*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 24, 2014, 11:58:09 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 38 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [Don't Rest Your Head] How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the System  (Read 1723 times)
ODDin
Member

Posts: 56


« on: May 09, 2011, 08:16:26 AM »

I've been running convention games, and one-timers in general, for some time now. I used to run freeform games, or more precisely, games were I, as the GM, had all responsibilities on myself. It's not just about things like narration, it's more generally about making sure the game works, that the players enjoy what's going on in it (especially important in conventions, where the players actually pay money to be there). Even if the games had stats and things like that, still the most important duties remained on me. I had to constantly remain in focus, to see how all players were doing etc.
For some time now, however, I've been running one-timers using Don't Rest Your Head. An awful lot of them, in fact. (The reason is that I translated the game to Hebrew and am thus busy running demos and making sure it sells.)
In the first times I ran the game, it didn't work all that well. The players had fun, sure, but I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I somehow wasn't getting the game. The mechanics were all there, the rules were all there and applied correctly, but something didn't click.
And then I realised what I was doing wrong. I was still hogging to myself all of my GMing responsibilities. IThe system was sitting there, begging to GM the game with me, if not for me, and I was not letting it.
When I began to let go, it worked marvels. When I run it now, I feel as though there's another GM sitting in the room with me, doing a large chunk of my work. I feel that I can essentially run one-timers of DRYH on auto-pilot. I need to think of things that happen within the game world, yes - which I either improvise or lift from the given setting, mostly. But the real-life responsibilities, those of making the game "work", are largely gone. I mostly just keep an eye to see that the system is doing fine - and 90% of the time it is.
It's a wonderful feeling, really, although I think this post is kinda vague and I'm not sure I'm getting my point across. Hopefully I am, but if I don't, do ask me to clarify.

I'm not saying all one-timers have to be like this. There are other one-timers where I still handle all of those responsibilities myself, because I don't think delegating them to a system is possible in that specific case. But, I think, if you already use a system, this is how it should work, this is how it should be.
(To clarify, I'm not saying that they're run without a system - I've read the Big Model articles and I agree that there's no such thing as no system. What I mean is that I am the system and nothing else - everything runs through me, I pull all the strings etc.)

And, of course, I'm not here to say that DRYH is the only system that does that. It's just the first system with which I've really felt it so strongly - probably because of the concentrated experience I've had with it. Hopefully I'll be able to feel the same way with other systems with time.
Logged

Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2447


WWW
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 01:00:34 PM »

My sense is that Lacuna works the same way. But I've never successfully run Lacuna myself. I think I probably fought the system when I ran it, the way you did with DRYH at first.

Paul
Logged

"[My Life with Master] is anything but a safe game to have designed. It has balls, and then some. It is as bold, as fresh, and as incisive  now as it was when it came out." -- Gregor Hutton
ODDin
Member

Posts: 56


« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 11:33:33 PM »

Pondering about it, I see that I wasn't really truthful saying that the rules were all there. When I run it in conventions, I use pregenerated characters and essentially drop the questionnaire, because (sadly) there just isn't enough time in a one-shot game for all that. (A side result, I think, is drifting the game towards Sim rather than original Nar, but I'm not too sure of that.)
Within the game text, there are lots of useful advice on running the game, but they mostly revolve around the questionnaire, and thus when I dropped it, it was harder for me to see what was actually said there - while the game did actually tell me, though not quite in those words, not to hog the GMing responsibilities.
So, it's not really the game's fault that I didn't realise how to use it correctly.
Although I think that no matter what GMing advice the game gives you, there are things you just have to learn to do on your own and need to realise on your own, probably because when we come to GM a game, we don't come as blank slates, but rather we bring our previous experience as GMs and our previously used tools, which are not always proper for a given game.
Logged

ODDin
Member

Posts: 56


« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2011, 11:35:12 PM »

And I admit to never having even read Lacuna, but still: Paul, do you think the game could've given more advice on how to correctly use it?
Logged

Tim C Koppang
Member

Posts: 393


WWW
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2011, 09:15:22 AM »

Michael,

Your post is interesting, but I'm having a bit a trouble figuring out what changed from the time when you were fighting the system to the time when you took a more hands off approach.  Could you give me one or two examples of how the system helped you "co-GM" the game?  I think that would go a long way towards helping me understand what you and Paul are getting at.  As just one possible example, are you talking about something in the mechanics that help you, or are you talking about letting the players guide the action more directly?

