The Dichotomy

As a GM, I often want to make sure I am providing a rich environment where players can roleplay, explore, build connections and networks, expand into their own character and story, and feel they have a voice within and impact on the world they are thrust into. I try avoid making every session just a “monster of the week” fight, or endless dungeon stomp.

As a player I love those things when they seem to evolve naturally. When it feels like they are being forced and this results in slow sessions where no player is particularly engaged and things are sow, I desperately wish we could just go smash undead/punch fascists/shoot robots. I much prefer even a typical monster-of-the-week fight to a roleplaying session where things aren’t gel-ing.

This makes me wonder how often I am trying to hard as a GM, failing to just let things naturally evolve on the RP side. I have begun to think part of the issue is that my own GM style tends towards crucial, needful conflicts that can’t wait. That’s partially in response to my players generally being the opposite of murder hobos — they don’t want to have characters that murder and loot for the sake of murdering and looting, but want to be heroes who put themselves in harms way while saving others… even as they as players enjoy the action and reward of fighting and looting. So, I often generate foes who *must* be opposed for ethical reasons, and then players feel like they can’t take a day off without letting someone down.

Maybe I can find a way to have more fights and risks be optional, things you can feel good about going and opposing, but not feel bad if you let them sit because everyone really wants to help the orphaned goblin child find a home this week.

This is the other side of roleplaying for me; the flip side of rules and tactics and action economies and even storytelling. The fine tuning of figuring out what activities the GM and players will all enjoy going through within the game.

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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 21, 2022, in Adventure Design, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I have very different needs as a GM and Player. As a GM I tend to be fast and loose with rules because I really want to tell a ripping story. As a player, I really enjoy playing around with the rules to build a very interesting hero with specific strengths and weaknesses.

    As a designer, I want to serve both of those desires. But I’m less likely to think about the players who want to create elaborate stories or the GMs that want a lot of “roll to see what happens” material because those have rarely been part of my won play.

    Over the years, my players usually want the GM to lay out the story, and they have fun reacting to it rather than telling their own stories. In a longer campaign I do build stories around the PCs, but rarely at the player’s suggestion or impetus.

    I think this is a good thing to keep in mind for collaborative work. Finding someone who has a somewhat different focus helps you if you want to make a broadly appealing product. Having someone with a similar vision is good if you are making a very focused product.

  2. This is also a perfect description of teaching…welcome to the profession.
    [Maybe first hour needs more goblin fights.]

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