When I played my first tabletop role playing game it was an experience that I instantly enjoyed. I and my friends immersed ourselves into a world of imagination that I still to this day find intoxicating. We spent all day telling a collective story of our characters exploring a dungeon, and although the storyline was cliché compared to the RPG sessions that I am involved in today the experience was much more satisfying than many games that I have played since with more experienced groups. My friends and I had all of the excitement and enthusiasm of youth for our new hobby, and it has taken me two decades to understand why I enjoy RPGs so much.
Unfortunately I spent about nineteen of those twenty years thinking that what I enjoy about tabletop RPGs are the games themselves. I do enjoy reading a well crafted game system, and I can easily spend hours upon hours determining how the underlying mechanics for a set of rules works. Interesting settings and supplements can be mesmerizing to a veteran gamer when well done. Yet the games themselves are not the point of this hobby nor should they be.
The games are the medium through which we the gaming community interact. The games are a type of conduit that allows each of us to connect into a social activity. As the saying goes “All roads lead to Rome.” A tabletop RPG should lead to a gathering of friends enjoying the experience of playing the game together.
The paradox is that occasionally the rules of the game are an obstacle to the group’s fun, such as when a player superbly roleplays a negotiation and then fails a dice roll for a skill check. If your group wants to see that player’s roleplaying rewarded, then forego the rules and skip the dice roll altogether. Go straight to the reward and move on to the parts of the game where the rules accentuate the fun.
As a GM keep this in mind with every session that you choose to run. Your sessions will be more enjoyable if your priority is on the group’s fun and not the game. A great game system that no one enjoys playing should be ditched for a bad game system that your group will spend hours indulging in. There are many gaming groups out there that play poorly designed systems, ignore rules that they do not enjoy, and have a wonderful time because they play the style of game that best suits their group. This hobby is subjective, and no rules book can prepare you for that.
You should make every GMing decision by asking yourself “What would be best for this group?” first before asking “What do the rules say?” Sometimes you might find the answer to the first question to be “Ignore the game. Address the gamers.”
That is my opinion on the matter, so what is yours? Leave your comments for others to read and share your own experiences with me and other members of the Gnome Stew community. And no matter what happens, don’t forget that the GM is a player too! Have fun with it!