Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Required Reading for Game - Why I need to do it

Yesterday I posted my "required reading" for game.

Required Reading for Game

Why do I require it, if, as I said, I don't like it?

Here is why, for Background and Rules.


I'd prefer an elevator pitch background and then, bang, let's go.

My game is basically that.

But I do require the PCs to know the world as experienced and relevant to the game. I don't care about your character's background, except as it directly impacts game. I'll happily feed in knowledge that isn't important or that fills in the gaps. Stuff like, "He's from Arras, which is a city-state to the West and slightly South of here." Or "You know there is a guy in town who can do that." Or "North of here are mountains, ice, and some unexplored glaciers." Stuff I never put out there, or stuff I did but it's just trivial color.

But I can't pass along the information learned in 77 sessions of play and a handful of posts about additional knowledge the PCs have picked up.

Part of it is campaign style. It's not like I'm saying, read this background and learn it, there will be a quiz. It's more like I'm passing out lots of information, the players have a pool of knowledge and information they've already gotten, and the players really need to keep track of it. I simply couldn't say, "Here is what you remember" or "Here is what you'd know." I'll correct blatantly wrong and misunderstood stuff, but generally, the name of the game is that players learn things, and players can have their PCs act on this. I don't even sort "player knowledge" from "PC knowledge." You learned XYZ while running a guy who died and never met your current guy? Well, you know it, guess he must have told someone who told you with remarkable accuracy. So I'm already forgiving a lack on in-game continuity to encourage players to gain and use information.

Part of it is practicality. From a practical standpoint, that would mean I needed to memorize all of the player maps, player notes, rumors, history, sessions, etc. and keep it parsed out in my head separately from the actual map, the actual history, the truth behind the rumors, and so on.

It's just too much.

Plus, it subtracts of the value of passing out a lot of information for the players to fit together. Instead of information being a valuable commodity and the ability of the players to make something of it being relevant, you'd get the opposite. Information would be an impediment to play, since only the GM needs to know it and in fact must know it, so the more there is the more the GM has to keep track of. Instead of the ability of the players to assemble knowledge being valuable, it would be the ability of the players to prompt the GM to tell that would be valuable.

That's not to say giving background information to the PCs is a problem. Or that giving it on the fly is an issue. It's just that as the game develops in-play history and in-play information, in my campaign style, it's not what I want nor is it practical to do.


It's not a small group. I have six regular players right now. Call it two drop-ins. I have a few former players who may or may not return. We have open seats for some close, long-time friends who can't commit to game but, hey, if they can make a session we'll fit them in.

Running a combat-heavy and spell-heavy and potentially lethal game for six PCs, plus a few NPCs, plus all of the bad guys (often, large numbers of them) - that's tough. It takes a lot of work.

I cannot do all of that work myself.

It's just too much. I can't figure out your rolls, make sure you hit or missed, figure your damage, check your results, consult on rules, review your options, track your HP and FP, etc. etc. and still run the bad guys. I've taken to handing off the NPCs that the GM should run (allies, hirelings) and have the players run them to off-load some work.

GURPS is a great game, but part of the joy of it for us is the rules depth we can use. It's not coin-flip simple. But even when I run a simpler game, I need help. I can't be the source of all rules knowledge, especially not if you intend to take actions based on them. It's not practical.

I offload a lot onto the players, because I myself can't do it all.

So that's why, despite disliking the "reading list" I still have one. It's necessary for the players to get involved and manage the in-game information and rules knowledge in order to keep the game running well. Too much of that get dumped on me, and the game will be less of a good game.

1 comment:

  1. I think next time I try to run a game I'll work in the advice on these posts; it'll help players integrate a bit better. I'd thought about doing a briefing style session integrated with char gen for the Tiberium game, whenever that gets online, so perfect time to try and see who did their "homework". If nothing else, it can kind of serve as a filter to who is and isn't "in it to win it"!


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