Letting It All Out Part 3: Reviewing my Pros

Posted: August 16, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Roleplaying Games

Now that I’ve had a chance to look at the Cons in the feedback, time to look at the Pros.  Checking out the good along with the bad is important, if only to know what I’m doing right, so that I don’t end up changing something that actually works.  So without any further ado, let’s take a look at what we have:

So, let’s go with Hikkikomori’s feedback first:

  • Real Engine – This is interesting since Hikkikomori’s Pro is what ended up as a Con for Rvelasco.  I do like internally consistent worlds that are simulationist in nature.  Crime performed in a public location in an urban environment where citizens have faith in the police force will end up being reported to the authorities.  Likewise, material evidence and DNA left in a crime scene in a manner that could feasibly be discovered can also be used.  It’s not all restrictive of course, calling 911 to send cops over to a given location works, while pulling a fire alarm is sure to have the Fire Department racing over to a location.  These are but some of the examples by which I try to maintain a semblance of a “real” urban setting.  What I have to work on now, as Joshua Macy mentioned in the previous post in this series, is to insure consistency and that the world doesn’t feel like it’s out to get my players.  What works for the villains, ought to work for the players as well… as soon as they learn to use the setting to their favor.

Now on to Silver Countess:

  • Personal Issues – As much as possible, this is one pro I want to stick to.  I want to be able to make the game matter to the player character at a personal level.  I like talking on and on in this blog about stakes and raising them and encouraging player involvement, but the surest way to get players to step up and really take ownership of scene is if you hit that one nerve that motivates them.  Admittedly I don’t do perfectly well with this, and many times I spend too long finding the right kind of motivation for a given character, but I’m not about to let go of this facet of my games.
  • Long GM Memory – This is something that Sheimaruen agrees with, I tend to have a long memory when it comes to the little things that have been done or said in game.  Little favors done to some nameless person are rewarded somewhere down the line, and insults hurled at someone might have some interesting consequences later on when the players least expect it.  I feel that this lends a measure of realism to the setting, and having a little bit of karma to reward players that go the extra mile to help people in need even if it doesn’t have any immediate effect or benefit to them.
  • Affecting the world – If there’s a single example of this happening, it would be the fact that if done right, players can convert opponents to allies.  Changes that have been begun by the players, or nurtured by their characters in play are those that remain.  It’s not rare that games I run end up looking very different from when they started.  I’ve always felt that if someone should have a right to change the setting, it would have to be the player characters.

Rvelasco has his own list of Pros:

  • Definitive Plot Progression – I try to make sure that there’s some sense of plot progression in my games.  This sort of ties in with the Changing World point above.  Players should feel that something is happening, and that they’re not the only things that are moving.  Plot instills a sense of urgency and the passage of time and in turn, reinforces the realism of the setting.
  • Realism – Oh, here we go.  Yes, Realism is a big thing in my GM brain.  I think it lies primarily due to my belief that life is the perfect form of the impartial GM.  A GM plays a tricky balancing act between giving opportunities for players to be awesome, while sticking to the impartial nature of reality when it comes to resolution of actions.  I’ll skew to giving players an edge depending on the genre of course, so Pulp and Supers are forgiving, while the World of Darkness doesn’t pull punches.
  • Setting Details – I enjoy adding color to things.  Be it a dark alley in a city that smells of piss and garbage, or the exotic nature of the courts of Rokugan, good use of descriptions helps establish mood.  I can be rather self-indulgent at times, but hopefully my players will forgive me for it.
  • Break the Player – Tough choices are good for the soul.  I’ve always believed that players gain a greater appreciation for their characters if they are put in a situation where the character has to make a difficult choice between equally important yet mutually exclusive choices.
  • Takes the game seriously – I’m glad that my players feel this way.  I love the hobby, it’s been a part of most of my life, and I feel obligated to put in an effort to get better in what I do because it only means I can share this enjoyment with the people who I run for.
  • Unpredictability – Here’s something that I definitely try to do.  I don’t always succeed, but it’s good to throw a curve ball now and then.  Players are smart, and I’m not about to underestimate them by handing them something that is directly out of the playbook.  Because of that I try to veer away from cliche and introduce situations, opponents and tactics that keep them on their toes.
  • Genre Savvy: Politics – I’m honored that Rvelasco would think this.  I never really thought I’d be a big political GM, but my experiences with Mage: the Awakening helped me with this sort of play to the point that it’s more or less my staple now.  I like how interpersonal relations can influence situations, and how a word or action in the right place can have far reaching consequences.  I try to explain how such things come to be in a game, if only to make sure that I have a measure of transparency, so players can follow along my train of thought and not think that I’m just pulling it out of thin air.
  • Genre Savvy: Horror – Horror was one of my first exposure to GMing, so I think that I have had a lot of practice doing this.  I think it’s funny though that I don’t like horror movies in general, and I don’t have that much exposure to horror fiction either.  That said, I’m glad that people seem to think that I have a strong handle on the genre enough to trust me when I pitch a horror campaign.
  • Consequences – Hmm.. this is rapidly becoming my most defining trait as a GM.  I hope this doesn’t come back and bite me in the end with players too scared to take risks.
  • Adjustable – I like being able to switch gears.  As a GM, the last thing I want to be is typecast as one particular type of GM that can only run one game, or one kind of campaign.  Much like exercise, I feel that I need to keep things fresh so that I can improve across the board rather than over-specialize.  The hobby is huge, and me and my players will be seriously missing out if we ever fell into a one true way sort of thinking.


Looking at the Pros is as informative as paying attention to the cons.  Right now, I’m seeing that I tend to overdo some of my pros, so maybe a little more conscientious play is in order so that I don’t come off as too excessively obsessed over some aspects of my game.

  1. Anthony says:

    Keep in mind that consequences can be good as well as bad.

    That guy you saved from muggers hiding you from the cops is a good consequence to helping people. While him telling the cops where you are, could be a bad consequence for just ignoring him.

    I’ve been told by a few of my players that I’m not allowed to stop GMing, because they need their consequence filled RP. You just have to remember to have the good and the bad hit the player at different times.

  2. dirty yasuki says:

    PM2k listed Pros:
    Unpredictability – ….

    Me: If he focused on this and executes it well, he will level up and gain “Genre Savvy: Comedic Timing”

    I’m all for realism and being serious about a game, but even when my gaming group are poker-faced in a game, the circumstances our characters find themselves in (courtesy of our wily GM) coupled with the occasional herp derp of our players simply causes no end of laughs no matter how hard we try to avoid it.

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