THE THREE-STAGE PROCESS
Stage 1 the Monty Haul Campaign
The novice GM is frequently
so worried about keeping his players happy with the game that other methods
of accomplishing this end do not occur to him. Instead, he takes
the most obvious route of supplying tones of treasure and items, score
of magic, and easy ways to advance in levels and skills to hold the players’
interest. The new GM has not realized that the main attraction of
Role Playing is not necessarily the collection of gold and goodies for
relatively minor accomplishments. If a GM exhibits these properties,
don’t fret. Most of the best GM’s started off like this.
|Miranden: "We don't
have the money for horses."
Leopold: "Just acquire
a couple of asses..."
Stage 2: Letter of the Law bunch.
This step begins with
the realization that the campaign has gotten out of hand. The characters
can buy and sell most kingdoms or corporations before breakfast.
They can walk up to Odin, kick him in the shins and get away with it.
They have killed off all their enemies, all the demons, and big nasty boss
mechs. If they are into AD&D…then they have moved onto deities.
The GM reasons, “I must be doing this all wrong.” There quickly ensues
a sudden 180-degree change of course to strict adherence to the rules.
They regard the written word as a set of holy laws, and death to the infidel.
Fortunately, this Stage is relatively short-lived and ends quite abruptly,
either with all the players quitting in disgust or with the DM losing his
cool at the countless times he’s consulted tables made die rolls.
This latter stage is frequently achieved amiss loud profane screams of
frustration and anger, usually accompanied by endless sheets of paper sent
flying through the air like so many weird rectangular butterflies.
|Calli: "I worship
my god, Guido."
What? Is your god Italian?"
Mika: "I didn't
know there were Italian gods in Forgotten Realms."
Bing Badda Boom, FIREBALL!!"
Stage 3: Normal
This is by far the most common style and
is the easiest to referee. It is a blend of the official rules, the
GM’s unofficial rules, and basic, run of the mill, common sense.
While this method will usually not be seen in tournament play, it is the
form most frequently found in the average neighborhood get togethers.
Since it doesn’t require constant reference to the many tables, it permits
smoothness and speed of play, as well as allowing the GM insert his own
results, if he were so inclined.
A GM using the Normal
method still needs a solid grounding in the actual rules of the game, but
he is no longer bound by the inflexible results of the die. Provided
the altered results do not unbalance the campaign, and are more consistent
with its goals, he can feel free to reward or punish the characters’ actions
without making a die roll. He must still remember that no one appreciates
a GM that plays favorites, is inconsistent, or who makes decisions without
regard to balance or merit (see later for details).
|GM (to Elric and Miranden
-- scouts>: "Oh, my God, you notice the sun rising in the East
and setting in the West."
Leopold: "And these
are supposed to be our scouts..."
did we hire these people?!"
PROPERTIES OF GAME MASTERS
…TO PLAYER’S LIVES
We hate this guys, don’t
we players. It is one thing to be fair. It’s another for a
GM to willingly attack his PCs. Most GMs who plan a short game can
sometimes become executioners, killing off their Players willingly and
wantingly. I personally have never agreed with that. Fairness
works better. Now if a PC is killed fast in a game through the rolls
of combat, the argument can always be made, “it was in the rolls.”
However, the GM should never press the finger of god upon a PC and kill
him outright, story be damned. The are only a few exceptions where
these character death’s are warranted:
a) The Player wishes
to start anew with a new PC.
b) The Player plans
on leaving the gaming group.
c) The Player and GM
have a previous knowledge of the fate of the PC when the game begins.
Otherwise, these GMs lifespan
remains short unless they move from this very short phase.
Combine with… Any
type of player group and game type … they don’t last long though.
Craig created two characters
for the blossoming Pathfinder game. These characters were created
simultaneously as the setting was being fleshed out. At first, it’s
was just him and me. We put out an announcement and soon found five
more players to flesh out the crew of the Vanderov. Soon, over a
period of time, having two characters proved useless. The Captain
character, Heather, was prominent. The security chief, Bjorn, proved
less useful in lie of other characters. Sure, he could donate, but
even Craig understood that it reduced the role playing of both characters
as well as robbing other PCs of playtime. After two years, Craig
and I agreed that Bjorn would go at a good time. However, soon after,
Craig revealed he, himself, was moving. I didn’t wish to kill them
both off. So Bjorn took a round for the group in a great season cliffhanger
and Heather left to find herself, leaving an opening for a return.
