I Have a Cunning Plan

Justin Suzuki

I love player driven games. I get overjoyed when a player thinks around my ideas and does something that completely derails my well thought out plan or encounter. I even enjoy hearing the discussion between players on how to overcome the obstacle I placed in front of them. But I also hate the planning.

My core group of players used to be geniuses. I’ve seen this group make unprepared GM’s stutter and look at them in disbelief. But at some point they stopped doing that. They still planned, and planned…and planned some more. Tasks as simple as walking through a city gate became an hour long discussion about the best way to proceed. It got so bad I would zone out and just started surfing Reddit while they discussed.

I started to wonder if something about my Game Mastering style was causing this. In my quest to always improve my gaming, I started running with other groups as a player. I wanted to see how other GMs ran games and how other people played. After a while I started running for other people and discovered players who acted like my group used to act…take a few minutes to come up with a plan, then execute that plan.

At one point I asked for advice from a new friend, Sean Preston. He gave me some tips on his blog in response to my query. His blog response, Defunking Your Game, inspired me to run the group through a game called Kingdom of Nothing. KoN is a collaborative story telling game, which leans heavily on the players to come up with story and situations. And if you like those kinds of games, go buy this game ASAP! This is the type of game that my murder of players has never encountered before. I wanted them to experience something new and see how much influence they can have on a game’s story. I also wanted to have them move forward, knowing they weren’t planning against me but rather helping to tell a story through their actions.

My group took a couple of hours to get it, but then I saw flashes of that old group in that time. At first they asked if they could do something. An example is they were fighting giant spiders, and their group had very few weapons. One of the players asked if he could use the jury-rigged torch as a weapon. I just asked back, “I don’t know. Can you?”

They got it after that point. The rest of the game went well. Will the lessons learned have an impact? I don’t know yet. Our next Deadlands game is in three weeks, I will report back after the game. Hopefully we will spend more time rolling dice versus listening to plans.

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3 Responses to I Have a Cunning Plan

  1. Temmogen says:

    Does it involve a flag?

  2. Jim Ryan says:

    Yeah, the analysis thing can get severely annoying. I like the idea of getting the players thinking in terms of moving the action of the game forward rather than “what special action do I need to take to beat this game?” (as though they’re trying to finish a computer game). Because what they decide to do isn’t necessarily as important as them doing SOMETHING, even if it’s something strange and off-the-cuff blurted out after an utterance of “I have a cunning plan, my Lord.” ;)

  3. Temmogen says:

    I have found a trend in some of the younger players I’ve shared a table with, that a lot of their problem is that they don’t want to risk character death. They don’t trust to luck, or the GM. All they want is to win. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for feeling good and winning, but eventually they are going to run up against something they can’t beat. Lot’s of players I’ve seen get the idea that the GM is supposed to let them win, and give them loot.
    I went through that stage in my game play, and now I’m looking for more of a story, rather a video game style game. Eventually I expect I’ll find some like-minded players, so I’ll keep looking.

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