Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GM Merit Badges

Somehow, I've managed to delete my GM Merit Badges post.  Huh?  That's what I get for trying to add a link to it in the editing screen, I guess.  Anyway, here's the original post that started it all.  And this new post of mine will have to be my reworked GM Merit Badge post.

Er... to be technical, that's the second post that started it all.  I linked to that one instead of the first one because 1) he links to the first post within the body of that post, and 2) he added a few badges.  That's the complete list.  And the link to the CafePress store, for those who are interested.

Anyway, once again around: here's my picks:

1) My game will tell an interesting Story.  That is, I don't purposefully write a story, but if an interesting story isn't somehow the product of the game experience, then I consider it to be a failure.

2) My games will be Scary. I'm a big fan of blending in lots of horror elements, and the dark fantasy genre, as vague as that label may yet be.

3) There will be Player vs. Player combat allowed in my games.  I won't exactly encourage it, but I'm not going to stop it.  I don't believe that RPGs are games about teamwork.  The teamwork is at the player level, in creating an experience that is interesting and fun.  That does not necessarily mean teamwork at the character level, and characters that do not get along are often the most interesting kinds.

4) I will Mirror back player ideas that I think are interesting in game.  Be careful what kinds of theories you discuss openly at the table; your worst case scenarios might come back to haunt you!

5) The GM is In Charge in my game and "rule zero" is in effect.  I'm a much bigger believer in rulings than in rules anyway.

6) My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than prescripted content.  At most, I'll have a one-page outline of what I think is likely to happen that will often last for three or four sessions.  I prefer my players to drive the game to activities that they find interesting, based on hooks that I dangle in front of them, of course.  But it's important to me that they have lots of hooks to choose from and do what they want to do.  Of course, that also means I can only plan so much, so I have to make up a lot of stuff on the fly based on how my players choose.

7) My games include lots of Intrigue.  In fact, I greatly prefer intrigue, skullduggery, and cloak and dagger affairs to "dungeoncrawls" which I hate.

8) I roll Dice in the open and don't fudge results in the game.  Mostly, anyway.  I dislike fudging, but I reserve the right to in minor ways here and there.  In fact, I struggle to think of how a good gamemaster couldn't at least reserve that right even if--like me--he prefers to exercise it very infrequently.

9) My games include Disturbing content.  Again; I like a fairly strong horror vibe.  I consider my games to be often skirting the line between PG-13 and R, at least.

10) My games focus on interesting Characters and Drama.  In fact, that's what I like about the game.  I couldn't really care less about tactics.  I approach the game from an authorial standpoint, and while I also really love the collaborative effort of working with players (either as GM or as a player myself) instead of "writing my story", at the same time, I like the game best when we're focused on trying to tell an interesting story.  And that goes hand in hand with interesting characters and drama; in fact, with interesting characters and drama, a decent story is almost an inevitable product of the game.

11) Players in my game should be prepared to Run when the odds are stacked against them.  I'm not really a fan of killing PCs, but I won't hesitate to do so if it's the obvious result of player actions.  And, once again, horror, folks.  In horror you don't always stand up to the monster and gloriously battle it to the death.  That is, you don't if you don't want really short, boring games.

12) I frequently Tinker with the rules of the game.  Well, that should be obvious, given my rather extensive houseruled system.

Did I perhaps overdo it?  The creator of the badges only picked six originally (later bulked up to nine) while I'm clocking in at twelve.  Dunno.


Joshua said...

For the ones I didn't pick:

I think tactics in almost every RPG I've ever played have been rather boring and gamist. I find a focus on tactics to be a distraction from the game rather than an addition to it. There are good tactical games out there... when I'm in the mood for tactics, I'd rather play one of those rather than coopt some half-baked tactics into my roleplaying game.

I came close to picking exploration & mystery, more for the mystery than for the exploration. Exploring of ruins, dungeons, etc. is not up my alley at all, but solving mysteries is.

The safe merit badge is just right out. That does not describe my game in any way.

I'm not a big fan of pre-made maps or scripts. Sounds a bit like pre-packaged adventures, hex crawls or dungeoncrawls. I don't mind picking up those types of products from time to time, but I just raid them for ideas; I never run them as is. I rarely run them at all.

I also almost included gonzo, but I'd argue that that's not necessarily a feature of my games. I've certainly had some gonzo games, but I've had others that were much more "straight."

My characters aren't destined for anything. That's up to the players to make something of their characters. Well, and the dice, of course.

Death is certainly always a possibility in my campaigns, but I wouldn't say it's likely. In fact, I think it's rather unlikely barring either really bad luck or really stupid player choices. Most of the time.

I never play by-the-book in D&D. In fact, I don't even like by the book D&D. In rules-heavy systems like d20, which I prefer, you could get drowned trying to run it by the book. No thanks.

I aspire to have games that are a little bit "more" than just beer & pretzels. While I hope that my games are fun, I like to make them more... I'm struggling to think of a word or phrase to use that doesn't sound pretentious... artistically isspired, maybe? I aspire to emulate the kinds of good fantasy and action and suspense books, TV shows and movies that I like, not just be a game.

Although I've had sessions without combat, I typically define a no combat session as a failure. I like some good action.

Shared GMing sounds like an interesting experiment. I've never done it, and given the types of games I prefer to run (and to play in) I can't imagine how it could ever work.

Focusing on player skill rather than character abilities is usually a red flag statement for me. Lots of people, myself included, don't enjoy solving puzzles, tactical challenges, or other such things that require "skilled" players to do well. That's usually a code word for "this is a game, not a collaborative story-telling exercise of the kind that you like."

And I am unlikely to spend much time or attention to any sexual content. While some occasional bawdy humor is fun, by and large focusing much effort on this with a bunch of middle-aged guys is just too uncomfortable. For that matter, since I'm married, it'd be just as uncomfortable--if not moreso--with anyone other than middle-aged guys. In general, I'll stick with junior high level jokes and possible "off-screen" action, and otherwise keep sexual content out.

Joshua said...

I removed two badges; the Dice in the Open badge seemed more and more like it wasn't really what I had in mind with my "mostly" out in the open, but I reserve the right to fudge mentality. I also took off the Tinker badge, just because my system is so thoroughly house-ruled that I'm not even sure it qualifies as tinkered with so much as it does "redesigned." Plus, I wanted to maintain an even number so I could have a graphic with two across still.