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Archive for August, 2015

We had a good game last week, first in a while really.  Gathering more than a half dozen adults around a table to do something other than eat, drink, work or watch television is no mean feat.  And it was a good game besides; everyone invested, interested and having a great time!  The previous session hadn’t gone well, so last Wednesday night was a real treat.

As Dungeon Master I feel responsible to the entertainment of my friends, so these sessions, the good and the bad got me thinking.  And it seems to me all of us, yes me but you too, worked hard, felt committed to the game, and something more.  The story.  Lots of words have been let to describe RPGs as storytelling.  Games like Fiasco and Future Shock, Robin Laws recent work all simply and elegantly bring groups to a place where they can tell stories.  But I’m fairly convinced the central driver isn’t the mechanics of the game, but the people playing it, or more to the point how they’ve chosen to play together.  My experience, and if there’s a place I can make that claim it’s here, suggests groups play well when their members strive to-

  1. Guide the narrative, beyond the characters player and non,  the treasures and traps there’s the story.  Death and destruction,  fortune and glory are not assured at this table. What is certain is the chance to discover who we are together, and what we should do.  Let’s each tell our part.
  2. Respect the rules,  for how else here or in any game do we know we’re playing together?   Marking down arrows and hit points lost and gold spent simply and elegantly ensures you and I are telling the same story.  How lonely Lance Armstrong must feel competing all those years by himself..
  3. Maintain focus,  regardless of our desires and intentions only word and deed move this story along.  And we can’t all talk at once.   Let’s attend the story instead,  and give it and who has it now our full attention.
  4. Remember time and place,  be glad for where you are now.  Stories, not characters jump moments and locales.   As you release the narrative for others to carry may it return to you.
  5. Enjoy good company!  Writing and speaking this way brings me joy.  Let’s enjoy the game together.   And should rules stymy us let us change them!

All these elements of course work together.  Remembering you’re character isn’t in the same corridor where your friends currently battle zombies allows you to enjoy the melee and give them the focus they need to maintain a dramatic tone.  Running out of arrows or forgetting to don armor before battle can take a bad turn – or make a real statement.  Think Sel walking into the Temple grounds in a flowing dress surrounded by wolves and followed by an arrow storm.  Fucking cool.  Your oversight just made the story that much better.

Don’t think I as the DM am above this advice.  I cannot enforce these points as a creed; I won’t.  But I will take responsibility for my part.  Here that means returning to adjudicating rules in a combat round or less.  But it also means spending my time to set the scene so everyone can work that time and place into the story.  I also think I’ll keep my liquor until after play on game nights.  Beer makes me slow, and you’re quite the crowd to pursue.

Hopefully you’ll excuse the paucity of this creed, this covenant for play.  I choose my words carefully.  May this note help you better enjoy the game. It isn’t that I cannot tell this story without you.   I cannot tell this story at all.   So let us at it!

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