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    Commander theimp's Avatar
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    Question A Question of Style: How do YOU run an RPG?

    This is how I do it...

    Choosing The Game
    Typically one knows what game they want to play before they know that they will run it. That's the way it goes. More often than not people who run the games end up in that position because nobody else wants to do it. Running a good game takes effort. A lot of it, easily as much as writing a novel. Nobody wants to run or even play a bad game so it's not a challenge that should be taken up lightly.
    Anyway, whenever possible one really ought to take a moment to pick out the game they want to play. There exists many games for every genre that one could possibly want to be a part of. Try to make a point of knowing which one you like best. Most companies have their own unique rule set and choosing a set that works well with your play style will be well worth your while. Another important consideration, especially if one is older or located in a less populated area is how difficult it will be to get players.

    Choosing The Players
    This is a touchy area. Nobody likes to be rejected and nobody really likes to do the rejecting, but let's face facts. Not everybody will be compatible with every group and some people won't be compatible with any groups. The latter really shouldn't be true, but this particular hobby tends to attract people with poor social skills and hygene. It's of tremendous importance to weed out incompatibles early on. They will make an arbitrator's job more challenging than it already is and far too often make the game less enjoyable for all of the players. Their disruptive influence can not only undermine an otherwise good game it can actually bring a game to a premature end.
    There are any number of strategies to identify problem players before they are invited in. A few in no particular order are: Write and circulate a detailed proposal for the game beforehand, request a detailed sample character from each prospective player, meet with the prospective players for an interview.
    There are fairly obvious flaws in each of these though. Far too often people will gloss over a detailed description of anything and see only the parts they want to. It's hard enough to get players to generate characters in advance, getting them to make one before they're even in the game can be an impossibility. Interviewing players in person requires that one reject them in person, along with any drama that may be associated with it. Not to mention that a lot of quality players find the idea of a pregame interview to be insulting. Then of course there is the problem of players that say one thing and do another.
    Lastly there's the number of players. That's totally up to the arbitrator and largely dependent upon what type of game one wishes to run. Basic hack and slash dungeon crawls can be pulled off with more than a dozen players. I prefer to run more role-play intensive games and I try to keep the number between three and five. This allows me to keep everybody involved most of the time without cutting to an action scene. It also allows me to run each player through their own story if necessary, completely eliminating problems associated with splitting up the group. More than five players, each in their own story concurrently, would hurt my head after about half an hour.

    Choosing the Place
    After the all too important what and who have been answered, there's where. In general it's best to run a game in the home of the arbitrator. This puts all of the source material in one convenient place where it can't be forgotten. That's not always practical though. More important than accessibility of source material is of course comfortable seating for one's maximum number of players plus two. That will give the arbitrator and players plenty of room and allow for the occasional drop in or guest. I prefer to have everybody in a chair or on a couch, but floorspace counts. A coffee table is advisable for easy to see dice rolls. Snacks are not the arbitrators responsibility and I generally prefer to establish a BYOB policy from the first night.

    Choosing the Time
    Usually this will be a compromise that allows all people involved in the game on a regular basis to be there at once. I like to play once a week and I feel that stories lose their momentum if allowed to lay fallow longer. Playing more than once a week is best left to hardcore gamers and other nerds. This is recreation not one's mission in life and I think it's important to keep that in mind. Possible exceptions would be for kids on long breaks from school and professional game developers.
    Last edited by theimp; 22-05-2005 at 19:16.

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