Jun 16, 2011

Game Mastering: Old School Advice from Charles F. Smith part 2

This is the continuation of my presentation of Charles Smith's almost 80-year old advice on running games for groups.  Part 1 is here

Expect the Best. The text describes progressive mastery of gradually harder tasks, or learning desirable tasks that are similar to the possibly undesireable behaviors that kids will engage in on their own.  For applicability to simulation games, this reminds me of gradually introducing more complicated rules as players master basic rules (especially games like Advanced Squad Leader).  I'm drawing a blank on the second part.

Discipline Positively. Be a "cheery suggester" rather than a "dominating director." "When problems arise our first tendency is to blame the other fellow, but if we ask ourselves first, 'Is there anything wrong with my leadership?' second, 'Is the author to blame for suggesting such a game?' and finally, 'Is anything wrong with the players?' we must admit that the players are usually doing their best.  When children find pleasure in tormenting or disobeying, the leader should try to discover his own deficiencies. usually players have well founded reasons for unusual conduct or lack of cooperation.  A successful leader can secure attention by merely asking for it and refusing to talk until he gets it. He makes the group feel that the individual annoying the leader is transgressing against the group rather than against the leader."  There's a great big quote for GMing.  This philosophy is an explicit part of leadership positions in Battlemaster.

Change Plans. Situations change, and you should have a wide enough repetoire of options that you can adapt to unforeseen circumstances.  Don't railroad your players.  Players will come up with all sorts of plans and actions that don't fit your preparations, and the games will be much more fun and rewarding if you can roll with them.

Provide "Re-creation," Avoid "Wreck-Creation." "The physical well-being and happiness of the people in a leader's charge should be his first consideration." Kids need rest breaks.  Players need breaks too, but I've never known this to be a problem.

Develop Athletic Girls.  Physical games are great for girls up to age 12 or 14, just the same as boys.  Hey, role-playing games are great for girls of all ages.

Know Your People.  Offer games that the kids will actually like to play (different ages have different abilities and preferences).  This should be a no-brainer.  You will not have much of a game if you try to run games your friends do not want to play.

Consider Outside Interests. People like variety in addition to things that they are good at.  My paraphrasing of Smith's writing in this section does not really match the header, but both are good to keep in mind.  Games can integrate the varied interests of your players, as well as expose them to new topics they may enjoy.

Provide for All. Avoid games in which losers drop out. Dodge Ball is a horrible game because the kids who need most to develop skills are excluded early on and sit around.  For RPGs I think this translates into avoiding games in which characters can permanently die.  This is controversial, and your group is probably able to decide whether they want that or not, but especially new players may not accurately predict how they would be affected by permanent character death.

Consider the Place. Don't have city kids play soccer near a forest because they will just want to play hunting/seeking/exploring types of games. This may be another non-issue.  I've never known this to be a problem.  Gaming groups are generally good about coming together to play the game, and not to get distracted. 

Next up: 19 principles of recreation from Howard Braucher, Secretary of the National Recreation Association in the mid-1930s.  Then I'll get back to the math and simulation mechanics.

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