Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Up a Tree Without a Machine Gun. Ho-ho-ho!

Mr. Colville has posted the next installment of his series on the Pillars of Game Story.

A common mistake among GMs, at least a mistake I made commonly as a GM, is to set the PCs free upon the world and let them come up with their own motivations. I thought this empowered them. I thought this was forward-thinking, liberal…democratic.

It’s crap. We need boundaries in order to understand our options. Players want the illusion of freedom, but before they can appreciate it, they need to be forced into action. It’s all very well and good to ask the players what they want to do, but the players need a framework to understand their options. When you chase them up a tree, when you force them to react to you, you can thereafter give them a variety of options and they now have a framework for understanding the meaning of their options.

I've argued repeatedly for "situation" over "story". However, when I do, I also mean that conflict should be flying all over the place when the PCs arrive, and some of it should land on the PCs if at all possible. That's part of the situation. Yes, there might be an equilibrium of forces for the PCs to upset. But that doesn't mean life is boring and static before they ride into town. Just like the village in Yojimbo, "balance" doesn't necessarily mean "tranquil", no matter what those stoner druids try to tell you.

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