Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ways games work

A friend is gearing up to run a Mage game and we had a half-chat about it in respect to my earlier post about sandbox vs. adventure path. I told him that when I was writing that post I was thinking strictly about D&D games and how I've observed people running them (our own gaming history, published adventures, official designer blogs, actual play reports blah blah) and we just kinda left it at that. I'm interested in continuing that discussion in regards to other games.

That is, when writing that post I had in mind a very specific game with two very specific modes of play, inspired by literary precedents, but there's probably merit in analyzing how, say, different games of Vampire might happen. More precisely, in that post I wrote that the two approaches to D&D could also be seen as "a very practical response to the realities of play, specifically the GM's work".


By contrast, I think there's really just one way in which an Apocalypse World game can happen. There are no different ways to run it, other than the one laid out in the book. But the way an Apocalypse World game can happen is one of the ways in which an Ars Magica or Vampire game might happen, if you follow.


So...
There's a number of ways to realistically GM, without burning yourself out.
And...
Not all GMs have fun doing all of them.
But...
The way the GM runs the game might go right past what a player is doing. The conversation never happens, everyone is talking their own language.
Therefore...
Fun+Nonburnout+Compatible = what you'd call "good" GMing


Also...
There are a number of ways in which a player can run his character and act and react to the game.
And obviously...
Not all players have fun doing all of them.
But...
Only some of those player approaches mesh with specific ways the GM's running the game.
Therefore...
Fun+Compatible = what you'd call a "good" player


When the GM isn't having fun, he tanks the game or torments the players. When the GM doesn't have a realistic approach to his job, he gets burnt out and tanks the game. When the player isn't having fun, he throws stones in the glass house. When the player isn't compatible, he is disruptive. So people get called bad players or are told they're playing the game wrong, or that what they're doing isn't real roleplaying or whatever. One person's best GM can be another person's most boring nightmare.


All this, of course, provided people aren't dicks. If they're disruptive or abusive because they are dicks, then they are just dicks. If they're honestly not dicks, and (unintentionally disruptive) then you've got a glitch somewhere in the Fun/Compatible\Realistic Expectations triangle.

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