Tuesday, May 1, 2012
You know, it's funny how good ideas come: at the strangest times, from the most unexpected places. Brainstorming can be one of the most informative exercises a writer engages in, resulting in plenty of "I never would have thought of that!" moments. It's immensely important to keep your ideas fresh, and when it comes to roleplaying games, those ideas can come from a place that's rather in line with this blog: the players.
The Burden of Creativity
Let's face it: it's hard to be creative, especially when the GM's creativity has to stretch to cover the expectations and entertainment of a party of four different people. Sure, you have your world all written up and everything, but what do you want to bet that the players will find those little nooks that you hadn't planned out? Now, this can easily be seen as a challenge to the GM, and any person who would wish to meet the challenge is more than welcome to.
There's another reason, however, why you might want to start shifting the burden of creativity. Other people have great ideas, they really do. I remember brainstorming the plot to a superhero story with one of my friends, and by the end of it, we had collaboratively created a swarm of relationships and connections amongst the characters. One of us would go off on something, and then the other would cut in: "Hey, what if ________?" And those are perfectly amazing moments. Encouraging that sort of creativity in a game requires a shift in the way you view GMing and playing, but it can be very rewarding.
Who Does It?
There's actually a few different games which employ this, in various ways. Burning Wheel includes the concept of Wises, which are knowledge-based skills that allow a player to establish a fact about the setting, as long as the GM doesn't object to it. FATE encourages players to "compel" their own character traits in a negative way. Fiasco is a GMless game that thoroughly requires and suggests cooperation amongst the players, to develop characters in a volatile situation. Marvel Heroic has a mechanism that allows the players to create "Assets" and "Complications" in the environment, so that they can be leveraged by the game.
Of course, you can also simply introduce this into your regular games of D&D or World of Darkness. Simply inform the players that coming up with cool story ideas and even setting details is allowed to them. Make it clear that they won't be penalized for thinking up something...and even offer a reward if they think up a cool idea that imperils the group. Too many gaming groups are in a DM vs. PCs mentality, hesitant to offer a cool thought like "I bet the Big Bad planned for ______ and _____, because he's smart." because the DM might not have thought of it.
Really, though, win or lose, the best outcome is when everyone watches a cool story go down.
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