GM Struggles

Struggles, wins and losses of a gamer

Expectations: Being on the Same Page

I have been debating to a friend about Dungeon World, the system’s simplicity and he compares some things to Legends of Anglerre (which is powered by FATE), a point of central debate we had was how he could see frustration arise from how something is handled, like an arm being ripped off. In Dungeon World there is no hard rule for doing it, and he saw the messy tag alongside the 16 HP dragon example as something that can arise way too often, in LoA such a consequence is first and foremost chosen by the player, and only to avoid being taken out, as such he sees no chance for frustration.

My point was pretty simple though: it can be frustrating in both cases, the greatest difference is that in DW the GM has to make an effort to be on the same page as the players, there is no other way it can work at all, otherwise he will be unfair and deviate from what the group want  very very fast, in LoA he can present me that this kind of thing is part of the game upfront, and I can just say I am not interested right there.

In truth, this is a major problem in any and all games, if you haven’t developed the trust necessary with your group (Trying a New Game: A Matter of Trust) they will give you less space to conflict with their own visions and desires, and even if you have their trust you cannot systematically frustrate them with deviations, the trust usually means you have developed a sense to their own expectations and interests though, enough to avoid frustration and give them what they want.

The way I see it, the more you can make clear before the game even begins, the better, in both LoA and DW you can get a lot of the expectations and interests from character creation, if a player makes a devoted cleric he is already telling you faith, god and temples are going to be part of the game, on the other hand if nobody wants to make a Thief they are also telling you breaking through doors and relieving people from their possessions is not something they are very interested in. Investing in stealth enough to have an obscenely good level means that the player both feels it is an important part of the game and that they are not interested in failing it, making them roll with increased difficult to challenge that is not how you might make it work, consider actually keeping the difficulties where they would be in any other case, tell the player he doesn’t even need to roll, the others in the group struggle to hide themselves, but not he, for he is like the shadows.

I have never seen a moment on the table where everyone was not excited to hear that one player doesn’t even need to roll, he is beyond good in that. Make them shine, make them good, make them enjoy that, and instead of having them invest so much into a single thing, you will see them branch, and the character gets broader, more complex and interesting.


2 responses to “Expectations: Being on the Same Page

  1. Undreren December 22, 2012 at 18:50

    +1. Making sure people has no conflicting expectations is GM’ing 101. Every truely great campaign starts here.

  2. Nifelhein December 22, 2012 at 20:58

    Still, it is quite common to have bad or no communication at all between players and the GM and even players among themselves regarding what they expect from the game.

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