Consistency is my hobgoblin (rollick) wrote in roleplayers,
Consistency is my hobgoblin

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On GM reveals

My general position as a GM is to never let the players peek behind the curtain. I like to maintain the illusion that they're actually interacting with a world, rather than stuff I'm making up on the fly. So whether they come up with a brilliant solution I hadn't anticipated, or do something I think is profoundly ill-advised, I generally try to keep a poker face and deal with it. I think that makes the game feel more "real," and if that illusion is maintained, it makes me less of an antagonist or obstacle, whereas they get to feel more like, say, dwarves fighting a dragon and less like people playing pretend with dice and paper.

But I was at GenCon this past weekend, and I had a couple of experiences that started me thinking about this. The first was in a playtest of an unreleased game called Anointed: Mantle Of The Gods. The GM had run the same scenario multiple times at different conventions, and from time to time, he'd let us know how other players had done with parts of the scenario — like the encounter early on, where we talked a frightened, hiding kid out of a tree and got useful information out of him, whereas the last group had shot him to death at the first glimpse of something moving in the woods.

The other case was a game of Dread, a horror game that uses Jenga as a mechanic, which makes for huge tension as the story progresses and things get more difficult. The way it's supposed to work is that whoever knocks over the tower dies, and then it's rebuilt, but with a bunch of pieces removed so the players start at a higher difficulty. But after three hours of play, we still had an intact tower, which we were approaching with breathless terror at every new pull. And the GM finally admitted he was supposed to keep pushing the scenario until at least one of us died, but we'd been so careful, and so successful, and through so much tension that he felt we deserved the reward of making it out alive.

In both cases, I had the same reaction: Elation that we'd done better than previous groups, but disappointment at being forcibly reminded that this was all an artificial construct that a lot of people trudge through in the exact same fashion. In the latter case especially, it felt a little like we were being handed a victory by GM largess rather than strictly earning it.

And I've been in games where the GMs have gone farther, openly admitting things like "I was expecting you all to fail at that. Now that you've succeeded, I have no idea what comes next, I guess I'll have to think about it." I hate that kind of thing — it makes whatever comes next feel more thrown-together and arbitrary than it would otherwise, and to me, it makes the GM feel kind of petty and unprepared.

I recognize that this is just a play-style question, and it has a lot to do with my feelings that a really good RPG session is deeply immersive, srs business, which is not how a lot of people play. I'm just curious where other people, as both GMs and players, fall on that scale between wanting to know how the sausage is made, vs. just wanting to eat the sausage and pretend it came from the delicious-magical-sausage tree.
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