Thursday, 29 July 2021

Next Episode


There is a sliding scale along which most adventures are delivered in terms of the experience it offers to the players. I would suggest something like - open world - West Marches - campaign - module - episodic - one shot. I wouldn't try and establish this as a new Beaufort scale for roleplaying games but I have been in many situations when games have broken down as roleplaying styles conflict over these issues and quite often the players dont even realise it. Yes there are inevitable character clashes between the narrative players and the rules junkies but being mindful of the gaming style will mitigate issues down the line. Whilst a GM should open up a dialogue with the players before a game even starts in order to make the context clear players should ideally have experience off all of these environments and adjust their style accordingly.

Of al of these styles I find that the episodic is the most challenging to GM. Open world is fairly easily  provided there are a lot of creative methods available by way of generating content on the fly - I tend to have a bunch of random maps, characters and buildings on hand and then bring them into play as required. At the other end of the scale the one shots are usually actioned packed from the start and as players are dropped into an immediate situation there isnt really the time for disincentives to arise before the event is concluded- they function on adrenaline and suspense to a large  degree. But the episodic games are a real challenge particularly if there is published  material driving it as the GM has to ensure that certain points are reached in a timely fashion. Games can feel out of the hands of the players as their decisions are cropped to the plot and there is a sense of pressure to perform pre designed situations.

I dont really see a way around this except for the players somewhat adjusting expectations although a bit of parody can help if the game is designed around an actual TV series (or indeed parody itself) - classic turning points, predicable character clashes and cheesy endings can be fun particularly if each character is required to get their iconic oar into the dialogue. On the GM side I would say its  critical that player time is maximised and GM dialogue is minimised to the absolute extent possible - the overreaching hand of the GM is felt heavily in episodic games in plot alone so every second a GM is talking further imposes their presence as well as turning players into spectators and narrowing their impact even further. Episodic games are not for the faint hearted GM but with a light touch when running and enough content that engages players then even just being able to tinker within an environment that they love is a base for building play.

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