OK, so I promise this blog isn’t going to become a link-farm for noisms over at Monsters & Manuals, but I find myself returning again and again to his post from a couple weeks ago about creating your own gaming philosophy. That’s something I’ve never really dabbled in, mainly because I never really had a stable group to inspire me.
Now, though, I’m starting to give it some more thought. I’ve been gaming with the same core group of dudes for more than a year (with a much larger cast of additional players rotating in and out), and I’m starting to formulate my own gaming philosophy. Here’s a rough draft of the thesis sentence:
Be on the same page.
I mean this both literally and metaphorically. My best games (both as player and GM) have come about when everyone around the table knows what they’re getting themselves into. This can be as simple as a broad genre (steampunk) or a specific sub-setting (the Five Fingers port city in the Iron Kingdoms setting). The campaign itself should adhere to this rule, too: it’s troublesome and ultimately not so fun if a minority group of players has wildly different expectations about the gameplay and/or ruleset being used.
For my own part, I’ve been a fairly conformist player: I’m happy to reshape my characters within the first few adventures to fit the direction the story seems to be going. In my Mutants & Masterminds campaign for example, my Swamp Thing-inspired tree-dude morphed from an aimless beatstick into a more focused support character (with requisite healing and protection powers) shortly after his introduction. This transition didn’t offend me as a player, and I’ve derived even more satisfaction from the game as a result.
Now, none of this is meant to suggest that originality and character-driven stories have no part in today’s RPGs. Rather, it’s intended to point out that there are a series of small, mostly painless discussions that players and GMs ought to have before embarking on a new game because they can head off potentially larger problems down the road.