Sunday, January 31, 2010

A good game can always be better or a post game introspection

Last session I thought we had a good game. Although they are on a mission, the players decided to follow the trail of the giant mountain troll they vanquished last session. They rationalized there might be useful information at its lair, but mostly wanted to find whatever treasure it may have hiding after going through all the trouble of killing it. This short side encounter involved a tribe of hill giants who had some dire wolf 'pets' and a final encounter on a stone bridge over lava with giants attempting to knock players off the bridge. Players survived some interesting and exciting encounters, slew the hapless tribe of hill giants and gained the treasure. All is good right? Well, during the evening two other things happened. They were having so much fun that a few too many side conversations were happening and not enough paying attention to the DM was happening; I needed to 'chastise' them and call them back to order. Second, the final encounter over lava was perilous and everyone had an opinion of what was the proper course of action by action on the bridge during combat. There was excitable giving of directions during others turn, and the inevitable rolling of eyes, and associated pointed comments when those directions were roundly ignored. Again as DM I needed to call order; a players turn is their own and not for others meddling comments. After the session there were some posts on our gaming web site (we use a private Yahoo group) discussing these events. Before I go any farther let me give some back ground. I have been playing & DMing 30+ years. Two of the six players in our game have been playing with me for all those years. At no time did any of the excitable discussion become truly uncivilized or hurtful; this is a group of friends. My point is, no matter how experienced the group there are certain undesirable behaviors that one must remain vigilant against to keep the game fun. So the players, with no prompting from me, had a short discussion of events and made suggestions and promises to prevent future occurrences of this behavior. Additionally there was discussion about how to make the game go smoother and faster during combat. I believe they truly mean it. I also know they will lapse again. Heh. Not wanting to feel left out of a good theoretical discussion, I weighed in as the DM after the discussion had run its course. I am also human and cannot leave a deceased equine creature unflogged. The prime directive here for me is - the game should be fun. That is fun for all of us, players and DM alike. So I try not to be too prescriptive if everyone is having fun. If some things take a little longer but everyone is having fun on the way, then there is no problem. I try very hard to make the obstacles challenging but not impossible. make it too hard and you don't feel you can win; make it too easy and the risk factor goes away. when you really believe you cannot die/fail in an adventure then the fun will be gone as well. I want combat to move a little more quickly than it does for two reasons. 1 - if you are allowed unlimited time to decide your action, you will almost certainly rise above the challenge; and I will be forced to make the challenges more difficult. At some point this becomes unworkable, and the balance unmaintainable. 2 - while your are deciding your action the other players are doing nothing. Doing nothing is not fun. The game/rule set/style we are playing makes using grids and minis a requirement. Yes it is very tactical in many respects. I am not open to changing that. A game played in our imaginations only is a very different game. I am not against playing such a game - I am not prepared to DM such a game. Please, when the time comes that I ask you to manage your minis on the board - MOVE YOUR MINIS IF YOU MOVE, otherwise you didn't move. Our game is a team adventure, so collaboration is important and fun. However, during combat it is up to each player to decide their actions without interference from other players. We all have strengths and weaknesses; so there are times when party members will take actions which others disagree. Oh well, IT IS A ROLE PLAYING GAME! Sometimes in the name of role playing we do stupid things. Somethings we just do stupid things. Keep the repercussions of stupid actions in game between the characters, that is more fun and the point of a ROLE PLAYING GAME. Characters arguing among themselves could be fun; players arguing among themselves is never fun. It IS frustrating for a DM to give out information and have players not paying attention. It must be hard for players to be tuned in and interested in every word a DM has to say. I will continue to strive to be interesting enough so you want to listen. Please strive to pay attention when I am speaking as DM. I don't mean to whine, but in order to bring you the best possible game that I can manage it takes much of my attention and effort during the session. Any and every way you can eliminate me managing/tracking/explaining something is more time I can make the world more interesting for you. So in summary, I am always trying to improve the game and am open to suggestions. It is a journey not a one time event. As long as you are having fun and feel like the time was well spent I am happy. However, it you feel we could have gotten in maybe one more combat, or role play or event in our game time... then lets keep figuring out how to eliminate the activities that are not 'fun' to allow more time for those that are 'fun'. A good game can always be better.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our new family game addition

I received a new card game for Christmas. It is En garde! from Slugfest Games. So far the family enjoys playing it. That covers a diverse group that includes social gamers who abhor complex rules, experienced RPGers, magic the gathering type card game fanatic, and former hex style war gamer. The premise is civilized rapier style combat with two to six players. It does a reasonable job of deploying some basics of fencing though it is certainly not a simulation, nor does it pretend to be. It is fairly fast to learn, plays close to the 30 minutes it advertises, has a limited rule set with lots of variability in the use of the cards. There is a good mix of luck of the cards vs. skill of play. It takes a couple of games to get the hang of it, and I am not sure how long it takes to become a master at it. I do not think the game intends folks to spend so much time at it to achieve mastery. I think the target is to have a thinking game that plays fast but does not require too much thinking. I grant that it is successful at its goal. I give it a thumbs up.
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