Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Alekzanter

So, I've been researching how to be a better GM...

Recommended Posts

Over on the WHFRP3 forum I came across a thread discussing left brain and right brain, and how we interpret dice results, particularly numbers vs symbols. In that thread someone said something about players "self GMing" their dice results, the narratives.

This got me to thinking about how my players "lock up" imaginatively when narrating...well, nearly everything. They play quite a few crunchy, rigid RPGs, like Pathfinder. Personally, I don't care for it. Also, I abandoned Dark Heresy and its ilk because of the intense technical nature of its engine. I think when the players come to my game they have trouble engaging the imaginative sides of their brains because they train all week on analytical RPG skills.

I was thinking about talking with my players about what being players vs being a GM means, and maybe discarding "player" from the equation and letting them self GM while I give moderate directional focus and act as an impartial arbitor.

I would like to start a discussion, not about GM tips per se, but about ways to encourage and nurture creativity. There are some really great threads scattered throughout the WHFRP3 forums on this topic, but sadly I cannot link them because my access is limited. Perhaps we can begin here, start fresh, and share our observations and the techniques used to help our players get their creative juices pumping?

Edited by Alekzanter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great idea for a thread!

 

I've found that the more sensory detail I give to my players, the more they reciprocate and become personally involved in the scene. Of course that sounds obvious, but I'm talking about the really nitty-gritty stuff: maybe a blowing wind kicks up some tiny grit that you can feel smacking lightly against your face. Maybe you can hear the slight basso thumping of the music from inside the cantina you're standing outside of. Maybe the citizen who walked past you is having 'lunch on the run', and whatever they're having smells delicious. Stuff like that.

 

I've found that including these pointless(?) details helps to get them out of 'IDENTIFY AND ACHIEVE GOAL' mode, and into 'I am here, what shall I do?' mode...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've found that talking with the entire group and letting your players know that they are free to add to the narration. Explain that this game is more like cooperative storytelling then what they are used to. It will take them to describe what their characters are doing in detail, including combat. Also, tell them that they are free to add narration to the failures, despairs, and threats that you roll as a GM. For some players it takes them a bit to get used to the fact that they have agency in a game and that their descriptions matter. To help them get in the mode of helping with the narration, award a bonus of 5 xp to the player(s) that actively do this. This will get your other players to think and ultimately become co-narrators.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like to prompt players for details, and when I'm playing I like to provide excess details where appropriate to help build the scene.  

I like to pre-start the session by mailing out a crawl to my players.

I like to start the session with the intro music, wherein I read the crawl aloud.

I like to keep themed music playlists playing in the background.

I like to have props, be they visuals projected on the wall or something players can hold in their hands.

I like what we call "beer league" play wherein a little boozing is welcome and in fact encouraged.  

I like to take control of the lighting to change the mood.

I like to ask leading questions.

 

Great topic idea!  I am always seeking to hone my craft.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The more I think about it I don't like the idea of pushing dice as the narrative tool. The narrative tool should be imagination.

I view the dice as a small herd of production designers and assistant script writers. If the players are given moderate direction and focus, then they become the primary script writers.

I also think its a matter of enthusiasm. As GM, I need to get them enthused. This can be difficult; arrive for game, eat sack lunch from McD's, chit chat a bit to catch up, spend last week's XP award (this last one is a bit frustrating for me because when we started I specifically asked my players to spend five or ten minutes during the week to maintenance their characters BEFORE the next session, and its a technical aspect right out of the gate, a quibble really, but I'm frustrated because it's detrimental to immersion). Anyway...

What I need to do is is come out of the gate running: instead of asking them "What do you want fo do?" I need to be enthusiastic, give a quick recap of the previous week's highlights, direct their attention to plot hooks and interactive options, and GO!

Edited by Alekzanter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I need to do is is come out of the gate running: instead of asking them "What do you want fo do?" I need to be enthusiastic, give a quick recap of the previous week's highlights, direct their attention to plot hooks and interactive options, and GO!

 

Your plan is solid, it just takes practice. I allot about 30 minutes of pregame time to chitchat, eating and prep.  Once I start the music, it is GO time I don't like to break the mood until a break or the session is over.  Of course this takes a lot of energy from a grumpy old guy so I keep my sessions short (2-3 hours) and I prefer to run every other week. 

