June 23rd, 2006

  • gillan

Lessons Learned

So I was running a Charnel Gods game of Sorcerer earlier this week. It was the third or so session, and we introduced a new player to the second story arc of the game. It fell limp. Now, I know Sorcerer is capable of pushing some badass games - I've played in them and run them - but this one was totally blah. The players were bored, and the goings-on of the game just seemed kind of week. And I remember being in games like this one, where I would sit there wishing I had brought a book.

Now, some folks I've talked to think I'm being hypercritical of myself, but I think there is a way to keep this from happening. And I'm sure this revelation for me is a "No duh," thing for a lot of you, but still here it is: constantly hammer the players.

Now, by that I don't mean torture their characters, or keep throwing combat encounters at them, or even never give them a chance to breathe. But I'm beginning to liken GMing to spinning plates. You gotta keep them going fast and when they start to slow down you got to give them another spin. Otherwise, you're going to drop your plates (and bore your players).

Now, what I've been thinking of are the different ways you can "give the plates a spin," and I welcome your thoughts and additions.

- Combat. The old standby. Characters are on the run from the police in a military dictatorship? Have them jumped by some soldiers or a SWAT team or somesuch. Crawling through an ancient tomb? Have some long-slumbering horror try to eat them.

- Tough decisions. The demon-summoning sorcerer's daughter is beaten into a coma, and the doctors tell him her chances of survival are slim. Does he watch her die, or summon a demon into her knowing it's his only chance of saving her? A powerful, cruel spirit offers you asylum in return for your swearing fealty to him. Do you do so, knowing that he'll likely try and use you to some evil use but knowing that it will protect you from the powerful enemies that want you dead?

- NPCs with agendas. A village is in danger of being attacked by bandits, and you samurai are their only hope. A woman's child has been brutally murdered, and you're the only ones with the authority/capacity for violence to do something about it.

- A relationship change. The character's squire professes his love for her. A long-time enemy seeks an alliance.

All of these seem to be most effective when they allow you to make statements about your characters in the process. Will the character get in a deadly fight with the police even though he's innocent and the police are just doing their jobs? etc. That allows the players to really roleplay their characters - get in their heads and decide who they are by making statements about them.

Any other suggestions on ways to "spin the plates"? :)
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