Friday, May 23, 2008

Who to game with?

Let me begin with a brief review of the groups that I have been gaming with lately.

The first group is the one that I've been gaming with since 2002. There is only one member, other than myself, that has been with the group for that entire time. I'll call this group my "player" group because I have primarily been a player in that group. Other than me, the group consists of 5 people; that is 4 men and 1 woman. The other group is the one that I ran my last campaign for 3 people all men. I'll call that my "GM" group because I've only GMed in that group. One man is in both groups. I'm going to describe people here primarily according to their gaming style as defined by Robin Laws in his book Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering.

Player group:
Man 1: Powergamer/Tactician. Cross-over with the GM group. He has years of experience with GMing and is very opinionated about how it should be done. If the GM lets something broken into the game it is his fault and he won't tell you it is broken, on the other hand if you ask him outright, he'll tell you if he thinks its broken.
Man 2: Method actor/Storyteller. Can be counted on for a good character background, to follow the GMs lead in terms of tone and story. Not inept with the crunchy bits of gaming but his strong suit is definitely the story and character element.
Man 3: Powergamer/Butt kicker. Tech guy, likes to build powerful combinations slowly over time. He'll be the one that doesn't pick the obviously broken feat, he'll pick the less obviously broken feat that can actually rend the world in two if built and played correctly.
Man 4: Powergamer/Butt kicker. Boyfriend to the woman in the group, tech geek, years of experience playing mostly D&D 3.0 and Shadowrun.
Woman: Casual gamer. Girlfriend of the man 4, MMORPG background, new to PNP gaming.

GM group:
Man 1: Same guy as Man 1 in the player group. I invited him to join this campaign group for two reasons. First, he is really good at the crunchy bits of gaming. I hoped this would help me with running GURPS (having never played it) and that I hoped his facility would assist the other players in this group who had little gaming experience.
Man 2: Casual gamer. He's played a lot of Computer RPGs, he likes to watch the story progress but doesn't have a lot of intiative on his own for character development or action.
Man 3: Method actor/Storyteller. He had played hack-n-slash D&D 2.0 in college and I invited him to this group because he was a guy at work that I thought I could get a long with. I was right. He likes developing his character and has written poetry (very bad poetry) out of game time to read during game because that's what his character would do. His imagination sometimes runs away with him though; he can forget that his character is in the GMs world and that he can't narrate what exists in the world just because he wants to.

Me: Storyteller/Method Actor. I started gaming at age 25. I had hoarded some D&D books through high school and college but never really played. My first character had a Russian accent, developed in a lot of ways, and finally languished in an unfinished campaign. At the time I was accused of doing things out of character when I tried to help the story go along. Now I see that I'm just a storyteller style player. I'll adapt my character to the world so that the story can continue. But I'm still trying to play my character; storyteller first, method actor second.

As a GM, I've learned a few things about myself.
  1. First, I can't GM evil, annoying, or mean PCs. I can't stand the idea of rewarding immoral actions even if those actions take place in an imaginary world.
  2. Second, I don't like, and am not really good at, prepping for the crunchy details. Man 1 in my groups can GM a D&D creature with 3 templates, weird feat combos from obscure source books and make it all work. Me, I'm lucky if I GM the flying rules right (and I didn't in the last session I GMed).
  3. Third, I like interesting and diverse character interactions. I like it when the PCs have to deal with an unpleasant person and change the reaction deliberately. I like when the PCs turn an enemy into a friend rather than just whack the guy. As a player, I've enjoyed playing many different character but they're all basically good.
As I look over my own parameters, I can see that the powergamers are going to be hard for me to please. I work best as a GM when the power level stays relatively low and the mechanics are simple. Powergamers often want to power level to increase over time until they have magic item+5 and are killing demigods on their native plane. On the other hand, I've used some in-game incentives in this way before. My PCs had gone into a "primitive" society and were soon trading and vying for the symbol of a warrior's status in the society, crow feathers, like they were Pokemon cards in their hey-day. That kind of tactic might work. Financial rewards can often duplicate power rewards (and I'm not interested in building an entire economy to satisfy that impulse). Butt-kicking desires can be satisfied in most games even if I'm hoping to reduce combat significantly.

My leanings toward storytelling will allow both storytellers and method actors to thrive. The casual gamers from either group would survive well as long as I don't make them work too hard.

After all this analysis, I don't feel like I'm any closer to a decision between my options of picking one or the other group, cross pollenating the groups, or just trying to find/create a new group. However, I have hopes that reading this post later will help me see something I may have missed making it obvious which route I should have taken in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I can't stop laughing at these descriptions! In my defense, though, I'm very opinionated about everything.