As a game master it is very easy to get caught up in the power of creation. The intoxicating feeling of knowing that everything in the world bows to your whims and desires is a rush you can’t get from any other hobby. What a lot of us forget is that tabletop RPGs aren’t a solo endeavor; you’re all here to have fun together.
Which is why it’s a good idea to sit your players down and talk to them about what kind of game they want to play before you get too deep into game prep.
Just Because You Love It Doesn’t Mean Your Table Will
Ask yourself for a moment what you would do if you wanted to get all your friends together to go out to eat. Would you ask about allergies and preferences? Or would you just pick whatever you personally wanted, and trust that your friends will be able to find something they want as well?
Most of us recognize that our friends may have different tastes than we do, and that they may have different food restrictions, so we generally take a moment to ask their opinions before we get too far into our meal planning. Especially if we know that John is a vegetarian, Mary has blood sugar issues, and Chris just can’t deal with tomatoes.
It’s important to show the same consideration when it comes to our games. Because you might have this epic grimdark saga in your mind, full of shadowy conspiracies and ancient terrors, but that just doesn’t strike a chord with your table. They might be more in a mood for something traditional and hopeful, where the heroes act like heroes and the world can be made a brighter place.
If you’re going to cook a single meal (or tell a single story) to make everyone happy, then you really need to check in with them to make sure that everyone is invested in what you’re bringing to the table.
It Never Hurts To Check
Too many game masters out there end up buying into the hype of the position. They think that the game revolves around them, their ideas, and their desires, when really the game is all about the enjoyment of the table as a whole.
Game masters and players depend on each other in order to make the game run.
This is why, if you ever find yourself falling into that mindset of assuming your players are going to just eat whatever you put on the table, it’s important to take a step back. If you ever get the desire to be coy with what game you’re running, or what the point of it is, take a moment to reconsider: you need the players to buy in. You want them invested, and you want them excited.
You don’t need to lay out every detail of the plot for them, but you need to give them just enough to let them know the kind of experience you’re planning to deliver, and the sorts of challenges they’d need to overcome. If someone at the table raises a hand and objects, don’t do an impression of your mother and say something like, “I worked really hard on this, so if you don’t want it, you get nothing else.”
We’re all adults, and we’re all here to have a good time playing a game we like with our friends. Just make sure that the game you want to run is actually the game everyone else wants to play. Otherwise you’re going to find that the enthusiasm gutters out pretty quickly. You’ll be left with a dozen plot arcs yet to go, and a table that has moved on to find something they’d rather be doing on Friday night.