Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why GMs Should Read Player Advice And Vice Versa

At the time of this writing I've got my Shadowrun game coming up in the next 30 hours or so. I'm currently torn in how I want to handle the mission I have them on. Do I use this mission to finally have a Johnson (in this case, a Mr. Kim from Korea) double cross them? Do I have another Shadowrun team try to fight them? Make the mission harder than it should be? Keep it as is? Lots of options here. There always is with Shadowrun. So, instead of fretting about it, I went looking through various forums and other blog posts about Shadowrun to see what folks are saying and let that settle in my brain. I realized something while doing that reading though: I was getting really solid GM advice from the posts helping players be better players. How? Well, let's talk about that.

The Point of Player Advice
The point of player advice is to help other players have a good time while playing the game. Sometimes this comes down to mechanical advice; how to get the effect you want out of your character efficiently or effectively. Other times though, in fact more often than not, it is people helping other people find the right approach to the game. People aren't sure what they should be doing to differentiate themselves from their team. People aren't sure what they can do to get their character more involved. People are wondering how they can contribute to the leg work portion of the game when someone else on the team can do the stuff they can with a larger dice pool. The answers to all of these questions are all fairly solid, but they all also have a common assumption to them.

The Thing About Your Advice
I've posted this video here a couple of times for talking about my advice and bad players. The thing is, it works in reverse as well. The common thread I was seeing in all of these bits of player advice was there was an assumption that the GM, as a good GM for Shadowrun, would have opportunities for these plans to work - or not work - and was just waiting for someone to fill the niche.

For example, in one case the player had a runner who used to be a Pit fighter and was kind of antisocial. He wasn't sure what he could provide in info gathering time when the Face character could just throw 20 dice at the social problems and the Hacker could pull up all the info on the net. The response was simple: fill out your contacts with all the people you'd know from pit fighting: low lifes, thugs, janitors, mafia goons, people from the rough side of the tracks. Now, sure, when it comes time to talk to these people the face could just throw 20 dice at it. But that means the Face isn't doing something more important at the same time. For best use of time the Face should be throwing their 20 dice at their contacts, the Hacker grabbing the info from the net/their contacts, and the Pit fighter should go talk to the people on the low end and see what he finds there.

What does this tell me about a good Shadowrun GM? Two big things: the first is that time management should be a serious concern when doing legwork to get things done, and just as there should be rewards for the legwork done there should be consequences for the legwork not done; the second is that there should be angles of approach available for all sorts of different contacts. For example on both perhaps the high level contacts the Face has can get him a security card that'll get the team into the server room, however the low level contacts might know the security guy on the door and be able to put in a good word so the team can get in no problem for a couple hundred nuyen. If the Face wants to meet the low level contacts he can't meet his high level contacts and so the only way for the team to get both ins is to meet both groups and talk to them.

A GM Reading Player Advice
The simple way to boil this down is that as a GM you should be aware of player advice, player needs, player wants, and arrange our game to give opportunities for people to play into those things. Give the person from the streets the chance to show the value of knowing people in low places. Give the mysterious ninja the chance to show their mysterious ninja skills. Give the gun bunny a chance to show just why that sniper rifle deserves its own name and a bedroom with a nicer bed than the runner himself. Put the opportunities there, but also put other opportunities in place as well. A security guard stumbling onto a hacker mid hack isn't just a stroke of bad luck for the hacker, it is an opportunity for the hacker to have a moment of pure badassery depending on how they handle the problem.

A Player Reading GM Advice
On the other hand, if you're a player and you see GM advice for your game. One, share it with your GM - unless they might take it insulting - but a lot of times GMs are very interested in any ideas that can help make their game better. Two though, be watching for the opportunities your GM is leaving in the game and play into them. Don't fret or worry or get pissed if things are going bad, instead look for the way that this could play out awesome for everyone.

For the GM player advice is a whole bunch of stuff that players want to do and will likely try that you should have room in your game for the attempt of. For a Player GM advice is a whole bunch of stuff that the GM will try to do that you should play into. If both groups can pull it off you can have an amazing game out of it. And at the end of the session would you rather be tallying up your PCs nuyen intake and looking at what you can buy or be grinning looking around at your other players - and GM - and going "man, that was $@*@ing    awesome?" ((I hate the grammatically correct punctuation for's hard to figure out and always looks wrong))

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