Wednesday, November 18, 2020

What's the fun in your fun?

I often say things on my posts like, "Fun session." Often after a loot-free fruitless delve with no exploration and lots of frustration for the PCs.

It would be a contradiction except for the fact that "fun" isn't defined by in-game success or by the characters.

So what is the fun in our fun?

For me, it's a combination of these:

Exploration/Discovery: I really enjoy sessions when the PCs go new places, or find new things. Or better yet, gain understanding of something I've had to keep under my hat for a long, long time . . . and then I get to watch them figure it out.

Reward: The PCs finding something rewarding - or the players learning/earning something rewarding, is fun.

NPC-PC and PC-PC interactions. These are especially fun if the NPC is interesting to the PCs, or the PCs have to deal with language issues, cultural confusion, or suprise the NPC with unusually non-PC actions (such as: reasonable payment, trust, not lying to them, not killing them because of legalistically argued reasons, or even attempted friendship). Those are a lot of fun. Watchng the players try to figure out how to deal with a given NPC, given their own issues and goals, can be amusing. In-game obstacles being overcome to get these interactions makes them more interesting to me.

The players. These is the main bit, really. It's why a 10-12 people game is fun even though we can't get much done. It's just awesome hanging out with an extendd group of people we all enjoy gaming with. (As much as the players say, "We need Dryst!" we'd be perfectly happy with Angus McSwashy . . . we're really saying, "We need A____" - the player, not the character.)

If these are there, at least in some portion, it's usually a fun session. Notice that combat isn't there. A good fight can result in good stories, but generally it's really a fun fight if something interesting happens that's more rewarding than just killing some monsters. "Loot" is a subset of "reward." "People getting to use their cool powers" isn't there. It's moving around the sandbox, interacting with elements, figuring it out . . . and doing so with people you like to spend time with. Those make for good sessions.

Equally, you can have some bad from the above. Lack of exploration. No reward, and no one learns anything. NPC-PC interactions are the usual flawed negotiations and full of lies and scheming from characters incapable of sustaining either - Conan the Cimmerian trying to be Cugel the Clever. And players not being able to make it. Even a small group is fun, but a large group is better.

That's where the fun lies in my games.

It might be a bit different for my players . . . but we've had a blast in some of the sessions where the summary indicates a total non-starter of a session. So I expect we'd have a very close overlap if they chimed in.


  1. I think I can say, "100% agree." That is definitely true, and the point about Dryst is critical: Yeah, we'd like him, but we really want the player, not the character. It's a great group of people, and that is what makes it fun.

    Exploration is definitely fun. The Lost City, Olympia, Cold Fens: tons of fun. The "Forest Gate" was also a lot of fun (it could have been shorter had we just ... looked to our right). But they are all exciting, just like exploring new parts of Felltower are exciting.

    Figuring out puzzles is fun (at least for me). Among many super-fun sessions were figuring out the rotating statue puzzle (and TONS of loot), and then fleeing from pursuing orcs. I think that was a no-combat delve, or at least no meaningful combat. But super fun, rewarding, and exciting as we tried (and did) make off with all the loot.

    Negotiations with PCs are fun for me also. "Successfully" negotiating with the Ape-Men in their world (although I played that too close to the vest). "Negotiating" with the Giant was some fun role-playing as we tried to entice him to attack us (would have worked out better had we realized HOW FAST he could move).

    The combat is also fun, of course! In addition to the spectacular, epic combats, there are also smaller ones that were awesome and memorable, such as the Naked Crowbar Fight, and the Sword Spirit battle, in which only one player actually fought (but everyone hung on every roll). It's always fun to mow down foes as well, but that's not (for most) the ultimate goal.

    Of course, one of the all time funniest, exciting, and nervous moments came where Hamilcar had to navigate his way out of the caves with no map (everyone else had the map). That was fantastic. It was a mixture of being both a player and a GM except for the one player...and that was fun as we tried to root for him without making any facial expressions that would give away whether he was making a bad or good decision.

  2. "What's the fun in your fun?"

    I have to kinda answer this as a GM and as a Player, while there is overlap, there is also some stronk divergence.

    As a GM: I love the discovery. The Players putting things together, making the connections, figuring things out. I love it when they're on the edge of their seats, tense, expecting their paper man to die at any moment, either from combat being close or from the politics/social play going sideways on them and watching them scramble to pull a Hail Mary together and make it.

    As a Player: I love scenery chewing. Either going on mad tangents orthogonal to the plotline, lore, and even established setting sometimes or chewing up the scenery in combat. Not just dominating the enemy, but being a force to reckoned with that strides teh field of combat leaving wrecked enemies in my wake, but leaving plenty for everyone else to deal with (or being the complete combat weeny who has the deep lore needed to help the fighters and wizards win the day - What can I say, i like playing madman sages).

    As a Player I'm way less enthused about puzzles. I'll do them, but it always feels like a chore to me... probably because I've seen way too many letter substitution ciphers that I've been forced to solve via brute force... I mean we weren't supposed to hack the ciphers, but once we hit the second brick wall impeding our forward momentum, I always break out the common the letter chart and derail the GM's careful laid plans.


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