Friday, May 04, 2007

The Player In The Box

The absolute biggest problem, and by that I mean the 100 pound gorilla that cripples your pets and eats all your cereal, involved in writing rules, settings or scenarios for tabletop roleplaying is this: that you can't fit the GM in the box.

Lackluster systems and dry settings can be spun into gold by a talented game master (or dungeon master, if you prefer, or referee, or storyteller). Likewise literary gold can be churned into unusable muck by a bad GM.

You can load a system to favour storytelling. You can give GMing advice in the rulebook. You can shift some component of creative control to the players. But none of these address the fundamental problem that your game is only going to be as good as your GM, and if you're a player who has a bad GM you're out of luck, because you can't pack a good GM in the box.

Screw that. Who wants to be a player anyway?

Now, as someone who runs games more often than he plays them, I am not without a large helping of appreciation for the merits of a good player. A good GM makes a game good; but when you have good players as well, that's when art happens.

But while ideally every game would consist of groups of perfect people sitting down to play perfect games, if I have to short one side of the equation, it's the players. I want good players, but if I can't get them I'd be perfectly happy to settle for something pre-packaged.

So is there a way that we can put the players in the box? If you have an answer, then blog it. I want ideas, and there's a lot of very talented game designers out there. Think laterally. Can an offline solo roleplaying experience be designed which casts the consumer in the role of GM?


Grant said...

You could conceivably replace your players with some kind of randomly generated behaviour - modified by character abilities/traits, of course.

Then the challenge of the game is to work out how much or how little you should throw at these randomly operating characters. Too little and they won't progress very far. Too much and they'll die.

GregT said...

I like that idea but then that mostly devolves into a systematic dice rolling exercise. Is there anny way, do you think, to somehow retain storytelling? Possibly the point of the game would be the record kept of the story, which you could later share with real people...

Grant said...

I think if you developed a complex enough randomized set of actions and reactions, you could approximate the sense of players contributing to a narrative. But it'd be a bugger of a design job for whoever made the thing.

You'd need a lot of dice-rolling because that's pretty much the most obvious way of taking player action out of the GM's hands.