Monday, September 14, 2009

GMing Style learned with a bit of a Scientific Approach

My Simulationist Gaming Style
The GM is the Manager and Leader. As the Game Master, I manage a number of things: the players and their resources, the scenarios, the supporting cast, and the challenge.
My responsibility primarily is to my Players, as they are my sponsors. As my sponsors their satisfaction is my goal and to accomplish this the Charter by which I operate to accomplish is discussed and agreed upon.
At the same time as the players are my sponsors, they are also my task members. As my task members I manage them, provide them clear direction, and I do not get in their way of accomplishing their goal. Although as a GM and as a challenging and critical thinking game, the charter provides me the necessary power to make that possible. This means I take their solutions and introduce a measure of risk and problem that keep them busy an on their toes for the duration of the exercise.

The Players are both the Sponsors and the Task Members. As the sponsors they draw up the charter working the GM. The charter is made up of several expectations the player will want from the GM. At the same time as it is a game, it also list downs the parameters by which the GM can push the challenge.
As the Players are also the Task Members, they play along with the GM in executing this project. Unlike regular Task Members, the Players have an overall payoff attached in accomplishing the Goals they have set for themselves and the GM.


Peculiarities of Style:
Investment of time and effort. This style redistributes the energy and commitment of a game between players and GM. I have learned from experience, the level of investment adversely affects a game because of the simple nature of any human designed project. As the demands of both sides are made clear, the realistic ability to meet these expectations can be made to better fit the limitations of Play and Prep Time.
Rapid Improvement of Play and GMing style. Treated as a Project, there is a self correcting and debriefing exercise. Typically the social dynamics of the old-school of gaming sees this an an artistic approach and cannot be criticized. This style holds no sacred cow and seeks to maximize both the proponents' future satisfaction as well as improve the overall performance of the team. The semi-professional atmosphere adds a layer of buffer against personal feelings getting in the way.
I find the narrow focus on the goals, the craft and the group's psychology is more constructive and sustainable. This is because a bad habits can still be corrected, and boundaries can be drawn and redrawn based on the accumulated experience and knowledge.

Primary Style Goal: Sustainability and Constant Accumiliation and Advance in Technical Proficiency.

Personal History. Back when I just graduated high school my "little" brother wanted to GM but I didn't let him. In the Philippines there was that sense of authority and respect that made it feel awkward if my little brother would GM both his older brothers. When my best friend was able to use humor to successfully point out the flaws of such feelings I gave it a try and then I realized that he was a much better GM than I was. I quickly embraced the humility at the same time, both of us grew very open and critical of the GMing styles of others and our own.
Local culture combined with RPG culture created a sense of privilage for one to play. This had varying results in playing styles. Some were to self obsessed and forgot the players and focus primarily on the GM's satisfaction. There were GMs who grew ineffectual and traumatized players remvoing them from the hobby.
Then there was a sudden surge of GM elitism among our circle started by my younger brother. It was elitism in the sense that he tried to reverse the negative elements by following a code of conduct and professionalism. I followed suit, and found ourselves offending other GMs with our one-upsmanship. I eventually got caught up in satisfying my players more than my craft, which led to many unsustainable bouts of epic games where the rules and energy researching these rules overcame even my personal life.
Lessons learned from swinging from GM to Player power was what shaped much of my ideas of GMing today. In my experience, both have lead to unsustainable games. My understanding of management actually helped shape my GMing style, because it focused on the Psychology of working together with a Clear and Defined Leadership and Goal while not giving one side more power than it needs to accomplish its goal.
I admit this style is not for everyone, and as a hobby at this level of (self) critical professionalism may not be appreciatble in the casual atmosphere people seek in a game. Although as a workaholic it suits me quite well because I want maximum Satisfaction from a Game session with the most sustainable investment of time. This style removes some of the catharsis of running a relaxing game and makes it a technical performance. It forces me to be more productive with my time and compartmentalize it efficiently allowing me more free time to pursue other hobbies and diversify my source of happiness.

Planning to Post an invite in the Free Thinkers Group I've joined, still mulling it over. Here is what I wrote.
Hi, I usually run Role-Playing Games and have an open invite for those who want to try. In theme of free thinking, i don't run fantasy or supernatural. I usually run realistic or simulationist scenarios. The topics I usually like gaming about are taking an emergency or extreme but plausible scenario and have characters, who are either suited or ill suited for the task, go through the scenario given the best of the Player's own ability.

My favored method of conflict resolution favors creativity, although if people want tactical exercises I am very flexible. I'd like to say I specialize in running social scenarios that emphasize in negotiation, diplomacy, empathy and awareness (although the lack of players interested in only such tactics are rare and my practice is limited).

Things usually like running are Calamity scenarios (like civilians in coup d'etat, trapped and survival), events in Philippine history (specializing in 19th Century), detective mysteries, and entrepreneurial adventures (free lancers and opportunity seekers out to make a buck and some mark). I am also open to a other variety of scenarios and games, depending on what the players want and what I have access in terms of research.

I usually run my games short (3-4 hours) and with a small manageable size of players at 4 (which is my limit... any more and I exhaust myself and the quality of the game suffers to a point against my pride). I use GURPS a Generic universal Role-playing Game System, but I don't stress on the system or mechanics. The game system is merely a way to arbitrate abstract quantities of risk. I usually run a rather rules-light Character creation with just a short talk defining the character strengths, limitations, and stance.

If there are other GMs out there who like to use their games as a way to create safe exercises of free thinking I'm also open to being a player.

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