Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Out Of Game Communication

Hello and welcome back. Did you have a good holiday weekend? If you're not in the US, did you enjoy your weekend in general? I had a great time. A tiring time with lots of walking and more being out under the sun than I'm used to, but a good time all the same. Now, with July in full swing, I'm counting the days (21 at the time this is posted) until GenCon.

With GenCon coming up, it means that in about 3 weeks I'm going to be missing another session of my L5R game. However, stuff, some stuff anyhow, will still happen for the game. How will this work? Well, it will work because for the stuff my players are trying to set up we have the option to communicate out of game. Today, I want to talk about how that works.

Out Of Game Communication
Some things don't need screen time at the table to work. Some things are personal, or small enough in scope that you can just hand wave them from the side. Sometimes a thing just requires set up work, or you want the GM to know what you plan before you do it. For these things I have my players email me, or talk to me out of game (at which point I will usually request a reminder email.)

The email doesn't have to be anything special. A simple explanation of what the character wants to do and how is all it takes. From there I can determine if it is something that is just going to happen, if it requires dice rolls, or if I want to do something at the table with it. If it involves other players I can make sure the player knows and what is going on with the plan in question.

Why Do This
The reason for this is three fold: One, if I know what is happening a head of time I'll already have a plan in mind for how to handle it in game. This speeds things up nicely across the table, letting my game focus on other things or processing through more than what could happen if I had to take the time to stop and think about actions and potential consequences on the spot.

Two, this also means I can discount knee jerk reactions. Sometimes the initial reaction to a brash player action can be very close to an in world attempt at slapping the player down. For example, a player who decides they're going to try to kill the Emperor on the spot could run into the obvious protections the Emperor has with dozens of body guards, security specialists, and high ranked characters. Because my brain has this slated as something borderline impossible the response on the spot may be very severe. On the other hand, if I have time to prepare then while the answer is still severe it is more likely to be constructive as well with ideas for who would benefit from it, who would want it to happen, who would be very opposed to it, etc. Basically, the fallout would be better planned, and there is more likely to be ways my brain will have accepted could work to get around security given time to digest the idea.

Three, and most important in my opinion, it gives my players a way to handle small personal things, personal plots, personal growth, and personal relationships with NPCs without having to be public about them. This frees my players up from public embarrassment at the table when they want to be sweet on a particular NPC but don't feel comfortable doing it on screen. It also lets them arrange for private meetings and interactions with other NPCs to get things in motion.

All Together
All together, the use out out of game communication helps my players add a lot of depth to their characters in small, sometimes private, and meaningful ways that helps to enrich their gaming experience. It also helps me to overcome some of my more pointed failings as a GM (some of my knee jerk reactions are problematic, but most people aren't great when on the spot and surprised.

If you aren't using it, give it a shot. You may enjoy what it can add to your game.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree that out of game communication can be very helpful to a game. The one thing I'd note is that if the game has a no secret notes policy, it also means that you need to keep any other character that can be affected aware of what's going on to give them a chance to react. If it does, making sure the other characters have a chance to get wind something is going on is important.

    It can be more work intensive for the GM, but it's been really helpful for me to use in the past.