Monday, January 6, 2014


An excerpt from the book, How to Run: An Advanced Guide to Managing Roleplaying Games. 2nd Draft, so ... not perfect.

"The reader might ask if players want to be angered. To that I must reply, players want to be engaged. Having entered the world, they are subject to the events of that world. For drama to occur, events must be confrontational. Some of these events should be the sort that allows the player ‘off the chain,’ permitting them the luxury of expressing their indignation, their passion, their fuming, bristling fury and ultimately the acquittal of their wrath upon the hapless creature who so foolishly wronged them. Dramatists use fury in a performance to whip up the audience’s blood, to make them sit up in their seats and burn with anger against the action they see depicted on the stage. There is, it must be admitted, a part of being human that likes being angry, in a setting where it is permitted, even condoned. In the moment, perhaps, the player is too busy venting their ire to be having a good time—but the after effect, I have often observed, has been tremendously cathartic.

"My favorite fury-causing device is to introduce a character into the party that is friendly, helpful and legitimately forthcoming with information that makes an exceptional difference to the party’s wealth and status ... and then to have that individual abscond with the most precious single object the party possesses. A close second would be the opportunity to have an ally conveniently disappear at the most inconvenient time, leaving the party in the lurch. Both scenarios, carefully developed and then sprung, tend to create a frenzied manhunt which, when over, typically results in some satisfaction for the party. Thus the appeal. But then, it is rare I get to pull either trick on the same party twice.

"In using any technique to inspire fury among the party - from a society based on the mistreatment of slaves, who might all be freed, to a non-player character that exploits children, to the above-described direct infringement upon the party’s pride - I remember that it is a well to which I must go rarely. Too much exploitation in my world, or too many nefarious characters, can lead the party to lose faith in the world. It’s all well and good to let them encounter one of these sordid villains now and then, but all the time will produce feelings of absolute distrust for everyone. If the party is driven to the point where they are attacking everyone they meet on the off-chance that they might be villainous, their sole crime being that they were unlucky enough to meet this a distrustful party, then I’ve obviously gone too far. The solution must be that for each cretinous, backstabbing, pompous lout the party encounters, they should encounter thirty or forty genuinely helpful people. To put it another way, the apple barrel must be full of good, healthy apples. If they are all bad, the party would throw the barrel away — that is, they would stop playing in my world."

No, I'm not going to explain how this fits into context.


Arduin said...

If this is the preview, I'm definitively up for the whole hog.

This looks like it's going to be exactly what I read the blog for; informative, entertaining badassery.

Lukas said...

I was in a party that literally exploited the fact dopplegangers could not keep their form while unconscious as a technique to deal with the constant onslaught of the creatures during a campaign where they were particularly prevalent.

That said, it is exactly what you think it is. Imagine the 'knock-out game' in DnD land. But with slightly more purpose.

Jhandar said...

Another great excerpt.

Vlad Malkav said...

This is the kind of data that'd be tremendously interesting to have, and to learn. Definitely useful for any GM / DM.

Same feeling when reading the first excerpt : you tell things that I sometimes got in my thoughts, without clearly noting it. And now it's plain and simple.

Can't wait to see more of it ... And to buy it ^^.

Lukas said...

I wonder, when running my games if time for reflection, examining what exactly I'm doing and how the players react to it, should be a slightly more structured and regular thing.

Maybe it's because it's been a month or so since I've gamed, let alone run, but it seems like overuse could be prevented by examining use in retrospect after a running as well as in planning for the running.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I must confess, Lukas, that while I've done the things I find myself describing in my How to Run book, I've never before been able to accurately EXPRESS those things. One of the struggles I had working on the book last year (and failing miserably) was that while the idea of explaining how to DM from an advanced pespective was all well and good, I had trouble actually identifying what I did in front of my gaming table.

Here it is now, 2 months after my shattering epiphany, I've written more than 80,000 words (the second draft is now running just over 20,000), I'm having trouble THINKING about anything else except dungeon mastering, and there's no question whatsoever that examining what I'm doing is going to vastly improve my game. I look forward to finishing the book (as frustrating as that is being), and moving on to other projects - but I feel myself changing as I do so.

December was a nightmare. Having poured out a tremendous effort to ensure that all the subjects were covered in the first draft, the process of writing the first part proved unexpectedly inadequate. Only now am I beginning to feel I'm on a productive course again, not writing and re-writing my way out of a disastrous voice. I'm glad to hear from those who have commented that the above words sound good and most encouraging.