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Author Topic: The GM's Quandry: How Much Oversight is Too Much?  (Read 456 times)

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Offline StygiaTopic starter

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The GM's Quandry: How Much Oversight is Too Much?
« on: June 23, 2014, 12:49:06 AM »
Hey Everyone! This is a question for GM's of Group Games, preferably Big Group Games.

Having recently taken over a swiftly-growing group game, I've found myself struggling with one deceptively difficult question: How much GM oversight is too much?

Now, obviously this can mean a lot of things, from CS details, IC interactions, and Group Events. And because I like the hard questions, my query pertains to all of those things. Now, for those of you who may be more loose, or lax on rules, let me give you all a bit of background information:



The History:
Back in November, a dear friend of mine created a group game with some SERIOUS world-building. I mean serious. Six months into the game, and she still wasn't done getting all the information out. That big. In addition to a highly robust political system, resistance factions, and all-around comprehensive world, there were also the really yummy character traits - some have empathy, others heightened senses, and others still were normal like you or I. With so many options to choose from, it grew rather quickly, and in the past month, we've reached Big Game status.

Unfortunately, our intrepid GM went AWOL over a month ago, and after some OOC debates, it was decided that the Co-GM's she'd appointed prior to her absence would step up and take the helm so that the game wouldn't die. It was a rather successful shift of power, and but for a few small issues, there were no major complaints. Success! But wait...now I'm getting the hard questions!

Okay, background story over. Now for the pertinent things....


The hard questions...

On Character Sheets: This game has a lot of options as far as what kind of character you can make. From factions and loyalty to abilities, to gender and sexual identity, we've got it all! And then some. We all know those characters that must be "special snowflakes" who constantly want to step outside the approved boundaries of an acceptable character for the setting. Clearly, in a world that is AU London, with a slightly Orwellian level of government oversight, there are certain character archetypes that simply aren't going to fit within the world. I'm more than happy to redirect those characters to something more fitting. Sometimes characters are really, really over the top, and trimming them down to fit the game can be a jenga-esque balancing act, without offending the player.

But what about the little things that just drive you crazy? Like the fact that 2/3rds of the characters in game have a history of murdered empaths via gun violence, in a city where gun control is through the roof? Or the players who say "So and so doesn't like Faction A or Faction B, so they're going to stay Neutral", when "staying neutral" is a good way to dissappear in a group game? Do you just let them have their neutral character, and shrug off the fact that unless they make a concentrated effort, they're going to have a hard time? Or do you say "Well, okay, but you need to establish connections with other characters" to help them acclimate to a big group setting?

And what about the Characters that - based on their character sheet - have little to no ambition, wish to stay neutral, and will likely offer nothing to the overall game? Have you ever rejected a character for seeming "pointless"? Or do you say "Uh sure..." and let them go on their merry way?

On In-Character Interactions: This one has been hard for me - namely in that a lot of the rules established around being part of a certain faction have gone largely ignored by a certain section of players. What's the best way to rein in these interactions? Do you PM the people involved and say "hey, this isn't really feasible, I'd like you to change your post"? Do you post something vaguely passive-aggressive in the announcement thread re-emphasizing the rules? How do you keep your players in line with the established universe, without dictating their every action? This has been a hard one for me, mainly in that I've asked to be PM'ed whenever players may be uncertain if interactions would be permitted in the setting, and time and time again, people just go their merry way and derp along as though those rules didn't exist.

Lets be honest...when stuff like that gets to a certain point, you kind of feel like a nanny, chasing the children about going "no dear, don't put that in your mouth." And believe me, there's a reason I don't have kids... ::)

Group Events: Every once in a while, players get together to plot up an idea to stir things up. Which is great! Why have factions if they're not going to make moves against each other? But wait...this thing would cause this to happen and then this in return, and that weapon isn't feasible and, and, and aaaaaaghhhh!

Does anyone have any suggestions for how players should propose Group Events? This is a whole new area for me, and I'm trying to wrap my little brain around the questions I should be asking, what details aren't really that big of a deal that can be let go, and how much oversight a group event needs.



So! I know I've introduced a lot of questions here, and unfortunately many of them are vague, but any and all input is welcome. I'm new to this whole GM business, and while I prefer to have a light touch, I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by either not addressing important things, or by addressing ALL the things and alienating my players. Thoughts? Opinions? Experiences?

Thanks!

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Re: The GM's Quandry: How Much Oversight is Too Much?
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2014, 05:31:24 AM »
I'm a little wary about offering my thoughts on this topic as each of us has our own GMing style that may, or may not fit the situations presented. But, personally, I tend to be more a guiding force in the world than an overlord of the known universe.

Having said that, your questions and my suggestions...

The hard questions...

On Character Sheets: This game has a lot of options as far as what kind of character you can
... And then  We all know those characters that must be "special snowflakes" who constantly want to step outside the approved boundaries of an acceptable character for the setting. Clearly, in a world that is AU London, with a slightly Orwellian level of government oversight, there are certain character archetypes that simply aren't going to fit within the world. I'm more than happy to redirect those characters to something more fitting. Sometimes characters are really, really over the top, and trimming them down to fit the game can be a jenga-esque balancing act, without offending the player.

But what about the little things that just drive you crazy? Like the fact that 2/3rds of the characters in game have a history of murdered empaths via gun violence, in a city where gun control is through the roof? Or the players who say "So and so doesn't like Faction A or Faction B, so they're going to stay Neutral", when "staying neutral" is a good way to dissappear in a group game? Do you just let them have their neutral character, and shrug off the fact that unless they make a concentrated effort, they're going to have a hard time? Or do you say "Well, okay, but you need to establish connections with other characters" to help them acclimate to a big group setting?

