Experiencing the fiction in RPG play

pemerton

Legend
The topic of this thread is well-trodden ground, but there doesn't seem to be an active thread about it. And I have some things I want to say about it.

I'm going to speak from the GM side, because I mostly GM although I do have an active PC in an active campaign that I wish I could play more of.

Generally, as a GM I want to present the fiction of the game in such a way that the players - in declaring actions for their PCs - engage the fiction rather than me. This means that (i) I want the fiction to be reasonably compelling, and (ii) I want the fiction to have obvious available "points of contact", and (iii) I want the fiction to be laden with evident possibility.

For me, (i) is about establishing situations (and the setting behind it) with an eye to the themes established by (a) the game and (b) the players. Example from my current Classic Traveller campaign: the situations should evoke sci-fi tropes and ideas (and so eg not just be D&D dungeons repainted); and one of the PCs is a former Imperial Marines cutlass champion, and so I want situations to come up that make being a former Marine, and a champion with the cutlass, matter.

This means that when the players "look through the eyes" of their PCs they see a fictional situation that speaks to them - and so they engage with it.

(ii) follows from these approaches to (i). Situations that speak to the players as players of their PCs will tend to have things that the players want to change or interact with. As a GM, I try to maximise rather than minimise this feature of situations. Because minimising them tends to produce thinking about me - eg along the lines of what does the GM expect us to do here - whereas providing clear and plentiful points of contact leads the players to inhabit their PCs and use them to engage the fiction on the fiction's own terms.

(iii) follows, in turn, from the approach to (ii). If the players can see lots of ways to engage the fiction, then they can see all sorts of possibilities open to them, which they can push towards with their action declarations. This makes the fiction seem worth engaging with on its own terms, rather than making it like a crossword puzzle or sudoku with only one correct answer or predefined path which the players know is located in my mind (or notes) as GM.

Some final comments/reflections: I don't run a game that is completely devoid of "metagame thinking" or reflecting on the game as a shared social experience. In our 4e game one of the players always tries to keep something in reserve in the first few rounds of a combat encounter because he thinks "pemerton always has something up his sleeve - a twist, or a new opponent - and so I want to be ready for it". In our current Prince Valiant campaign I hit one of the players with a fiat effect that makes him long for a lady he rescued from danger although he is married to a different woman. After the resolution of one particular situation where this came into play I cheekily described myself to this player as a fair GM - he disputed that, but said "It's fun." That's a judgement about the fiction and the play of the game from outside, not from within.

Given that we play these games as games, for fun, I think it would be silly to try and eliminate that sort of thing. But still I want the players' first thoughts, when they decide what their PCs do, to be about the fiction - what is this that we're confronted with? - and not me - what is the GM doing to us?

And at least from my experience I think it's completely hopeless to try and do that by enforcing a "no metagame" rule at the table (which seems almost self-defeating), or to try to encourage immersion by layering on the rich descriptions etc. As I've tried to explain, it's about the way I as GM offer up the fiction as something for the players to engage with in their play.

Thoughts?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
In general, this seems cogent, and not much I'd disagree with.

You might consider that there's really three possible things for the players to engage with - i) the fiction, ii) you, the GM, and iii) the rules themselves.

I list the rules separately, because, well, some folks really like the tactical wargames aspect of things - it is a fair thing for folks to engage with if the table finds that sort of thing to be enough fun. It isn't exactly engaging with the GM, where the primary thought is "what is the GM doing?" It is more, "What interesting options do the rules allow me to reach success."
 

pogre

Adventurer
You know I pretty much completely agree with what you said. One of the things I struggle with is how my young DMs view their campaigns.

I run a high school D&D club and to a person the DMs refer to the campaign as their story.

Now my job is to make sure the club is inclusive and provides a safe environment for play. However, I would love to engage these young people in thinking differently about the game. More in line with what you detailed here.

It's not my job to teach them the one true way or anything like that and the kids seem to be having fun. I guess their style bothers me a little, but I have kept my mouth shut.