 

If you can end a session on a cliffhanger and start the next session in media res  then you have half your work already done and you can build off that.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great thread idea! 

 

 - Reward both good RP and creative reading of the narrative dice with bonus xp. 

 

 - Have players explain their actions before they roll, they might earn boost dice for thinking out side of the box, instead of just saying, "I shoot the guy in front of me."

 

 - Have them explain how they are using advantage to pass along boost dice to their fellow players. Don't let them just say I pass a boost to the next guy. Reward players who explain why their teammates get a boost. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great idea!

 

My entire RPG system history has had the burden of description and narrative fall on the shoulders of the GM (usually me). Old habits die hard, and I've noticed that I am doing this in this game system too, and I'd rather not. This system seems well-tailored to allowing the players to have a greater say in what happens so I've asked them to let me know if I'm slipping into the old habits of GMing other RPGs.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of them narrating the results of their own dice rolls. It will be strange for all of us (we're old), but I'm excited to see where it leads.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One tactic that has helped me greatly is if (or rather When) the rolling player and I get stumped for ideas or stuck in a rutt of technical back and forth, I prompt another player to get involved, usually the least active one at that moment.  They can contribute either in character, or you can get them to comment directly about the shared narrative; either way will help shake up a stale or stagnant mind set.

 

Usually I prompt with something along the lines of "Hey ____, your character has seen this sort of thing before.  What was it like then?"

Edited by ardoyle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you are in person. As the player describes what they want to do push the negative dice towards them. 

Ie I want to run across the tight rope (push 2 purple dice) shooting at( target is close range next to an ally push a couple set back into the pile and replace a purple with a red)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like to prompt players for details, and when I'm playing I like to provide excess details where appropriate to help build the scene.  

I like to pre-start the session by mailing out a crawl to my players.

I like to start the session with the intro music, wherein I read the crawl aloud.

I like to keep themed music playlists playing in the background.

I like to have props, be they visuals projected on the wall or something players can hold in their hands.

I like what we call "beer league" play wherein a little boozing is welcome and in fact encouraged.  

I like to take control of the lighting to change the mood.

I like to ask leading questions.

 

Great topic idea!  I am always seeking to hone my craft.  

 

A GM after my own heart.

 

The easiest way to not have to describe every little thing is to get the players to do it. Punish mistakes and reward creativity. If a player says "I attack the stormtrooper with my vibroblade" have the roll reflect just that. If the player says "I want to thrust my vibro blade into the soft spot of the stormtrooper's armor between the helmet and the chest piece, trying to bleed him from the carotid artery" you reward that by applying an applicable difficulty and maybe a boost die for creativity.

 

I strive to encourage "Role play" vs "Roll play"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd also like this discussion to touch upon the philosophy and psychology of "getting into character". Knowing your players well enough that you can stroke their egos, catering to their personal needs for the game rather than just those of their characters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regardless of system in use (AoR, EotE or F&D), it is advised to use common (or common-sensical) Obligations as a dramatic tool, even if it is not in play as an actual game mechanic.

 

For example: you're playing Age of Rebellion, and one of your players wants to play a Rebel Soldier that has Duty (Ground Superiority) who left her old life because she thought fighting the Empire and freeing the oppressed was the right thing to do.

 

During "Session Zero", ask the player about her character's previous civilian life. Are her parents alive? Does she have a brother or sister? What was she like growing up? Basically, who or what did she leave behind? Note these all down, but explain that you'll be using them for flavor, rather than the Obligation mechanic.

 

During the course of the campaign, have her family members or members of the "old gang" send letters or holo-messages every other session or so, either at the start before mission briefing, or after once the characters jump to lightspeed.

 

Session 2:

 

"As you get your repaired rifle back from the Quartermaster, he hands you a small box. Inside is a wampa stuffed toy, hand-made with crude, amateur stitching, with a hand-written note from your little sister telling you that she hopes this toy will keep you safe and warm."

