Monday 25 January 2021

Answering Jojiro's GM Orthodoxies

 The questions, because I felt like it. 

1. Your players arrive in an abandoned city – the first thing they do is enter a home, asking what’s left of the pantry. What do you say to them?

"Mostly rotten food, stored in boxes and barrels. Looks like the food stores were well-stocked and abandoned quickly.", or something to that effect, because I want to put the fear of god in them. 

Or there's a demon in there stuffing it's face with rotten food. Depends on the tone of the session.

2. Your players want to talk to a city magistrate about an unpopular idea of theirs. In order to catch the magistrate off-guard, they approach early in the morning. What state do they find the magistrate in?

Probably like, eating something weird for breakfast, or in bed, or on the shitter. Something mundane, vaguely embarassing, and comical. 

Either that or they're like, eating a whole person and are like 'oh damn now i have to have you killed.' 

3.  During character creation, a player mentions that they want a naturally blue-haired character. Not for any particular reason, you were envisioning your campaign setting without this possibility. How do you respond?

"Explain how that came about, since that can't normally happen in this campaign setting. Totally open to it, if you can explain why." and then let them have it anyway even if their explanation is terrible, because it's Our game not My game. 

4.  Read the following entry for a “point of interest”, and then refine how you would present it in a game in some way. You might change how you would describe it out loud, edit it in writing, add typographical emphasis (bold, italics, underlining) for a play-by-post game, etc.

Hidden within a secluded forest glade is a ruined shrine of ancient granite, vines of ivy peeking through the cracked stone pillars. The shrine was built by ash dwarves, and like most such shrines, it is guarded by a salamander. Within the shrine is a pool of simmering water. Characters who drink here receive the benefits of the fire shield spell for the rest of the day.

And I'd put it:

Within this glade, secluded deep in the forest, is an ancient structure of familiarly ash dwarven architecture. It's made of worn granite, and bears a cover of ivy and many cracks. Inside the shrine's portico, there lies a pool of simmering, glimmering water, which smells strongly of sulphur. You can see a long, sinuous, creatre, with fire coloured scales, four short legs, a long, lizardlike face, and muscular arms. It's clutching a red hot pole arm and lounging on the hot steps of the shrine, scanning the nearby woods. It looks wary. What's your approach? 

Because the pool's secret and the salamander's role in this place are things to be discovered, I'd argue. 

5.  Your players enter a dungeon you have prepared, and leave after being spooked by the monsters within. In truth, they are more than powerful enough to overcome the threats of the dungeon, and well-equipped to do so. One of the players asks you, “Do you think we’re ready for this dungeon?” How do you answer?

"Only one way to find out!" 

6.  One of your players has a spell, speak with insects. They use it to speak with a spider, at which point another player points out that it shouldn’t work. The first player is obviously disappointed, and looks to you hopefully for you to overrule the other player. You don’t remember the actual details of how the spell works, but your rulebook is handy if you need to look it up. What do you do?

Shrug and say, "For this purposes of this, I'll say it's 'Speak with Arthropods' and the medieval wizard who made the spell doesn't know Spiders aren't technically insects. 

I will admit, however, if this was 5e i'd probably quickly google the spell, then make a song and dance of ruling in the spider-talker player's favour anyway. 

7. (response to 1) “There’s nothing in the pantry.”

Man this is nearly the exact opposite answer I would give. Saying there's nothing there at all kind of invalidates the player's curiosity, which is, in my opinion, a bad. Let them find a weird bug or something. 

Or a demon. 

8.  (response to 2) “The magistrate – only a petty official who has temporarily taken over this post, by the way – isn’t even tired – he’s an early morning sort of gentleman. Despite the early hour, the dawn’s rays still barely tickling over the hills, he looks well put-together. Not a hair is out of place on his head, and his sharply kept mustache suggests a morning ritual of wax-infused grooming. The man is already making steady headway into a stack of tidy paperwork as you arrive. You’re in luck, however – he seems to be in a good mood, which may make him more amenable to your suggestion than normal.”

This one is interesting. Because it's rewarding the players for their intiative but is also a counter to their idea. So I'm not against it, but it seems like... if the magistrate is a morning person, maybe the plan shouldn't work? Since he's very much awake and on guard? Not really sure. Have to give that one more thought. 

9. (response to 3) “Sure you can have blue hair! I hope you don’t mind if nobody else does though – I didn’t really originally picture that sort of hair, and I’ve got so much else to juggle that I probably won’t add a whole lot of world responsiveness to blue hair. It’ll just be an aesthetic thing to help you better picture your character, not much beyond that.”

This is an equally good answer. I definitely need to remember that PCs dont necessarily equal settings: there's not that many goblins in this continent, which is why it's really weird that four of the PCs are goblins, right? 

10(response to 4) “The point of interest should be more direct, short and to the point. I don’t want to mention other shrines, since they’ll come up when they come up, and players can make the connection about salamanders being normal if they want to. Since it’s for a game, the phrases don’t have to be grammatically correct or complete sentences – they just need to convey information. For a play-by-post game, I also want the keywords to stand out, so I will bold them:”

This one's more based on my personal taste. To be honest, I see the value of short, sharp descriptions, but they really aren't my thing as a DM or a player. I like imagining things, so more description is fun from both ends for me. 

11. (response to 5) “Who knows? Haha.”

This blithe answer implies I don't know. 

And I don't, because that's not how i build dungeons, but my beloved players don't necessarily need to know that. 

12.  (response to 6) “I would look it up in the book, and if it’s a regular question, I would add a sticky-note to that page so I could find it faster, to show my players what the rules say. Knowing the rules and when to look them up is important, and I want to lead by example.”

Eh. Disagree. It's my weird hacked version of whatever we're playing anyway. Sticky noting pages seems suspiciously like organising things, which is anathema and should be avoided. Leaving it up to you to decide if that's sarcasm. 

13.  Imagine, briefly, that the responses in 7 through 12 all came from the same GM, within the same campaign. Are there patterns that emerge about how this GM runs? Would you want the GM to be more consistent and predictable about anything?
Does examining this hypothetical GM change how you thought about your own tendencies, and your own patterns? Would you want to learn anything from this hypothetical GM, or not? Why?

The Hypothetical GM (presumably cousin to the Angry GM) seems to be a little inconsistent with how much effort they put into description. They're open to player choice, which I like, but don't seem to necessarily reward player engagement (?). They care about the specific rules of game they're playing and sometimes overshare meta-information (salamander lore, the job status of this magistrate) that could be got in RP. 

I feel like Hypothetical GM's style contrasts with my "Comedy, Horror and Funny Voices" style a bit, seem to prefer narration to in-character talking (which is fine, but i like doing Funny Voices) and let stuff that could be discovered be plain information, which is bad for Dramatic Reveals, which are my favourite. 

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