May 042012

I’ll be honest.  That is me much of the time.  Do I like being that way?  No, but it’s hard to change because, well, I am always right.

How many times have you tried to influence how your players play their characters?

  • “You need to get into character more.”
  • “Give him a background.”
  • “Give him goals.”
  • “Give him morals.”
  • “Give him quirks.”
  • “Make him different from your last ten characters.”
  • “Just… roleplay more.”

A few months ago I had the opportunity to join a new group.  It’s a great group, and I’m happy to be here.  I was basically put in as a rotating GM, so I’ll be running one week and playing the next.  It’s a great set-up, and I’m getting to know the players and their playing styles fairly well.

“I’ve never played a character with this much depth before.”

My game of choice for this group is the Serenity Roleplaying Game, using the fantastic Savage Worlds system.  We’re all familiar with the Serenity ‘verse, and we all enjoy some Savage Worlds, so this seems like a good fit for me to run.

However, as I am wont to do, I tinkered with the rules – particularly with the Bennies (they’re like luck points or action points).  If you know me at all, then you know that I really like the Aspect concept from the FATE system (we even have a nice series on it).  Basically, the players added a few aspects to their characters, giving them automatic backgrounds, personalities, and traits.  Their characters were instantly fleshed out and had tons of, well, character.  The players could use their bennies normally, or use them as normal FATE points (gain a +2 bonus after a roll, or invoke for effect).

The curve ball, though, was that in order for them to gain new bennies they had to have their aspects compelled against them.  This naturally brings into the story all of the characters’ backgrounds, personalities, and traits, making the story that much richer.

Well, after our second session, one of our players said to me, “I’ve never played a character with this much depth before.”  I was immediately happy to hear these words, because (to me) that meant that he was changing how he role-played.  He was moving on from the strong, silent type into a character that was a little more unique, one that had to make difficult decisions based on his convictions, morals, and beliefs.  The player had been pushed out of his comfort zone, and in that endeavor, had found a little bit of role-playing reward and satisfaction because of it.  In essence, he was evolving.

Yes!  I’ve done it!  I’ve improved a player’s approach as to how they are to play the game!

Annnnnnd then I realized that I am really just full of shit.

I’ve sat back these past couple of days reveling in smug.  I was so happy about getting this player to conform to my way of gaming that I actually kind of felt a little stupid.  Did I introduce the Aspects into the game because I thought it was going to be more fun, or because I wanted players to play more my style?

There I was, a brand new player and GM to this group, and I was thinking they have things to learn from me.  I’d like to say that I introduced the Aspects to make the game more fun, but I think I did it to make the game more fun for me.  Ergo, if it’s fun for me, it will be fun for them.

Who the hell am I to suppose that my way is better?

Sure, everyone seems to be having a good time, but I wonder, should I have just run Savage Worlds per the rules, should I get off my high horse, am I even on a high horse?

I don’t know, what do you think?

More awesomeness...

Chris Stevens

In Chris's opinion, the very best vices are dirt bikes, rock music, and gaming, while the very best medicine is fatherhood. If he could just learn to balance them all, he'd live forever. He's much more creative than intelligent, often wakes up belligerent, and ponders many things insignificant. Lastly, in an effort to transform his well-fed body, P90X, Roller Blades, and Food are all laughing at him. And the pain continues.

  5 Responses to “Changing how your players play (the right way)”

  1. Opinion time!

    You’re only doing it wrong if the players tell you they aren’t having fun.

    As long as they are having fun, and you are having fun, you’re doing it right.

    I should go.

  2. If you showed them a new way to play and they like it, well then cool. I think the only way to go wrong at this point is to insist that they keep playing like that. They’ll hybridize it with their old style and create something new. It may look like they’re returning to their old way of playing but they’ll be a bit more experienced. Yay! More XPs!

  3. Very awesome! I’m currently running a Firefly game using Savage Worlds as well:)

    In a few weeks I’m gonna have a toolkit PDF on my blog that is a Vornheim Hack using Firefly (like your opinion on it when I pop it out there).

    I’ve seen people use Aspects in SW before. They did similar to what you are doing, but instead they got rid of Edges and Hindrances and made those the Aspects. You burn a Benny to open an aspect +2 to a roll or a reroll (if it can be justified by the Aspect) or using them (as normal) for the Soak roll.

  4. @ Jonathan

    That’s a good quote. I’ll have to steal that…

    @ Emmett

    We’ll see how it goes. I think it wasn’t a big change, so (hopefully) it’ll continue to run smoothly.

    @ Wrath of Zombie

    I’ll be there!

  5. It’s a bit of a gray area: If everyone is having fun, is there a problem? Not necessarily. But we could all be having fun bashing toy vehicles around, and then someone points out those toys are actually radio-controlled airplanes that can strafe neighborhood cats. Suddenly the old fun seems ridiculous in light of the new possibilities.

    When a tabletop RPG session spawns in-character conversations between players that are not plot-related, you are reaching a new level of roleplaying. I’m talking about the dwarf and the barbarian comparing notes on booze, in-character. Suddenly the campaign world is writing itself. Or maybe a player concedes that their character would “realistically” run from a particular fight. The party doesn’t resent that character because, well…that’s just him! More importantly, that character’s player is still part of the real-life gaming team. Adding those types of dramatic touches in the right spirit is a kind of artistry. Okay so it’s homemade, amateur artistry. It’s still artistry.

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