Fostering Trust In Your Players

 Posted by on January 21, 2017  Filed as: Better Gameplay?  Add comments  Topic(s):
Jan 212017

It’s throwback-time, where we revisit an awesome article from years ago…

I have not played in many groups.  That stands to reason that I have also not experienced many GMs.  However, even with this shortfall, I feel that I have learned, like tons, from my current GM, which has made me appreciate “the game” more and more.  One thing that is just such a breath of fresh Alpine air is that I never have to worry about not trusting my GM.  Here are some things that I appreciate in a good GM…

A good GM wants the PCs to succeed, eventually.

The GM is not there, sitting at the table eating Cheetos, with the sole purpose of opposing the PCs, but to give them opportunities to succeed.  As a good GM, you know what your players’ characters can handle and what they can’t.  Don’t ever let your players fail because they couldn’t figure something out.  Letting them fall into an oubliette without an exit means they may never trust you again.  Yeah, I said oubliette.

The players have to know that you’re there to help them tell a story of how their characters prevailed, not to help tell their story of how they failed.  Sure, if you throw out all the warning signs that their course of action will likely lead to the Sarlacc Pit, but they practically jump in anyway, you can’t do anything about that.    What you can do is give them options, and help them make the right decisions if need be.  If the players know that you’re there to help them succeed, they’ll probably trust you.

Give the players the benefit of the doubt.

Are you there to help the players look cool, or like a fool?  When a player wants to try something, is it really important to impose penalties to the Nth degree?  If the character wants to jump off the banister, swing on the chandelier, and land on a table (kicking drinks everywhere), why shouldn’t he?  It’s freaking cool!  It’s cool if the GM says, “Sure, give me a moderate Agility check, or maybe even an easy check.” What’s even cooler is if the character fails, he doesn’t take damage, but instead falls flat on his back, covered with ale.

Is the character Trained in Nature?  Does he really have to roll every time a nature-related question comes up?  Isn’t it enough that he’s Trained in it to know that moss grows on the North side of the tree [or is it the South?  East?  Sheesh, I guess I’m not Trained in Nature].  But anyway, how about the bar… If I need a weapon, isn’t it enough to say that a bar has a knife behind the counter, and I can just pick it up?  Do we really have to roll to see if a knife is there?  And oh my god, if another car gets stolen because I *forgot* to tell the GM that I locked the doors, I’m gonna yell like hell.  I’ll tell you, it’s more fun to sit at a table where the GM is handing out bonuses to player rolls, than penalties.  If the players know that you’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt, they’ll probably trust you.

A good GM does not cheat the players.

If your players face a dilemma, and come up with an excellent, feasible solution (one that you hadn’t thought of), do you let them go ahead with it, or tell them no until they choose your pre-made path?  If your players come up with a good plan or course of action that bypasses part of your adventure, do you let them go ahead with it, or shut them down?  If the PCs get an early fight with the big bad guy, and are about to bring him down (when you thought they wouldn’t be), do you let them, or pull some “rules-be-damned” escape?

A good GM knows that the players will often put in a lot of effort, especially when they know that a reward should follow.  However, if you start cheating them out of their reward (whatever it is), they will start putting in less and less effort.  If the players know that you are not going to cheat them, they’ll probably trust you.

A good GM wants the players to have fun.

The GM is there because he likes role playing games.  He likes desiging worlds, campaigns, adventures, encounters, maps, monsters, enemies, and NPCs.  That’s fun for him.  Telling a story is fun for him.  Hanging out with his friends at the table is fun for him.  And, when everyone else at the table is having fun, he has even more fun.

I’ll say that again.  When everyone at the table is having fun, the GM has even more fun.  That really means that his whole grand goal for being there, for running the game, is so the players can have fun.  Because if they’re having fun, so are you.  You’re not against the PCs, you’re not trying to beat the PCs, and you’re not trying to win.  You’re there because you are trying to help the players have fun.  And fun’ness is what it’s all about.  If the players know that you’re there to help them have fun, they’ll probably trust you.

I don’t claim to know everything, so I’m sure this list is incomplete.  What other ways can you think of to help foster trust in your players?

And thanks for reading!

Ah ha! I was right! I just found out that in northern latitudes, moss is more prevalent on the North side of trees and rocks.   So there!  I am Trained in Nature.

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Charisma Keller

Charisma is a self-proclaimed Gran Tourismo champion, and swears that it’s official (or that it should be). She loves strength and beauty, so she usually tries to combine the two. Her characters are confident, humble, foolish, and heroic, and has named at least two of them after her favorite drink, the Lemon Drop. Oh yeah, her favorite muscle car would be the 67 GT-500E.

  9 Responses to “Fostering Trust In Your Players”

  1. Hurrah for fun’ness!

    We have an unwritten rule in our group – certainly when Dave or I GM – that if a player can think of something that would be in the scene, like the knife behind the bar, then it’s there. RPging is collaborative storytelling, and I’d much rather let my players come up with their own ways in and out of trouble – although I once had to get them back on track when they killed a Thieves Guild informant once… but that’s half the fun.

    I’d hate to put them – or be put – in a situation where they’re essentially guessing until they get the “right combination” that I was looking for in the first place. It’s everyone’s story, and letting the players tell it too takes a load of pressure off the GM *and* makes the PCs feel more involved in the world.

  2. Trained in Nature or did you just get that lucky nat 20? 😉

  3. I am not an “over roller” – although I do enjoy RPing rolls. (PC wants to drink at the bar – Fort check for how drunk you get – they geta kick out of it – and we have a great laugh) Some Dm’s can get ridiculous with rolls, for EVERY-THING and that loses fun real quick. One must find the median between the 2.

  4. @ Tom:
    I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone is there to have fun – it therefore falls on everyone to contribute. When are you going to post again? *edit* Ah, I guess it was yesterday. Glad it was fun.

    @ Collin:
    No, I attribute that to my bonuses in Nature, which come from my background in camping and hiking!

    @ Eric:
    Exactly. And I love playing drunk! Oh wait, you mean characters? Thanks for visiting the site and commenting. Looking forward to your next!

  5. Excellent article Charisma.
    I’ve always felt that telling a good story is the key to a good game. When the GM remembers that the group is there to tell the story as a collabrative effort, and not sit there and tell his story alone, then the entire game improves.
    As a GM you can’t be so hung up on “your world” and “your story” that it interferes with Our world and Our story.

  6. @ John:

    Consequently, a good GM communicates that well to his players so that the GM is not left the entire burden of telling his story, and telling Player A’s story and telling Player B’s story, and etc, etc. The good GM I think has a responsibility to remind the players that they have some responsibility to the story-telling as well. This invitation lets the players know that the DM is welcoming their input and in itself helps build that trust.

  7. Ah, see, my internal rule of thumb is if a character can roleplay it, and if questioned, justify how it fits in with their personality as we know it, I allow it.

    Players want to feel like they’re doing a lot of cool stuff, and as GM, I want to make that possible.

  8. Well said, fanzabura.

    And thanks for commenting!

  9. Thanks Charisma, nice to see *someone* reads my blog! 🙂 Should be back to a full group and RPGs in a week or two, just a question of what to play..?

    Hope it’s FantasyCraft (staying on topic!) as it has an interesting “side-quest” mechanic that lets players follow their own plot lines – should be fun.

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