The “Red October” Problem

Just a short post today — I’m working on my game and will be back with more on Meaningful Choices tomorrow — but I realized that I have what I like to call, the “Red October” problem, after Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October.

The first game I created way back when, I spent a good amount of words talking about “game balance,” and “play styles,” and stuff like that and as I started writing about those things again I realized that it’s really a lot like when the Americans in the book are trying to figure out how to get all the non-defecting Russians off the sub. They can’t figure out a good way to do it and then the Ryan has the epiphany that “well, of course the sub’s captain would already have needed to figure this out so he already has a plan for how he intends to get the guys off the ship.

And I think that we, as gamers, but especially GMs have this problem a lot. We worry so much (at least, everyone I know tends to) about “what the players are going to do” and “how do I explain this to a gamer who doesn’t like the same things as me” and such — but really, why?

After all, if someone reads my game and likes it, and wants to run it, then they’re going to run it. I don’t need to wax all philosophic about game balance and stuff because the person playing is already going to have an idea of what they consider right — or form one through playing — such that my “opinion” isn’t really vital to their play experience.

Players are the same thing. When I GM I don’t try to outguess my players (well at least I try not to) because they all come to the table with their own experiences and ideas and expectations. I don’t need to figure out how to make a player play — they’re at my table already for a reason. If anything, the best I can do is try and be Jack Ryan and figure out how I can help and how to make the life of the guy who’s defecting a little easier. I don’t need to make a “player plan” I need to plan to help my player’s plans be even better.

(Note, I’m not saying, go easy on the characters — I’m saying cooperate with the players to make what they bring to the game as exciting as it can be for them as well as you, the GM.)

(Note, I feel this also applies to players who should do the same for their GM.)

And that’s at the heart of it. I’m working on a diceless game — for some people they don’t want a diceless game and no matter what I say, I won’t convince them. But I might be talking to someone who is willing to give it a shot — or someone who really likes the idea but has never gotten to do it before. And so I need to be thinking about — not how do I convince them to defect, but how do I give them the best help I can when they do?

See you tomorrow — thanks for reading.

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