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Why We Do It

Started by Lisa Padol, January 30, 2004, 07:55:11 PM

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Lisa Padol

Some time ago, Naomi Rvikis was running her Altclair campaign, which has as players me and Joshua Kronengold, via email, as she is several states away. And I typed a line of dialogue that she liked. She said it was one of those things that reminded her of why she GMs.

So, why do we do it? Why do we GM -- or play? I'm not talking about abstracts -- though I'll gladly read posts about those too -- I'm talking about moments in play, specific moments that make you think, "Yes! That is so cool! That's why I play / GM!"


Hi Lisa,

"Yes! That is so cool! That's why I play / GM!"

But what makes you respond to something with "cool"?  It may not be necessary to know this to have a good time - but if you do know what pushes your cool buttons, you can seek it out, even design games that maximize the occurance of "cool!"
- Alan

A Writer's Blog:


Hello !

Not to be too glib, but I think that determining the answer to your question, and how to reproduce it consistently, is the entire point to the GNS discussions.

- James

Lisa Padol

Maybe, but I'm not currently thinking about reproducing It. I just want to know what makes folks go, "Wow, cool -- that just made the session worth it."

Fr'ex, I tend to plan a lot. I spent, I think, a year waiting to spring a minor surprise on Jacob, a PC played by Matt. Jacob was trying to figure out why his girlfriend wouldn't take her coat off. She finally agreed to do so, and revealed that she'd grown an extra pair of arms. The look on Matt's face was priceless.

When Josh, Stephen, and I ran a larp that we'd created inside of a month, with Stephen doing most of the work, at the last minute, Josh added a minor joke -- two characters were annoyed at the constant mispronunciation of their name. I scrawled one extra line on their character sheets. 30 seconds into the game, one of the players of one of the PCs was indignantly correcting someone's pronunciation. Josh and I gave each other the thumbs up, figuring things were off to a good start.


I GM for those moments when everybody laughs (or makes other happy noises) and nobody scowls.

I have never encouneterd anything like it in any other hobby. In sports and other competitive pursuits, highs always come at the expense of someone else. In an RPG everybody can share the highs together.

A great moment in roleplaying is something that the players have created together and will talk about for years.
Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
Check out my">blog.


@ Play: To hang out with friends a write a story together, to be someone else for a while.  To show off my acting ability or ability to solve the puzzles presented.

@ GM: To bring others into my little imaginary world where they can be someone else for a while.  i love it when i can evoke a real emotional response in the players.  My favorite such event, was a rather scary scene in D&D where these bizarre monsters were attacking them in an abandoned watch tower.  By using all the best elements of horror, i had them all pretty scared as one by one they became blind, mute, or paralized etc.  Only to wake up having experienced a shared dream... but finding out the wounds they suffered in the dream affected them while awake.
If you live in the NoVA/DC area and would like help developing your games, or to help others do so, send me a PM.  i'm running a monthly gathering that needs developers and testers.


Why i play....

Hmmm....That's actually a good question. Because i enjoy gaming. Which brings me to examine what it is that i enjoy about it?

I enjoy the laughs and the chemistry that arises between the players. I enjoy it when the players grow to hate a certain NPC. I enjoy watching the players get themselves into sticky situations with less than optimal activities, and then creatively pulling themselves out again. I enjoy the metagame banter that goes on between the players. I anjoy springing strange situations on the players and watching their responses. I enjoy listening to the players and getting ideas from them without them even realizing it.

Lance D. Allen

A friend of mine once told me how he classified memorable RPG moments into 3 basic groups:

"That did not just happen": This is your basic memorable moment. The one you talk about for a few sessions, or possibly bring up later when something similar happens. Next is...

"Oh my god, that did not just happen": Someone or everyone is stunned, possibly amused or just shocked. This is the sort of thing that you tell your friends about. It can become a running joke for the rest of that campaign, or redirect that campaign in a new direction. Then there is just...

"Oh my god": Usually the whole flow of play is disrupted as everyone sits in shock and awe or laughing uproariously. It takes a bit to get back into things as the moment is often relived several times before play can even continue. This is the anecdote you tell years later, even to your non-gamer friends. It adds flavor to the rest of the campaign, and may reroute it in directions no one had considered. It also often becomes a running joke for the group for any game they play in.

Me, I like for these moments, though I don't know that I'd classify them the same way my friend did. It's the moments where I stare at my players with a shocked expression, going "you did what??" as all of my plans crumble. Two very similar examples:

1) I was running a V:tM Sabbat game. I intended to have a little conflict with an ancillae of the Camarilla who was going to try to intimidate my players before fading away to become a recurring plotpoint. Instead of it going as I'd intended, My players attacked with a vengeance, and though I even fudged a few die rolls in his favor, killed him and diablerized him. In a moment, my blackmail subplot died.

2) The game is now TRoS. A player who should have learned his lesson about sorcerers with his previous characters goes hunting rumors about sorcerers in the city. I give him ample opportunity to realize he's overmatched when he finds not one, but two sorcerers, and slink away to fight another day. Instead, he attacks, killing one instantly with a javelin from hiding, and the second a short while later, after trading a few blows with his animated corpse guardian. I hadn't thought he'd even bother to attack, let alone succeed, let alone survive. He did all three (tho' only barely, and only due to his SAs) and once more destroyed my subplot.

As a GM, I get my most memorable moments out of the times when my players do things that make me have to react, think and adjust. When they take the story in their fists and run with it, those are the moments that make it come alive for me.

As for playing.. I love the moments when I am trying to do something.. and it actually happens exactly as I'd wanted it to, or better. One example was in, surprisingly, D20, Star Wars D20, to be exact.

I was a level.. 2?3? Jedi Defender who'd been tricked out of giving up his dead master's lightsabre. When he realized he'd been tricked, he went after the Dark Jedi who'd taken it, and found him under attack in the docking bay, but handling his multiple assailants handily. My character ended up with a force pike after a brief scuffle with a minion, and charged across the bay, where he struck the lightsabre from the Dark Jedi's hand, and then did a Force-grab to bring it to his own hand. I had this perfect image of it in my head, and it went off beautifully. I managed to be rather impressed with that session for quite some time thereafter.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls


I don't like to GM.  I don't like having to work that hard for other people, but I'll work that hard as a player, no problem.  (I don't understand it, either.  Some sort of control issue I guess).

I think all of your answers (both about playing and GMing) touch on what I like, too.  So here's what I see y'all saying, put in more general terms, that resonates with me as well:

Drama: we're making our own little t.v. show, as apeiron said.  Cool!  The interaction between characters is key for me, too.  "That Did Not Just Happen,"  "Oh My God, That Did Not Just Happen," and "Oh My God," are some of the best parts of game scenarios.  

Catharsis: Our charactes are better than we are - sometimes in one way, sometimes in more than one way.  They can do things we can't.  I get to be able to do those things, at least for a short while, in a setting where other people can appreciate those qualities I'd like to have too.  When we accomplish something in the game, it feels like we all got to do those things we can't really do (or are too smart to want to do in the real world).

Comeraderie: The social aspect.  Metagame: We're hanging with people like us.  AND we get to plan things out for them as a way of showing appreciation (a GMs way of giving friends gifts).  They show their appreciation for us by being interested in OUR game scenarios and/or characters.
                                                In game: the imaginary characters work together (or not) and accomplish things that, in AND out of game, creates a group identity.
"Let me listen to me and not to them."
           - Gertrude Stein