I will admit falling into this category
for the bulk of my role-playing career. Instead of trying the kill
the characters, the GM simply wants to completely torture the players,
bringing them as close to death as possible, but never killing them.
I must admit this property is common with GMs. They, all, at one
point, try this out. This is most common with long games or smaller
groups. Characters become more and more important in these classes
of games. The GM wishes the PC to live but will make that PC fight
with blood every step of the way. The only time Masochists will consider
killing a PC is only at the end of a game. The mentality with masochists
is that the Players must have the fear of death coursing through the veins
at every minute to enjoy the game to its full extent.
Combine with… Mostly
with Slasher players since most Role Players don’t require fear of death
to motivate them. However it is not uncommon. Masochists often
create the “Never-Ending Story” and the “Continuing Adventures” but not
often with an “Interactive Novel” because usually they have more detailed
stories and often don’t have scenes where the player’s lives are in danger.
|Max: "It isn't
Gabriel: "Can we
make that decision?”
Max: "Well there
is a possibility that flight from Alpha Centaur might get hijacked."
Group: "ISN'T THAT
More common that you might
think, Humanitarians are usually masochists that just stop bothering with
trying to keep the players scared. This is also common with starting
Game Masters. Some players find this trait annoying as it removes
much of the joy of playing. If playing with an executioner can be
compared to an old Sierra Computer Game, than Humanitarians are born from
a Lucasarts game. There is no fear of death, so don’t bother saving
every minute. This gives Role Players the opportunity to develop
little eccentricities of their character, ripe with the knowledge that
it won’t be in vain when their character takes a round to the head at the
end of the session. I have never had a problem with Humanitarians
as long as the story created it interesting and dynamic, something to offset
the lack of challenging fights. Humanitarians are most common in
smaller groups (three or less players) or with long, intricate game stories.
A Humanitarian may still occasionally throw fear into a PC. Its difficult
with a fantasy game…however, in the plethora of Mecha games out there,
its easy (see my experience below).
Combine with… Interactive
novels mostly. Where the GM creates an intricate story, where the
player’s lives are paramount. This is only fun for pure Role Players
since Slashers don’t enjoy a game where they don’t look down death at every
The great thing about
mecha games is that the Human pilot could survive but could lose several
mechs over the course of the game. Derrick Role played a very interesting
character in my Conestoga game. He was the first to try the game…he
was also the only player. (It’s his game where I got all the dialogue
in the Conestoga Game section) Obviously, his death was never at
hand. However, he did go through three mechs. When he first
clashed with his primary opponent, Jagheel Adaigo, they seemed evenly matched.
Then Rolaan (the PC name) strikes down Jagheel’s brother. Jagheel
activates his Z-Max system (an Mekton term referring to kind of nitro boost)
and assaults Rolaan’s mech. Derrick had little chance and his mech
was sliced across the waist. Derrick survived of course. He
lost his second Mek crashing it at close to Mach speed across an ocean.
His third lasted the rest of the game, even taking down his opponent at
(THE RARE AND OFTEN
NEVER SEEN) NEUTRAL GM
The True Neutral GM might
seem common but they are as rare and as hard to recognize as a True Neutral
Character in AD&D. These GMs usually can improvise the whole
game and create whole side adventures that last months on a whim.
They follow the rules fairly strictly. NPCs are slim. The GM
is there to create a universe for the players to voyage around in.
Combine with… Neutral
GM creates continuing adventure mostly. Player often love these GMs
because they know their victories are fair but also it can get annoy since
most Player do appreciate some leniency. Honestly, I have never seen
this type of GM but friends tell me they exist.
|Max: "Don't bother
running, we'll never make it."
you stay here and accept that...We're running."
…TO THE GAME UNIVERSE
Nothing says frustration
when a game begins with a story without a climax. The GM starts with
a story—something to tempt the players—and the game moves forward without
seemingly finishing this story. Oh sure, there may be off quests
and side stories, but the primary arc that begins never resolves.
