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Author Topic: Why do you like to design and run games?  (Read 4994 times)
Natespank
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Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« on: February 05, 2011, 10:43:25 PM »

I'm thinking about games with a game master/designer who runs the game for the "players."

What do you guys get out of game mastering? What do you like about it? I've developed many complex theories about what players get out of it, but I'm confused about why game masters enjoy running and designing games. For that matter, in a game like D&D 4e, what exactly is the dungeon master's role- what aspects of it allure people to the position? I can't get anyone else to DM for my group.

Personally I like creating an intricate sequence of hooks and choices that suck players in and addict them; I like to intrigue my players with my setting, characters and stories.

One of my favorite game experiences was a hidden dungeon I built to be run over 4 sessions. I didn't tell the players it existed, but just let them explore and loot- they almost missed it. As an afterthought they searched a room and found one of my entrances (finally!), and delved in. They explored the first few rooms, expecting a tiny dungeon, and eventually spent the next 9 solid hours delving into it with a 2 person party. They figured out all the puzzles and enjoyed it a lot- they were too few players to fight the final boss so they negotiated with it instead. They loved it so much they made me throw together another adventure for the next day. I felt really great about it.

A complication, and the reason for the post: I think that as game master my role is to create and run a game that everybody intensely enjoys- and that means, to me, giving control over to the players in most ways. Player choices are the most interesting part for the players- but sorta dull for the DM. The role of DM seems sort of self-sacrificing.

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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 07:31:02 AM »

Hey Nate,

That is an interesting play anecdote. I'd like to focus more on your experience instead of seeing the thread become a mere poll of others' views, although others' experiences will be interesting to compare after we know more about yours.

For example, who was playing? I don't mean names so much as the social scene in question. Has the group been playing together for a while? To have that kind of payoff, sort of a realization on their part that you had really busted out major prep but were not going to railroad them into it ... well, it's a fun thing. The question is whether it's more fun than simply starting them at the opening to the dungeon and saying, "there it is." For some groups, the uncertainty of what you did would be the less fun option, although in your group, I'm guessing it's more fun to do it how you did it.

I'd like to follow up on what you're rightly seeing as a crucial social role for the DM, but I really do need more information and perspective on your group and preferred ways of playing. For instance, what specific experiences, as DM or player, have you had which let you know for sure that less player choice was less fun for you?

Best, Ron
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 05:03:39 PM »

Gotcha.

The design method I've tried to follow is that the DM makes the game and it's his responsibility to make it a fun one. I play with friends who I've known for years, we're all experienced players, but that particular incident was early when we began- level 3 or so? I figure that if somebody at the table isn't having fun and being engaged, I blame myself as DM- in that way the DM's role is to make the players enjoy the game and get hooked on it. By taking responsibility for the quality of the game I can push myself to be a better DM.

I think the player's choices matter more than anything- anything that I railroad will be outside the fun part of the game and annoy the players at worst. I think the DM should bait the players, not push them. We're all fans of the Fallout RPGs which are extremely open ended, we have this quality in common where we prefer to direct our own actions when players. We're all fairly bright and in university, so our games get pretty tactical and strategic sometimes, but with rich roleplaying and faction fighting. For example, they'll play factions against one another and even within the group they swipe items, argue, and backstab in a fun way- I don't step in because I think that group cohesion is a player issue, not a DM issue unless it gets WAY out of hand.

As for the role of the DM... I wonder sometimes, if I let the players drive the game I can't design the story, can I? All I can do is develop situations and settings. I like writing stories though. Also, if it's about the players as the main characters, the DM and his NPCs are lesser characters, so he loses some of the spotlight. If he develops a setting thoroughly enough the DM  has a small role in some RPGs where he just describes rooms and makes decisions for monsters. It seems like it shouldn't be very enjoyabe.

However, my game today was great! I loved it and yet it was a very player oriented session. It seems weird to me. I seem to enjoy making these scenarios that hook people.
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Devon Oratz
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Posts: 75


« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2011, 11:16:40 AM »

Let's see.

Well, first, let me respond to the TITLE of this topic, and then to the content of the first post, which don't seem to be in perfect alignment.

I like to design games. I like to run games. But to be honest, I don't always like to design games I run. Or perhaps that would be that I don't always like to run games I design? There is an important caveat here. I have been running and designing one game continuously more-or-less full time for over five years. But that game is a LARP, an arena where everyone playing the game in the whole world, afaik, is playing it with me as the GM, and it's not uncommon for people to wear many hats: in my case, creator/designer/promoter/lead GM. (If you think about some well known published games and their issues with rules clarity and balance, having the design team/GM be the same people would actually be a pretty big asset.) As far as table top is concerned, me spending a significant amount of time running a game I designed would have to be the exception, not the rule.