Thanks,
- Tim
Logged

ODDin
Member

Posts: 56


« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2011, 10:00:15 AM »

I think the main thing that happened is that I come with much less expectations and intentions regarding where the game will go. My first "adventures" (if you excuse the term) when running the game were much more structured. Sure, there was still room for the players to contribute, but I had a pretty clear idea regarding what was going to happen during the game.
In later "adventures" I wrote, there's much less of that, and mostly there are general ideas regarding what's going on and interesting places to visit along the way, but very little in terms of where the game will actually go.

One aspect of the system that I was previously fighting with were the Madness Talents. Those talents are quite powerful things. When used fully, they can really change how things are going on - and having too solid ideas about what should be happening doesn't really let them work. Now I highly encourage players to interpret their Madness Talents metaphorically, and I also write them accordingly. ("My Madness Talent is to get behind things. I want to get behind the High School. I mean, to get to what's really behind it." - this being an actual play example.) So, now that I don't plan stuff, I can really let Mandess Talents shine. I have no idea what will happen in the next scene, and neither do the players, and I just go with it and see where it gets me.

Another aspect is what happens when madness dominates. That should indicate that things get more chaotic. When I have no strict plans on what's going on, I can really "go wild" with that. I don't always do, but when I occasionally do, it's fun and it helps.

And yet another aspect is worrying about spotlight, pacing and structuring. With a simple rule of "one roll per character and then we move to the next one" (not something stated in the game itself but something I've come up with), a LOT of the these issues are really very easily dealt with. Rolling the dice in DRYH is lots of fun and quite satisfying and gives players lots of spotlight, and also provides structure. Sure, there's still some things in this regard the system doesn't handle for me - sometimes dialogues drag out with no dice hitting the table and I need to cut things without rolling dice, or sometimes the group is unevenly separated and the spotlight considerations become somewhat different, but it's still not too much work.

However, I wouldn't really say that what happened is players contributing more; in the example I gave with the Madness Talents, I was the one who answered what really was behind the High School (which I improvised on the spot). I'm the one doing most of the narration (which, as I said, I mostly improvise.)
It's just that with a free form game I don't think I'd risk doing something like that - going with very little preparation and counting on my ability to improvise things and the players' occasional contribution. In DRYH, I feel the structure of the system drives the game forward very well no matter what happens, and thus it's a lot harder for me to get stuck and not know what to do and how to continue.
Logged

Elkin
Member

Posts: 13


« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2011, 05:46:46 AM »

I've had the same moment of enlightenment about a month ago, when I GMed my first game of Apocalypse World to a group of adults.

AW does not state explicitly what the system does; instead, it states explicitly what are your goals as GM. Your goals are to (1) make the world seem real, (2) make the PCs' lives not boring and (3) play to find out out what happens.

The corollary is that it is not your job to make sure the players are entertained; it is not your job to take care of pacing and atmosphere; it is not your job to be fair or to challenge the skills of the players or the PCs.  it is not your job to carefully ration information and set the game towards the big showdown or the big reveal. The game text also explicitly warns you, several times, that if you plan anything in advance other than "these are the various threats, and this is what they will do unless they are somehow foiled", you are not playing Apocalypse World.

Once I've started to apply these principles, I've been feeling underworked when GMing. It does takes a huge burden of your shoulders, especially when contrasted with the carefully-planned Exalted campaign I played with the same group a few months ago.
Logged
Callan S.
Member

Posts: 4268


WWW
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2011, 04:46:25 PM »

But then it's just a board game! And why do you even need a GM then!?

Just joking! Just joking! I have some sick sense of humour in writing the very words I'd dread to read...

Well that and I'm outlining the method of critique that is often applied on these matters (thankfully not in this thread so far) of treating this as a binary. Ie, either the GM decides on and handles everything OR it's a board game. When really it's a sliding scale of how much a GM decides things and how much hard rules determine the activities progress and eventual outcome. With each game author deciding where they set the slider for each of their games. I think there's alot of liberty in realising the slider doesn't have to be pressed hard toward the 'GM handles/determines everything' end.
Logged

ODDin
Member

Posts: 56


« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2011, 10:44:56 PM »

I don't think this is really the difference between RPGs and board games. Fiasco has no GM whatsoever, but I wouldn't really call it a board game.
Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.16 | SMF © 2011, Simple Machines
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!