There’s an old saying in the entertainment business, “Give the people what they want”. As a GM, I’ve got to say, that’s one great sentiment. I mean, if every time you sit down to run a game you could guarantee that you were going to be able to give everyone exactly what they came for?I think that would be the greatest feeling a GM could possibly achieve.
Also, you should probably get out of GMing and get into politics….fast. We need you.
But what is it that makes that goal so hardtop achieve? I mean, it’s just me and a bunch of my friends, right? I’ve known these people for years. I’ve hung out with them, gone to Spring Break with them, worked with them. I know them.
Yeah, except one thing. You don’t. At least, not as Roleplayers.
And when you do get to know them. You will probably find that, unless you have a very small group, you have a collection of very differently styled players.
I know, most books and blogs out there seem to be giving advice based on the perfect gaming group. People who sit down and all immediately agree on their purpose and goals. They all want the same thing that their GM wants. They all want to tell the same type of story.
But the truth is that the “perfect” group is next to impossible to find.
First of all, Players vary in their level of commitment. And not always by choice. I’m lucky enough to have several groups that play weekly. But others might be too busy to meet up more than once a month.
Some Players are more than willing to let the game go wherever and however their friends want. While still others will get down right perturbed if you play in a manner other than the way they see fit.
There is another saying in the RPG community: “There is no wrong way to have fun.”
I would expand on this by saying, “There’s no wrong way to have fun, as long as you find some harmony between the wants of yourself and each of the players in your group”
Ill tell you what I want..What I really really want…
Not everyone comes to the gaming table for the same reason. Finding out the reasons for each person, and a way to give them as much importance as everyone else at the table, is one of the main jobs of the GM.
But what’s the secret to that? Balance. If you want to find a way to please everyone, you have to compromise on the things you want to happen.
I get it. That’s not easy. One of the reasons you became a GM was because you wanted to create a world of your own. We want to be the one who is in charge of the story. We want to show off some of the wonderfully creative realms and tales that have been brewing in our brain for years.
And I’m not saying that you cant do that. What I am saying is that you have to balance it with the wants of the players.
Notice I said balance. Not give into them all together.
If you simply bow to the wants of the players, you’re going to be bored out of your mind. But if the players in your group have no interest in that Cyberpunk Dinosaur World that you’ve been building for the past seven years, the game is going to fall flat on its face.
Good GMing is simple. Figure out what they want, mix in some of what you enjoy, and create your group’s unique gaming style that makes everyone at your table happy.
To help with this, lets discuss the different types of players:
The Good, The Bad, and the Munchkin…
As I said, everyone is into RPGs for their own reasons. And I would be here for years trying to pin every single style down. But these are the archetypes that I have run into the most in my 30+ years of gaming and generally what I find they most desire at the table (Your experiences may vary from mine):
The Casual Gamer: This is your friend who isn’t so much interested in the game itself, as they are just hanging out with the group. They rarely speak, unless it is their turn in combat. And roleplaying, or anything else that might make them the center of attention, is completely out of their comfort zone.
A lot of “Real” Gamers find these Players aggravating.
Because they don’t think that the Casual Gamer takes it as seriously as they do. Casual Gamers aren’t interested in figuring out all the rules. They can play the same game for years and still ask questions like, “Now what die do I roll for that?” or “How much damage does Magic Missile do?” They just want to hang out and play a background character.
And that’s OK. The last thing you should do is force someone to the spotlight when they don’t want to be there.
Do they take the game as seriously as other players? Nope. But that’s OK, too. They are still very important to the survival of many gaming groups.
Doesn’t make sense to you?
Then you probably haven’t been at a table when a few of these more invested characters are headed for a blow up. It’s the Casual Gamer that can keep them from beating each other to death with their dice towers. They are often the ones that step in, smooth over the situation and keep the game going.
To keep this player happy at your table just let them blend into the background. If they want to step forward, they will.
The Expert: This is your friend who spends most of their time trying to figure out the perfect tactics for every situation. They love to figure out the complicated puzzles, the complex problems, and the combat advantages. They want the game to sync with their idea of what is realistic. And if not, it better be consistent and logical or it will drive these Players insane.
The expert wants their long thought out decisions to determine their failure or success. They don’t need things decided by feelings. They need it left to sound judgment.
