Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

Reality and unreality

Thursday, 18 February, 2010

A while back I ran a roleplaying adventure for some of my friends. It was a scenario I wrote myself, with a sort of X-Files vibe to it. The PCs were FBI agents, investigating what at first appeared to be an ordinary case, but which turned a bit weird once they uncovered what was really going on.

At this point the game bogged down a bit. I was ready and waiting for the agents to start kicking butt and attacking the problem with guns blazing. After all, Mulder and Scully would leap right in. But my players didn’t. Instead they did the considerably more realistic thing of sneaking around and trying to gather evidence. It was only when I finally threw a rampaging Unseelie horse at them that one of them fired a shot in self-defence. From there the cat was out of the bag and all Hell broke loose, as I’d been hoping it would for about an hour of game time.

The chaos that followed was a lot of fun. But I was just a little mystified as to why the players took so long to get there. Then when the game was over, a couple of them explained that they went into the game taking their roles as FBI agents seriously, determined not to step out of line and to do things by the book. Which was fine and understandable from their point of view, but not what I was expecting.

My assumption was that the PCs would be “TV style” FBI agents, not realistic ones. I expected them to ignore the rules and get their hands dirty to get the job done. The problem was I hadn’t told the players that. I hadn’t run a game for some time, and it felt really bad to have made such a fundamental mistake. But I’ve learnt the lesson now. Make sure your players know what you’re expecting of them. Surprise and secrecy about what is going to happen in the adventure are vital to a roleplaying game, but more important is making sure everyone’s playing under the same assumptions before you begin.

If I’d just said up-front, “You’re flamboyant, TV-style FBI agents who get away with breaking the rules when necessary” as opposed to “realistic agents who do their work silently and never fire a gun,” the game would have run much more smoothly. Ah well. Here’s to experience, and not making the same mistake twice.