I blame CR in part, but that is probably unfair.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Generally, as a GM I want to present the fiction of the game in such a way that the players - in declaring actions for their PCs - engage the fiction rather than me.
Fair enough, and laudable; but doesn't the responsibility for the manner of the players' engagement largely fall on the players themselves?

By this I mean that even if the fiction is described completely neutrally, it's on the players to find ways to engage with it in character as opposed to out of character - assuming, of course, that's their end intention.

This means that (i) I want the fiction to be reasonably compelling, and (ii) I want the fiction to have obvious available "points of contact", and (iii) I want the fiction to be laden with evident possibility.
All excellent; though I rather suspect we'll define each of these three things a bit differently based on our own perspectives.

For me, (i) is about establishing situations (and the setting behind it) with an eye to the themes established by (a) the game and (b) the players. Example from my current Classic Traveller campaign: the situations should evoke sci-fi tropes and ideas (and so eg not just be D&D dungeons repainted); and one of the PCs is a former Imperial Marines cutlass champion, and so I want situations to come up that make being a former Marine, and a champion with the cutlass, matter.
And here's one of those differences already. :)

Just because a player's made a cutlass-wielding Marine as a PC doesn't oblige me to present anything the least bit differently than if, say, said player had instead brought in a doe-eyed technician with no combat skills whatsoever.

This means that when the players "look through the eyes" of their PCs they see a fictional situation that speaks to them - and so they engage with it.

(ii) follows from these approaches to (i). Situations that speak to the players as players of their PCs will tend to have things that the players want to change or interact with. As a GM, I try to maximise rather than minimise this feature of situations.
All good, but tailoring your descriptions based on the specific PCs would to me almost immediately feel contrived and thus serve to reduce my engagement rather than enhance it. Just tell me the situation as it stands, in as neutral of terms as you can, and leave it to me to engage with it (or not!) through the eyes of my PC; and also to choose which elements of the scene I'll engage with.

If I-as-player have more questions, I'll ask 'em. :)

Because minimising them tends to produce thinking about me - eg along the lines of what does the GM expect us to do here - whereas providing clear and plentiful points of contact leads the players to inhabit their PCs and use them to engage the fiction on the fiction's own terms.
That's on the players. If they're thinking about "what do you-as-GM want them to do" instead of "what would my PC/our PCs do in this situation as presented" that's not your issue to fix. It's theirs.

(iii) follows, in turn, from the approach to (ii). If the players can see lots of ways to engage the fiction, then they can see all sorts of possibilities open to them, which they can push towards with their action declarations.
This is absolutely true.

This makes the fiction seem worth engaging with on its own terms, rather than making it like a crossword puzzle or sudoku with only one correct answer or predefined path which the players know is located in my mind (or notes) as GM.
This is presented as an either-or, but it's not; at least on a large scale. Unless the GM is running a hard-coded adventure path and the players have bought in to this, the players always have choice on where to go and-or what to do next; and if these choices take them beyond what the GM happens to have prepped then it's on the GM to wing it.

On a micro-scale, yes there's sometimes going to be puzzles or situations where there's only one correct answer (as in LotR's Speak Friend and Enter scene) and there's nothing at all wrong with that.

Some final comments/reflections: I don't run a game that is completely devoid of "metagame thinking" or reflecting on the game as a shared social experience. In our 4e game one of the players always tries to keep something in reserve in the first few rounds of a combat encounter because he thinks "pemerton always has something up his sleeve - a twist, or a new opponent - and so I want to be ready for it". In our current Prince Valiant campaign I hit one of the players with a fiat effect that makes him long for a lady he rescued from danger although he is married to a different woman. After the resolution of one particular situation where this came into play I cheekily described myself to this player as a fair GM - he disputed that, but said "It's fun." That's a judgement about the fiction and the play of the game from outside, not from within.

Given that we play these games as games, for fun, I think it would be silly to try and eliminate that sort of thing. But still I want the players' first thoughts, when they decide what their PCs do, to be about the fiction - what is this that we're confronted with? - and not me - what is the GM doing to us?
Agreed on all counts. Nothing wrong with some metagame joking around provided that when in-character decisions are to be made those decisions are made as far as possible while thinking like the PC would think.

