It is easy to say that RPGaming is different things to different people and doesn't dig too deep to acknowledge that we all play for our own reasons. The real questions I want to ask are:
Do we know why we play? Do we know what our reasons are? Are we honest with ourselves about those reasons?
For a lot of players, beyond feeling that gaming is fun, I'm not sure they feel the need to analyze things further and that's fine. We don't all need to be overly analytical, philosophizing wackos like...well...me. At the same time, giving it a little thought can be really helpful to both yourself and your GM. If you know why you play, what it is you want out of a game, the better you'll be able to convey what you're looking forward when discussing the game with your GM and/or fellow players.
I know that as a GM the elements I enjoy most are:
- An interesting, engaging story, whether session wise, arc wise, or campaign wise.
- Interesting personal stories of the PCs and their interactions with each other.
- World/Setting Building and seeing the PCs explore the setting.
- Generating mysteries and watching the PCs/Players solve them.
- Development of the story and setting. Making sure none of it remains static and unchanging.
My reasoning is simple, I like to create and I like to tell stories. My end goal is to entertain both my players and myself, and have a memorable experience we can all talk about fondly years down the line. I see myself as part of the great tradition of oral storytelling. I want to tell a tale and have that tale retold time and time again.
In being honest I will come clean on what I don't like or appreciate.
- Thinking about the rules over the events in the game. For example: Trying to use an ability or advantage because it's your 'highest' or 'best' one even if it doesn't logically or organically apply to the current situation.
- Trying to figure out what GM is going to do or 'should' do because 'it would make a good game', even if it doesn't gel with the games' story or character motivations.
Are those reasons compatible with other people's reasons? Could our reasons for being at the gaming table bother other people or vice versa? What do we do about that?
Say you're in it for the combat. You like battles and that's mainly why you play. The rest of the group likes role-playing, character development, and talking with NPCs. Everyone else is trying to negotiate and come up with peaceful solutions and all you want to do is punch a monster in the face.
Does their attempt at being less combat oriented bother you? Does your more combative play style bother them? How does a group reconcile this?
To me it's very simple but require all involved to actively work toward a common solution. First, let players play the way they want to play as long as it doesn't disrupt the game as a whole.
There is a difference between one person wanting to take action and someone being a jerk and starting fights with every NPC for no reason. If you are the latter or have the latter player in your group, you should probably just ask them why they do that and be prepared to cut them loose.
If they just prefer action and cool battles to conversation, you should all convey this to your GM. GMs, you should then include opportunities for combat as well as negotiation. Be prepared to split the party so the talky types can haggle over a better price on a ferry to the haunted island while the combative type fights pirates in the local tavern. During the fight the warrior learns a name and finds a key. The name is for someone the talkers and speak with to learn more about the island. The key opens the doors to the island's mysterious abandoned temple.
Everyone gets to do their thing and it's all helpful to the whole group in the long run.
If you assemble a group of people to play together, how do you make sure everyone enjoys themselves if each person might well be hoping to get something different out of the game?
Weirdly this is perhaps the most difficult question to answer and yet it almost feels like a given that this should be understood. In recent years this has often been a problem I've encountered, wherein a group of even four people have different ideas on what gaming is about and each gets frustrated with the others that they don't game their way.
First, you selflish, self-centered, shallow womp rat. Get over yourself and realize it's a team sport. It's not YOU the RPG. It's US the RPG.
OK, now with that out of my system...
I can only point to my old NJ group as the perfect example of a group that worked so incredibly well because they all liked different aspects of RPGs.
Allen loved a good mystery. Specifically the Sherlock Holmes kind, where the key was deductive reasoning and the collection of facts and information both evident and seemingly trivial.
Ken likes to solve problems. Fix things. Figure out why something is or isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing or why it's doing something its not supposed to be doing. Fix that.
Jason (Big J) likes puzzles, sort of a cross between Allen's mysteries and Ken's problems, but solvable using simple logic, clever thinking, and perhaps a trap set for the enemy.
Lynn likes mystery but of a more conspiratorial nature. She wants there to be secrets and she wants to secretly spy on the secret makers or keepers and get their secrets. Secretly.
Nelson enjoyed it when his character looked cool and did something cool.
Phil likes to play characters with issues, who are perhaps a bit off or odd, but trying desperately to hold on to their sanity to accomplish something.
Rebecca liked action, be it physical, verbal, or otherwise. As long as something was going on with a pace and goal she was happy. She enjoyed tension to if it felt like it was going somewhere.
Selina likes socializing with PCs and NPCs alike and getting to know the world and it's people.
Knowing this I create a situation where is it likely that Phil will 'accidentally' cause a fight or Ken will realize something isn't as it should be. This will get Lynn to start snooping and Selina to starting getting to know the locals. This reveals information that sends Nelson and Rebecca into a situation likely to go south but one which they can punch, shoot, swing, and flip their way out of.
Now they regroup and Nelson and Becca tell the team what they found. Lynn's snooping gives context to one truth and reveals another story to be a lie. Jason sees the paradox but thinks he can find the real deal with the help of Phil. Phil's PC acts a bit strange but isn't acting and an enemy drops their guard. Jason pounces and gets what he needs.
He gives the info to the group. Selina can ask a friend she made. Lynn can spy some more to confirm on her end. The villains are definitely hiding something. Bad guy thugs show up since the PCs know too much. Rebecca, Ken, and Nelson tussle with them. Nelson does a crazy ricochet shot, back flip, land behind cover maneuver. Ken rigs the gear of a downed thug to explode. He tells Becca. Her eyes bulge as she yanks Ken and Nelson out the back door. BOOM!
Final regroup, everyone recounts their fun in having encounters that match what they love about gaming. The each spill and update the clues they've discovered no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
But wait...what about Allen? Isn't he bored? He's done nothing while...
All eyes turn to Allen, looking over a map, writing notes, and looking up from time to time to listen intently to the others. Finally, the team quiets and waits for him to speak. He begins, "As you all know, the people of this region closely resemble the people of the Balkans at the time of the late Byzantine Empire...". He than proceeds to unravel the plot of the villain, up to and including how all the things encountered so far relate to his deduction and the next, if not only, logical course of action would be for both the enemy and the PCs. Pleased with his assessment, pleased with themselves, the group heads off to the location where they believe the bad guys will execute the final phase of their plan with a plan of their own on how to stop the foul scoundrels.
Everyone gets to do what they enjoy doing. Everyone plays a part in the overall story and the overall game. No one tries to prevent anyone else from doing their thing.
When Ken wanted to blow up the enemy's gear, causing an explosion to knock out all the opponents, Rebecca didn't tell him not to. She didn't say that's too dangerous or won't work or 'no we don't do that' (yes, I have a player who does this to the other players and it's very frustrating). Instead she simply has her PC grab Ken's PC, sees Nelson's PC behind cover, leaps over and behind the cover grabbing Nelson's PC with her other hand and rolls them all further from the blast.
The gaming equivalent of 'Live and Let Live' should be 'Do and Let Do'.
Just some thoughts.