Tag Archives: metaphors

8 Seduction Tips for the Game Master

If you look at popular magazines aimed at men and women, you find a lot of articles about seduction. Lots and lots of things in these articles are really basic human interaction put to words, but there are some hints of wisdom here and there in those seduction tips that can be used to improve the way you run RPGs. This is a rewriting of an old article of mine from an old blog of mine.

Seduction Tips. Go outside. Play.

8 – Be the Alpha

“In social animals, the alpha  is the individual in the community with the highest rank.”

That’s a Wikipedia definition of an alpha. At the table, this is your position as the Game Master. It doesn’t mean you need to dry hump lower-ranking members of the group back into submission if they get out of line, but you are expected to take charge of the situation and provide rulings and guidance. While games these days focus on shared ideas and executions, as the GM, you are still the one organizing the event and everyone there subconsciously holds you responsible when it comes to keeping things rolling.

The GM role is an authority role, and you should embrace it as such. The others are expecting you to be a good, reliable leader. Remember that actions speak louder than words do. So stand behind what you say, and deal with situations fairly.

7 – Stay Fit, Have a Life

Having an active social life and staying in good health is super-important. If you’re energetic and happy when running a game, this bleeds to the other players as well. Having social circles outside your gaming buddies mean that you’ll spend less time obsessing over game details and that you’re putting yourself out there. Meeting new people and getting experiences, stuff that give you tons of inspiration for your games. Maybe the new girl in the coffee shop is the basis for your next big NPC. Or she could be the love of your life. You never know until you get off your ass and actually go do something.

6 – You Can’t Seduce Someone Who Don’t Want To Be Seduced

Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. Not all people want what you’re offering. Maybe the way you two think about RPGs clashes or could be that they just think you’re a brute for your lack of interest in 12th century swimwear. It is all very natural, and you shouldn’t worry too much about it. If you get indicators that they’re steering away from your game by constantly canceling and being absent, you should offer them an actual chance to step down. A reluctant player in the game is worse to the game than one not being there.

5 – Use Stories To Sell You(r NPCs)

This one is a tip about selling your NPCs than selling yourself. You can make any NPC more memorable by introducing them with a story rather than just a description. The new recruit who comes late and explains how she almost got into a fight with an old lady over the last pair of the pink gloves she wanted is infinitely more interesting than a new recruit with pink gloves. Keep a couple of stories for each major NPC and use them to re-introduce the character to the players.

4 – Be Interested In What She Has To Say

Really pay attention to your players. What are things that keep coming up? What do they react best to in your behavior? When do they go non-responsive? You need to figure out what your players want. Sometimes you can ask them directly, but more often than not this will make them to tell you what they think you want to hear. Observe their actions, and keep eye contact with them to show them that you’re observing. If you are slumped into your rule books when they’re making valid points, you give a discouraging signal. A good GM is one that cares about what’s going on and shows it.

3 – Learn From Each Encounter

Players are notoriously bad at giving negative feedback. Listen to what they say, and listen to what they don’t say. Fill the holes and figure out what didn’t go well. And once you figure out that, try and improve. Don’t aim to get everything perfect at once. A goal of improving one thing per game session is already an impressive one. Even if you don’t manage to make things better with the first try, it’s a huge step every time you try.

2 – Know your shit

A good player can spot bullshit a mile away, so you better know your shit. If you keep pulling rules and ideas out of your ass, your authority ends up under inspection pretty fast. If you’re trying a new system, be willing to do the effort and learn how it works. Better than your players. The OSR has it right with their “don’t make rules, make rulings” policy. If you can’t remember how a rule really works in the books, make a ruling how it goes in your game. And then stand by that ruling from that point on.

1 – The Best Way To Get Over a Bad Lay Is To Have Ten Great Ones

And then all goes to hell. Half of the players don’t want to talk to you anymore because of your Norwegian artsy indie scenario that experimented with whale blabber as a randomization mechanic. It’s time to take a deep breath and get back on the horse. Pick up a Pathfinder adventure, make characters, kill goblins with people. Don’t let failure bog you down. Keep rolling them dice.

Cooking Your Way Through a Game

I’ve always loved using kitchen metaphors when talking about Role Playing Games. Usually while talking about the industry, since I’ve found the comparison between a traditional RPG core book and a beginner’s cookbook to be very apt. And other things like how by cooking or running a game, you will only ever touch small audiences at a time. But the gaming-as-cooking thinking fits the other parts as well.

Cooking your game

The real meat (sorry) of where I’m going today with this metaphor is how you build a good game.

You start with an idea. It might be “I’ll cook veal today” or “I’ll make Mexican food” or even “I’ll pick a random recipe from the net”. This also applies to your game. You need to have something. It might be that one adventure book you’ve wanted to try out, or maybe you are really itching to run a proper old school Call of Cthulhu game, or just that Halloween is coming up and you want something with werewolves.

Choosing the right protein for what you’re doing is essential for any meal. If you choose tofu and beans, you’ll end up with something different than you would if you use crayfish. So do you go with d20 or In Nomine? Is using a system with tons of moving parts really necessary for a game like this or would you be better of with something almost freeform? Do you use the whole system or just parts of it? Cut and trim it to what you actually need. Or maybe mix things up, borrow something from another system. Could the scallops benefit from some bacon?

As important as the protein are what you’re serving it with. This is where basic flavors actually come to play. Most systems out there can support multiple styles of game play. Just as you can use fish to make Japanese sushi just as well as some nice Finnish fish soup, you can use Pathfinder to run hack and slash Pathfinder or horror Pathfinder. And on the other hand, if you want to run a love triangle game, you need to consider what system would best fit that. You can run it with Conspiracy X, but if you want the game to focus on that aspect, you might want to go with something like Shooting the Moon. If you want to make a fish soup, might not be the best idea to use chicken for the protein.

Then you start to cook. When choosing ingredients, you’ve probably decided how you’re going to go. Seared, steamed, baked, boiled. By the time you’re having your players sit down and write down characters, you’ve pretty much committed to the choice of system and most of the other big parts for the game. Sometimes you realize at this point you’re missing something – you might need to take one more bell pepper or switch the red onions to garlic. Some things simply change once you get going. But once you heat up the pan, it’s go-time. All the preparation you have done has brought you here and you either succeed or you don’t.

Seasoning happens during this phase. You add salt, pepper, vinegar to taste. Maybe some blackened spice mix to get that Cajun thing really going on. You taste, you sample. Seasoning is getting the things taste just right. It’s the small details that affect both the system and the setting. Do you want Dark Elves in your fantasy world? Are the zombies fast or slow? You get the feel of the game – are the players going to enjoy a bit of heat or would they like to keep things smooth. Ask questions about preferences. While you can trust your instincts a lot, you can’t guess allergies. Ask and adjust.

And if you’ve done everything right, you’ll get a great meal that is both nutritional and delicious. And most importantly, it’s more than the sum of the parts you’ve used for it. But a good cook knows that the actual food is only a part of the experience. Presentation is equally important. If you make the game look nice and feel nice, on top of being nice, it will shine.

This is the point where you explain how all the carrots were organically grown by you over the summer and how this particular part of a bull’s body has been used for this meal by the Italian princes since the 1400s. You need to tickle the senses, tease the mind a bit more. Use the right background music, have a nice gaming table set up. Going that extra mile to get a dice set that fits the game’s theme. Players need seducing.

Or you know. Just heat up a microwave pizza. Nothing wrong with that if that’s the way to roll tonight.