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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 227 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Buffy and the Conflict-Shy GM  (Read 3808 times)
John Kim

Posts: 1805

« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2005, 11:34:27 PM »

OK, so I ended up summarizing this into the following advice.  I have not pointed him to this thread (as he isn't deep in Forge theory), though I hope nothing here is too terrible if he does read it.  So what I said was as follows:


So in retrospect, I can see that I specified a lot of the past episode (like handing you monster stats) -- more than just the usual episode pitch.  But I didn't give a full vision of what I had in mind.  Which I think was a bad mix.  

So, let me try to outline more of my thinking, to give a better picture.  I do think that there is a clash between scriptwriting and GMing here.  As scriptwriter, you are writing the main characters and you handle both creating the problem and solving it.  As a GM, though, the protagonists are out of your hands.  

I think your instincts are to want to solve the problem in the way you are envisioning.  If the players don't do what you are thinking of, you struggle to try to make things fit.  Two big examples I think of from the episode:
    [*] Ifurita is knocked into a coma from an attack by the demon, but you have her wake up for a moment to give us firm instructions about what we should do to take care of her.  
    [*] Togth by fiat impales the demon and automatically carries it to the elevator with a plan of what to do with it. [/list:u]These are trying to take things out of the hands of players.  Conversely, because you see yourself as responsible for the solutions, you have a hard time inflicting damage or difficult situations on PCs.  I suspect you are seeing the role of the GM to be sort of someone who watches over the whole of the episode and weaves the different pieces together.  I think a better analogy is that you are on one side of a tennis court and all the players are on the other side.  If the ball is in the players' court, it's out of your hands.  

    One thing about the Nexus.  My idea of a "safe haven" for the characters was specifically to force plots where the PCs are active rather than reactive or passive.  For example, by having the monster come in and chase Roberta, you are literally pushing her around.  As I see it, once the PCs are in the Nexus, the ball is in their court.  It is up to them to go out and do things.  

    I guess I should say how I pictured things going more with the episode.  Now, this is by no means what "should" have happened.  In fact, I expect that it would diverge from this pretty immediately.  
      [*] Roberta goes home late -- when isn't important, just get to whenever it is.  The demon attacks her, and she escapes to the Nexus.  Her house is completely blown apart, and the demon now knows she can teleport.  
      [*] Characters rally round Roberta, and start to research on the demon but don't have enough to go on yet.  They may find that it tracked her based on alumni records or classmates.com information -- i.e. some relation to school.  
      [*] Based on what they do, demon plots another move on Roberta.  It will intelligently attack based on its information as soon as it can find them outside the Nexus.  [/list:u]I guess the main thing is that I would have had the demon be intelligent and effective in pursuing its goal.  In retrospect, the ONLY things that it damaged before its death were things that were designated by fiat:  *Ken's* cube (i.e. the one cube that no one cared about), Roberta's house (which I had to push both before and during the game), and Ifurita.  It took a long time to appear each time, was slow-moving (i.e. even though Roberta didn't run immediately, she automatically was able to escape both times), and it walked into an obvious trap.  

      I guess my general advice is:
        [*] You need to detach more from what you pictured as happening in the episode.  NPCs should act based on what they know and want, not on what you think should happen.  
        [*] Stop worrying about what happens to the PCs.  As GM, you are supposed to be the source of conflict and opposition.  You should hit balls hard into their court, inflict damage and misery.  That's where drama comes from.  
        [*] If you fail to provide a credible threat, then the PCs will not respond with interesting dramatic action -- because they have no reason to.  Case in point:  With the demon, simply beating on it (i.e. the Dot plan) was working fine.  So that's why we kept doing it. [/list:u]For next time, maybe we should work together with setup more thoroughly.  i.e. We share full information beforehand, compare notes, and comment.  Especially since it's a Roberta-focused episode, so it's not spoiling a whole lot for Dot to know about what's going on.  

        - John

        So, that's what I said as far as communication.  Comments welcome, although too late to re-phrase any of the above, obviously.  We also talked about plans for upcoming episodes over chat, for what it's worth.

        - John
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