Sunday, August 11, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - EXAMINE

Hmmm. Let's Examine 'Examine', shall we?

When one Examines something (or someone) they 'inspect it in detail to determine its nature or condition'. Examine means to 'investigate thoroughly'. 

I think one of the things that makes my games (and some have said this blog) special and different is the way I Examine my campaigns, my players, and myself.

After over 40 years of gaming, primarily as a GM, I still take nothing for granted. I firmly believe that every game I run or play that works, or doesn't, has reasons why. If I can figure out what those reasons are I can, at least theoretically, improve my craft. To that end I put a lot of thought into my sessions before them and afterward.

I Examine the plot, pacing, art used, likely player choices and the outcomes of PCs actions before going in, running the scenarios' particulars over and over in my mind. I never read from a script or 'box text' of any kind, but I will practice how I am going to open an adventure many times before game day.

For example, for the second session of my new ongoing Science Fiction/Horror campaign FRONTIER I memorized the first few verses of the song Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. I noticed the words matched the situation and conditions at the end of our first session and decided to sing the song to begin the second one, the lines interspersed with a minor recap of how the 'pilot episode' ended. 

After the session was over I thanked everyone for participating and listened as they discussed, with me and with each other, their favorite moments. When I mentioned my surprise at one PC's decision to forego direct action in favor of being 'the guy in the chair', he explained his reasoning and how this character was not the same as some of his previous, more dynamic PCs. Absorbing all of this and processing it I now know what worked and what might need a different approach in the future. 

If Gamemastering is both an art and a science I will say that I surely apply the Scientific Method to my games. I ask myself the question of what a scenario or session needs to make it work. I then do my research on anything related to making it happen. Finally I construct a hypothetically model of how it will go, keeping in mind numerous alternative options should things not go as I foresee. Then I run the game, which serves as the experiment. When it's over I gather data on the experiment, analyze the data, and troubleshoot the process. 

Remember that I listed myself among the components that need to be Examined for a game to be successful. I certainly do.

Barking Alien


  1. The part about listening to your player as he explained how this character differs from previous characters is really good. It’s good that you listened but it’s also good that you have cultivated a player who can deliberately play more than one type and then articulate why and how.

    1. I can't take credit for Dave as he has always been that sort of player. However, I will take the compliment about listening to my players.

      I GM the way I would want someone to GM for me. I keep striving to figure out exactly what that means.