Have you ever been at one of those tables where not everyone is playing the same game? I mean, you all think you are playing the same RPG together but something feels off. One player wants to rescue people, and another player keeps stealing from fellow PCs. Some players want to kill bad things to level up, and other players want to be clever and talk their way out of harsh situations.
Today we are going over some of the basics of communication with your group: how to figure out the tone of your game, how to get the sort of adventures you want to play, and how to work effectively with your fellow PCs. These may all seem like obvious suggestions to a seasoned gamer, but that is also what tends to make them easily overlooked when we are all at the table.
I Like Your Tone
I love this picture:
Games can quickly devolve from serious questing to hilarious RP moments. And there is nothing wrong with that, so long as everyone wants to play a lighthearted pun-filled game. Some people are coming to your game as a break from real world drama and just want to have fun.
Different people often like a game or genre for different reasons. Some people read Dresden Files because it reminds them of Harry Potter, and some read it because it reminds them of Dick Tracy. Session 0 is a great place to talk out what sort of game you are expecting to play, especially if you are a GM. Do you want light fantasy or dark and gritty? Is good and evil black and white, or are you wanting complex characters?
When a group agrees on a tone for a game, take it very seriously. Do not stray from that tone too much without getting a group consensus. If a group cannot stick with the preset tone despite genuine efforts, talk with everyone about why. It might be a problem that you can fix, or it might not be a problem at all if everyone is happy with the way things are.
Dynamic Party Dynamics
RPG groups thrive on party variety. Even in a campaign where everyone works for the thieves’ guild, we divide things up so some players are better at killing and others at lock picking and still others are good at conning a mark. The more specialized variety your group can cover; the more variety of tasks you can succeed at.
Of course, success does not always mean high dice rolls does it? When the GM asks “Who do you want to speak to the princess on behalf of the group?” you probably have at least 2 potential candidates spring to mind: one for high rolls, and the other for entertainment. Sometimes you need to succeed at dice rolls, but many times you also want to watch how a character handles a difficult situation even at the risk of dice roll failure.
The best way to get your fellow players on the same page as you is to talk about your characters, especially after you have had a couple of easy sessions to get to know yourselves. The wizard has a lot of spell options, so why does he keep casting that specific one over the others? How does the rogue pick which target she attacks? Why does the ranger keep trying to talk with animals? Once you find out why players are playing their characters a certain way, it becomes easier to talk about how you can work together to help each other reach their playstyle goals.
Take Note of Obvious Hints
It is a great idea for a GM to ask players for backstories, character sheet copies, and some feedback about their character. But you cannot stop listening after spoken questions are answered. Most of us do not really know what we want out of a game, or if we do it is difficult to express in words. But figuring gamers out is easy enough when you are actually playing the game!
Note when a PC fails a task or roll but tries again the next time. That’s a good hint that they want to succeed at this sort of task. When the group discusses a potential plan, make note of who objected to the plan that wins and what won them over. And when a player confesses a PC weakness, WRITE THAT DOWN IN ALL CAPS! These are hints by a player about the sort of struggles they enjoy playing through, and as a GM you need to know what works.
As a GM, it sometimes feels like you failed when you set up a fun hook or a great reward that the party dismisses without interest. Do not get discouraged. There is a long list of things that could work for your campaign, and being able to cross something off the list helps narrow that down. Just be sure to note why the party dismissed it. It could be less that they do not like gold and more that they do not feel ready to steal from a sleeping dragon’s hoard.
We are all about communication here at Burn Everything Games. Talking to each other is a great place to start. Listening to each other is even more helpful. An adventure has a better chance of becoming a campaign when everyone wants to play. So play more games, have fun together, and come back to tell us all about it!