Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How to nurture Game Masters - troupe style playing?

After writing the report from our play of How We Came to Live Here, I kept thinking of that play experience. We all help setting scenes, and we all help by playing NPCs and develop different antagonists for the heroes. It's a lot like sharing game mastering duties, actually.

Sometimes people think about the hobby, and talk about the need for new blood. One way that have been mentioned across the blogosphere a lot is for having a simpler boxed set of rules in physical stores that stock games. While the idea have merits, I also think that nurturing what we have is also very important. Most of all gamers are players, not Game Masters/Storytellers/Referee/Judge/Dungeon Masters or whatever you want to call it. The late Keith Herber noticed the fact that Chaosium sold most of their books to Keepers, and that it limited their audience. While the idea of splatbooks alleviate this business conundrum somewhat, the idea is still that most sales are not to the persons who just show up for someone else to run a game. This is not just a problem for people who try so eke out a living selling game books, but it also threatens burn out for game masters world wide.

Have you ever heard of Ars Magica? It's a game filled with a lot of wonder and cool ideas. Personally I have not found it very fun, since it is so often more focused on the management of the covenant (the magicians "tower" with it's servants, hangers on and the politics and logistics of running a small town) than anything I consider fun. But, a few of the ideas in that game are worth taking a closer look at. Since everyone have at least two player characters in that game, a magician and a companion, you take turn playing the magicians! They are the most powerful character and everyone thus share the spotlight, sometimes playing their other character. Add to this, which is called troupe style roleplaying, the idea that you also share the GM duties (which is kind of natural when you share spotlight like that) and you have a nice way to train new game masters!

Running a game for your friends takes a lot of time and effort, and it make sense to try to share the burden. Not only that, but it makes it easier to avoid one person burn out because of the work load. I think it could be a nice way to phase new people into the chair behind the screen, and would also be of economic benefit for the hobby at large. More Game Masters means more potential buyers, more possibilities of being creative with your friends, less burn out and overworked game masters. Add to that the possibility of training good skills which might serve you at e.g. work. I think it would be an all win.

It is also very fun.

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