Would I Like to Play in a Game I Ran?

Last night I was watching Daredevil on Netflix seeing I have seen little else apart from Daredevil and Star Wars in my social medias.  I begrudgingly admit that it has my attention too.  But the thing that it was inspiring in me was the social interaction that is in the show.  There is only a small amount of violence in the show, but the stories are engaging.  On top of this, I recently found a new blogger by the name of Fern Kali at the Ballgowns and Battleskirts blog.  She writes some fantastic stuff and what has really gotten me hooked is the social growth that she craves in a game.

Last night, while I was reading Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary considering encounters and battles I would like staged I had a pang.  A pang of guilt about the games that I run.  I thought to myself quite clearly that I just would not like to play in a game that I ran.  I have good GM skills but I realise that I am ignoring the things that I really look for in a game to play in and that I am becoming a little bit of a one trick pony.

woman looking at soup of mosters
An adventure should contain a combination of elements! Image under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Licence from WelcomeCollection.org

I ran a couple of games of D&D last week and one of the players gave me the suggestion that I should not ignore the role-playing aspects of the adventure.  I was play testing an adventure I will throw up here soon, but I took the point.  Mind you the first encounter is a social encounter with merfolk and the third encounter is a social encounter with something unusual.  But with me it tends to be about battles and battle maps.

When I play I value games where investigation is key and I have the freedom to chase my own character’s goals.  I used to run my games built on the theory that this was the case too and the first question was “What is your character doing this week?”  It was not the statement “A shady character tells you the location of a dungeon and wants you to go there to reclaim the underpants of Emporer Klein.”  That is I used to let them run what they were doing and respond to it.

That is not to say that I would not plan stuff.  As we have firmly established, I like my prep time, I just would roll with what they wanted and find ways to link in what I had done.  My preparation was more about interesting characters for NPC’s and the interactions that would come of those encounters.  One of the most memorable games I had was in Earthdawn where the players attended a masquerade ball that was attended by the Passions (kind of gods) and the group becam magically changed into animal avatars and had to find each other and work out who was who.

I miss ideas like that.  It is largely why one of my favourite games is Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.  The set up of the game is all about interaction socially.  It is built on the premise that you must understand an opponent before you face them, so there is investigation and then there is interaction, followed possibly by confrontation.  It is also why I like games like James Bond, and when I play in games like that my games are more like You Only Live Twice or Thunderball than Goldeneye or Licence to Kill.  That is they are based on the interactions and spying rather than the explosions and body count.

So, what I am saying is I feel as though many of the games I run these days are about moving from encounter to encounter.  I would be bored in my own games and I need to fix this.  Is it the formulaic nature of Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons that has caused this?  Perhaps that is why, when I look back on my gaming career, I have been playing games that were considered fringe to the gaming groups I played in.  I rarely ever ran D&D in any of its forms.  I ran Earthdawn, Shadowrun, Paranoia, James Bond, Super Squadron and Maelstrom.  I played in Mechwarrior, MegaTraveller, Twilight 2000 and Dragon Warriors.  The games that I remember are the ones where I had the greatest freedom to pursue my characters goals and interact on a personal level with real feeling NPC’s.  I really struggle to think of any major battle scenes that I remember to this day (though there are a couple of exceptions).  Understanding my character and building them up was what I enjoyed.

Do not get me wrong.  I am not a bad GM.  I have great skills in doing this stuff, I have just wandered away from it because the games that I play at the moment tend to be games that move from one combat encounter to the next.  I need to adjust the modules to greater stress the ability of the player to find their own place and grow within it.  My NPC’s are generally well played and fleshed out, it is just they are not made to last.  I mean I read all of this advice in varying game books that say how a recurring villain is one of the most powerful and striking things in a game.  Then you go and read the modules that the same writers put out and they ignore everything they have told you to make an engaging story, on the most part.

I am making the pledge here that I will create realistic personas for my NPC’s and allow for interaction on a grander scale that will encourage my players to grow their own roleplaying skills.  I will not model my social interactions in games off those displayed by the video game fraternity of RPG’s.  Every person in a village may have goals of their own but that does not mean they will make any PC’s perform those goals for them before they will offer assistance.  Let me know in the comments what sort of games you prefer to play in – do you like to direct your characters path or have it directed for them?  Keep rolling!


  1. I have been itching to post here but have been without power for a large part of the week and there for without internet access.

    We are involved in a hobby that can be massively effected by not only the dice we roll but a host of factors external to the games.

    It is great to do as you have done here and reflect, examine and improve.

    I have an idealised view of how I want a character to behave, interact and how I want a character to be perceived. This is the same for a NPC as much as a PC.

    My ability to see that idea to fruition is limited by a number of factors in no particular order:

    1) My real life outlook on the world which will vary from week to week. I might be tired, bored, cranky, happy or just not that into it. I am aware that truly role playing should allow me to move beyond real life but I must honestly say I am significantly affected by it.

    2) It is not my story. I have to think about the other players enjoyment as much as my own. As much as my character would have his own self preservation at the top of his list. (He is, after all, the single most important being on the planet.) I can’t very well bug out and leave everyone to die at the first sign of defeat. That would ruin the game for everyone. I must try to convince the team to come with or stay till as close to the bitter end as possible.

    3) If a PC in the party has a penchant for combat it is very difficult to deal with a situation any other way as the first thing that PC does is escalate the interaction to conflict. Only lucky initiative rolls and or role playing that denies that PC a turn can change that scenario. (In that situation the combat PC is afflicted by number 2 above as he must curb his combat mindset in favour of my diplomatic one.)

    4) How well I know my GM and Players. After a group has been together for a while patterns of play emerge. PC’s and GM accept certain courses of action whether they be roleplaying or combat oriented as they are comfortable with where the story is taking them. Doing something unorthodox like turning into a dragon and setting fire to the place might elicit a few ooohs and ahhs but the group is unprepared for it as it is not part of the standing game plan.

    5) How forceful a players persona is and whether it can be put to one side in favour of a role. We all know that there are leaders and followers. It is nigh on impossible to turn a follower into a leader or vice versa simply because the stats or the dice say so. A forceful player persona will often dominate a table.

    I could go on.

    In summary whether I am playing or a GM there must be compromise there must be sacrifice and there will be unhappiness and there will be joy. These things must come from everyone at the table.

    Sometimes there will be brilliant fun ( and we play for those moments) sometime there will be less fun ( we work through those).

    The only issue arises if there is no fun at all.


    1. Wow – awesome thoughtful reply. Thanks.


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