And at least from my experience I think it's completely hopeless to try and do that by enforcing a "no metagame" rule at the table (which seems almost self-defeating),
It's usually pretty easy to tell when PC decisions are being made in the metagame rather than in character; and it's that I want to smack down on.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Fair enough, and laudable; but doesn't the responsibility for the manner of the players' engagement largely fall on the players themselves?

By this I mean that even if the fiction is described completely neutrally, it's on the players to find ways to engage with it in character as opposed to out of character - assuming, of course, that's their end intention.
A person goes to a restaurant to eat. You serve them a plate of slop that smells like rancid hyena pelts. Do you then say it is largely the person's responsibility if they don't partake? Probably not, right?

There are times with some... highly conceptualized cuisine, that the waiter must give you instructions on how you are supposed to eat your meal. Without instructions, it may not be clear on the plate how to approach eating it to best benefit.

The GM has a responsibility to make the offering appetizing, and to make sure how to engage isn't opaque to the audience.

Just because a player's made a cutlass-wielding Marine as a PC doesn't oblige me to present anything the least bit differently than if, say, said player had instead brought in a doe-eyed technician with no combat skills whatsoever.
Well, here's the question - what are you there to do?

Me, I'm what I might call a "service oriented" GM. I am not there to provide some generic thing. I am there to provide a game, specifically for those at the table. The characters the players present, and the choices in the designs of those characters, inform what the players are interested in. The guy who makes a cutlass wielding Marine is interested in wielding a cutlass. I should ignore this?

Whether we are "obligated" or not, do you not care what the players want?

All good, but tailoring your descriptions based on the specific PCs would to me almost immediately feel contrived and thus serve to reduce my engagement rather than enhance it.
You are given a suit. It fits really well. Do you stop to worry about whether it is off the rack, or someone gave the tailor your measurements? The suit is worth less to you if it is tailored?
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
I definitely cater my GMing to the players' characters. This is the fun part for me. If there's a character searching for someone or something, or has interesting hooks in their backstory, I'm going to use it, or ensure the player has opportunities to pursue their goals/interests. The story which emerges from play is, after all, a shared collaboration. From a purely practical point of view, less work for the GM.

We had a campaign that started fairly traditional, but the players had their own goals, and pretty soon, I didn't have any prep at all. Characters just did their thing, while I looked for potential obstacles and challenges to their beliefs to throw in their way. It turned into this large epic, which we often discussed between sessions, with players adding cool twists to the mythology of the world. There was adventure and angst and tragedy. We still talk about those characters.

Players adding their own ideas to the story enhances the experience. I've never had anyone complain that their immersion was broken, even when assuming it would be.
We don't always play at this level, however. Sometimes it's fun to just whip up some characters and fight monsters.

Sometimes a player will have a cool idea for an adventure and take over GM duties for a session or two. This can help relieve GM burnout, as well as mix up the flavour a little. We really enjoy this at the table. It's also great for someone who wants to try GMing without a big commitment. This means characters are shared around a little, which might not go over well with all groups. Works really well with troupe play like Ars Magica, or a super hero team with a stable of potential characters.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A person goes to a restaurant to eat. You serve them a plate of slop that smells like rancid hyena pelts. Do you then say it is largely the person's responsibility if they don't partake? Probably not, right?

There are times with some... highly conceptualized cuisine, that the waiter must give you instructions on how you are supposed to eat your meal. Without instructions, it may not be clear on the plate how to approach eating it to best benefit.

The GM has a responsibility to make the offering appetizing, and to make sure how to engage isn't opaque to the audience.
Let's dispense with the extremes, shall we, and assume all involved are adults and that the GM and players have broadly agreed on basic things like system, genre, and expectations going in Maybe the players are even already familiar with the GM via previous games/campaigns.

Given this, the only way the players would get served rancid-hyena slop is if they and the GM had more or less agreed that was the sort of food that was likely to be on the menu.

Given that, it certainly falls on the GM to serve a palatable dish that vaguely meets what the customers are expecting (e.g. if they signed up for medieval fantasy, SWSE is probably off the menu) - but (and here's the key thing) palatable to all, not just those who happened to wander in to the restaurant tonight.

