Failure is Interesting, follow up

Just a little bit today. It’s funny how sometimes, when you are thinking about a thing you run into other ideas that play right into what you are thinking about.

Yesterday I wrote about how Failure doesn’t need to be made interesting – it is interesting – because failure already makes players think and react in new ways. Today, I’m thumbing through Facebook and I see a post from John Wick suggesting that I should watch this video – Right Now. And I’m always excited to go on a journey into how someone else runs games. It’s a neat little video. Improv is cool, and if it helps you hone your GMing skills then awesome. I’ll freely admit – I felt that cool little thrill you get when you feel validated by someone… after all, this is how I’ve been running games since I discovered the glories of Amber Diceless RPG. This style of play is why I prefer diceless or low-crunch systems.

And let me be clear… I support this kind of GMing and I support this kind of playing. I constantly get shit from people because I’m all about playing wide open. I had this revelation – the one he’s talking about in the video – during my first Amber game. I’d been doing it a little bit before but it was my first Amber game that I actually felt that the game was giving me permission – encouraging me – to play this way. And by goodness it was amazing. Whenever anyone asks me for GM advice my best advice is, “just throw stuff out there and worry about making it make sense later.” Can I even wax poetic about the number of times I’ve done what he suggests in this video..? I constantly scrap whatever idea I had (or found the damn idea in the first place) by listening to players and their ideas.

But here’s the thing (well, the first thing) that can take this off the rails. Your players have to want to go along on this journey with you. Now, it’s always worth it to work to make players want to take that journey with you – but I’ve been in plenty of groups where they don’t want to fly by the seat of their pants, where they prefer the predictability of dense rules systems and an almost rock-paper-scissors effect of many “math-problem” style game systems. Obviously, that works for some gamers and if it makes them happy then good for them. It’s not my style but it takes all kinds.

Then we get to around 8 minutes in this video and he brings up the “locked door” problem and goes straight back to the need to make failure interesting. Here’s the thing – I’m so tired of this whole discussion, of fighting this battle that I often feel like I’ve become programmed to just immediately assume the worst whenever someone brings this up… But I like what he says here. It’s not exactly what I’d do – but it’s interesting. The Yes/And becomes the No/But. And that’s okay.

The core lesson of the video though is still valuable. Don’t hedge, don’t second guess, don’t worry. Trust your instincts, trust what you know about the players around your table, and work together. If we don’t want to work together, why are we playing an RPG instead of Chess or Diplomacy?

Anyway, it’s an interesting little video and I’ll admit, I kinda want to check out Burning Empires because it seems like a Warhammer 40K-like thing, and I love those.

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