Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Allow Time For the Calm Before The Storm

Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones is a 60 minute episode primarily dedicated to one of my favorite story beats in all of fiction and story telling.  It is the story beat that I have put hundreds upon hundreds of hours into Bioware games to get. It is a moment that has made me cry reading books, or watching moments. It is a moment I've experienced once or twice at the gaming table, and those moments stand out as my favorite moments across 30+ years of gaming.

The moment I'm talking about is the moment right before the story goes into the big danger piece. The part where everyone is 50% sure they're not going to get out alive. Sure, maybe they believe in themselves, but everyone knows someone is going to die. And so, in that moment, the characters go and find other characters to be with. They find their places of solace against the anxiety of what is coming. They say the things they don't want to end without saying. They embrace the relationships that have formed over the journey so far.

You know the moment. It is often signaled by at least one character culminating a relationship or romance arc with love-avowing sex. It's a moment you only get in games when everyone - GM to players - is putting the time and effort in to  make connections with characters. And as a GM it can be one of the hardest moments to execute because it means either breaking a lot of rules in that moment regarding how much focus you give to private interactions with NPCs, or being knowledgeable enough about what is going on to stop playing the game and just let the interactions happen at the table.

The second I feel is the harder thing to do. You go from running the game, keeping things moving, and keeping the game interesting to just doing set dressing. You have the drinks refilled. You have the fire place lit. And otherwise you just let the PCs interact and say their pieces to each other, and share their stories, their fears, and their desires.

This doesn't mean you can relax either. There is a fine balance to be done between allowing enough time and letting the scene drag on. When it drags, when the RP starts to fade, you need to move things on. Until then? Just sit and enjoy.

And if someone looks for a moment with an NPC give it to them. Try to be aware of the needs of the table, but don't cut short what could be a character, story, or relationship defining moment because you're worried about the game. If your players are this invested in the story you get one of these moments, they should enjoy witnessing the scene. And that can make things absolutely magical.

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