Part 1 of 2, by Trent Yacuk
“I’m a Druid? How did I get lost in the woods?”
“Well, you failed your roll…”
No Game Master is perfect. All GMs need improvement. The art of GMing takes years of practice. There are skills that can be learned and mastered, like any art.
Of all the skills that should be understood the most important is a simple one, yet I’ve seen it forgotten and abused and abandoned by the side of the road too many times to count. It’s the skill of respect.
Every player sits down at your game and makes a character in hopes of achieving something. Some players want story. Some players want a ‘role’ (just to role-play their character). Some players want to kick ass and take names. It is absolutely crucial for a GM to figure out what each of their players is looking for. What is the purpose of the character they’ve constructed for the game? I’ve seen detailed instructions for how to deal with all ‘types’ of players (the power gamer, the role player, the quiet type, etc) but they seem to be missing the point to some degree. They explain how to deal with these player types, but fail to address why you are dealing with them.
It’s all about respect. Ultimately, the role of the GM is to entertain your friends. And while some GMs think that their story is so great that it can’t fail to entertain, they may be missing the point. Because the players are there for their character, not for your story. Your story is just the path for their characters, the medium through which they can play their persona.
Once the GM realizes this, they should then realize that respecting the player and the character is paramount to their story. And it’s a surprisingly easy skill to master, because it really is as simple as recognizing what the players and characters want, what they came to do and then give it to them.
It can be very simple sometimes, as simple as giving that character a mention: “Normally, the party would never have found shelter this late at night in the rain, but because you have a Druid with you, you can all thank her for her wisdom. She finds a perfect hollow tree for you to camp in.”
That is respect. That is giving praise to a character. And as small as it is, it’s those little things that the player may appreciate. And if respect is used throughout the story, in large or small fashion, the players will enjoy your story all that much more.
Respect is simply giving the players and their characters moments of glory, in which they get to be the hero, the saviour, the action star. How many players make a fighter (tank) character in hopes of getting that one day, just one day, when everyone else has to run while they get to stand at the bottleneck and hold the waves of enemies back? How many cunning rogues or wizards want to wait patiently until the end of the Big Bad’s speech, to which they counter, “That’s very impressive…but you forgot to take one thing into account. That’s not the real relic that you’re holding…”
They can be as small as preventative maintenance, such as making the assumption that a Druid or Ranger is not stupid enough to get lost in the woods. Or that the Shadowrun gun bunny knows that it’s absolutely impossible for him to get a single gun through customs, so obviously, he wouldn’t even try. It’s taking things into account that show that the character wouldn’t fail at something that is so routine for them, regardless of whether the system wants a dice roll.
Trent Yacuk is an independent game developer who has after several years, hundreds of playtesting sessions in several cities across Canada and relentless badgering from his peer group of zealously committed players come to the final edit on his beloved roleplaying game centered around angels, demons and the eternal war.