12 Aug GM Tips #19: Use Your Best Ideas
AJ Pickett is one of the most ingenious and imaginative GMs that I’ve ever had the pleasure to game with. His legendary Rifts and Heroes Unlimited games have long lingered in my mind and his imaginative notebooks was one of the inspirations for me to create Immersion RPG. So I’m honoured that he has now written me an article for my GMing Tips series. Enjoy!
Probably the best bit of advice I ever got, mostly for running a role playing game, but equally applicable to life beyond the gaming table, is this:
Always use your best ideas.
It can be a temptation, when creating an adventure, or campaign, or even an entire setting, to reserve the best bits for some imagined end game, with the plan being, the players must jump through any number of hoops before they get to the juicy treat at the finish.
This is a mistake, and thankfully, it is an easy one to avoid.
Whatever form your game preparation takes, it largely involves imagining how the game is going to pan out for the players, and what sort of resource material you need to organise before the game starts. Ideally, the story will flow smoothly, you will never have to pause to hunt for notes, pages, or specific rules, and the players will be spellbound by your evocative narrative, with everyone sharing in creating a memorable series of visualised events in a fantasy world, like a block buster movie, created and shared only among you and your friends.
In a film, there is a formula for the pace that things progress, there are chase scenes, there are moments where the main characters are thwarted and moments they are triumphant, and it seems only natural that a role playing game follow that same narrative formula. So when you prep the game, the excellent ideas you have for a memorable chase scene, or some cunning trick the bad guys spring on the adventurers, or some cinematic, dynamic arrival of a serious threat, all seem like things that must be paced, spread out, revealed in a stalled, measured way. Because that is what movies have trained us to do.
However, a movie is something we sit back and absorb, with the intent being to keep the attention of the passive viewer, but a fully interactive role playing game is not a passive experience, and has a very different narrative structure. A role playing game’s structure must be highly flexible, and be oriented around a fluid set of events that can be brought into play at any point that it becomes appropriate, due to what the players are doing with their characters.
So, instead of thinking of your best ideas as the end goal of your adventures, think of them as events that can happen at any time, and the sooner the players can set them off, the better. The first effect this will have on your game is that the players now have the ability to dramatically up the pace on the story, which is a great feeling, and very engaging. The second effect is that you have gone from being a drip feeder, to a fire hose of creative input, and you will find that, far from running out of ideas, the increased pace of the action will see you hitting those magic moments you hoped for, far more often, and it is extremely rewarding!
So, best advice I can give you, is put those ideas into play, as soon as you can, and then move on to the next one. Continually up your game, and achieve all those things you always wanted in your games, but were worried you were never going to get around to.
~AJ Pickett (aka The Mighty Gluestick)
Image created by 88grzes from Deviant Art. Not associated with Immersion Studios (though we wish it was!).