Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Guess at Preferred Styles

These are liberally stolen from this enormous post! These are just complete guesses, and not perfectly accurate. If anyone reads the post and thinks something else is more accurate, or just wants to further discuss these guesses, then we shall discuss in the comments!

What Derek has admitted his preferred GMing style is:

UniPuzzle
The resources are so limited that it effectively actually limits the solutions to any problems to a few things the GM's obviously already thought up and provided for (as in a video game) and is waiting for the PCs to figure out.

Examples: there's only one suspect that actually knows anything and only one way of approaching him/her that'll work or there's a puzzle door with only one or two solutions, and this suspect or puzzle door in turn points to one specific room with only one specific clue which in turn points to one specific device that can be used in only one way to take the PCs to...and on and on for the length of a whole session.

Contrary to what you might believe from hearing discussions about railroading, players do a lot of things during an RPG besides sit around and try to find a plot. A party that does a lot of inter-party dialogue and role-playing, or really enjoys combat, or is enjoying the snacks, etc., can probably handle a day of UniPuzzle without bucking, but it will probably begin to feel like a railroad if it goes on much longer than that. If the UniPuzzle also manages to prevent the players from doing the non-plot-problem solving things they like to do (talk in-character, hit monsters, etc.) then their patience will be even more limited, since, in effect, there really will be nothing to do but jump through hoops.


Personally, I think as long as the DM avoids preventing the players from talking in-character and fighting monsters that they want to fight, then you can run entire games in this style with no problem or dissatisfaction amongst your players!

What I assume Bret prefers from the games I've been in:

The Gauntlet
There's a fight. Winning automatically leads to a clue, the clue points unambiguously to a new encounter, which means you fight. If you survive, you'll automatically find another unambiguous clue, which leads ineluctably to another encounter, etc.

The only meaningful choices you have are what tactics to use in the fight, what to talk about between fights, and whether to keep playing or not. You either have no access to the outside world or the fight is concocted in such a way that nothing from the outside world could possibly help you. Again, a party that enjoys just being a party (dialogue, rolling dice, etc.) can probably tolerate this for a session before it feels like a railroad.


I'm not the best person to comment on this style, but I've heard great defenses from Trevor, Bret, Dustin and Skye about how it allows everyone at the table to be in the spotlight equally due to initiative order and players can build characters with skills that they don't personally have, such as fighting with swords, without having to perfectly replicate those with the player's own skills.(In other words, you don't have to describe your exact martial maneuvers to hit the enemy, but in some games, you might be required to lie convincingly/act charming or get penalties to a social roll!)

What I run but need to learn how to either not run or run in a way that's better:
The Raymond Chandler
This is a typical noir or Cthulhu set-up. Another example is The Big Lebowski. Lots of unanticipatable events., basically. The PCs are trying to do something, and then someone interferes pretty much out of the blue (as far as the PCs know at the time) and creates a new problem, and then while the PCs are trying to solve that problem (or the original one still) there's another and another and another until the PCs basically realize that Unexpected External Events which they have no capacity to prepare for are pretty much a feature of the landscape around here.
The suggestion to improve this is to make certain that the player's decisions are still noticeably altering the "unanticipatable events" and that's good advice, but I'd also do well to just involve a lot less of these kinda events. I would love to run games where the players are all making really well-informed decisions, because those would lead to more of the moments that I cherish when DMing, the moments where I'm completely surprised by a player's decision and have to deal with the unexpected. DMing is, at times, like watching a movie, and when the players are discussing things amongst each other, I'm the one who gets to sit on the edge of my seat with anticipation!

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