100 Questions for Your RPG Group; 1-10

100 Questions for Your RPG Group

These questions are designed not to lead anyone to the “one true path to roleplaying,” nor even to find and excise undesirables. Instead, they are tools of conversation. Hopefully they’ll help members of an RPG group discuss some philosophy, some game theory, and some silly shit.

These are best handled in person, while feeling casual, likely with beer and pizza (or the age & culturally appropriate equivalent).

1-10; GMing

#1. Would you prefer a GM be entirely beholden to the game rules and die rolls, or secretly make changes if it leads to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

#2. Give one concrete example of when a GM fudging die rolls or rules might lead to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

#3. Does it make a difference to your preference if the GM is entirely open about making changes? What if the GM can hide any change so you never even suspect it?

#4. Do you consider altering NPC attitudes or personalities from their originally planned starting points, or changing the plot of a future game session based on interesting ideas that come up in play, to be GM fudging, or just normal GM activities, or both?

#5. Should a GM be able to veto the color of a PC’s eyes? Or is that none of the GM’s business?

#6. Is the GM a player in an RPG session?

#7. Should the GM roll dice in secret, roll dice in public view, or roll dice with varying secrecy as appropriate to the nature of the roll?

#8. Is being the GM a chore, or a privilege?

#9. How much of the success of an RPG session is determined by the quality and actions of the GM? Would you prefer an awesome RPG ruleset with an awesome adventure and awesome other players run by a mediocre GM; or a mediocre RPG ruleset with a mediocre adventure and mediocre other players under an awesome GM?

#10. What is your pet peeve about GMs, expressed in a way that makes it generic and impossible to connect to any one specific GM?

More questions soon!

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on September 20, 2016, in Adventure Design, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. #1. Would you prefer a GM be entirely beholden to the game rules and die rolls, or secretly make changes if it leads to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

    Secretly make changes; there are times, certainly, when strict adherence to the rules in important. However, the ultimate goal of a GM is to maximize the enjoyment of the players, and to do that each GM has to perform a balancing act on a axis of RAW – Fudge + less fun – more fun. Always, a GM should make decisions based on the idea of what would maximize fun while remaining within the rules in general.

    #2. Give one concrete example of when a GM fudging die rolls or rules might lead to a more interesting, or more dramatic, or more fulfilling game session?

    During a session of Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, the players despite all hints, subtle and not-so-subtle, managed to reach and attempt to fight the green dragon. They were woefully unprepared for that challenge, had skipped several intermediate challenges, and by rights ought to have been wiped out. Instead, the GM chose to instill the dragon with a distinctly un-dragonfly lack of malevolence, and instead turned the encounter into a highly enjoyable role-playing session. That dragon was written as a challenging combat encounter – instead, the GM sent the players away to return much later when they were better prepared to fight the creature. Overall, refraining from flat out murdering us as the adventure-as-written would have mandated ended up providing we players a much more enjoyable experience.

    #3. Does it make a difference to your preference if the GM is entirely open about making changes? What if the GM can hide any change so you never even suspect it?

    I prefer that the GM keep fudging to himself. There’s a sense of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” that accrues to GMing and, at the same time, players want to immerse themselves in their characters. Every time a GM flutters that curtain and let’s the players see the man at the machine, a little bit of that immersive ability vanishes.

    #4. Do you consider altering NPC attitudes or personalities from their originally planned starting points, or changing the plot of a future game session based on interesting ideas that come up in play, to be GM fudging, or just normal GM activities, or both?

    Both, depending on how the GM actually does it. Again, it goes back to the idea of ‘what’s going to be the most enjoyable for the players’? Unless a GM is using a purely homebrew setting and adventure, there’s almost always going to be some elements of purchased material that do not agree to what the GM has envisioned. Even more so, players rarely get through been the most railroads of adventures without adding their own imprimatur to the course of the story, and thereby indelibly altering the way the following material conforms (or doesn’t) to the way the story the players and GM are collaboratively writing.

    #5. Should a GM be able to veto the color of a PC’s eyes? Or is that none of the GM’s business?

    Speaking as a GM, absolutely not. When it comes to character generation, unless there are some very general elements that the GM specifies to ensure an enjoyable experience (if, for example, running Wrath of the Righteous, no evil aligned characters), it’s my opinion that the less a GM interferes with the player’s ideas for their character, the better.

    #6. Is the GM a player in an RPG session?

    That rarely works. It’s a considerable job to be a GM, and running a character as well makes that job both incrementally more difficult AND creates a kind of conflict of interest. There are times when a GM *has* to play an NPC associated with the party for an extended period of time; but in general, it is best to not consider them a player and withdraw them from the party as soon as is feasible.

    #7. Should the GM roll dice in secret, roll dice in public view, or roll dice with varying secrecy as appropriate to the nature of the roll?

    For the most part, the GM should roll in the open. As the arbiter of events, the GM needs to maintain a certain reputation as being above reproach; this is especially true if one’s players know that a GM is a fudger. Now, Taht does not mean that *every* roll needs to be out in the open; sometimes it’s important they aren’t visible to the players, but for the most part a GM’s rolls should be reviewable.

    #8. Is being the GM a chore, or a privilege?

    Both. The chore is the preparation that is required (although most good GMs enjoy it); the privilege is the opportunity to pace the players through an enjoyable series of stories and adventure that he or she has had a hand in crafting, and taking enjoyment from that as well.

    #9. How much of the success of an RPG session is determined by the quality and actions of the GM? Would you prefer an awesome RPG ruleset with an awesome adventure and awesome other players run by a mediocre GM; or a mediocre RPG ruleset with a mediocre adventure and mediocre other players under an awesome GM?

    I think a comparatively large portion of the session enjoyment is driven by DM quality. A poor DM can ruin superior material for the players; a superior GM can enhance mediocre material and make it highly enjoyable. The best possible situation, obviously, is to have both.

    #10. What is your pet peeve about GMs, expressed in a way that makes it generic and impossible to connect to any one specific GM?

    I think the worst thing a GM can do is imagine themselves to be in conflict with players, opposing them, versus guiding them through the adventure and campaign. Often you hear GMs bragging about having TPK’d a party; but a TPK is almost always indicative of a GM having failed on multiple levels – on encounter design, on managing that encounter, on having a good estimation of the players abilities and resources, on not being flexible and altering the encounter to ensure that the party has a chance to survive, on not understanding that players are invested in the characters and killing them is inherently not fun. Any GM that brags about a TPK is, in my opinion, a GM that needs to reconsider his role.

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