Just Run With It
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0954
When the game gives you lemons, you serve up a lemon elemental.
That’s at the heart of RPT GM Jim B’s good advice for us today. He writes in response to a recent Musing about the GM who thought a player was purposefully learning spoilers from the internet:
Your item on the cheating player brings to mind a principle I try to follow: run with it. Try having fun with the situation. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but here’s what I mean.
In the game world, running with it means you come up with a reason why the character would suddenly have knowledge he wasn’t supposed to have — and the consequences of having that knowledge. How did the character know there was a vampire in the castle (for example)?
Maybe it’s now revealed he has a suspicious past association with this vampire, and NPCs will be leery of him. Maybe the past association is news to the character too, and he now realizes he has unexplained memory lapses.
Maybe the awareness is mutual and the vampire knows about the character, and takes action.
Maybe it’s now revealed that the character used a Forbidden Tome of Eldritch Lore or a dangerous scrying device, which has drawn the attention of some foul fiend.
Maybe an NPC says, “Nah, that vampire’s long gone” (and maybe the GM uses the exact same vampire anyway under a different name, but the players don’t know that).
Whatever the consequences, the idea is still to have good fun with good challenges. The character “suffers” in a fun way for knowing things they weren’t supposed to know.
Out of the game world, it sounds like the GM found a way to run with it — by putting the player’s familiarity with the module to work.
Running with it isn’t always enough to deal with a problem player, but it should be more fun in the long run if it works.
This is good advice for many GMing situations in addition to cheating.
When you get frustrated by unexpected player decisions, the dice don’t go your way, or your past-self made a call your current self regrets, harness that lemon elemental.
Here’s a four-step recipe for doing that:
Take a deep breath. Or several. Slow. Into the gut.
This gives you a couple of big bennies:
It lets negative emotions run their course so you can get back to thinking well.
It calms your brain, which is a stress-induced chemical factory right now. Get that heart rate down. Recover cognition.
Pivot from negative to positive. Burn more stress energy by thinking up fun ideas of what might be possible.
Come up with 1d4 possibilities. Ask What If to help inspire.
Pick your favourite idea. Turn it into a game by thinking two or three steps ahead.
If the game does X, what Y might happen? If Y happens, what might Z do in response?
A brief plan now in hand, take the first step in-game. Introduce an NPC, hook in a new piece of information, offer the trigger for an encounter.
Get the game moving forward again.