Friday, April 16, 2010

GM versus Players, Round 2

Last post, I used some really sweet graphics (see also: a table) to show you how this GM’s mind was taking into consideration both what I wanted from a game and what I imagined my player’s wanted . . . I then proceeded to spend roughly 1,000 words detailing how to achieve everything within the “Want Box” except for three things.
From my last post . . .
The chore, loved as it is, is to blend this above paragraph with all the things the players want. How do I keep my cherished grit and tight grasp on power but still make the PCs cool as the Jonas Brothers at a 6th grade dance? How do I make them feel ‘powerful?’ I do I fulfill their need to conquer, to gain importance and stature?

Another hidden benefit of playing Vampire is that being a bloodsucking prince of the night comes pretty stuffed-to-the-fucking-gills with cool. The player is undead. He hunts mortals. He can instill fear in most mortals with but a smile.
Vampires are also stylish, sexy, suave  . . . they prowl the cities by night, they are like sharks . . . and sharks are cool (why else so many Jaws movies?)
Let this information wash over you, let it sit like Head & Shoulders in atop your head . . . rinse, repeat  … and here we go “Then why the fuck are you sweating making the PCs feel cool, Rogue?”
Because 85% of the people they deal with are cool-ass vampires. Being cool is standing out . . . c’mon you remember high school, right? Being cool is half mysterious, half different. Just ask the kid who wears his ballcap sideways and walks like he has Slinky legs.
The coolness factor can be achieved in two ways:
                1. Before Story – I need to make sure the character has chosen a concept, a clan, and a character that is going to fulfill the actions the player is going to want to achieve. Vampire, again, does a good job with this . . . the prelude allows for some serious GM probing into a player’s character creation and really enforces a collaborative environment that I feel helps iron these kinks out early.
                2. During Play – Got to, got to, got to make sure the player’s feel like their characters are respected. Amongst other vamps, they are the unknown, the center of attention – some want to manipulate them, some want to see them removed, some want to make sure they join the ‘right’ team, etc. Despite the preponderance of more powerful supernatural entities than the PCs, the story must be about them.
They must be the heroes  . . . or anti-heroes . . . or villains.
Combat effectiveness can help increase coolness, but it is far from the end all be all. Let the player’s engage in witty repartee with the Prince of the city. Let some rabblerousing vamps be impressed with a PC and woo them to their side.
A setting should be living, breathing, and full of motion. NPCs are constantly doing things . . . but the key to making your player’s feel cool, is the knowledge that all of this comes back to them.
a. Just like describing an epic combat, make sure characters are also achieving similarly impressive things elsewhere. If your Mehket vampire is chasing down a hunter on motorcycle, describe the burst of celerity rushing through his undead body and make snatching the mortal a vivid moment.
b. Play to the player. If you Player A is going out of his way to look for guns, keep a gun cabinet, dominate a gun shop owner . . . take fucking notice. Have a mortal challenge him to a duel or contest, have that gun shop get investigated for selling illegally. Have an old, classic, antique pistol show up . . . with silver bullets (Cue spooky music).
c. Be prepared to cut slack. World of Darkness is not forgiving, but a good GM should be at times. If you are going to take the time to fudge the die in your player’s favor every now and then anyways, why not allow for the occasional spectacular success too? Player’s enjoy doing something well more than skating by on GM’s good graces.
Instead, take a player who’s had a rough night of dice-tossing and find excuses to make them succeed . . . bonus die, story reasons, etc. Being a GM is unique, on some level you have 3+ of your friends vying for your attention . . . if you can keep your output level and fair, not just in terms of attention, but in terms of communication and realization of what each player/character wants, and helping them obtain that want, they’re going to feel attended to, their ideas validated, their character . . . cool!

Ok, I will deal with the other two issues Monday.

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