 

Session 4:

 

"The operator tells you you got an incoming holo from your hometown, and they offer to route it to private comms channel. When you open it in your room, it's a hologram of your mother yelling at you because 'You probably still don't clean your room, and don't give me that 'But mom, the Empire...' excuse! And you better be washing your sister's toy!"

 

Session 5:

 

"Your comlink beeps, informing you that you've got a new letter on your datapad. It's from Dad, joking about asking Admiral Ackbar to give you just enough shore leave to come home and play that one game of dejarik the two of your promised to play when you were 10. 'Oh, and your mom wants to know the state of your room.'"

 

 

We all know that interjection of flavor builds up the character, but paced flavor encourages internalization for the player. In this case, it's internalization of what their character "gave up" in order to fight the Empire: a normal life.

 

Also note the pacing: 2-4-5. This is intentional build up for the Session 6 pay-off. Remember: the player's character is a Rebel Soldier with Duty (Ground Superiority).

 

"You receive an emergency briefing call from your CO in the middle of the night. Once you suit up and get there, the CO tells you that they received a recent report that the Empire is landing a full garrison on a neutral, but populated world. He opens up the command desk and it shows a hologram of a familiar planet."

 

Then you, playing the part of the CO, look at everyone at the table silently, then stop to gaze at the Soldier player as you continue speaking.

 

"The CO says, 'I understand that one of you still has family there.'"

 

Then watch and listen as your player takes over and owns the scene.

 

Congratulations, you've just given your player what they wanted, while making them care.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The more I think about it I don't like the idea of pushing dice as the narrative tool.

The dice are not the narrative tool. All the dice do is allow you to put boundaries on narrative enthusiasm, to allow the character's mechanical skill to be translated into narrative possibilities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The more I think about it I don't like the idea of pushing dice as the narrative tool.

The dice are not the narrative tool. All the dice do is allow you to put boundaries on narrative enthusiasm, to allow the character's mechanical skill to be translated into narrative possibilities.

I get it, but many push dice as the tool, and they aren't.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of great info here!

 

This has helped me as a player:

http://lookrobot.co.uk/2013/06/20/11-ways-to-be-a-better-roleplayer/

 

Also I send out an email to all the players with their XP award broken down like so:

 

Base     15

Bonus    5 (for excellent RP during that one scene)

Bonus    5 (for playing to your character's motivation during that one scene)

Bonus    5 (For writing an in-character session recap on our Obsidian Portal Page)

 

Total  30

 

I think that has helped the players identify the kinds of things they should be doing during the session to earn bonus XP. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like to encourage my players in to being co-authors of the story we are telling. So I ask them lots of questions. After awhile the players get use to it and start answering before I even have to ask. 

 

How exactly do you do that?

What does that look like?

How does that happen?

What are you trying to accomplish?

What does success look like to you?

What do you do?

Can you describe what (your action) you are doing?

How do you go about accomplishing that?

How do you know that piece of information?

Edited by archon007

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's my idea... watch films**... think 'they rolled an Advantage there...' or '...that looks like a Despair...' SW Rebels is a good start because IMO it comes across as an Edge troupe,,,, watch films for chase scene ideas (except the Fast & Furious films LOL) also as a side note with F&F don't bother with the new Star Trek. I have it from an unimpeachable a source that it will suck and there's a bike/vehicle (not space vehicles) chase scene in it ;) which is NOT Star Trek

 

** especially Episodes 1-7. OK 1-3 aren't as good as 4-7..but they are chock full of stuff to nick for narrative combat.

 

I used the POTC trilogy as inspiration once my PFRPG Rogue/Gunslinger had enough feats under his belt to use. Running while shooting, leaping out of windows, leaping through windows because other people are in the way, running out of a building around said building then firing an arrow through an open window... all inspired without a drop of rum!

Edited by ExpandingUniverse

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several years ago (okay it may have been about 2 decades ago) when my group switched from being full time AD&D 2nd edition rollplayers and moved into some more "story driven games" Like OWOD one thing I did that really helped was to award bonus exp for good roleplaying. I also had the players vote for another player at the table who had some great roleplaying moments and award the player with the most votes a bonus point of exp. Everyone at the table realized that they had a chance to gain this bonus nothing earth shattering or game changing but maybe you could buy a skill or power a session or two earlier but what it did was get everyone motivated to play their character and shine the shy guy in the back had a reason to come out of his shell.