It meanders and weaves through the setting, the PCs settle into their lives,
but even when main bad guys are killed, they somehow always survive.
Like a soap opera, it seems the main villains are always out of the grasp
of the players. These games can last for years. A good GM can
keep the interest high. However, eventually, the PCs will get restless.
The big difference between this type and the Interactive Novel game is
that the PCs may seem to have more control over their characters but they
seem as far away from a resolution to the grand story as the day they started.
Fantasy games are the most common of this type.
Combine with… Any type
of Players but Slashers like tangible victories and are usually the first
demographic to exhibit frustration over the lack of a big climax.
Any type of GM tackles this story since, often enough; the PCs are not
as intricate to the story as the other classes of games. As for the
Game Masters, I have noticed more inexperience GMs use these types of games.
More skilled GMs give tangible victories and the game transforms from Never-Ending
Story to an Interactive Novel.
I never tackled this
idea. Pathfinder started with broken episodes (Below) and turned
into an interactive novel. I like victories. The ending may
still be far but the PCs at least feel as though they are moving in a solid
direction. I have played in Never-Ending Game before. The GM
was an old friend, Ivan, and Derrick and I played together. This
game lasted almost a year and a half, broken into two major parts.
The first was moderately successful—I had successfully struck down the
man who killed my PC’s girlfriend. However, at the start of Part
2, he miraculously resurrected. Boy was I pissed. I soon lost
interest in the game. It seemed I kept missing all the important
facts being held from me by the other player (more on this later).
My PC left and started his life again, basically giving up on the plot
of the game. For three months of Role Playing, my character did NOTHING.
It reached a climax and ended…but to this day, I still don’t know what
that RPG was about nor what Derrick’s part of the adventure was about,
as our character split to find out own paths…little did I know I had no
A very common style
for Science-Fiction gaming. This game doesn’t tempt PCs with a beginning
arc, but like the Never-Ending Story, there is no real end. The game
continues until the Players or GM decides they have had enough. Good
fantasy games are like this, as a group of wanderers seek fortune and reputation.
For Sci-Fi games, common with spacecraft adventures, the Players either
(as independent) wander from planet to planet or (if part of an organization),
get mission assignments on a regular basis. GMs with a bit of flare
may even have an opening theme score to match it up as some form of interactive
television show. If this type of game is done well, it showcases
the best a GM can be. Really good ones can create new episodes on
whim. A knight walks to a bartender by chance and hears about some
legend the GM improvises on hand and the Knight tells the group.
The group decides to take a break from body guarding the king and trumpet
off to the forest for glory. GMs whom lack the experience or improvisation
skills who tackle this type of game don’t last long, as anytime the players
stray of the beaten path; they hit a wall of dead ends and plot strings
that don’t go anywhere. This is the most common game where the Player
introduces his/her own character that he/she created totally separate from
the game being introduced. The PC histories are usually not important
to the main setting and path of the game.
Combine with… Mostly
Role Players although Slashers might find enjoyment if the GM tosses in
the odd random encounter. Humanitarians often don’t try this type
of game unless they are in a mecha game.
Terminals was my first
real attempt to create an episodic game, ripe with theme music. It
succeeded for a while but the game didn’t last more than eight months.
Most of the Role Players were too used to sitting in a Never-ending adventure
without set goals for each adventure. If I had to do it over again,
I would give the game a more open-ended feel and rely less on presenting
the game as a Television show. Being with mecha, I was able to throw
some fear into the players but there was one problem (unlike PCs as part
of a military organization), how do you replace a mecha for a character
from a different Universe. At the seventh adventure, I came up with
the first incident. Derrick controlled a wonderful PC named Kael’No,
an egocentrical warmonger with a god-complex to boot (a great character
but, as you will read later, caused problems). His mecha was a wonderful
design of a supreme overlord machine powered by a miniature black hole.
I was aware of the danger of his mech exploding considering the power plant.
