Thursday, May 3, 2018

Post-Mortem: The Year So Far

So, we are one third through the year. In that much time, I have seen the end of four games; well, the end of my relationship with them at least. I don't know if the conclusion or end of a game is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it needs to end, and as long as people are mature about it, it means that perhaps things can get better from there for all parties involved. This post is kind of a lessons learned. I think a lot of them are "preaching to the choir" and/or that kind of limp-wristed advice that every single "how to be a good GM" post has ever parroted, but you know, sometimes you can't comprehend the writing on the wall until you've seen it for yourself. Without further ado, let's see if I learned anything helpful.

Game 1: GMing Dungeon Fantasy RPG

This game mostly died from overwhelming scheduling problems it feels like. The problem was that I was trying to run a published adventure, and it makes it harder for me to think outside the box when I'm trying to stick to the script. Overall, I think everyone had a good time whenever they played, but losing a mission critical player every single week caused problems.
Lessons Learned:
  • Even when using a canned adventure, it is important to be able to improvise.
  • If I can't grasp a player's ability to commit, I should not make any critical choke points depend on them, I think this might give more dependable players more "spotlight time," but whether this is unfair or not, I would risk saying that it is a totally fair natural consequence.
  • I need to condition myself to take off my kid gloves; I do roll and play without fudging the numbers, but sometimes I make the opponents fight sub-optimally for a bit of generosity for the players. I think, in the end, this creates a problem -even if the players don't realize it- for myself; the players aren't winning despite the odds anymore. They are winning because the monsters and traps are inadequate to put them down.

Game 2: Playing a TL5 Fantasy Game

I wanted to like this game, but I think I was a bad fit for the group. I had trouble keeping focus because the pace was a bit slow for my liking. After a few games of feeling like I wasn't grooving right, a new player was introduced, and the pacing got even slower. After what felt like some bad vibes from other players, coupled with the already existent malaise I already had for the game, I decided to quit. I let the GM know after the session, and without a hitch, the game continued on.
Lessons Learned:
  • It seems it is better to deal with problems early and directly than to let them fester. The gm's time is valuable; so is a player's. If the player is not having fun, it's better to talk it out.
  • Quitting isn't a bad solution to a problem. Everyone else was having a good time, so it was apparent that the game wasn't for me. The GM was able to continue running the game successfully from there, so no issue, and I was able to use the new found free time to do other things that were more enjoyable.

Game 3: Playing another Fantasy Game

Long story short, this was mostly a repeat of game 2. I didn't feel like I was gelling, and my character seemed like a bad fit too. If anything, it was a test of the lessons learned during game 2, and I nipped the problem in the bud earlier; altogether a positive experience with nothing extra learned.

Game 4: Running a Post-Apocalypse Game

This was meant to be an experiment in some survival rules I was developing, but I decided I wanted to try out the After the End material with it. I think I did a bad job of managing expectations and so one thing leads to another, and it feels like something that was meant to be a cold laboratory test of a few mechanics turned into a bunch of thinly developed excuse plots stapled together to make a game that drifted so far from my original goal, some players even asked when we might be doing the survival stuff. I think most people still enjoyed themselves slightly, but I felt like the whole thing was an unfocused mess.
Lessons Learned:
  • "Let yes be yes and no be no." I mean, that's a big, important skill for any GM, and it's a sticking point for me continuously. I think if I had stuck to my guns a bit more about what I wanted from the game, I wouldn't have needed to abort so early.
  • That said, it's probably better to plan as long as necessary before starting a game instead of starting and because a date was promised. Honestly, I don't think I have the time to devote to planning an adventure so much, so I probably shouldn't have even tried.
  • Listen to gut instincts - I think during game 2 and 3, I realized that I was having problems, and I confronted them early. I think it seems harder when you are the GM to confront the problems early because there are a lot of people that depend on your commitment, but all the more, it makes it even more important to address it as early as possible instead of sitting on it, and letting things get worse.

Other Thoughts

I don't think any of these are world changing revelations. These are all mostly GM101 in fact. Maybe I'm a bad GM, but I really hope I'm not, and maybe if I am, I kinda hope I can get better. I feel like I fail at this far more often than I succeed, and I don't know if that speaks to inexperience or terminal bad decision making. Here's hoping some practice might help.

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