The Eternal Dance

In this campaign you’re all playing Xs.
Can I make a Y instead?
— The start of every World of Darkness game ever, original and new.

[0] Where X and Y are two different character types, often entailing different rule books and incompatible motivations and drives.

What Does a GM Do During Character Creation?

While discussing how to read verbal and non-verbal reactions while playtesting, Robin Laws made an interesting point about the GM’s perspective versus the player’s in the character creation process:

As a GM, time spent during character creation can seem dull. You don’t get to join in until it’s over. That doesn’t mean the players aren’t having a rich experience. The designer/GM must see past his own wandering attention to see how engrossed the players are. Prep can be a tedious slog, or it can be play. If it is play, a design might be ill-served by streamlining efforts that rush players through a process they’d sooner linger over.

This is a personal failing of mine. I get hugely impatient during character creation. Even when there’s a surfeit of books for players to reference, finding entertainment in their internal processes is not something I’m good at doing, or have even thought to attempt.

Character creation is certainly an interesting time. In a lot of games, it’s the time when the players have the most creative control. They’re calling the shots about who their character will be, at what their character will excel. Around a table of excited players, concepts come flying thick and fast, so that it can be difficult to pick just one on which to focus.

It’s also the time when a GM can start gathering information about what the players want to see in the game. You can infer from the choices they make in skills the tasks they expect to tackle in the course of the campaign. So take that opportunity to either figure out how to accommodate their expectations or let them know those points or slots could be better spent in other ways.

Broken Spokes Finally Leaves the Station

I am trepidatious. Tomorrow evening we are scheduled to start this Broken Spokes campaign that we initially made characters for . . . well, at least three months ago. Embarrassing as it sounds, it’s been three solid months of missed opportunities.

The core problem is there’s only one feasible night of the week for the three of us to meet, due to requirements of family and work. If anything with overriding priority — and there are many; role-playing’s a fun way to spend some time, not serious business — happens, then we can’t meet for that week. Then the cycle begins again the next Sunday evening: “So, are you free for gaming this week?”

That said, we’re finally on track to play this week. I have to admit, it’s been so long, I’m not really sure what to do for a starting adventure. Most of the time I’ve spent thinking about Broken Spokes between conception and now went to big picture world-building — or mashing, in this case — and mucking with the Ten Foot Wiki approach. I have some nuggets of ideas of where I want to begin — particularly since I plan to use the opening sessions of this campaign as a testbed for one of my Carnage adventures — but they require thought and work.

To that end, I’m blocking out Wednesday evening for writing time. I shall go to Muddy Waters, where there’s no wireless access to distract me, get a glass of something tasty and bang away at an Open Office document. Ten Foot Wiki’s fun for world-building, but when it comes to adventures, I’m going back to my traditional bullet point format. I have a much easier time formatting, inserting new thoughts and reorganizing a simple word processor document than I do a wiki, in which it can be so easy to lose information.