So when a PC fired on him (long story), Derrick’s mech, instead of incinerating
itself and everything for 500 km, simply imploded and vanished. Derrick
ejected of course. What happened? Basically, his mech created
a wormhole from the tremendous explosion and his mech vanished through
it to another dimension. At the same moment, Derrick’s mech from
another Universe (that wasn’t destroyed) was sucked back through it…along
with the pilot. If the group had troubles with the ego of one Kael’No…now
there were two of them. Derrick controlled one or the other and I
controlled the one he wasn’t using. I was fully prepared to kill
one when the time came. Alas, the game ended before that happened.
|Bjorn: "What do
Rio: "Axe, you?"
do they have?"
Rio: "Machine Guns."
Let's get 'em."
A very rare and very had game
to do right; the Interactive Novel often results in failure. It all
relies on the GM. The “Novel” often can be replaced by “Movie.”
This game is usually designed to be shorter that the long campaigns.
Some run as long as 3 or 4 months while others only last a few game sessions.
These GMs create a story with a definite middle and ending. Sure,
the game may not follow the standard three-act structure of a screenplay,
but the GM still attempts to give the idea that this game has a purpose.
Players too used to having total freedom to do anything they want at anytime
often hate these games that seem very tight and confining. Bad GMs
usually force the Players down paths that seem illogical from their perspectives.
Straying off the planned path often results in total disaster. The
trick is knowing the PCs so well, the GM can anticipate and find out ways
for the PCs to follow the proper game path of their OWN choice and not
one laid obviously in front of them by the GM. In every Interactive
Novel game, the GM will always have a say in the creation of the PC in
some way. Usually making sure the personality fits or doesn’t contain
traits that would fracture the game. Most Players don’t mind this
as long as their basic pitch of a character still pulls through.
If it doesn’t, the GM must either, alter the game to fit the new PC, or
plan a new game with the new template. Don’t put a PC into a game
like this unless you are sure the PC won’t destroy the setting or do something
terrible stupid in character. Bad GMs often consider this game and
the story more important than the PCS, running it like their own personal
“Choose your own adventure” Novel where the Players input very or little
creative input and the GM goes on from there. Most amateur GM’s that
start these types of games will do this at least once. In fact, most
Players will claim this type of game to be their least favorite.
However, some will admit, if done right (and rarely they are) they enjoyed
themselves more than they could have imagined. These GMS are most
likely to employ music, encourage choreography, and plan detailed scenes
(see below). Players beware. If a novice GM tries this game
type out, you might be cautious since these GMs have the highest probability
to take over your character at a critical moment. Most GM playing
Interactive Novels start getting paranoid that the PC will start messing
with their vision. These Stanley Kubrick wannabees start an idea
but basically can’t improvise so they start forcing the players down their
path. Be weary.
|Rio: "Yeah, just
lock in that psychosis."
Combine with… Role Players
mostly. Avoid Slashers since most of the time, they simply won’t
care about the details of the plot. As for GMs, they are almost always
humanitarians because Player deaths are factors not planned in the story
of the game. Executioners are rare and seldom if ever seen in this
Conestoga was a three-month
Interactive epic. Derrick considered it a Mini-Series, but I though
it was more of those 3-hour epics like Lawrence of Arabia. I designed
the game as a heavy plot campaign for one or two players. I played
it twice. Derrick finished it first. He introduced a great
character that fit well into the setting with his own personal motivation
and sense of honor kept him on the narrow line of the story. Derrick
enjoyed the game story, even though it had many side-scenes and a plethora
of NPCs. Ships of the Line, however, played by Bill and Derrick,
failed after one session. The problem was that I didn’t do a very
good job overseeing the creation of the characters. Instead of creating
a Captain and 1st officer of a spacecraft crewed by over 300, the Players
became independent people fighting each other and other officers, ignoring
the chain of command and going so far as to running security cameras on
every deck and flying wherever they wanted to, forgetting that this game
had threads of “Trek” and they needed to follow SOME rules. Putting
rules down is not the problem, if the Player creates an honest cop, he
should follow rules…same goes for creating PCs in a military setting.
I didn’t clarify that and the game folded quickly. Derrick admitted
later that he didn’t think he could mesh with Bill as a player and doesn’t
lay the failure of the game on me.
|Sandz: "You want
to shoot down four jumbo jets to kill four people?"
a solution, isn't it?"
Sandz: "Be Quiet."