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You May See The Stars, But Do You Recognize The Supporting Cast Members?

Posted By Patrick Benson On November 15, 2010 @ 2:31 am In Gaming Conventions,GMing Advice | 4 Comments

This year at Con on the Cob the gnomes Phil Vecchione, Kurt Schneider, and myself played in a Savage Worlds game ran by Sean Patrick Fannon who opened his game to anyone who wanted to participate.  No one was turned away, and Sean ran a game for at least a dozen people where everyone at all of the tables (yes, there were two tables) had an amazing time.

Sean is the type of GM that I cannot say enough good things about.  The word "no” never crossed his lips.  Our characters could attempt anything that we were able to imagine, and instead of saying “That PC can’t do that.” Sean just let the dice decide instead.  I took full advantage of this when playing my steam punk, gizmo wielding, kilt wearing dwarf.

My PC launched a goblin via catapult at a giant mech in order to bypass its defenses and take that mech down.  Later on my PC had that same goblin get inside the cockpit of a second giant mech and, umm, mechjack it.  Yet even later my PC diverted all of the power sources on that giant mech into one titanic “I got your Deathstar super cannon right here!” that blew yet another even bigger super mech into pieces with the goblin as both pilot and gunner.

Yes you had to be there, but there are only two important details that you need to know:

  1. Sean rolled with all of this even when his jaw dropped upon hearing what my PC’s plans were.
  2. The goblin was played by Phil.

This was a crazy but wonderful game.  I was in my element, and other players at the table were applauding my over the top role playing and insane battle plans.  I was definitely bringing the awesome to the game and others recognized it.

But Sean recognized not only what I was doing at the game table, but what Phil was allowing me to get away with.  Phil and I have a great rapport and whenever I looked at Phil and said something like “How would you feel if I shot your PC out of a catapult?” or “Would you mind if we risked blowing ourselves up in order to blow something else up?” Phil would just consider my question for a moment and respond with “Go for it.”

I could not have accomplished any of my kooky ideas at the game table without Phil’s cooperation, and Sean rewarded me for my ideas and effort.  Even better though was that Sean recognized that Phil was supporting me in my efforts, and Sean rewarded Phil as well.  Phil’s goblin was my dwarf’s straight man, and that act could not have worked without him.

Remember how earlier I mentioned that this game had two tables?  Sean needed another person to aid him with the GMing duties.  That co-GM was Kurt.  Kurt ran the combat at one table for Sean while playing his PC at another table.  Just like my ridiculous tactics could not have worked without Phil’s help, Sean could not have run the game without Kurt’s help.  Sean recognized Kurt’s help as well.

How did he recognize this?  Simple, he just gave out bennies during play and acknowledged Kurt and Phil publicly for what they were doing.  Bennies are a game currency in Savage Worlds that allows you to do certain things in game and to shake off damaging effects.  Sean handed a bennie to those who earned them and also offered praise and good old fashioned recognition.  None of this cost Sean a dime in money, required only a fraction of a moment in time, and in the end these things made the game all that much better.

Anyone can spot the star, but a great GM sees the people who made that star shine. 

Do you have players who are not the “stars” of your game, but who make the “stars” shine a bit brighter?  Do you notice the players who are helping you to run a great game?  If so, how do you reward them?  How do you recognize them and their efforts?  Share your experiences and ideas in the comments section below, and tell us how you as a GM recognize all of your supporting cast.

About  Patrick Benson

Patrick was born in 1975, and is more or less your typical American male for someone of his age. Except he is a tabletop RPG gamer and a damn fine game master! What else matters?




4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "You May See The Stars, But Do You Recognize The Supporting Cast Members?"

#1 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On November 15, 2010 @ 9:10 am

Patrick was most definitely the star of the show. He hammed it up, chewed the scenery (literally), and was PROJECTING HIS PERSONA, but also was polite, and cleared all of his insane plans with the GM before putting them into play.

Phil was no slouch, either. He played the straight man, but was also entertaining in his own right. After getting catapulted aboard a mech, and killing it with his dagger, he rode it down like a surfer on a wave, pointed at the other mech, and said “You’re next!”.

As for myself, playing a character at one table while co-GMing at another reminded me of nothing more than a really busy night waiting tables with fun customers. Parallel processing, multitasking, split attention, whatever you call it, a waiter and a GM share the ability.

There were so many high points during this game that it’s hard to sort them all out. The biggest lesson for me is how fun the game gets when the GM is willing to step back and just let the players loose upon his creations.

#2 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 15, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

@Kurt “Telas” Schneider – Phil definitely is no slouch at all when it comes to roleplaying! That makes me even more grateful to him for playing the straight man. It was not like he could not hold his own, but the fact that he toned it down in scenes with the dwarf and just rolled with it is humbling. Thanks Phil!

“There were so many high points during this game that it’s hard to sort them all out. The biggest lesson for me is how fun the game gets when the GM is willing to step back and just let the players loose upon his creations.”

Yes, I did not mention how after we destroyed the bigger super mech with our crazy super blast idea that Sean looked at the table and said:

“I had another encounter to run after this one, but I don’t think that I can top that. Would anyone mind if I just narrated the ending from this point on?”

Sean cut his session short because he saw that we were at a high point and that there was probably not enough time to match it. Kudos to him for ending a session early in order to let the group walk out on a high note!

#3 Comment By Scott Martin On November 15, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

It sounds like a great event, run by a GM and a half who were on top of things.

Passing around kudos and praising characters is important– particularly for those players whose characters turns are taken up making others shine. (The classic Bard/Cleric issue where their actions buff others– helping them succeed, but not getting singled out or engaging the table interestingly.)

Keeping everyone involved, not just the stars who know how to seize attention and work the system, is incredibly important. Martin’s Spotlight articles are a great guide to ensure that everyone has a chance at each flavor of glory.

#4 Comment By Patrick Benson On November 16, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

@Scott Martin – Good point. It isn’t just about recognition, but also about keeping players involved. Martin’s articles are a great resource for learning more about that.


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