March 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment
As we learned last time the number one rule of gamemastering is that you will make mistakes and that you have to learn from them. That was not a problem for me because I made mistakes, plenty of mistakes. Before I even knew what it meant I was riding the rails like a maniac. It was my bread and butter. If my players deviated I beat them with a stick until they were back on the rails in my happy little world. We rode the rails with pride, and had no idea there was any other way of doing things. Eventually though I realized something was wrong, it just felt wrong. It wasn’t satisfying to me, and I didn’t think it was satisfying to my players either. I put out questionnaires, and had them fill them out for me anonymously. It was clear that they felt the same, but had no suggestions as to how to help.
That was when I discovered roleplaying podcasts. I absorbed podcasts like a gaming sponge. Fear the Boot, The Podgecast, Kicked in the Dicebags, Sons of Kryos, and Pulp Gamer. Many of those shows had things that I could adapt to my own gaming experiences, and even some fun commentary at times. Others had information, but more importantly were fun to listen to as well. I listened, I learned, and I applied. Things got better, my players were happier, and lots of fun was had.
I took some time to experiment, playing with the status quo so to speak. Taking things my players and I had taken for granted and taking them away, flipping them upside down, or just painting them a new color. It made what was old new again, and made what was new something altogether unexplored and raw. There were no longer any expectations. What was best was no longer would I describe the scene in the local sake house with the big burly guy in the back pounding back the shochu and have everyone at the table immediately say “That’s the Crab, he’s not who we’re looking for.” In this new era, that stereotype no longer fit. Of course it very well could be the Crab, but it could just as easily be the Scorpion who has their information. Tricky tricky Mr. Gamemaster, keeping the little players on their toes.
Some of the experiments were successful, like when I gave my very quiet friend control of the entire party in a new campaign and made him take charge and speak up. Then again some were not, like the time I let one my players create his character’s teacher and bring him into the game as an NPC. After a few missions were solved merely by a few motions from the very influential teacher… he was sent somewhere much MUCH more important. There were disagreements at the table, there were heated arguments away from the table, and there were even random internet posts about my grossly lacking GM skills. After discussion however, most of these situations were resolved. I had made the next step toward leaving gamemaster puberty and into adulthood.
A new crop of lessons were added to my rulebook.
• Never stop learning.
• Railroad tracks aren’t bad… as long as there are a lot of exits and your passengers are enjoying the ride.
• If in doubt, ask your players, they will point you in the right direction.
• There is always someone to ask.
• Prepare only as much as you are willing to prepare, pushing it only dilutes the experience.
• It doesn’t matter if they disagree, it only matters that you pay attention to why.
It was at this point that I learned lesson two of my own gamemastering code. You don’t have to be a douche, but you do have to push the envelope. If you ever let yourself or your players get comfortable, you are failing them and you are failing yourself. The game will never be as good as it can be unless you are constantly trying to make it better. Never accept the way things are. That’s rule number two.
Written by SirGuido
SirGuido has been a Happy Jack's RPG fan since the first moment he heard Stu on Kicked in the Dicebags. He hopes one day that he will get to meet all of these great people and play lots of games with them.
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