Friday, July 16, 2010

Player/GM collaboration?

How much do you talk with the GM about the kind of game you want? Or to your players about the kind of game they want you to run? Do you prefer a "this is my game, take it or leave" approach from the GM, or do you build the whole premise collaboratively from the ground up? Or somewhere in between?

Does the way you handle this issue vary depending on whether you're playing or game-mastering? That is to say, do you prefer a collaborative approach when you're a player even if you're pretty much "take it or leave it" when you GM yourself? Or do you encourage player participation in the premise when you GM, even if you're happy to leave that work to your GM when you play?

Does it matter if you're putting together a brand new group or running for a group you've had for ages? When you're starting a new group, do you decide on the premise and then recruit players for that, or recruit players and then work on a premise together? When you're coming up with a new game for an old group, is it usually built on conversations you've with them over the course of the last game, or are you more likely to pitch them an idea of your own more-or-less cold?

8 comments:

  1. Two summers ago, I was putting together a new AD&D campaign. Some folks I had gamed with before, some new players, but I was friends with all of them beforehand.

    I sent out a brief setting pitch ("D&D by way of Roadside Picnic and Ennio Morricone"), and then asked each player to mention one thing that they wanted to see in the game world. Each player who was running a cleric or (had there been any) paladin was asked to figure out what sort of god they wanted their character to worship, design that, and I'd fit it into the setting.

    I brought the group together before the setting, because I was not initially sure what sort of setting I wanted to run. Now that I have one, it is my 'default' campaign setting, and for the foreseeable future I will be telling folks about the setting, then asking if they are interested. (The add-your-own-component bit of it will remain whenever I start up a new campaign instance though.)

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  2. In recent years, most of the people I've been playing with have been newbies, so they don't know WHAT they want from the GM. And when I'VE played, I've been willing to adapt to whatever's going on at the table (I find it challenging, but also a bit of "beggars can't be choosers").

    In the past, we both discussed AND failed to discuss games ahead of time. It was the ones where we failed to discuss (i.e. "set up the social contract") ahead of time that always led to premature endings and sometimes explosive parting of ways. The games where we talked about expectations ahead of time led to more intense interest, and more thoughtful role-playing.

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  3. All my players are experienced gamers, except for my stepson, and I am a new GM. So I try and tailor my game to something I know both they and I will enjoy, and I use my husband as a sounding board for a lot of ideas because he is one of my players, but has been DMing for almost more years than I've been alive. Since gaming is a collaborative experience between the players and the DM it's important to me that we are all playing in a game that is fun for everybody often in different ways.

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  4. I feel pretty firmly that, since the DM puts in all of the hard yards in terms of setting up a game (well, most of the time...), players who choose to participate should be ready to be flexible and just take the campaign as they find it. Several clauses to the gaming contract must however be observed by said DM:

    A) Let your players know ahead of time what kind of game you have in mind.
    B) Don't be a prat.

    A failure to meet the above criteria is of course likely to empty your game of players pretty quickly.

    On the other hand, personally, as a player, I generally feel quite lucky to have a game to participate in, and very appreciative of the DMs efforts. Rarely have I had the opportunity to play in my idea of 'the perfect game', or even in my system of choice. Nevertheless, I make it my business to participate in a cheerful and agreeable way in the game- to get the feel for what this campaign is doing and just go with the flow, whether serious or whimsical, creative or simulationary- whatever. In short, I do my best not to bitch about things.

    As a DM, I have similar expectations of my players, and I have to say, its quite rare that I've had players fully return the favour. Particularly regarding system of choice. I'm in the sad predicament of being an avid DM who is desperate to run an oldschool game but CANNOT seem to get any kind of enthusiasm for such a project from my usual group. Anyone who has laboured over a campaign run with a system they dislike, just so as to have their friends be willing to play at all, will understand just how frustrating that can be.

    And they're such great players otherwise...

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  5. Well I have found sitting around discussing what the campaign should be a waste of time. You need to present your vision of your world and even though you players and you think you have the same idea you won't. However that being said you need to listen to what the players are saying during your game and adapt. I try hard not to prepare a great deal of material in advance and adapt while playing. If the players want a secret door and are searching for it "boom there it is". Don't tell 'em the level beyond is something you already drew and were planning to put at the bottom of the staircase they decided not to go down. Another example one of my players was complaining all the adventures were about rescuing elves and her gnomish player didn't have much to do. "Boom" the next adventure is a gnomish submarine base with a submarine only she can run. Currently the submarine is tootling along with a rope and harpoon embedded in the bottom of the Orc Pirate War Galley rowed by elvish slaves, but that's a story for another day.

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  6. My boyfriend and I run solo games for each other, so in those games it's very, very important that we have an understanding of what the other one is trying to do/wants to see, or we might both end a session feeling crummy. There's a lot more give and take than in a group game, and the solo PC has a major influence on events, so it feels like there's true collaboration on the game.

    I've never had a group game where the GM has really collaborated with the players. It tends to just be the GM's vision, with occasional pandering to the PC's backgrounds. I'm not sure I really like feeling so boxed in and unable to really interact with the surroundings, but I've never found a GM willing to run a group game in any other way, so I try to just roll with the punches.

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  7. "How much do you talk with the GM about the kind of game you want? Or to your players about the kind of game they want you to run?"

    It depends entirely on the game system I'm playing. The vast majority of traditional systems like the D&D campaign I'm running are basically the GM's vision, influenced by the players' preferences. Something like In A Wicked Age is based on the player's mechanical choices (Best Interests) with the GM putting the spin on how those are challenged in scenes. GMless games like Fiasco allow for equal collaboration.

    "Do you prefer a "this is my game, take it or leave" approach from the GM, or do you build the whole premise collaboratively from the ground up?"

    Yes. :)

    "When you're starting a new group, do you decide on the premise and then recruit players for that, or recruit players and then work on a premise together?"

    If I want to run a particular game, I announce it and pick the first players who show interest.

    "When you're coming up with a new game for an old group, is it usually built on conversations you've with them over the course of the last game, or are you more likely to pitch them an idea of your own more-or-less cold?"

    I pitch.

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