Friday, January 18, 2013

Non-Antagonistic play - DM vs Players the other way

I was listening to the Narrative Control Podcast, and they talked about how to generated interesting conflicts in a game. Basically, regardless if you believe the game master's job is to create a story for the player characters to participate in, or creating interesting situations for the players to create a story from, you will still need conflicts.

This reminded me of the old question of to what extent you should have any element of antagonistic play, i.e. to what extent the GM should make it hard for the players. Note, not the characters. The thing is, some players might take it like it's targeted towards them, even when the figure in the cross hairs is their characters. Now, let's assume "interesting" conflicts means something that makes it hard for the player character.

The neat little trick mentioned on the podcast was attributed to Rob Donoghue, and I thought it was quite neat.So, the idea was to not attack the PC, since some players will take it personally and attack back! Instead, attack what the PC is invested in. I thought that was quite cool. Among the really smart game masters this might be yesterday's news, but to me this was something new worth pondering. If in the emergent play one character has started to be involved in something like a mercantile organization, or a church, you put them in dire straights and see what happens.

My experience with the kind of players that might take troubles for their characters like a personal affront is luckily something I have been spared. I have not had that much experience with a wide open sandbox either (I always had the dungeon walls limiting the player choice somewhat), so now I'm catching up and learning the tricks. I think Rob is onto something good. I will try to use this a bit more consciously in the future.
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