Role playing a character’s emotional reactions to a situation can sometimes seem like an unneeded distraction to these Players. And they can get frustrated when other Players make their decisions on things as trivial as a character’s backstory instead of what the Expert sees as logical.
If you want to keep the Expert happy, you have to provide challenges that are going test their intelligence. And make sure that your rulings are, above all, logical and consistent.
The Power Gamer: This is the friend who wants to be the biggest, the buffest and the baddest hero on the block. They go through the rules with a fine tooth comb, looking for any loopholes or rules that might give them an unexpected advantage.
Their character isn’t a person. It’s a collection of numbers and abilities that have been arranged in the optimal arrangement as to lead to the most efficient accumulation of even higher numbers and more abilities.
They ignore the Role Playing in RPGs, but they don’t forget that this is a game. And a game is made to be won.
To keep them happy, you just have to give them ample chances to let their super powers shine. And the chance to add more even super powers to the list.
The Roleplayer : This is the friend who thinks that Story is king when it comes to RPGs. They are there strictly for character development. They think that each character they play should be unique, in it’s own special way.
The Roleplayer base their decisions on the way they believe their character thinks, or their backstory. This can lead to them sometimes being disruptive and turning away from the goals of the group, to keep with the ideals the Roleplayer thinks are most important to their character.
The Roleplayer don’t really care about the rules of the game. Experience points and levels be damned! Hell, they wouldn’t care (and would probably prefer) if they never had to roll their dice.
To keep them happy all you have to do is give them the chance to really roleplay and add to their character’s personal story.
The Chronicler : These players are closely related to the Roleplayer. But they are more interested in forwarding the overall narrative, rather than deep development of their character. They don’t mind compromise, if it will make the story better. But they hate it when the session turns into hours upon hours of planning the next step.
You want them to be entertained, you have to remember to keep the pace moving. And keep bringing in new plot points to be resolved.
The Action Hero: This is your friend who came to the game wanting to do two things. Kick ass and chew bubble gum. And they just ran out of bubble gum.
They have been waiting all week for this. They have been tucking away every bit of stress from the past week. every time the boss yelled at them. every time their significant other didn’t put the toilet seat back down, and every other bit of stress that has been piling up.
The Action hero needs this game to keep from exploding all over everyone. This is their vent. They keep themselves a sane, productive member of society by coming to this game once a week and blowing shit up.
The Action Hero doesn’t care about the story. They don’t care about character development or even logical tactics.
Rules you say? Bah! The rules are only there to help find more ways to become the perfect killing machine.
All the Action Hero cares about is their character getting the chance to bash the enemy’s skull and prove that they are the mightiest in the land.
Keeping the Action Hero engaged is simple. Give them asses to kick.
The Specialist: You know that friend who only plays the same character (with different names) over and over again? It doesn’t matter what Rule Set, or even genre, you’re playing. The Specialist is going to build the same character (or as close as they can reasonably get to it) every single time.
They may be an Assassin, a Paladin, a Warrior, a Thief. It doesn’t matter. They have found the character that brings them the most joy and they don’t see any point in trying new ones that may, or may not, work out.
The rules are important to the Specialist only as long as they support the character archetype that they want to play.
For them to enjoy the game, you are going to have to create encounters and situations in which the Specialists chosen archetype is going to be able to show off.
Everyone else: So here is the unnerving truth. These styles apply to most Players. But not to all. And there are players that have been, or will be all of these types. This could happen at different times in their Gaming career, or they may encompass several of these types at the same time.
Not only that but you, as the GM, may enjoy different styles of gaming now and again. That’s OK. Just remember, its about every body having fun.
Also: These Styles are only going to help you once you get to know your Players. When the game is new you don’t know them enough to use these. And, if you’re dealing with people that have never played before, even a Session 0 might not be as helpful as it will with experienced players.
The reason in simple. Session 0 gives everyone the opportunity to tell the group what they are looking for from the game. If they have never played an RPG before, this can be hard for them to say, as they don’t know yet.
Don’t let it bother you. Keep things open and, other than the most basic of plots, see where the Players lead you.
If you have problems dealing with any of these types of players, take a look at my article : Tips to Better GMing #2: How I handle “Problem” Players
As always, I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helps. If you have any questions, ideas on future subjects you might like me to tackle, or just wanna tell me your own solutions, please feel free to comment below.
If you want to chat about RPGs or say hello, come hit me up on Twitter @DMLeviathan
Thanks again, and have a great one…