Well, here's the question - what are you there to do?

Me, I'm what I might call a "service oriented" GM. I am not there to provide some generic thing. I am there to provide a game, specifically for those at the table. The characters the players present, and the choices in the designs of those characters, inform what the players are interested in. The guy who makes a cutlass wielding Marine is interested in wielding a cutlass. I should ignore this?
Harsh though it may sound, yes you should.

If you present an interesting setting with lots of stuff going on that the players/PCs can engage with, the player either will or will not find a way to make that cutlass relevant as time goes on. If s/he does, good. If s/he doesn't, it probably wasn't all that important to start with. Either way, you-as-GM just keep on truckin'.

It's like a hockey rink. The guy who puts the ice in just puts the ice in, pretty much the same every time, as the setting for the game. It's up to the players as to what'll happen on the ice that night - the ice itself doesn't care.

Never mind that there's no saying that cutlass guy is even going to survive the first three sessions. :)

Whether we are "obligated" or not, do you not care what the players want?
I care that they want (and have a right to expect) a halfway-well-thought-out setting presented in as neutral a way as possible while also a way they can understand. After that, they'll make their preferences known through what they have their PCs do - for example if the players decide they want to do some desert adventuring for a while they'll have their PCs head for the desert, and it's then on me to give them something to do there if nothing has already presented itself.

You are given a suit. It fits really well. Do you stop to worry about whether it is off the rack, or someone gave the tailor your measurements? The suit is worth less to you if it is tailored?
Ah, but here I'm not just being given a suit; I'm being ushered into a store full of suits and told to take my pick. And just as I don't want the salesperson to push me toward a particular look or brand or cut*, nor do I want the GM to decide what I might be interested in within her setting*. In either case, just neutrally show me what you got and let me take it from there. :)

* - until and unless I ask for input - in the store this might be "What do you recommend?"; in the game this might be either "I don't know what to do next, let's check the notice boards and see what jubs are out there" in character or "What have you got prepped?" out of character.
 
Harsh though it may sound, yes you should.

If you present an interesting setting with lots of stuff going on that the players/PCs can engage with, the player either will or will not find a way to make that cutlass relevant as time goes on. If s/he does, good. If s/he doesn't, it probably wasn't all that important to start with. Either way, you-as-GM just keep on truckin'.

It's like a hockey rink. The guy who puts the ice in just puts the ice in, pretty much the same every time, as the setting for the game. It's up to the players as to what'll happen on the ice that night - the ice itself doesn't care.

Never mind that there's no saying that cutlass guy is even going to survive the first three sessions. :)
I'm always a little skeptical of analogies, so please pardon if I'm reading this wrong. But a GM that is employing a large story arc, along with character arcs, can't just really lay ice down and let the players choose their way. There must be something a little more than neutral in my humble opinion. That leads to part two...

Ah, but here I'm not just being given a suit; I'm being ushered into a store full of suits and told to take my pick. And just as I don't want the salesperson to push me toward a particular look or brand or cut*, nor do I want the GM to decide what I might be interested in within her setting*. In either case, just neutrally show me what you got and let me take it from there. :)
I think this works well for those groups that have a ton of time - like a campaign that will last years and they play 4 or 6 hour sessions a week. But, those campaigns restricted by time, say three months or four months, this option doesn't work nearly as well. I have (anecdotal, yes), found players simply get frustrated. Have you been constrained by time limits like this? If so, have you found it still to work? I'd definitely appreciate the pointers if you were able.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Let's dispense with the extremes, shall we
I just thought of them as descriptive. But sure, not married to them.

and assume all involved are adults and that the GM and players have broadly agreed on basic things like system, genre, and expectations going in
Sure. I wasn't questioning that. You can have agreement on those basic things... and still be, well, boring. Or not present the players with places they can hook themselves to interesting events in the world. Those basic agreements doesn't mean your game has anything of interest to the players.

Maybe the players are even already familiar with the GM via previous games/campaigns.
What, having done a good job before gives the GM a free pass?

