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Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Owen KC Stephens' questions for your RPG group
Since I am having a bit of writers cramp right now, I thought I would answer some questions posed by one of my favorite game designers, Owen KC Stephens: Link here
100 Questions for Your RPG Group
These questions are designed not to lead anyone to the “one true path to roleplaying,” nor even to find and excise undesirables. Instead, they are tools of conversation. Hopefully they’ll help members of an RPG group discuss some philosophy, some game theory, and some silly shit.
These are best handled in person, while feeling casual, likely with beer and pizza (or the age & culturally appropriate equivalent).
#1. Would you prefer a GM be entirely beholden to the game rules and die rolls, or secretly make changes if it leads to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?
Definitely the latter. The dice are a harsh mistress. Sometimes, an encounter can go pear shaped. Also, sometimes an encounter is just too tough/not tough enough for the party. I think a good GM should tweak the game as they go. There is a fine line though. If you meddle too much then it takes the excitement out of things. A subtle deft touch when secretly changing things is the best way IMO.
#2. Give one concrete example of when a GM fudging die rolls or rules might lead to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?
When the party is teetering on the edge of a TPK, and one of them manages a solid hit on the BBEG just before it is up again. The hit might not have finished it off, maybe it has a few HP left. However, if it goes again people are dying. Fudging it so that last hit was the coup de grace makes for a cool conclusion and avoids all the added anger and stress party deaths bring.
#3. Does it make a difference to your preference if the GM is entirely open about making changes? What if the GM can hide any change so you never even suspect it?
I think it is better that the GM doesn't reveal any changes. That's part of the mystery of the game. If players get the idea that they can get away with stuff it makes them reckless. Better to just keep it behind the curtain as it were.
#4. Do you consider altering NPC attitudes or personalities from their originally planned starting points, or changing the plot of a future game session based on interesting ideas that come up in play, to be GM fudging, or just normal GM activities, or both?
I think that is just normal GM activities. I try to run NPCs as if they were real people. Real people change, they have epiphanies, they suffer trauma. Games should also be organic and change with player's actions.
#5. Should a GM be able to veto the color of a PC’s eyes? Or is that none of the GM’s business?
Tough question. SHOULD a GM have the right to? Probably yes. It is their world. SHOULD they just because? Well, you have to remember that the players are playing to have fun, not to be props in your homebrew world. A good GM works with his players. Telling players no, especially on minor things like eye color is a good way not to have players. Or at least to have disgruntled players who will defect to another table when the opportunity arises.
#6. Is the GM a player in an RPG session?
NO.. Flat out NO. The GM is the GM. They have a term for GM's who play PCs in their own game. It's called "Mary-Sueing". This holds for making old PCs from other games into NPCs. Unless you can be objective, these NPC/PCs often start to have godlike powers and immunity to things. And they are just cheezy.
#7. Should the GM roll dice in secret, roll dice in public view, or roll dice with varying secrecy as appropriate to the nature of the roll?
I like a mixture. Some rolls I don't mind sharing. Some need to be secret.
#8. Is being the GM a chore, or a privilege?
It's a chore that is a privilege. There is nothing like the satisfaction of running a good game, one that people will talk about for years. However, it is a lot of work.
#9. How much of the success of an RPG session is determined by the quality and actions of the GM? Would you prefer an awesome RPG ruleset with an awesome adventure and awesome other players run by a mediocre GM; or a mediocre RPG ruleset with a mediocre adventure and mediocre other players under an awesome GM?
The GM makes the game. The best rules in the world mean nothing when the GM sucks. I've seen this time and again.
#10. What is your pet peeve about GMs, expressed in a way that makes it generic and impossible to connect to any one specific GM?
Pet peeves: Mary-Sueing (see above), revenge playing (where you 'punish' a PC because they did something you didn't like), railroading (sometimes it sucks when the players go off script, but you have to roll with the punches)