Conversations with Myself: Running the Game for the Players, Ambrose Style

Icewind DaleI have a confession to make: I have never run a traditional dungeon. Not that I have anything against it, but I came to D&D from the video game world, specifically Icewind Dale, a game where much of the interest lies in the traveling and meeting people and such, because frankly, the combat is pretty boring. No it isn’t. It’s just an acquired taste. To tell you the truth, I love the crap out of it and it is one of the ONLY video games I still play. At any rate, like Icewind Dale, most of my games involve a lot of being on the road, lots of wilderness travel, and most of my important NPC’s are at least introduced in those scenes. The dungeons in the game are big and cool, but I really don’t care that much about them.

So I run a lot of on the road tales. I ask myself, “Self, why do you run adventures where the players travel so much? Is it some deep seated psychological issue?”

I replied “Self, since I’m responding to you, I can’t really rule that out, but I’m pretty sure that I run lots of travel oriented games because the players ask the questions I need them to when games involve a lot of traveling.”

So I asked again, “Self, what are you saying? You run these games because they are easy? Or because the players are easier to manipulate?”

And I said again, “Well, yes and no. You can make the road games much more challenging, but I would have to say that the parts that annoy me bout being a GM occur a LOT less when you play games where the players can easily recall the obvious questions. Like ‘How much food do we have?’ or ‘Who’s turn is it to be lookout?’ or ‘We’re out of food. Does anyone know what the hell kind of plant this is?’ or ‘What direction are we going in?’”

“OK,” I replied, “I think I see. But some of those questions seem too obvious. Aren’t you worried about challenging your players?”

“In a word, no.” I responded once more, “I think the challenge is a component of an overall goal of fun. If you had fun, you had a good game. There is nothing less fun for me than trying to coax an intelligent question out of somebody who has no idea. Road games borrow from the themes of movies almost everyone has seen(Lord of the Rings, Star Wars), and I live in West Virginia. I don’t think I could run a game if there wasn’t a Boy Scout in the party at this point.”

“Closing thoughts, Self?”

“Well, self, I’d like to say that GMing in general is easier to do when the players are aware of the requirements of their surroundings. If it is familiar to them, they ask better questions, make better decisions, do cleverer stuff. For me, this makes the game much more fun. I like to see people do well.”

  • On a sidenote – I think that, for the sake of PC gamers everywhere, you should go and support the dudes here at (GemRB). I don’t want PC gaming to die, and those idiots at 2k and EA and Bioware are going to kill it with invasive and illegal DRM. Seems like Sid Meier is the only one without his head up his ass. Anyway, GemRB is an open source implementation of the Infinity Engine(Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape:Torment, Et cetera.)