The reason for this is that, while designing games is fun, playing any game, even as the GM, is a PRIMARILY RECREATIONAL ACTIVITY. Designing a game is a fun sort of work, whereas being a GM is a worklike sort of fun. I can only get my gaming group to meet once a week, maximum, and usually less than that, and usually for less hours than I'd like. In that time, if it's a choice between having fun by running my ongoing Shadowrun campaign, for instance, or using them as guinea pigs for a game design I have completed, I will often choose the former. (This was actually part of the reason that I was a little surprised that The Forge apparently had more to do with describing your experience playtesting your own games than offering completed games for others to playtest.) Hence, the playtesting phase has been and continues to be a difficult one for me as a designer of P&P games. (I make that distinction because I also design video games and LARPs.)

Quote
What do you guys get out of game mastering? What do you like about it? I've developed many complex theories about what players get out of it, but I'm confused about why game masters enjoy running and designing games. For that matter, in a game like D&D 4e, what exactly is the dungeon master's role- what aspects of it allure people to the position? I can't get anyone else to DM for my group.

Personally I like creating an intricate sequence of hooks and choices that suck players in and addict them; I like to intrigue my players with my setting, characters and stories.

I think you answered your own question almost perfectly there (emphasis mine).

Speaking personally, I like everything that you like. Additionally, I like to make my players FEEL things by immersing them in atmosphere, in what Ron calls Color, and in character. I like to make them laugh, I like to scare and surprise them, and even to make them cry, through the auspices of the shared imaginative space. Most of all, I like seeing their choices, how they make them (usually by lengthy and amusing in-character bickering) and how those choices effect the story and its setting. I like designing challenges and seeing them try to survive and defeat them. 

My primary players are and have always been first and foremost my friends and my primary social group, so there's also that. I never game outside of seeing them, and I only rarely see them outside of gaming.
 
Quote
One of my favorite game experiences was a hidden dungeon I built to be run over 4 sessions. I didn't tell the players it existed, but just let them explore and loot- they almost missed it. As an afterthought they searched a room and found one of my entrances (finally!), and delved in. They explored the first few rooms, expecting a tiny dungeon, and eventually spent the next 9 solid hours delving into it with a 2 person party. They figured out all the puzzles and enjoyed it a lot- they were too few players to fight the final boss so they negotiated with it instead. They loved it so much they made me throw together another adventure for the next day. I felt really great about it.

God I wish my players had that kind of stamina and enthusiasm. After five hours of ANYTHING (let alone a dungeon delve) my players are usually about ready to call it a day, and I've never had them asking for more after nine hours. Anyway it seems like what you're doing is working.

Quote
A complication, and the reason for the post: I think that as game master my role is to create and run a game that everybody intensely enjoys- and that means, to me, giving control over to the players in most ways. Player choices are the most interesting part for the players- but sorta dull for the DM. The role of DM seems sort of self-sacrificing..

Although I think I may be what most of The Forge would consider a firm traditionalist (I have no interest in GMless or diceless play), I nonetheless feel the opposite of what you're staying here. Without players to interact with the stories that I'm telling, without someone to face the challenges and choices I'm creating, then there would really be no point. I guess I am saying that as a GM, player choices are the most interesting part for me, the big ones (which faction do we join?) and the little ones (which way do we go at this intersection?).

That is why my interest in writing my own single-author prose fiction has been steadily waning over the last few years. That is definitely work, but when you add interactivity, then it becomes fun. If you mean that you're burnt out on GMing and want a break, that's perfectly normal. You can probably sell one of the players on running the game for a while while you take a break and PC.

You also might want to try making a PC of the same level as the characters to accompany them, a recurring PC that you roleplay as, as that might make you feel more like you're "playing" the game even when you're GMing (and give you a way to subtly nudge PCs toward fun/cool stuff they might otherwise have missed). Just make absolutely sure that it's not anymore powerful or important than the PCs: almost all players absolutely hate that. Powerful,. godlike NPCs have their place but it should not be outshining the PCs, likewise, GMPCs have their function but should never be powerful enough to make the players irrelevant.
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2011, 08:02:40 PM »

Quote
You also might want to try making a PC of the same level as the characters to accompany them, a recurring PC that you roleplay as, as that might make you feel more like you're "playing" the game even when you're GMing (and give you a way to subtly nudge PCs toward fun/cool stuff they might otherwise have missed). Just make absolutely sure that it's not anymore powerful or important than the PCs: almost all players absolutely hate that. Powerful,. godlike NPCs have their place but it should not be outshining the PCs, likewise, GMPCs have their function but should never be powerful enough to make the players irrelevant.

I'm strongly opposed to DM PCs unless they're incompetent- spotlight's gotta be on the PCs, every DM character I've played with has annoyed me :D

As per Ron's suggestion, I suppose this thread is temporarily closed in lieu of the sandbox thread. That's a better one anyway.
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