Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hi, I’m the Evil DM- Trust me.

Evil DM Logo 

The other day at Target I picked up season one of the classic TV show “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”  It’s a great show to steal ideas for Mission:Adventure!

As I was watching the episodes I came across one where the crew begins acting strangely, it turns out that saboteurs have introduced a hallucinogenic gas into the submarines air supply. I was thinking of the viability of using this plot device in an adventure. The only problem is that the players need to put their trust in the GM. 

Now I’ve found from personal experience that getting players to trust the GM is easier said than done.  Maybe its flashbacks from adolescence when a sadistic  DM killed their 9th level Elven Ranger with a trap from the Tomb of Horrors module or some such silliness, but I've found that players will rarely give up even a smidgen of their characters fate without a fight.  and while that's come to be expected in most RPG’s I find it an extremely  tough issue to get around in Pulp gaming.

Pulps almost always invariably have the hero cornered in an impossible situation where their death is all but guaranteed, only to have fate, amazing luck, or wild coincidence save them at the absolute last minute.  Now for that type of situation to happen in an RPG setting the player MUST trust the GM. The player needs to go along with the GM (with a wink and a nudge) for the good of the adventure and the ultimate enjoyment of everyone at the table.

In my case I believe my failure was that I didn't adequately explain this to my players (in my defense I will say that this was a play-test session using pregenerated characters, so I wasn't expecting quite the level of commitment to the characters as compared to a character that's been nurtured through years of constant play).  As a result, Half my players went one one way,the rest went the other, and the game folded with uncomfortable silence all around. 

The next day I beefed up the section in LoS on trusting your GM and letting your character get captured once in a while, so I guess something good came out of that awkward and embarrassing experience.

So the moral of the story:

Communicate with your players, let them know the tone of your game and remember that they look to you to provide the canvas. 

And players trust your GM. Remember that your character is one cog in a large engine that is the campaign.  There may be reasons for what is happening that is beyond your knowledge or understanding- and that's OK. You don't need to know everything right away.