Vko6)Ygbyp8͚dE(a0(U~a%%ٲiG0){x2!%>K&#: )H)4CiI̒yB%꛹Ҋ$(23;}HHnQ|`ITg /$\P0ngԱ:sde>?DA?/ꋳxy[,f#/Y7A#4rRчǦX,j< j/̅ ݗOgj ȿ,<24 "jD+g] HŖG\@vC }D{fiۮFײ0TQBnmpPbitҬԓ$1-kh,1]k$\mkٶ4OcD"` 3 BnQhgt9KlaIuO̗aeR>h&RiEPݲ~M9D]x4DF<뺥0xŸv۶{=ѝ>tGB4Huǀ} 8N'qY1QbPaFg7dDQ-`H.G D1n[ġܠoyP8i_]'Ab֞AK;4@uB Xeբ慾My QN)e"< "|tcџ\WvMcoS+@4 yD4̕„#U.k]sJ>aR`.""+5t }m8g"%KF7=9<Ȗ'y{V,U}"A|Ëf7^XV+.ܶZNguبL]{sX.KtQ~ Z6?;y]2e20U2zw@PȍB*F:^.7]WT%oc> {v %G{(I%~'mOdݖ+[l!fFݏ@4&M\|\a?++7!sOOӚх0,wП spM jFB0]V)Dxf'aNR>>:R/~ƩxOJV.ؔ 0gm|WiX7U, fϜv+SNw:Rwo缌isew,(nMۛ[UTaՊc=hp$*7bE'j4grgTwی%q.

Thematic Voyage: The Unseen Art of Gamemastering

When fantasy and RL mix

Jocelyn Robitaille
October 11, 2001  

In the wake of the events of September 11th, a lot of us have started to reconsider what gaming is all about, or if we should even continue to game. Along with all the other aspects of gaming, the attacks on the WTC and on the Pentagon also redefine how all of us look at themes.

Redefine? Not quite. Thinking about it all, I realized that in the middle of all my theorizing on how themes work and how to implement them, I forgot about the most important part. Like a tune whistled on a whim, themes are something you play by heart; thus, they're something you need to pour your soul into.

Out of respect for the victims, and because life does indeed go on, I won't reflect here on how the dramatic events America went through redefined what we all feel like running, theme wise. Instead, I chose to take something from my personal experience, and let you all draw the parallels.

As you might have noticed, this column skipped a month, two months ago. Last month, I alluded to Real Life getting in the way of gaming. It did, and now it does again. Through a confusing chain of events that unraveled in the past months, and took quite a toll on me, I have now lost a friend. A friend who wasn't familiar with RPGs, but who was supposed to play in my <em>Little Fears</em> campaign, which was supposed to start on Saturday. Her character was ready, the campaign was as ready as it can get when I'm the one writing it. Then Real Life got me again.

The campaign was supposed to have very strong childhood theme. Indeed, the whole idea was to mix three themes: innocence, friendship and hope, with a very cold and harsh horror storyline. I had it all in my mind: the monster was scary, dangerous, but it was going to be okay, because they had each other, because they were together, hand in hand. True friends.

Suddenly, my game has crumbled. Losing a player isn't bad, but losing a friend is. Now, I don't feel like running those themes.

And that's where I'm getting at, since this is still a column about themes, and still not a column about my personal life. The most important thing for a theme is that everyone needs to feel at ease with it. Themes are, as I have pointed out time and again, a matter of affect, of emotion. If your players do not feel at ease with your theme, they're going to either block it out or be disturbed by it.

For the GM, however, feeling at ease with the theme used is even more crucial. In order to properly write your theme into your game, and properly implement it during the game, you have to get into it. The theme has to grow on you. You have to let it flow through your bones, let it evoke emotions in you first, so it can evoke low-key emotions in your players later.

I've talked of courage, in my second installment. Well, in order to portray a courageous NPC, one that will implement the theme by making your players whistle in awe and respect at the NPC's act of courage, you have to whistle at her yourself first.

It's not going to be fun for anyone if you can't freely explore your theme, wade through the imagery and emotions it evokes in your mind. Either you won't be able to write it into your game in a decent fashion, or you'll be slightly disturbed while running it, and it's gonna show.

I had the game all planned out, and it was going to be great. But now, thinking about innocence and hope and friendship leaves a dry, coppery taste in my mouth. It's almost painful. Just like many of us who had a game with a strong relativist theme don't feel like running it anymore. A campaign filled with shades of gray, reflections on how good and evil are in the eye of the beholder, has lost its charm since September 11th.

Okay, I admit it. This column isn't so much about implementing themes as it is about understanding that themes require a certain mindset, and how events, be they worldwide or very personal, can affect this mindset.

<u>GMs</u>: go easy on yourselves. Don't try to run a theme that you don't feel like running; your game's gonna suck, and your players will stop worshiping you. Remember that even though you're God when you're behind the screen, over here, you're still human.

<u>Players</u>: show some understanding. If your GM puts aside a game you were really looking forward to, maybe something happened to him, and he doesn't feel like running it anymore. He puts time, effort, and money into bringing you new toys to play with every game session; if he drops a game, he probably has a good reason, even if maybe you don't understand what or why. And don't be afraid to tell your GM that you're uncomfortable with a theme of his; he'll understand.

That's it for this month. Thanks for keeping up with this installment, which has been as much of a personal soapbox as it has been on-topic. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to work on a <em>Blue Planet</em> campaign where Good is Good, Evil is Evil, and when you're covered in blood, your friends have fallen, and all hope is gone, you still have your trusty gun to shoot the bastard villain in the brains.

Take care,
Jocelyn Robitaille TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

Go to forum!\n"; $file = "http://www.rpg.net/$subdir/list2.php?f=$num"; if (readfile($file) == 0) { echo "(0 messages so far)
"; } ?>

All Thematic Voyage columns

  • Of Dread and Wonder (part 2) March 21, 2002
  • Of Dread and Wonder (part 1) February 12, 2002
  • The world is out to get you November 21, 2001
  • When fantasy and RL mix October 11, 2001
  • Leap of Faith, Part 2 September 6, 2001
  • Leap of Faith July 6, 2001
  • Lean on Me June 8, 2001
  • Courage May 11, 2001
  • Emotional Landscapes March 14, 2001

    Other columns at RPGnet

    TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg