another side to market theory - GM side market theory. I think that's what some find lacking in RP market theory; it doesn't much take into account the GM's preference. But just like in any other market, the producer is going to want to get something out of what they do. In real life, that's generally some combination of money and satisfaction. Most ardent capitalists (at least ideally) are involved in doing something they love. Either way, a good capitalist is making money off what they do, which itself is a pretty nice compensation.

    Here on the boards none of us are exactly going to profit fiscally from any of this, so GM satisfaction is going to be even more important. Any GM should be satisfied by what they do. Or it's just not worth it. Sure, it's a nice thing to do, but if the situation here is as it was last time I was here, we still have an excess of quality GMs (that situation at least in our history has been somewhat rare though, at least in my experience). Either way, yeah, absolutely take into account what game will best satisfy the community and draw more players when you create a game. But also take into consideration how much satisfaction a given game idea will bring you as the GM. Because that's just as important.



    And with regards to the current discussion:
    I think it's a dangerous, risky thing to do, but in some cases having a GM character around to help guide things and drive things forward in necessary can be a good idea. But only as long as the character is hands-off most of the time, and only actually guides things when necessary. Obi-Wan in the original film is a good example: he drives the story forward while allowing the other characters to play out nearly all of the action.
  11. DarthXan318 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2002
    star 6
    Yes, but Obi-Wan wasn't ANH's lead character. That was Luke. The GM playing Obi-Wan is pretty unobjectionable, but not the GM playing Luke Skywalker, ace pilot and Jedi trainee.
  12. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    Maybe we scratch a broader theme here. Casting. What roles do you let your players do and what can´t be done by them? Which one does a GM enjoys himself? Which roles does the GM has to do?

    Hero. Villian. Support. Mentor. Rival. Sidekick. Background. Faction-Leader. How powerful? How important?

    If you ask the question that way, it makes little sense to say the HERO is played by the GM and everybody else can have his share among the rest. What would be the game about? Praise the GM?
  13. Hammurabi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 14, 2007
    star 4
    I think the real problem here is that any given RP can't really have a single hero character, or else that'll be frustrating for everyone involved. If the GM is the hero, that's doubly frustrating, but the whole notion of having a 'hero' is largely incompatible with multiplayer RP. In general, our stories must revolve around an ensemble cast. Some roles within that cast (the wise old mentor/sponsor, in this instance; a captain figure can also work out, as Hammer's pirates games demonstrate) can make sense in the hands of a GM.

    An interesting, semi-related observation on the roles players play within our roleplaying games:

    Our two chief gametypes - the large-scale, more open-ended game, in which PCs represent nearly all major roles in the RP, across all factions, as well as the small-squale squad/party-based game, are both the two types of casting in the Star Wars films. We can really reduce our games to (instead of large and small) OT vs PT style games. If we're playing OT, our games will focus on a small band of adventurers, probably fighting on the side of good. Other roles (including villains, side characters, and neutral roles, of every degree of importance) are controlled by the GM and, though representative of a larger galaxy, are not our chief focus. Rather it is on the small group of players and the travails they undertake on their quest. Whatever scenes that occur without these characters don't really present another fully-developed set of characters; rather, they simply portray the opposition as opposition, mostly just creating context for the specific antagonisms the heroes face (I'm thinking specifically the Moff Council scenes in SW, as well as the scenes from the Togorian high court in Man Cubs).

    If we're playing PT-style, we come from a much more neutral viewpoint. We've got a full-featured cast of characters from all sides of the picture. Many factions are at work; often these factions ally themselves into a small handful of sides (two or three, generally) while still leaving room within the grander alliance for a multitude of characters of different backgrounds, roles, and factions. For instance, in the PT we see the Jedi Order, which is allied but not entirely in agreement with the Galactic Republic. From the beginning we have Naboo also, which is itself somewhat betrayed by the Republic it is a part of. We also have the Trade Federation, which in the second film becomes a mere component of a larger organization, which itself is connected to the Sith (which incidentally are also in the process of taking control of the Republic itself). As you can see, this sets up a lot of room for intrigue; characters like Dooku, Palpatine, and Anakin are somewhere between multiple organizations.

    Neither situation is really hero-based. Though Luke is arguably the hero of the OT, his role is arguably no more decisive than that played by Han, Leia, Obi-Wan, Yoda, or Vader. There are characters who are more side-characters: I'm thinking specifically of characters like Chewbacca and the droid, who play an important but mostly indecisive role in the action itself. But there's no one character that is especially important, especially in the first film. Arguably, Obi-Wan is; it is he that sets up the quest, hires Han and Chewbacca, and mostly directs the proceedings. Luke's decision to go after the princess is in a way a side-quest in the context of the group's primary goal at that point of escaping the Death Star. As this rescue grows to rival in importance Obi-Wan's mission aboard the ship, we find ourselves with a true ensemble quest in which multiple events are happening at once. The rest of the films follow suit.

    If anything, the PT is (surprisingly) more hero-based, in that it focuses essentially on Anakin in the context of a broader galactic struggle. It's not an ensemble trilogy in the same way the OT is; it is at once broader in scope and more personal in focus.
  14. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    That is a very insightful observation. Actually I never realized that (being in to few games at a time, I guess). But from my first impression it sounds very true to me.
  15. Hero_Of_The_Force Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 2008
    star 2
    I agree. Good observation, I did not really pay much attention to who is and isn't the hero. I thought of them all as heros. But if you go by who has the biggest and smallest part, then yes.
  16. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 23, 2005
    star 6
    My two cents is that there are always players who tend to get the spotlight more than others...not because they're better, but it's just how they are. Some players don't mind being the supporting cast, or at least what we'd think of as the supporting cast.

    In AFAS, I'm playing maxi big canon character Soontir Fel...but it doesn't feel like a big role because I'm doing a lot of little stuff that fills out a background for the rest of the game. I'm cool with it; this is the second canon character I've RPed as and I love it.
  17. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    I gave it some thought and I think while we have a heroes based and squad based tendency around here, we also have another class of game. An all around ensemble cast, more like a book than a movie actually. Where also the villians are played and the grey people and so on. 128 ABY did that, 129 seems to aim for it, but right now I think the most prominent example is AFAS. There you have loads of villians, some greys and a few good guys. Really few, actually. Which is an interesting point. Is it easier to hand villians to players? A GM looses a lot of control over the plot, obviously. But he also gains a charismatic villian, if done right.

    It is obvious some players have specialized on villians, actually. Not even going for the heroes, anymore. They seem to be in high demand.

    But drop-outs are a disaster if it´s the main villian vannishing, obviously. Also the player needs to be ready to follow hte storyline, as usually the heroes will win eventually. It is actually surprising how popular casting of villians is, therefore. So, how do GMs handle a player-villian?

    I have some thoughts on that, having had one in both my games. But I will let the GMs have the stage now. I am eager to hear any opinions on it.
  18. TheSithGirly Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2007
    star 3
    I missed something like this when I was still a regular around here. Good you got a GMG now. Really good.

    So, the player-villian? That´s an interesting point. It´s a great risk and incredible chance for any GM, I´d say. You need the right game, obviously. Something that is multi-perspective and deep enough to entertain a villian as a character. Star Wars actually has with Vader a central character who is a villian and I think many GMs use his use as a template. If you go with it, and make the villian a player you obviously need someone reliable. Very reliable. Or you need a game that´s huge enough for you to forget all about it, if it needs to be like that. You also need someone who avoids all the trappings of such a character . . . which might be the hardest part.

    A villian of a player needs to be a much more complex entity than a GM baddie. That´s probably more for CDG, but it is something to keep in mind as a GM. If your villian doesn´t work, your game usually doesn´t. So, I must say, while I always admired those games where the villians were incorporated as characters, I needed a long time to get myself familiar with the idea and until today I think of my main-baddie as a Co-GM.
  19. SirakRomar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2007
    star 4
    I wondered if the Game-Master-Training-Program has actually made any progress? Because I am before my debut as a minor Co-GM and I feel like I could use something less abstract for help. :p It´s only Co-GMing and only for a few good friends, but anyway. I feel a little itchy about it.
  20. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    So, to not ignore this . . . I´ll bring up the training program when I feel there are enough people to join it. Pretty similar to what Sinre envisioned a while ago. A game where people can train to GM. But as I said, ifthere is enough interest. Until then I encourage people to ask GMs about opinion and advice. I know few people around here who are not ready to help a debutant.

    In your case Sirak, that will be me :D I´ll play in your debut anyway. So feel free to ask for help.
  21. Bravo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2001
    star 6
    Did anyone else run into the "players disappearing" phenomenon just before school/college went back into session? In STAR WARS: INTERVENTION (A story-telling style OT starfighter game) we had a really strong starting, then about the middle to end of July, we lost a large portion of our player base. The interesting thing is that some of those who have left haven't logged on to the boards since they left our game, which leads me to believe that school/college grabbed some of those players.

    Anyone agree or disagree? Anyone go through this as well?

    We have a strong core group of three RPers right now and for where the story was at, it was good. But we are looking to expand our player base for the events in the story that are coming up, in case anyone is looking for a game. Two of our players are college students, so don't worry about a frantically fast-paced RPG with homework load. ;)
  22. Ktala Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 7, 2002
    star 6
    Oh goodness yes!!

    I've noticed it for a long time. But this year it seems to have gotten MUCH WORSE than in other years. Perhaps the recession, who knows. But you can tell when finals and such hit the boards, as it gets quiet. But this summer was worse. As you said, some folks simply disappeared from the boards all together. Either finances caused folks to lose DSL lines, or just too dang busy fighting Darth RL, it was much more noticeable this year.

    But yeah, beginning year of college students takes a BIG bite from the boards. Hopefully, this will not last long.
  23. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 7
    Speaking from the college students' perspective... it can get nasty on the DRL front.

    Oh so nasty...[face_worried]

    So the trend doesn't surprise me in the least.
  24. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    The vanishing syndrome is a problem, actually. I think it is one of the great challenges for a GM to deal with player-dissappearences. From what I´ve seen and experienced there are two stages of vanishing players.

    1. They send in a CS and then are gone. MAYBE they send in a first post, too. But after three posts or so, early on they vanish. Sometimes they tried to "reconnect" with RPF and couldnßt do it. Sometimes they just don´t want to, because it is not what expected. Often it is just a lack of discipline or motivation. It makes your beginning unreliable and leads to the most popular GM-beginner mistake I´ve seen lately. The Wait.

    The Wait: Means you let your five players who wanna play wait for the one or two who don´t reply. It is a death sentence. I consider myself a loyal player, but if I realize nobody updates me . . . I spend my time with games which are updated. I think everybody feels like this. So, I think after a certain time-amount a GM must just move on. No matter what. If you look through games who died on page 2 you realize many GMs did this lately.

    2. The School/University/Work vanishings. This is what you talked about here. It happens suddenly. For me it is always unpredictable, as I have no clue when school begins in the US and it is a pain. It is a board-wide symptome. And it hits all of us the same time. I feel like we´re odwn on 50% of our players right now. Lucky I am, it did not seriously hit my game. Well, there is no way to deal with it, except prepare oneself to play on without these players. A game around here must be played in a fashion it can replace every player if needed. If you rest your game on someones shoulders you should better know he is reliable. In general one looses lots of players and if you set no endpoint but just play the game as long as it goes . . . you´ll see all of them vanish in time. What can be done about it?


    There is no secret weapon I am aware of. Some things might help, though.

    1. Players you know
    Most of us have many of those anyway, but it is helpful to know the guys you play with. It is just not as easy to vanish when your e-friend is GMing the thing. One should always take new players and especially newbies into the fold, as well. That is important. But I really think a base from which to build your game from is a good thing to start with.

    2. Have a game not set around one character
    Do not play games that NEED a character or make clear he will be taken from the player, if he does not reply. 128 ABY back in the old days repalced two of three faction leaders. One of them twice, while playing. It worked, when it was done gentls and with respect.

    3. Have a time limit
    To avoid killing your game by hoping for replies, you should have a limit after which you move on and a limit after which you take a character from the player. Simply because it makes people aware they´re meant to post and it helps other players deal with vanishings. It is a syndrome that once one or two players leave others have the idea it is a dying game nad leave, too.

    4. Narration
    I did not believe it myself, but many people around here think it helps if you have a set end, that players can see. It is a motivation for players to reach a finale, surely. In my own game it seems to have worked very fine, even though it was not my reason to do it that way. An open ended game seems to give people more of a feeling they can drop out any time and rejoin in a year. Which they cannot . . . as games die eventually. And they won´t do it, anyway. An end that comes sooner or later makes them rethink dropping out, as they simply might miss the finale.

    5. Award staying
    It is simple, but most of us identify with our characters. And every player wants to be a meaningful character to a game. A GM should not make those who post irrgulary or almost never his "main-character". We had the discussion lately, here. It was a point we missed. Who posts only every few weeks is a natural support cast, I think. Because he cannot carry a story. He only adds a little to it. That´s they way i/>
  25. Bravo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2001
    star 6
    At least I'm not alone in my thinking. :p When we started losing player suddenly, it wasn't too hard to keep the story going from where we're at right now, although it was disheartening to see so many leave. :(

    I am pleased to report that our core group of players have stayed loyal and we're moving ahead pretty steadily. :) We are recruiting right now (I sent my players the PM's last night) and we're pretty excited! I'm hoping once we get the summary post up, that that will attract even more players so they don't have to read through seven pages of posts. The Assistant GM or myself could very easily catch anyone up in a PM, so its nice with where we're at story wise. :)

    Speaking of a narrative, as noted in the post above, the Assistant GM and myself have a set story and set ending already in place. We've even talked about a second game, since the first game's ending will provide access to a second game. The nice thing about our game is that it's storyline driven, so we have these "Storyline Posts" that are like bench markers in the story and connect the whole game together. So as the game is played, our players are exposed to these "Storyline Posts" that give them access to what is going on elsewhere in the game (i.e. bad guys, past events, current events) so that they are given a wider and more detailed picture of the game as a whole.
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