When you GM, how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or…

When you GM, how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or…

Originally shared by Andrew Huffaker

When you GM, how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or ‘this was my plan all along’?

29 thoughts on “When you GM, how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or…”

  1. When doing a “mystery” it’s important to keep the players thinking they’re solving something you created, even if it’s just a facade over improv and stealing their own ideas.

  2. Aaron Griffin right. That’s where some of that corridor or railing come in in a good way. (even if I’m just manifesting their side conversation they didn’t know I heard). Great observation, Aaron. Players still want to feel they earned it over the universe.

  3. Aaron Griffin – that’s perhaps true, but isn’t relevant to the question (as I read it). I read the question as being about planned events, not about prior reality of the world.

  4. Rob Alexander I think what Aaron said fits. I think what he’s getting at, is that, a mystery horror needs to have an element that the GM has information that is hidden from players and is cultivating the experience. This is more necessary than in a typical adventure. If the players knew that the GM was improving the whole thing, it may diminish the experience or feel wanton.

  5. Rob Alexander the question was:

    When you GM, how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or ‘this was my plan all along’?

    When you run a mystery scenario, you need to try to upkeep the notion that what they are discovering is according to your plan and not something completely improvised, as it usually is. If they know you just decided on the murderer at the last second, it is not as thrilling as if they think you decided on the murderer at the beginning and they successfully followed the clues.

  6. Aparantly I picked the least popular option of ‘often’, so I guess i’ll elaborate a bit on that.

    In my experience, nearly all of my players seem to play to ‘figure out what the deal is’ to some extent.

    This is probably encouraged by the fact that my games are rarely straightforward ‘go fix this problem.’ In most cases, it will be more of a ‘figure out what the problem actually is, what causes it, how to fix it, and THEN go fix it’ .

    As Aaron Griffin described very nicely, a key aspect of this process being fun is having the notion that somehow THEY figured it out by being awesome.

    For some reason they still seem to want to believe that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I had some sort of grand plan all along. If that makes it more fun for them, who am I to dispute it?

    That, and I love it when a player goes like ‘OMG see?!? The evil sorcerer was using the abducted slaves to build giant constructs of doom to attack the city, just like I said three sessions ago!!!! I KNEW IT!’

    [That the evil sorcerer was doing nothing of the sort until three sessions ago, or maybe didn’t even exist up till that point… not really relevant to mention imho]

  7. Just to be clear: “upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan” is not the same as “actually having a plan” in my opinion. The latter would not fit dungeon world well.

  8. Andrew Huffaker I think your poll, then, blurs some quite dissimilar things. I guess you’re not planning to base important life decisions on the result but…

  9. I’m always super explicit with my players before and during a game that I am discovering the setting and situation alongside them, as guided by the system.

    In between sessions, I may have ideas and write some notes about what various fictional factors and entities intend, but those are their fictional plans, not mine. Even with some notions, I go in very unprepared and improvise heavily, by having a melting pot of descriptive ideas I draw from to flesh out my “what makes sense next?” Calls as a gm.

    My intent when I gm is to do as little “writing stuff down” preparation & planning as possible, and just react to my players’ characters actions.

    A big part of my reason for gaming this way is that I don’t want people to think gming is some kind of unattainable wizardy that requires talent & dedication mere mortals can achieve. It just requires the right system that supports you and practice.

    I also disagree that mysteries need to be pre-plotted out. If the system is designed right, it will hit the required narrative beats on the way to connecting the dots you introduce as you play to get an interesting solution. You and you players will build a pattern as you play because that’s what humans do.

    Only Sherlock Holmes figures out a mystery in the first 5 minutes. Everyone is led figures it out when it becomes obvious to all involved. Mysteries are about the characters following a path and putting pieces together along the journey, with the big reveal as the payoff.

  10. Rob Alexander help me understand. What dissimilar things are you thinking of when reading the post?

    I just posted the poll out of curiosity based on a conversation I had on my podcast. That’s all.

  11. Andrew Huffaker When I first read “how much do you try to upkeep the notion that everything in the game is going according to your plan or ‘this was my plan all along’?”, I interpreted “plan” as “planned sequence of events, give or take” (e.g. “the PCs will find the murder weapon, and will figure out it belong to Dr Beard, then…”). It’s common for GMs to prep this way, but many people (myself included) are strongly opposed to it.

    In Aaron’s second comment on mysteries, he makes it clear that by “plan” he means “facts about the game world” (e.g. “Who was the murderer? How did he cover his tracks?”). Those of us who don’t like planned sequences are often happy with set facts like these.

  12. Rob Alexander I didn’t operationally define my terms, so there is a lot of room to interpret the question; you are not the only one to ask me to clarify. Though, the thing that I wanted to focus on was the Gm’s illusion of control.

  13. Andrew Huffaker

    Inspectres springs to mind. While the GM established the initial question, the players through their rolls create the clues and the “who what where when why”

    I believe there’s also an element of failing forward in inspectres, where a failure is more about what the information costs your character. I feel like that’s important for a mystery, to avoid players being road blocked or the “roll until you succeed” problem.

  14. Andrew Huffaker “control” can of course mean many things. E.g. the GM could be controlling the conversation not to achieve a specific sequence or result, but to keep it exciting, or serious, or whatever. And they could vary their goal session-to-session. That’s a form of control.

    May be useful to enumerate all the things over which a GM might want to claim control.

  15. I am pretty upfront about not really knowing what’s going on with the specifics. I mean, lore wise, I’ll tie stuff together after the fact (and the players do too), and that can be really fun, but I don’t maintain any appearance of a grand plan. I kind of consider it not a great thing if that’s how it’s coming across. Play to find out and all that, right?

  16. Aaron Griffin​ second (or third) this. I cant plan for everything, nor would i want to, but i think that illusion that the world is more than us as players is important. It makes us feel like we ARE the characters and not players. We are “out of control” of the world. When really, the GM is totally like “Whaaaa” every moment.

    My ansewr is “Often” though i have discussed my GMing methods and they are aware that i inprovise and use thier thoughts as we play. But they still seem to fall for that thought that it was all planned. Its like a subconscious desire.

  17. Extending my thought above with a specific example …

    One thing I want to have control over is the results of the rules I use. I.e. I want to make decisions about what system to use, whether to house rule or fudge in play, and whether to have rules at all, in such a way that I shape the kind of experience we have at the table. I.e. I don’t want to be just blundering in my rules and system choices — I want control of the social and creative effect of the rules and procedures and rituals I create or adopt.

    And I want to be able to justify all that to players, including those that are skeptical that choice of rules matters at all.

    The above feels like a form of control, and one that I might want to claim even if it’s untrue or questionable.

  18. Robert Doe could it be that they’ve all played under, and heard about, very skillful illusionists? I.e. they’re used to being tricked into thinking they made choices?

  19. Wait wait wait….did i take the red pill or the blue pill? Does it even matter which one i picked?

    Ohh geeze…[In captain Kirks voice] Demon Theory!!!

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