I've read Stephen King. I liked The Stand. Having read one of his books, I pick up another.... and find that Cujo... is actually kind of boring. That past experience sets an expectation. It builds a small bank of goodwill, which is quickly spent if they don't live up to that expectation.

Given this, the only way the players would get served rancid-hyena slop
Dude, if you say we are going to dispense with the extremes, I expect you to actually leave them in the past.

....is if they and the GM had more or less agreed that was the sort of food that was likely to be on the menu.
The ONLY way? Really? Have you never been disappointed in your life? Never watched a TV series and liked it early, only to find that the later seasons just don't live up to it? Season 5 of B5? Most of Lost? Robert Jordan's works? The Star Wars X-mas Special? Maybe a favorite sports team that was doing well in the early season, only to falter later on? Nothing has ever let you down before?

Folks are not machines that always produce the expected experience. Like an author, if we aren't working at it, GMs can be that way too.

Given that, it certainly falls on the GM to serve a palatable dish that vaguely meets what the customers are expecting (e.g. if they signed up for medieval fantasy, SWSE is probably off the menu) - but (and here's the key thing) palatable to all, not just those who happened to wander in to the restaurant tonight.
shrug. Sorry, maybe I'm just too hipster. I'm producing small-batch, artisanal gaming experiences. If you want to be TGI Fridays, or Chili's, that's a reasonable choice.

Harsh though it may sound, yes you should.
Thanks, but you've made it seem like we actually have pretty different goals for what we want to accomplish behind the screen. You seem to want to hit a common denominator. I want to hit what the particular people at the particular table want. Both are okay goals, but they call for different methods.
 
Last edited:

pemerton

Legend
I run a high school D&D club and to a person the DMs refer to the campaign as their story.

<snip>

It's not my job to teach them the one true way or anything like that and the kids seem to be having fun.
In that sort of game the kids play, how exactly do the players interact with the GM's "story"? How do the decisions they make for their PCs affect it or fit into it?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Folks are not machines that always produce the expected experience. Like an author, if we aren't working at it, GMs can be that way too.
I think part of the difference here is maybe the players should put the work into it as well. I doubt that Lanefan would balk at a player having his cutlass-wielding character hit the networks at a starport, maybe put some of his skills to work, in finding ways to make use of his cutlass skills. In other words, directly advocate for himself in finding a way to use his character concept in play rather than just putting it on the character sheet. In this way, the players, by doing so, are directly sculpting the campaign from Lanefan's otherwise uncarved block.
 

pogre

Adventurer
In that sort of game the kids play, how exactly do the players interact with the GM's "story"? How do the decisions they make for their PCs affect it or fit into it?
I get the feeling they are actors in the GM's story. I guess they're decisions are not as consequential as I would prefer. In fairness, I have not sat in and closely observed - it just a sense I get from hearing snippets from their games.

I'm running a table too - I have a mix of faculty and students at my table - so it is tough for me to comment definitively.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm always a little skeptical of analogies, so please pardon if I'm reading this wrong. But a GM that is employing a large story arc, along with character arcs, can't just really lay ice down and let the players choose their way. There must be something a little more than neutral in my humble opinion. That leads to part two...

I think this works well for those groups that have a ton of time - like a campaign that will last years and they play 4 or 6 hour sessions a week. But, those campaigns restricted by time, say three months or four months, this option doesn't work nearly as well. I have (anecdotal, yes), found players simply get frustrated. Have you been constrained by time limits like this? If so, have you found it still to work? I'd definitely appreciate the pointers if you were able.
Sorry, but I'm probably the last person from whom to seek such advice; as any campaign I ever start is undertaken with the stated intention of lasting as long as anyone still wants to play it or until I-as-DM burn out on it (or die). So far I've had three; of 10+ years, 12+ years, and 10+-and-counting years.
 
Last edited:

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure. I wasn't questioning that. You can have agreement on those basic things... and still be, well, boring. Or not present the players with places they can hook themselves to interesting events in the world. Those basic agreements doesn't mean your game has anything of interest to the players.
Yeah, that can happen. Comes under the heading of you're never gonna please all the people all the time. :)

Far more common, I find, is that some element really catches the attention of one or two players while some other element really engages another one and the fourth can't decide. If I can I'll try to find a way to tie these elements together somehow, but it ain't always possible and sometimes they end up getting played out sequentially.

