Thursday, July 1, 2010

Being the Party Leader

So, I know I promised a Character Type and a Dramatic Situation when I came back, and have only delivered on half of that promise but something came up in game last night that I felt was worth an entry. So, today I'm going to talk about being a Party Leader in a table top game, and tomorrow I'll deliver on the Dramatic Situation I promised last week sometime. So, read on for being the party leader and some tips on doing it.

Being the Party Leader can be a tough gig, in a lot of ways it is like being the GM just without the tools at hand to get the job done. The other PCs look to your character for guidance, to show the way and choose the path that people are going to take. You choose what gets checked out and what doesn't a lot of the time, and just in general are put into a place of authority and responsibility. In military games, the bad actions of the people under you could also reflect poorly on your character. All of this puts a daunting task in front of you, especially when you are new to it. A wrong decision could get the party wiped, even a right decision could get someone's beloved character killed. You need to make the right decision every time. Or do you? Lets take a look at some bits of advice that can help out the new leader.

A Bad Decision Is Better Than No Decision
This is the first bit I have given to every new player to the party leader role. Standing around thinking about things is not a good idea, for one you aren't doing anything, and for two it gets a bit boring. Not to mention that in many situations the information you are looking for to feel comfortable that something is the right choice is simply not available. So what do you do? Well, act. A decision, even a bad one, made promptly is better than no decision at all. For one, you at least keep people moving, and for two if you do it with conviction you will maintain authority and help prevent the group from breaking down around you as everyone starts suggesting their own way of handling things.

So, when in doubt act. If you don't know if you should go right or left, and the GM has given you the information she is going to for now, just make a decision. Flip a coin, choose randomly, just go for one of them. You'll be amazed how many times people will follow just because you have set off in a direction or are the first person to make a decision and make it with authority.

Don't Ask, Tell.
Now, I'm not saying to be a dick to the other players and run roughshod over them. Nor am I saying that you should never ask for advice or input, but when making a decision word choice is important. Saying "Should we go right" is a question, saying "We should go right" is a suggestion, and saying "We go right" is a decision. Now, I am going off the assumption that the group of players decided who would be leader - and if not that the characters have done so - so they are looking to you for authority and decision making. This is fairly heavily linked to acting when in doubt, but asking questions and making suggestions can lead to lengthy debate. Not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes lengthy debate ends up with the GM going "Ok, they've been sitting here arguing over whether or not they open the door for 30 minutes. That dragon is going to catch up now".

You are in charge, and if people have a problem with your leadership they can do something about it. However, in the moment don't be afraid to lay down the authority. You can clarify that it is only IC after the game when people are talking about things, or even in game, but don't be afraid to lay down the law.

Asking For Help Is Ok
Let's not kid ourselves here, at some point you are going to be stumped. When that happens it is ok to ask for help. Ask the GM for more information in exchange for a roll. Ask the other members for advice on how they see the situation. Get more information, listen, and then make a decision. I know this sounds like the opposite of what I just said but it really isn't. If you are totally stumped asking for help is perfectly fine and cool. Just remember to not let it get out of hand, and when the conversation starts to go in circles (and it will) or you think you heard something you liked, end the discussion and make a decision.

Leadership Is Delegation
Delegate jobs to people in the group. Make someone the scout, put someone in charge of gathering food, set a watch for when you sleep. Don't do everything yourself, don't worry about being the best at everything either. A Leader is a solid foundation for the team to lean on, but they don't have to be the best at everything, or even good to great at everything. This is what you have the rest of the team for, so let them carry the slack they made their characters to carry. Delegating responsibilities, and knowing how to do it, is probably one of the best ways to be a leader.

If You're Not Having Fun....
This is the last thing I'm going to talk about for today, but if you're not having fun you need to talk to people about it. Tell the GM and ask for advice, talk to the players about it. Maybe you just aren't ready to try being a leader, maybe your character isn't right for it. Maybe it is just a case of needing a bit more player or character support in the job. Either way, the point of a game is to have fun and if you aren't having fun you should talk to the game about it, and get the issue resolved.

This is no where near all the advice you could get for being a new party leader (and please feel free to add) but it is the core stuff. Being a leader is a big task in a game, and can be daunting. Just remember, it is a game, the GM isn't going to crucify you for a bad decision here and there, and have fun with it. Take control, but don't over run the players (characters, sure, but not the players). Have fun with it, like always.

Happy Gaming!


  1. In my own gaming experience, I have almost always been the GM. But when I do play, I tend to gravitate towards a leadership role or, barring that, at least and advisor to the leader. I'd say that part of that is because I'm a control freak (in some ways), but part of it is also because those roles are two sides of the same coin. In my experience, the GM has a lot of the same duties as a party leader. A GM has to make decisions, keep the party moving. A GM has to maintain authority, without being overbearing. A GM should, when they hit a snag in the rules, consult with players to help come up with an amicable decison. A GM should 'delegate' as well, trying to make sure that (as much as is within his power) all players get a 'moment to shine'—or at least participate—in the adventure. And finally, a GM should know when to step down if they're burned out or just not having fun. Just an observation—and one I've seen in other players. Good party leaders seem to make good GMs, too.

  2. Very good points, and something I've noticed as well. I'm not as much of a control freak I don't think, but that doesn't take away from anything you've said. The responsibilities of the GM and the Party Leader do have a whole lot of overlap.