Pesonally, if a character concept is over the top or if you think that it isn't going to fit, work, etc, just tell them, in a polite way, "I'm sorry, but this character really doesn't fit into the game as is. I will be happy to work with you to create something that does, but as is, I feel that I can't accept this character." The key is to be polite. Point out why it doesn't work and some possible options or alternatives. If the player gets pissed off, you don't want him/her in the game anyway. We're all adults here and should be able to accept compromise. There has been and always will be those who feel like they have to have the biggest, baddest guy around and repeatedly offer something in the hopes of getting it by someone. It's Your job to insure that everyone has a fair chance and balanced field that they will enjoy. This pretty much sums up the whole question, but on the character who doesn't want to be part of either faction, strongly encourage them to either select one, or build connections with one, or both, before he enters play. This WILL make his entry easier and give him something to build on. If he doesn't want to do this, you can either reject the character, or warn the player that he's going to have a really hard time getting involved in the game and let him learn on his own. The world is cruel sometimes. Gun control... London has strong gun laws, so does Washington DC and cities all over the world, yet gun-violence seems to always be highest in places with the highest level of "control." If you really want to get a hand-gun in London, you can get a hand-gun in London. If I recall correctly (and I probably don't), hunting rifles and shotguns are legal, and a sawed off shotgun is one nasty weapon. But, if you have too many gun-related deaths in a background, bring it up and see what happens.


And what about the Characters that - based on their character sheet - have little to no ambition, wish to stay neutral, and will likely offer nothing to the overall game? Have you ever rejected a character for seeming "pointless"? Or do you say "Uh sure..." and let them go on their merry way?

As a general rule, I have, and will reject a character that doesn't fit a game, if the player is not willing to work on creating something that fits into the world as offered. If a character seems pointless, open a dialogue with the player via PM and discuss what they have planned for the character, it may not be quite as pointless as imagined, or you may be able to nudge the player into something that will be more involved in the game as a whole. Again, the GM's job is to help the player find something that works and will be enjoyed. GM-ship is hard work, but often rewarding to both player and GM in the end. Don't be afraid to approach a player and ask questions, make suggestions and if neccessary, to say, "This isn't going to work in this setting." Sometimes, you have to be a little hard if you want to protect the game and your players. THEY must come first over new characters.

On In-Character Interactions: This one has been hard for me - namely in that a lot of the rules established around being part of a certain faction have gone largely ignored by a certain section of players. What's the best way to rein in these interactions? Do you PM the people involved and say "hey, this isn't really feasible, I'd like you to change your post"? Do you post something vaguely passive-aggressive in the announcement thread re-emphasizing the rules? How do you keep your players in line with the established universe, without dictating their every action? This has been a hard one for me, mainly in that I've asked to be PM'ed whenever players may be uncertain if interactions would be permitted in the setting, and time and time again, people just go their merry way and derp along as though those rules didn't exist.

To be honest, both approaches should be taken. You ARE often herding a flock of baby chicks when it comes to large games and a few are going to try to break for it Warden. But, the rules are the rules for a reason. They keep it fun for the majority of the players (You'll never make veryone happy all of the time). But, it is critical to deal with these things quickly. I usually PM the individual player and ask them to reconsider their actions and that the world doesn't support this or that. Remind them of the rules that they agreed to when they oined the game and guide them back to something more in line with the spirit of the game. If they come back with, "That's not what my character would do." Then, their character COULD suffer a tragic accident as a result of their actions and perhaps what their character may, or may not do becomes a IC learning lesson on what their character should, and shouldn't do.  Some players feel the need to push the limits to see what they can get away with (Just like your snowflakes) and it's your job to keep them moving in a direction the fits the world. Most will say, "Oh, ok. Thaks!" if they realize that they have gotten a little out of bounds.

Re-writing post is a touchy subject, particularly if someone else has posted after them, so if you don't act quickly, it may become a cascading effect. Don't be afraid to say something and talk about it... as for players PMing you to ask if this or that will work... don't get your hopes too high, they're more likely to ask forgiveness than permission.

Group Events: Every once in a while, players get together to plot up an idea to stir things up. Which is great! Why have factions if they're not going to make moves against each other? But wait...this thing would cause this to happen and then this in return, and that weapon isn't feasible and, and, and aaaaaaghhhh!

Encourage either OOC or PM discussions with you and everyone involved when someone suggest a group event. These can often be great tools for moving a game along, but they can also be a major headache and as GM, you should already be the one to approve the activities anyway.  You need to know what's going on before it happens, not after the fact if it will involve large parts of the game. GMing can be a lot of fun, but it's also a lot fo work If you want it to work, it is a lot like having children, and it's not. Everyone on E is, in theory, an adult and should be able to work together to give everyone a fun time.

I had a player once who insisted on writing out his scenes, with tohers, in secret and then dropping completed scenes into the game whole. On one hand, I didn't mind this, on the other hand, the player didn't want to include me in on what he was doing, which meant that he could very easily disrupt, or overrun the game all on his own. So, I said that I had to be involved in the writing, see everything before it was posted and if it went too far,that it would not happen. In his very first attempt, with another player, he attempted to rewrite the powerstructure of the game, use unforeseeen loopholes in the rules and plce his character as THE power in the game... all without the other playes having an opportunity to react or "save" themselves. I said "Sorry, not going to ahppen." and he walked away from the game. The point is that if it's fun for half a dozen, but not the other 30, then you're not giving the majority of the game it's due.

I hope this has helped in some way.