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Lessons you've learnt that made you a better GM and/or player

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
Clichés are okay. Sometimes there is a push to try to be super unique or super out-of-the-box when GMing or playing, and sometimes that can be exhausting and make RPing feel more like work. Characters and ideas should come easily, not with difficulty. Really, sometimes a cliché done well can be exactly what the doctor ordered to bring maximum fun to a game. They are easy to get the whole group in sync over (who doesn't know about the vampire Count being evil, amirite?) and can provide a surprising amount of group unity, provided the clichés included are done with a certain level of class and flair.
This, a thousand times. Clichés are not only okay, they are your friend. One of the difficulties in RPGs is that the whole experience is filtered through a whole group of people's different sets of expectations, imaginations and abilities to communicate. Clichés cut through a lot of that because they are based on commonly understood notions. They got to be clichés in the first place because they work.
 

committed hero

nude lamia mech
Validated User
I have been in so many games, on either side of the screen, where the GM developed a location and plot point out of thin air because the players jumped on a throwaway reference. And it was so much more satisfying, again on both sides of the screen, than the times the GM put up a DON'T GO HERE wall to keep everything on track.
Although I don't think you should hold anything against a GM who asks for time to come up with ideas if none are handy.
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
Although I don't think you should hold anything against a GM who asks for time to come up with ideas if none are handy.
These days, when I have nothing, I look at the players and say "okay, you tell me what's there." Doesn't fit everyone's mold but almost always leads to fun results. Players eagerly fuck themselves over much harder than I am ever willing to.
 

Verenes Aoene

Materialist Spiritualist
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Hmm, but that also creates a bad situation where your players have wasted character options hedging against situations that you're not going to throw at them. So I think it's worth adding a second step to this, which is, if you notice this kind of thing, have a conversation about it. If your players have an understanding that you, as the GM, are not going to put them into nailbiting scrounge-or-starve survival scenarios, then they don't have to waste a spell slot on goodberry, and they can spend it on stuff they actually want to do.
Actually, I feel like you should put them in those scenarios if they've taken a spell to guard against them. People know that there will be many different types of challenges in the game, and they can choose to a certain extent what challenges will be easy. For example, when I choose the Subtle Spell metamagic feat for my sorcerer, that does mean I won't be unable to cast my spells when bound, but it doesn't mean I don't want to ever be captured. On the contrary, I would love a chance to be taken into the enemy camp and then blast through it with all my sorcerous might. It makes me feel smart and cool for having predicted this scenario. And furthermore, the people who prepare Goodberry might like a chance to be put into a wasteland where they need to summon food, so that said challenge is satisfyingly easy, for much the same reasons.
 

Random Goblin

Esquire
Validated User
Actually, I feel like you should put them in those scenarios if they've taken a spell to guard against them. People know that there will be many different types of challenges in the game, and they can choose to a certain extent what challenges will be easy. For example, when I choose the Subtle Spell metamagic feat for my sorcerer, that does mean I won't be unable to cast my spells when bound, but it doesn't mean I don't want to ever be captured. On the contrary, I would love a chance to be taken into the enemy camp and then blast through it with all my sorcerous might. It makes me feel smart and cool for having predicted this scenario. And furthermore, the people who prepare Goodberry might like a chance to be put into a wasteland where they need to summon food, so that said challenge is satisfyingly easy, for much the same reasons.
Soooo like I said, have a conversation about expectations.
 

Agemegos

All out of spoons
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Related to this: embrace lower stakes. That way, a defeat doesn't end the campaign or invalidate the campaign premise.
Preach it from the rooftops!

An adventure in which the fate of the entire multiverse hangs in the balance is no more intriguing, engaging, or exciting than one in which old Mrs Green's bodega is threatened by a standover racket. It's just harder to recover from failure, and makes the moral dilemmas trivial and the opposition's motive unconvincing. Raising the stakes does not strengthen a weak scenario.

And if a small-stakes scenario succeeds you can run another next week without absurdity or anticlimax.
 
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Agemegos

All out of spoons
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Actually, I feel like you should put them in those scenarios if they've taken a spell to guard against them.
Good point, but plan those scenarios to be blown away in a well-prepared display of "my character is awesome". Don't introduce a wrinkle (such as goodberry-blight or variant lycanthropes that are susceptible to obsidian instead of silver) in a misguided attempt to make them "interesting again".
 

Mavarga

Registered User
Validated User
I learned early on not to trust pre-written adventures as written ... ever.

Why?

I was running a boxed campaign. The system isn't as important as the actions. The campaign assumed that all of the players would 100% buy in to the setting without question. The group was supposed to act as mercenaries for a man settling in a newly colonized area. The problem was that the man who hired the mercenaries was written to be very aloof -- good pay, decent living conditions, but the group were definitely outsiders to the land. And after three adventures (there were seven linked together, if I remember correctly), the players (as the mercenaries) started questioning why they were fighting against the natives of the land.

And thus the revolution began...

And thus the next four adventures didn't work ... at all.

From this I learned a number of lessons. First up, read through all the adventures (if they are a set) and learn to anticipate problems that are baked in. Second, be ready to improvise at the drop of a hat. And, most importantly, it is far, far better to write adventures geared to the group of players that you have than to try and force a pre-written adventure onto a headstrong group. ;)
 

RadioKen

well versed in chalupa law
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Although I don't think you should hold anything against a GM who asks for time to come up with ideas if none are handy.
Oh, sure, nothing wrong with buying a little time. O'course, if you need inspiration...

These days, when I have nothing, I look at the players and say "okay, you tell me what's there." Doesn't fit everyone's mold but almost always leads to fun results. Players eagerly fuck themselves over much harder than I am ever willing to.
This is one way to do it. Though I try to filter what they think they know through what I do know before I give them anything, partly to keep consistent and partly so they still get some surprises.
 

MistahJ

Registered User
Validated User
I definitely agree with this one: too many of my ideas end up getting strangled because I either I judge them as inferior "been done"-s or realize the sheer scale of art required to make something unique and just don't try.
Thank you--I struggle with this, too. One day I realized I was spending more time planning than actually playing in order to be 'unique' and understood that some of that was because I was hurting my own joy of gaming trying to avoid clichés. When I stopped letting that get into my head so bad, I really did start to have a better time. It also helped me become more comfortable coming up with my own ideas when I wasn't determined to be unique all the time!

This, a thousand times. Clichés are not only okay, they are your friend. One of the difficulties in RPGs is that the whole experience is filtered through a whole group of people's different sets of expectations, imaginations and abilities to communicate. Clichés cut through a lot of that because they are based on commonly understood notions. They got to be clichés in the first place because they work.
I definitely do find them to be my friend. So many times I've had trouble explaining a new game to players until I could point at iconic clichés in movies or other media, and then things would click for them. Very gratifying to be able to explain things easily that way.
 
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