Monday, April 2, 2012

Weaving Random Happenings into a Gaming Session

With the release of 30 Things Can Happen!, my own tribute both to the 30-sided die and to random events in Medieval Fantasy tabletop roleplaying games, I wanted to write a bit about why to introduce such elements into games.  Two troubles that even the best run campaigns can encounter include players putting on blinders and players becoming too comfortable.

In the former case, getting used to going from one prepped situation to the next can eventually lead to players making assumptions.  They can wind up thinking that a GM will only ever throw important information their way.  Or worse, they follow that logic to a further conclusion that anything that doesn't fit the usual mold is obviously the holy grail they seek.  There are no red herrings in such a campaign.  There are no surprises.  This is because there haven't been any small surprises along the way toward what the GM would like to prep as a big surprise.  There are no tidbits of mild interest just for the sake of keeping players on their toes and there can be no little detail that later becomes important because if a detail was shown early on it was immediately seen as important.  There needs to be a lot more input than can be easily followed if surprises are eventually to work.  The players need to be made to look around themselves in the game world.

In the latter of the above cases, players can become complacent.  The GM finds his group has difficulty in self-motivating because they know if they wait around long enough the GM will throw situations their way and those situations will always be the thing to do.  In such cases, a GM can nevers throws curveballs or misleading clues.  Nothing can be quickly explored and discarded because everything is part of the single line of encounters.  Making the world richer excites players' imaginations and avoids them believing that their decisions are not meaningful.  It breathes life into the world around the players and shows by example that breathing life into the world through their own characters has value as well.

Lists of random events and findings have a way of enlivening and deeping the playing experience.  This added depth creates opportunities for the unexpected to happen, and not just by chance but also by design without the GM tipping his hand.  The bonus for the GM is that once the players have reinvested in a campaign, the GM also becomes reinvigorated and these two energies feed one another exponentially.  So, take a look at 30 Things Can Happen!  It's a very useful tool any GM will find helpful to their gaming experience.

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