The first two posts for this week have been from the player side and focused on how you may need to do something, and what you may need to do, in order to get that bit of extra entertainment out of your table top game. Today I want to focus on something simple that the GM can do to also help players not only feel like their characters are relevant but that their actions have impact on the world itself. The action in question? Provide feedback and attribution.
Honestly, I'm not even sure if this is the right word. What I mean by attribution is when you give the credit for positive outcomes and random happenstances to the actions a player character has done. This can happen in a myriad of ways throughout the game - there will be examples near the end - but the important thing to remember is that this is a very powerful tool. In effect, it is the positive side of actions having consequences.
Why It Works
Why does it work though? Well, beyond the normal stuff for consequences it basically boils down to a few simple facts. One, people like winning. Two, people enjoy lucky breaks. Finally, three, people really like it when they set themselves up for the break.
Effectively, it makes them feel like Batman. Maybe they didn't plan it, but everything fell into place because of the things that they've done. It's an awesome feeling - I know, the GM in the Saturday L5R game does this often - and it has nothing but a positive effect on the players, the characters, and the game. So why not do it?
As promised, some examples of ways this has worked out for us (or could work out.)
A PC who has been doing deeds dedicated to a minor fortune, and spreading the fortune's influence, receives a boon at a critical moment to repay them. The boon comes through because the PCs actions have made the fortune not only happy but also more powerful. Powerful enough to give them one in thanks.
An NPC shows up to help/saves a PC at a particular spot. Why are they there? The PC took the time to befriend them, do them some favors, and the NPC learned the PC might be in trouble. Now they're there to help give some payback.
Despite the fact that the blade is perfectly normal, a character shows a lot of reverence and care for the blade and its history. The blade awakens into a magical item at a time when the player needs that little bit more to make it through.
In all three of these cases it could seem like just some random happening to help the story along. And yet, by the fact that we know - and the players know - that these possibilities only opened up because the actions they took it makes them feel awesome. It shows the GM was noting what they were doing, noting what was important, and rewarded them for delving deeper into the game than just simple mechanics and stats. It can be a very powerful tool. Use it well.