What, having done a good job before gives the GM a free pass?

I've read Stephen King. I liked The Stand. Having read one of his books, I pick up another.... and find that Cujo... is actually kind of boring. That past experience sets an expectation. It builds a small bank of goodwill, which is quickly spent if they don't live up to that expectation.
Can't speak to King as I've never read any of his works; but I guess I put more goodwill in the bank than you as I realize not everyone's perfect all the time. The flip side, though, is that things can always turn around if given time.

The ONLY way? Really? Have you never been disappointed in your life? ... Maybe a favorite sports team that was doing well in the early season, only to falter later on? Nothing has ever let you down before?
I'm a Canucks fan and have been since they started, so believe me: I know all about being let down by a sports team. :)

Not everything lives up to expectations - fact o' life - but just as often something exceeds expectations, and the two tend to cancel out in the long run.

. Sorry, maybe I'm just too hipster. I'm producing small-batch, artisanal gaming experiences. If you want to be TGI Fridays, or Chili's, that's a reasonable choice.

Thanks, but you've made it seem like we actually have pretty different goals for what we want to accomplish behind the screen. You seem to want to hit a common denominator. I want to hit what the particular people at the particular table want. Both are okay goals, but they call for different methods.
Tangentially, this brings up another point around which we may be talking past each other a bit: there's a difference between catering things to the players at the table (e.g. running the type of adventures they seem to like) and catering to the individual characters in the fiction (e.g. finding ways for cutlass guy to have his cutlass be relevant). I'm cool with the first of these but not so much with the second; IMO the fiction and setting should be neutral such that - no matter what characters the players bring in - the same adventures, plot hooks, etc. can be prepped and (unless the players/PCs decide to do something else) run.

It's like one of those escape rooms, or True Dungeon: it's the same setup each time it's run, no matter whether it's you going through it, or me, or anyone else.
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
(i) I want the fiction to be reasonably compelling
- (a) the game
- (b) the players
(ii) I want the fiction to have obvious available "points of contact"
(iii) I want the fiction to be laden with evident possibility
I hope you don't mind that I've snipped your quote to summarize your opening points. My comments on each are below.

(i) I like that you said "reasonably compelling" here. I agree. I think that very often people see a RPG story the same as they would a story in a book or movie. And I think that can be problematic. We experience a RPG differently than we do a book or any other media. What's needed is a story that presents enough interesting decision points for the players to be engaged. This can be something entirely original, or can be something totally cliched. What we might frown upon in a movie or novel is likely very different than for a RPG.

Having said that, your (a) and (b) are both key, for sure. Perhaps as @Umbran mentioned, we could add (c) system to the list. Some people do indeed engage with the game in a more mechanical manner. But I think that depends on what you mean by "game". I would see it as the setting and the expectations that go along with that; things like sci-fi or fantasy or urban horror, etc. A GM should create a scenario that fits into these expectations, for sure.

I don't really get the call for neutrality when it comes to (b). I understand that neutrality in rule abdication and the like can be seen as a quality for a GM to have. But neutrality toward content? It always seems like a bad idea to me. The GM should care about the game. The players have made choices for their PCs and the GM absolutely should consider those choices when creating content for the players to interact with.

(ii) This brings us to your second point. I think the more that a GM tailors things for his players and their characters, the more of (ii) there will be. More points of interest for the players to seize. More areas for them to interact with the fiction. More opportunity for them to take the initiative and really help to steer the story and how the game goes. I think the more effort put into this, the better the game will tend to be. Multiple paths for the PCs to take, and which don't all lead to the same eventual destination. I think that's also key....the players will be more willing to see the points of contact if they know that these are not just window dressing, but rather are actual decision points where they can potentially get into the driver's seat and steer the game for a bit.

