DM’s Chair # 8 : Playing Their Role

An RPG is action and reaction.  The DM presents the scene and crucial information.  The players ask questions and direct their characters in response.  Balance in this relationship is essential.

As the DM, don’t talk at your players for hours on end.  The players are there to immerse themselves in their characters, see your world through their eyes, and act accordingly.  Simply rolling dice when prompted by the DM is not role-playing.

Don’t present the group with sketchy details and expect them to paint their own canvas.  To give a few scant details about the scene and then ask for their reaction sets the players adrift with no indication of what to do next.  Tell the players where their characters are, what they see, and what is going on.  Give them leads to follow, questions to ask, actions to take.

The group will work best when they work together.  Drop hints to what unique skills or abilities may come in handy to solve a challenge.  Take into account the characters’ personalities and dispositions, as well as their Class and appearance.  These factors may influence what is happening and what is about to happen.  Have a way for everyone to contribute.  Let the group infer and deduce what to do next, as a team.

Let the players do something awesome with their character.  Don’t “block” anyone’s creativity.  Allow them leeway to write their own script and develop their character’s personality and Class and place in your world.  Insist that their character respect their alignment.  Enforce the divide between Player Knowledge and Character Knowledge.

Present decisions that are more a choice between “lesser evils” or “irreconcilable goods” than obvious yes-or-no reactions.  As McKee says in Story…  : “The choice between good and evil or between right and wrong is no choice at all.” (page 248)  Present your players with decision points whose possible outcomes have both positive and negative impacts.  Create a moral, ethical, emotional, or physical dilemma within challenges faced by a character or party.  How they overcome such obstacles defines their character.

The best adventures are not the ones where characters fight the evil foes and triumph or retreat.  The most memorable adventures are those in which the players are presented with a dilemma – and offer their personal solution through their characters.  Characters are a player’s subconscious expression of him- or herself.  Let this play out in your RPG.




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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