We spend a lot of time talking about dealing with different issues, problems, players, and styles at the rpg table, but we don’t often talk about Trust. How important is it for the group? Let’s talk about it.
Voicemail from Chris Shorb
Voicemail from Mike Watkins
Edwin Nagy writes to us re: descriptions on demand
Howdy B & S
Good episodes. Some thoughts on them from Maine…
Descriptions: Lots of ideas and discussions about GMing bring up for me the teacher training I’ve undergone and what works in the classroom. In this case the parallels are obvious. Teachers ask students questions to keep them engaged and sometimes because they don’t the answers. Some students don’t like being asked questions for a variety of reasons. Some of the ways we reduce the threat level of the questions we ask you covered. One big one that we do is think, pair, share. “ere’s a questions, think about it for a moment, maybe write something down, and then share it with your buddy.” One of the important parts of this is giving people time before they have to answer. So maybe, “You walk into the bar. I’m going to describe the bar, and when I’m done, maybe some of you can give me the name of the bartender and what kind of local drinks are on the menu.” You describe the bar. “I’m going to grab a slice. Gimme a minute….OK—anyone have a bartender name?” This is too much to do often, but I think could be done effectively when to increase engagement. If this is going to be an important bar, it’s worth getting their buy in through their investment in time.
Sean brought up a point that I felt like didn’t quite get across that I think is worth considering. I think Sean was trying to make a parallel to when sometimes you ask for a roll and sometimes you don’t it leads players to focus on the times you do. Similarly, if sometimes you have a name and sometimes you source it from the table, it may actually have the reverse effect hoped for. Players may disengage from the NPCs with table-sourced names or descriptions because they are obviously less important. I think an answer to this is for the GM to immediately and repeatedly over time bring this information back. This rewards the player that came up with it, and makes the info important.
Easy wins: I kept thinking as you were describing various ways to get around playing out fights that you were simply talking about different game systems. Some game systems have a barter system for success (NBA—how many points do you want to spend?); some games have random effects for success (mostly board games that I can think of). All these tools are valuable and can be used to set a mood, keep up pace, etc., but all risk kickback with players that like what they like and don’t want chocolate in their peanut butter. You have had many episodes that for me come to that (and often you acknowledge it). Are we playing B/X, Fate, or PBtA? Why did we choose this system and do we like it? For my own gaming, I like to get my difference more by playing different games than by mixing in bits of other games into what I’m playing. This allows my reality to be closer to my expectations which makes me less cranky…
Too many words.
Rory comments on Descriptions on Demand
Most of the questions that the Alexandrian posted in his article are HORRIBLE examples.
I play to explore and discover the mysteries of the world i’m playing in.
I want to find out what the mayors secret is and figure out a way to stop it – if I find his secret diary and the dm says – “ok – you tell me what you found in there” it takes me out of the game as a player.
It cuts the legs out from under the whole process.
The situation is can work is when a player is discussing his back story – Thongar the Mighty comes from the swamp town of Madison – I think the folowing are reasonable things for the DM to ask during play:
What did you father do in Madison
You grew up there – how do the townfolk you grew up with feel about <generic war of 10 years past>
What was your uncles name & occupation
Questions that are “about” the player’s character are acceptable to me, I’d rather backstory came out in play rather than from an 8 page sheet.
“why did you chase down that goblin and stomp his body to a pulp?”
“Goblins burned my neighbors farm as a kid and killed my dog!!”
I’d rather that get made up on the spot – it’s personal to the character.
So Brett asking the players who grew up in a neighborhood to describe his perceived relationship an NPC to the other players is cool – but to actually define the NPC and co-create the world ehhhh.
We;re not co-writing a book, nor are the players DMing – we’re playing an RPG, my contribution is what my character does and says, same with the other players.
Frankly Brent – if I were at your table I’d rather you asked me for 10 NPC names / jobs via email BEFORE the game if it’s something you know you’re bad at.
Having it come up during the game would take me out of the game as surely as a discussion about who has seen the last episode of the Witcher, or whatever sports-ball team played last night.
My two cents – sorry for the late reply.
Roger gets back to us on Descriptions on Demand
Speaking of late replies: You guys covered the subject perfectly. And you know me well enough to speak for me any time.
Here’s the thing: when I’m sitting down at your table (especially for the first time), I don’t know your world. I don’t know your tropes. I don’t know your rails. Is my idea totally off track with your world? A blank slate is intimidating, and who even knows where to start?
On the other hand, when I’m thrust in this situation as a GM, I know my world. I know my local personalities. I know how to keep things in my comfort zone. I can go on with too much detail on demand.
Thanks for this episode!