 

I think sometimes you have to tell your group what you want from them and sometimes you have to realize what they want from you. Some groups I have met over the years don't like the roleplay aspect as much as the mechanical. Others would have been happier with no rules and the chance to improve the whole evening. In the end you have to find that sweet spot in your group that gets them interacting with the other characters not just the players and the GM but the rest of his merry band of scum and villainy that he has cast his lot with. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great idea!

 

My entire RPG system history has had the burden of description and narrative fall on the shoulders of the GM (usually me). Old habits die hard, and I've noticed that I am doing this in this game system too, and I'd rather not. This system seems well-tailored to allowing the players to have a greater say in what happens so I've asked them to let me know if I'm slipping into the old habits of GMing other RPGs.

 

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of them narrating the results of their own dice rolls. It will be strange for all of us (we're old), but I'm excited to see where it leads.

 

I tried having my players do this and the fights slowed to a crawl and the encounter seems to drag on for way too long. I really want to integrate ways that my players narrate their actions, but many times they can't think of what to do with advantage and threats even though we have been playing the game for over a year now.

During our last session everything went much faster because it went back to me to narrate the rolls and then allow input for despairs and triumphs...it really sped things up, but it felt like I was doing all the legwork and it wasn't as much of a collaboration during the fight. Does anyone have ideas as to how to have the players narrate without killing the sense of urgency?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I want to convey urgency I describe in general how combatants scatter in search of cover, or how they stumble and fumble if caught flat-footed, and while I'm narrating this I'm building my dice pool, often rolling before the narration is complete. I don't actually look at what I've rolled until I've finished, quickly assessing the results and appending them to the narration.

In return I get sterile descriptions like "I move to medium range and shoot at the minions"; instead of the word move I'd like go hear dash, sprint, or dive, and instead of shoot I'd prefer blast, pop one off, blaze away, or "Dance, nerfherders!" Its all very technical. I know not everyone is a writer, but action movies are these guys' bread and butter, so I'm a bit confused by the lack of actual action. If I prompt them to give a brief narration it's often just " I move to within range of my weapon"...move, not foot slide or hood slide. And when handing urgency to their agency you'd think I was asking for a soliloquy in front of an audigorium full of strangers, they lock up, and I honestly think it's because they don't want to be "wrong", like their dice results won't match up the their narratives. Almost as if I were asking them go prognosticate their pool results.

That's it, I think. They don't want to be wrong and have to backtrack, so they're "hedging their bets."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I want to convey urgency I describe in general how combatants scatter in search of cover, or how they stumble and fumble if caught flat-footed, and while I'm narrating this I'm building my dice pool, often rolling before the narration is complete. I don't actually look at what I've rolled until I've finished, quickly assessing the results and appending them to the narration.

In return I get sterile descriptions like "I move to medium range and shoot at the minions"; instead of the word move I'd like go hear dash, sprint, or dive, and instead of shoot I'd prefer blast, pop one off, blaze away, or "Dance, nerfherders!" Its all very technical. I know not everyone is a writer, but action movies are these guys' bread and butter, so I'm a bit confused by the lack of actual action. If I prompt them to give a brief narration it's often just " I move to within range of my weapon"...move, not foot slide or hood slide. And when handing urgency to their agency you'd think I was asking for a soliloquy in front of an audigorium full of strangers, they lock up, and I honestly think it's because they don't want to be "wrong", like their dice results won't match up the their narratives. Almost as if I were asking them go prognosticate their pool results.

That's it, I think. They don't want to be wrong and have to backtrack, so they're "hedging their bets."

I have the same problem with my players. Two of them can, and two of them have trouble, but all of them are better in non-combat encounters. Once the combat starts, they often wait for me to describe the area, terrain, obstacles, etc.. I have been able recently to get them to engage in combat better by giving them a basic description of the room, area, etc. and asking them for the details. I had the party's sniper, who often has trouble with finding a spot, describe where he was going; this let him get to a place he could use his weapon, and better player satisfaction with the entire encounter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...