Monday, April 1, 2019

What Do Your Players Engage With?

It's impossible to please all the people all of the time. Heck, it's nigh impossible to please even a small group of people all the time. However, it is possible to please some people some of the time, and as a GM maximizing this is part of your job. The thing is though, do you know what it is your players are looking for to be pleased? Do you know what content your players engage with naturally, vs what has to be done in a certain way, or at a certain time, or with a certain context, for them to engage with?

In a way this boils down to tests asking people what kind of player they are. Are they story tellers? In it for the drama? In it just to socialize with friends? In it for the tactics? Problem Solving?

These are all things that are good to know, but there can be more to it too.

For example, on the heels of my Monday post about being a Character focused GM, it occurred to me that I am also a player that prefers to engage with characters. I do best in a game when I can express my character, or interact with other characters. How that interaction happens can vary. Combat is fine. Antagonism is fine. Romance is fine. Friendship is fine. Enemies is fine. But ultimately I tend to engage strongest with other characters, and developing my character through those interactions with other characters.

This is part of why when I play videogames I play for the story. Progressing the story tends to further the characters involved, and once the story is done and that progression is interest starts to wane - unless something else is keeping me invested which is harder to pin down.

This is why, despite being burned more often than I've had it pay off, I'm always down to tie my PC to another PC. The potential for that going right, and getting good character interactions is too strong. And by burned I don't mean positive relationships. I don't mind if the relationship is bad/abusive (within reasons obviously) because a character who stays loyal to their brother despite neglect and casual abuse can be interesting and grow the character just as much as a positive relationship can. But if the other person doesn't engage in the relationship...well, that can leave the character hanging loose with no way to really get back into things.

This is also why my GMing tends to focus on characters. Mostly the PCs, but also NPCs. I have big lists of named NPCs. Those NPCs have their lives and other things they want to do. They clash. They clash with the PCs. They clash with each other. And in the end they grow and change, and I love that.

On the other hand, I don't engage with environments very much. Like, I'm interested in knowing the environment, but the longer the GM is describing the scenery the more I have to work to stay engaged. I'm also not the kind of person to scour through all the nooks and crannies in a game to piece together the story of what happened. I respect that others love this. I can respect and recognize it being done well. It's just not something I rush off to find out about on my own.

Now this doesn't mean that a GM shouldn't have exposition in scenery and setting. They should. However, if I am a player - and the GM is trying to engage me - they need to balance that type of content with character content. And really, that is part of GMing: balancing the things that engage the different players so everyone has fun with the game.

So, again, do you know what content your characters engage with? Do you plan for it when setting up sessions? If not, why not?

1 comment:

  1. The one thing I'd note is, don't assume this is a fixed target. It's going to change for a lot of your group over time, especially if you have a long running gaming group. I like asking what people are looking for, I find their assessment is often not super on target to what they respond to for real, but it's good to get you out of the same mindset.