Today’s offering is, at least in large part, inspired by this post (from Jeffro’s Car Wars Blog). I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m always fascinated and a little envious when I read something that so clearly explicates a position I agree with and am comfortable with but could never explain as clearly.
I had that, “Yes, this, exactly this” moment a few times when I was reading through this post. I’d like to touch on a few of the points he made in the post and run with them a little – in my own direction.
In an infinite game, the players can devise their own definitions for what constitutes success.
This may be, for me, the most important point in the whole post. It is my feeling that there are often roughly three specific factors competing as definitions of “success” in a roleplaying game. The first is mechanical success. “Do I level, do I hit the monster, do I disarm the trap..?” The second is scenario success. “Do we finish this coherent goal we’ve set ourselves – rescue the princess, recover the artifact, etc.” The third is player success. “Was this a fun game that I enjoyed being a part of?”
And I think great players find a way to combine two and three into an actualized sort of space where they define their own success through the process of succeeding in game but also finding larger, more complete objectives for their characters which really improve the play experience for themselves and the group.
I may have mentioned that I’ve managed (somehow) to be blessed with a new, wonderful group of players for my Amber campaign. And I’m stunned by their ability – their interest and excitement – to set goals for their characters which go far beyond the short-term and set a clear measure for their own experience which will define success. Some of those goals are completely Cosmic and some are surprisingly mundane when you really break them down. And these definitions of what they want to do to feel successful really help me to set a tone for the overall game as well as help the players with their characterization. And when we someday -hopefully far from today – wrap up this game, they will be able to gauge a lot of their fun against what they set up for themselves.
…the only way the players are going to know that a particular place is worth visiting is if they pick up rumors from your non-player characters.
This is a fantastic point. It may or may not be entirely true in a game like Amber where players can fashion their own worlds out of whole cloth, but the principle remains solid. Your players are always better served taking their cues from the setting and their interactions with others over the GM just pointing them in a direction. The entire concept of the rumor-driven reality is at the heart of all of my best gaming sessions and this was such a great way to encapsulate the idea. Players are
suckers, gluttons for, high-end consumers of information. One of the biggest thrills of gaming is learning something new – about the setting, the NPCs, another PC, or any of a number of other things. And when learning those things kicks off a new adventure, even better.
It’s a rich post and worth the time to read. I’m grateful to jeffro for kicking off more thinking for me and I’ve enjoyed the follow up posts. I’m going to keep thinking about this… you should too.