My #1 Learning from Last Game

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0719

My #1 Learning from Last Game

Last week I talked about listening to my players better. It turns out listening is HARD.

I GM’d last Friday and here’s how it turned out.

First, a recap of my GM Quests for the session:

  1. Hooks: Get at least one hook from each player from something they mention during the game
  2. Excitement: Note at least one moment when each player was excited (any why)
  3. Unfun: Note one moment when each player didn’t seem to enjoy the game (and why)
  4. Inspiration: Add something into the game at least three times based on things the group says

And here’s how it went:

  1. Hooks: A partial success. I did not get hooks, but I got a Mission Statement from three of the PCs.
  2. Excitement: Nope, I was too busy being excited myself.
  3. Unfun: One time I noticed a player was yawning. His non-combatant PC was on automatic pilot in a combat — just doing the same things each round due to limited options. I’ll aim to design more interesting things for him to think about in fights.
  4. Inspiration: A partial success. One player mentioned a cold-based foe’s weapon melting. So I melted it to add to an encounter’s spectacle.

A poor showing overall. However, I did have an Aha! moment. Something I’ll consciously run with moving forward.

Here’s my number one learning from last game:

Roleplay Is King

My first quest was practicing listening by getting ideas for future encounters from the group. There was an aboleth in the watery caverns the PCs were hoboing through. The aboleth would swim within range and try to enslave a PC. Using telepathy, he could read a PC’s mind and promise the character his greatest desire. This allowed me to ask, GM to player, what the PC’s greatest desire was. Notes were taken.

However, the dungeon crawl we’re in turns out to be limiting for the kind of hooks I was hoping to hear. None were offered because the players were focused on the battlemat the entire session with the exception of one roleplaying encounter.

My hypothesis is hooks are granted during roleplaying encounters, not standard combats. Roleplay is king.

Solution? If dungeon crawling, add roleplay to combat. (See RPT#670 on how to add delicious roleplay to combats.)

The aboleth was awesome because the prompts for PC desires came from in-game.

The tip here is to roleplay NPCs to get what you want to learn. Ask in-character and ye shall receive.