Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master), #1

Welcome to all!

As we created, tested, and adapted the rules to The Hero’s Tale over the years, we’ve had an unwritten rule at our table: Anyone is welcome.

I will say up front that this has been both good for us and bad for us. However, overall, this has been right for us, and has been very helpful for many of us at the table.

How this has been good:

I’m not inside the heads of those who sit at our table, laughing and throwing dice, but as I look around it, I see a core group of great friends who have been through a lot together. We’ve saved the world and the universe a time or two, and, in the process saved each other. We all have issues. We all have struggles. Over the years, our (mostly) consistent adventure night has given us a chance to bond with each other. We’ve become “our tribe”.

All of us, in some way or another, have at times felt like we were socially disconnected. We’ve felt “not cool” or on the fringes of the mainstream. There are some of us at our table that have actually been professionally diagnosed this way, with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or even with physical disabilities. When we’re playing, the table evens everything out.

Through the years, various people have drifted in and out of our group. Some stay for a while, some stay only for a session or two. A few have moved away and come back. Life is kinda curious that way. I like to think that each one has brought something interesting and beneficial to the group, and I hope that the group has been beneficial to them.

There are a few in the group that I’ve essentially seen grow up here. When we started, Jacob, my youngest son, was 14 years old. He’s 18, now. There are two or three that came in from his social circle that are in the same age range. A lot changes in those four years of a kid’s life. I look at the process of their growth, and I’m certain that the gaming group had a big impact on that.

How this has been bad:

There are some practical considerations with having an “open chair” policy. One can be the physical lack of chairs. There have been nights where we actually run out of chairs and room around the table. We’ve gotten good at adapting things.

That indicates another “big” problem. The party gets to be too big. It takes some tricky Game Mastering to manage that many players. At a few points, we’ve tried to split the group into two tables, but for some reason, we always tend to drift back to one big one. I guess we like the camaraderie. And yet, in spite of the challenges big groups bring, our GMs have never insisted that anyone leave.

That many people also means a lot of character inconsistency. There are few weeks where everyone is here. How do you continue the story with missing characters? You just adapt. Our running joke is that this character or that character is “visiting his mother”. Or someone else can play the character of the missing player (as long as he/she stays true to that character’s character).

In spite of all of the challenges it brings, I’ve seen the impact our game group has had on the players themselves. I’m quite proud to be a part of it all. For all of the problems it brings to the story line, I would now always err on the side of inclusion.

Keep on rolling!

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