Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Who Blinks First?

So, say you've got a RPG campaign going on. After some time, it becomes evident to pretty much everyone that there's some indefinable miscommunication happening, because the game that the GM proposed and is trying to run just doesn't seem to be the sort of game the players are trying to play, and even among the players, there seems to be a disagreement as to how the game is/should be played out. Perhaps the GM wants a game that's more like Lord of the Rings, while some players are looking for Conan and others are trying for Fafhrd & The Grey Mouser.

In these sorts of situations, who blinks first? Assuming that each viewpoint is what that person considers "fun", and they aren't really interested in another person's "vision" of the game (for example, the GM doesn't want to do Conan and the players aren't really Epic Quest sorts of players, but more into Ale & Whores sorts of gaming), who gives in? Personally, I've always felt that the ultimate goal of the Game Master is to ensure that the players have fun. If the players aren't enjoying themselves, the GM isn't doing their job right. This doesn't mean always giving in to every whim of the PCs/Players, but more a matter of filtering out what the players really want from what they say they want, and responding appropriately.

On the other hand, if the GM was smart and approached the Players with a good pre-game proposal for what the campaign would be like, and the players agreed, then the players should really be respecting the time and effort the GM put into preparing and planning for the game, and get into the spirit of things. If you agreed that LotR-esque fantasy gaming would be an acceptable campaign premise for you, don't show up to the game and immediately ask where the taverns and wenches are, all while battle-axing any grimy peasant who doesn't move out of your way fast enough. You're probably smart enough to know that Grogbash the Barbarian isn't an appropriate character to have wandering around the Faire and Noble Kingdome of Hondore.

So under these circumstances, I ask you, gentle readers, who blinks first? Which side of the GM's screen caves and gives the other side what they want? Or should they just agree to disagree and pick something else to play?


wulfgar said...

Well you can agree to disagree, and still play the same game if everyone is having fun. Players control what the PCs do. The GM controls what everyone else does. If the guy playing Aragorn wants him to get sloshed in every tavern between the Shire and Mount Doom- well that's his perogative. The GM can have his epic bad guys doing epic bad guy stuff at the same time.

If people aren't having fun, then yeah you can try something else, but I don't see different "visions" for the style of the game automatically equaling people not having fun.

Badelaire said...

Just as different "visions" of characters and situations can generate conflict between a director and an actor, so to can it cause trouble with players and GMs. If the GM is repeatedly providing situations for adventure with the expectation that the PCs will handle the situation one way, and they go and deal with it another way, I can see where it can cause confusion.

If your GM says "I want to run a game that's like The X-Files, so there's going to be a lot of investigation, a lot of mystery, and a good degree of horror-type play", and the players begin the game and start opening up with Uzis and flamethrowers at every shadow, then there's a problem.

I hate to bring up the term "Social Contract", but that's how I see it. The Players and the GM agree to a game of X, Y and Z style/genre/flavor, and if one side or the other isn't holding up their end of the bargain, things can quickly get frustrating.

Sham aka Dave said...

This is an interesting question. I think, for the most part, my situation is somewhat unique in that we established our gaming group back in the early 80's, and all stuck together for not only D&D but various other games.

As GM, I came to realize that even amongst our little group, certain players enjoyed different aspects of the game. But since we were all long time friends, everyone enjoys just being together in a relaxed social setting and forgettting about the outside world for a time.

I suppose our group was trimmed down during the late 70's and very early 80's, as I can recall countless players who joined for a session or two and stopped coming. So perhaps those players blinked becuse they weren't having fun (or perhaps the tight clique and inside jokes ran them off?).

I know my DMing style has changed a lot through the years...but one element which I strive for is fun. And I do indeed notice when particular players are yawning or day dreaming at the table. Maybe that's why I've been able to roll with the changes and strive to maintain interest and involvement.

I know for a fact that it would be difficult for a new comer arriving at our gaming table. I think I am more welcoming than most of my players. They still remember some of the boneheads who joined us back in those earliest days, I guess.

The players blink first, but this DM does notice when a player isn't involved. My players are quick to tell someone when they aren't 'fitting in' with the game.


The Evil DM said...

I really don't think there is a clear winner. if you're running a game that no one wants to play, then you will soon find yourself sitting alone with your books and dice. On the other hand playing in a game that the GM obviously doesn't have his heart invested in is a huge frustrating waste of time.
since gaming is a a social exercise I think there needs to be clear communication and compromise.

If its a regular group of friends and the GM wants to try a space opera game, then agree to give it a try for a couple of sessions out of respect for the GM and in turn you can return to the regular more popular genre.

If its a new group forming then at least one meeting needs to be held where the specifics of the campaign are discussed (party level of experience, tone of the campaign, house rules ,etc.). at this point if you all sit down and it's decided by the majority that a gritty western campaign is the choice, then either sign on 100% or sit this one out.