The very concept of tabletop role-playing games is genius. People on the “outside” may view it as nerdy, geeky, or dorky, but that’s only because they either don’t understand it, or don’t have the intelligence and imagination to make it work properly. There’s something very magical about a game that comes together in such a way as to involve everyone in laughter, creative problem solving, and accomplishment. It is to this end that this particular article is being written: the recognition of two such games in particular.
I’ve been a DM for twenty four years (boy does that make me feel old), and am happy to say that the friend who first introduced me to RPGs is still playing strong in my games. We gather every two weeks as we can and dedicate a good six hours to the game. The group has consisted of my friend, his wife, and my two eldest children for the past year or so. For the most party I’ve been introducing them to my unique rules, my own campaign world, and all within a system that requires they forget anything they’ve ever learned about D&D as my system doesn’t have levels or hit points to fall back on; one sword stroke can kill your character no matter how tough you are. So, the players have been a little less confident, and when you combine that with real life influences…well, it can be a bit of a drag on the game. This particular malady has been exactly what we’ve been dealing with. I call it Gamer’s Apathy, and no matter which doctor I speak with there’s nothing they can do to cure it. I’ve learned that you’ve just got to let it run its course, continue to develop exciting adventures, and pray for exactly what happened two weekends ago.
What turns a game can be anything. In this case, it happened to be the simple fact that my eldest son wanted to introduce a new character into the game and was waiting patiently for the opportunity to do just that. We’d already discussed how we were going to make it come together, and that required the party to be in a city they were days away from. They also had some major obstacles to overcome before it would be possible for them to reach the city. The biggest obstacle was that the evil artifact they had just recovered from a ruined temple in the middle of a jungle had been stolen from them by a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and they had to get it back at all costs. To make it worse, by the time they caught up with the thief she was fifty feet from an enemy force of over 150 soldiers complimented by wizards, priests, and archers while they were 150 feet away from the thief atop a steep hill into which stairs had been carved by an ancient, forgotten architect…and the entire party consisted of four characters (since they had to leave my eldest’s character behind because they couldn’t figure out a way to have him keep up with the rest of the group).
Please bear with me while I elaborate a little on my campaign setting to further help you understand the genius of the solution they came up with. My world is riddled with portals and gates that allow people and creatures to appear out of nowhere as well as taking people away, and present interesting challenges all around. The new character that my son wanted to introduce heralded from an ocean and half a continent away from where the party was operating. We’d already planned to use a portal to take him to the city where they’d meet up, and that was what he was waiting on.
That’s when my friend’s wife whimsically said the magic words.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if the new character appeared by the artifact and could bring it to us?”
I wish I’d thought of that. They’d already used magic to kill the thief, leaving the artifact sitting on the steps 50 feet from the enemy and were preparing to send one of their characters after it with a fly and invisibility combo while the rest tried to distract the main force. It was a gamble at best, and they knew it, but the idea of my son’s new character suddenly appearing and involving himself in the conflict painted a real pretty picture in my head. To make a long story short, I took her advice.
It played out exactly as I had envisioned it, and the players were laughing, energized, and the whole feeling of the game changed. They even asked to game an hour longer than we’d scheduled they were having so much fun, and in turn, I was having fun as well. When my wife suggested we game the following weekend instead of waiting two weeks we jumped at the chance, and the energy carried over. The two best games we’ve had in months occurred for the simple fact that one of the players had a far-fetched idea that I decided as DM to act upon.
DMs are the game masters, to be sure, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the game is solely yours. You’ll have a much better experience if you allow people to participate on multiple levels. To sound like a used car salesman: I guarantee it.
posted by Bromern Sal on 7/05/2020 at 06:07:41 PM
Very nice! I agree 100% - if you involve your players in the construction of your campaigns, they will be much more attached to them.
posted by t_catt11 on 3/30/2010 at 08:33:09 AM
That is the beauty of player driven campaigns. Even if you have a general path for them to follow, how they get there is completely up to them. Most of the groups I've played with in the past few years have been more than willing to take up the reigns. Though I admit it does make it a bit more difficult on the GM...
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