(iii) Which I think is what point three is all about. The idea of possibility. Where will things end up? It's a pretty big question, and how it's handled can really influence the experience of the game for those involved. I don't think it's inherently bad for the GM to have some kind of end point in mind, but I think it's best if that end point is more loose and if it's shaped by (a) the game and (b) the players. If the players have created a bunch of outlaws and revolutionaries, for example, I don't think it's a bad idea if the GM thinks of the end point as "will they topple the government?" I think it's a bit less desirable if his idea of an endpoint is "After a long and arduous journey, the PCs finally come face to face with the Iron King in his court for a final battle". One is asking a question and the other is providing the answer.....to me, the GM should ask the question, and the players should provide the answer.

For me, knowing that a game really can take off in any direction based on what the players do is really interesting. Not long ago, my group played a bit of the first Adventure Path created for the Starfinder game. I had reservations because I was a bit critical of the Pathfinder System, and I expected Starfinder to play similarly. But we had some fun with it. We came up with an interesting collection of characters and that made the game enjoyable. Unfortunately, the GM wasn't really willing to depart from the predetermined story of the adventure path. There was a point where there was a clear alternate path that made sense for all our characters, and all the players seemed interested in pursuing that path, but the GM was pretty much intent on running the adventure exactly as presented in the books. Needless to say, the game didn't last much longer after that.

Now, that's largely a matter of preference and situation. There have been other times where we as players are willing to follow along the path of a published adventure. Some have enough freedom so that you don't feel entirely constrained. Others seem like pure railroads. My preference moves more and more away from such games, but I don't think they are without some merit. However, for me, a GM needs to kind of read the room, and proceed accordingly.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
The ONLY way? Really? Have you never been disappointed in your life? Never watched a TV series and liked it early, only to find that the later seasons just don't live up to it? Season 5 of B5?
Not to derail the thread, but have you re-watched that?

At the time it was released, when the "regular" B5 season four had just aired, yeah, it was a disappointment. They had burned through so much plot, so quickly, in season 4 because they assumed they weren't going to be renewed, even filming the series finale (Sleeping in Light) and then moving it to season 5 when, what, TNT(?) rescued them for a final season.

...and no Claudia. :(

But I watched it again recently, and while there were some clunkers (um, Byron?!?!) there was some good stuff in there, esp. the Centauri bits.

Also gave us the In the Beginning Movie, which was NOT a disappointment. :)
 

Arilyn

Adventurer
I have run adventure paths. I look at them as more like guidelines, as some have ended up very far off what was published, although, I could still mine enough information from the later parts that they didn't become useless. One time, in particular, the players were so surprised that the adventure they loved got poor reviews. Had to explain what they did wasn't that close to the official AP. This wasn't because I'm a brilliant adventure designer, bur because the players pursued their interests, and I moulded my GMing around their characters.

Other times, APs will run pretty much as written, not usually though.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
This makes the fiction seem worth engaging with on its own terms, rather than making it like a crossword puzzle or sudoku with only one correct answer or predefined path which the players know is located in my mind (or notes) as GM.

. . ."pemerton always has something up his sleeve - a twist, or a new opponent - and so I want to be ready for it". . .

Given that we play these games as games, for fun, I think it would be silly to try and eliminate that sort of thing. But still I want the players' first thoughts, when they decide what their PCs do, to be about the fiction - what is this that we're confronted with? - and not me - what is the GM doing to us?
Players are probably going to have (at least) two sets of GM expectations, formed by what they've learned from 1) other GMs, and what they've learned about 2) you. You can control only one of these. If either of these sets rewards them for metagame thinking, you're fighting an uphill battle.

If you want to remove yourself, bodily, from the game, do it. Run your game online, don't engage with any personal commentary during the game, and act like a syntax parser. See what happens. :whistle:
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not to derail the thread, but have you re-watched that?
Yes, recently - like, finished the re-watch last month, I think. And I'm quite aware of the issue - they'd had to cram much of the planned season 5 into Season 4, and then after filming that Season 4, told they could have a 5 after all. I daresay we could hear JMS scream at the time.

Unfortunately, the fact that he'd had to then back-fill time showed. And Byron stank up the place something fierce.

 

Advertisement

Top