Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick Trust for Awesome Gaming

I think its fair to say that trust is one of the most essential elements to a good RPG. You need to trust that the other players won't make fun of you, trust that the GM won't force feed you his story, and trust that you can let your imagination run wild. When trust is there the game levels up in quality and fun. I've been playing for some time and building trust at the table is something for which I have developed a bit of a knack. +Stephanie Bryant even mentioned my ease in this area in a similar post, not too long ago.
I want to help others enjoy gaming as much as possible so I'll share three simple steps to build trust at the table, even if this is your first time meeting the other players! (Like at a Con.)

Step 1: Get rid of secrets.
Secrets are things that you and maybe one other player (usually the GM) knows about, while the rest of the group is in the dark.
Examples include:

  • Your character is actually a woman not a man
  • Your character is actually a wizard not a warrior or
  • Your character killed someone loved by another character 
You might say "But Matt, secrets create epic story twists." But you'd be wrong. Secrets create exclusion and suspicion. It does create an epic story when one CHARACTER knows something while the other characters do not. But not when one PLAYER knows something that the others do not. You have to offer trust before you can take it.  
Action step: The next time you play invent some detail that could potentially be offensive to another players character, but immediately tell the other player about it and get their corroboration.  They may want to change the details a bit, and thats great! You just offered trust, and got some back. Good Job! Be sure to share what you guys created with the rest of the table so the other players will now know to incorporate hints and foreshadowing about  your characters dirty little secret. 

Step 2: Play "Yes, and..."
"Yes, and..." is an improv tool/game that actors use to hone their creativity and response time. It is a very simple concept and you can "play" or practice it within any RPG or situation you are in. Here's how it works: Anytime someone offers a bit of new information and look to you to respond, you say "Yes, and..." and then add your own spin on the information. Really it's just a way to avoid shutting down other peoples ideas.
Here are some examples:
  • P1:"Maybe Maxar is the leader of the Night Cult, and you knew about it!". P2: "Yes, and I kept it from all of you because I secretly wanted to join."
  • GM: The Dark Forrest conceals you and your companions from being spotted but Gragon, are you still wearing your shiny plate mail?" P1: "Yeah, and I just waxed it this morning..."
  • P1: Gragon (P1's character) would definitely kill a member of the Night Cult on sight. P2: That makes sense, and since Shenar (P2's character) is a member of the Night Cult but also working with Gragon maybe she's been able to hide that fact from Gragon...or she could be playing the "double agent" and has convinced him that she can help him against the cult.
Its a fun little game, just try to say yes to everything that is thrown your way, and then make sure you add you own spin to the information.
Action step: Play "Yes and..." the next time you play and watch how often the other players (GM included) share the spotlight with you. 

Step 3: Value the other players above all else.
This one is simple. Don't put the story, your character, or your wants above the other players. If the story gets a little silly because one player wants to throw rocket punches in the middle of a Game of Thrones Campaign and everyone is having a great time, roll with it! The other players are the reason you get to enjoy a conversation around a table about some of your favorite things. If you value the other players more than the integrity of the story, the "coolness" of your character, and the fact that you just want to smash something, I think you'll come to find that more things will get smashed, your character will become even cooler somehow, and the story will even thrive. Not to mention, you might get to enjoy yourself.
Action step: The next time you want to say something like "My character would never do that!" Or "That doesn't make sense for my character." Can it (for my "Not from the States" readers that means: shut your mouth). Then try and figure out what you really want and express it. Something like "Hey guys, I'm totally down for saying that there is some reason that my character is associated dark elves, but it just seems kinda weak to me seeing how he's a high elf and they have a sworn hatred for each other...can we discuss a way to make sense of this real quick, cause it feels less fun to just glaze over it."
Boom. Next thing you know someone mentions that maybe you are a diplomat on navigating extremely tense situations for the hope of restoring the two groups of elves. Then you can say "Yes and!"

Okay, thats how you gain trust at the gaming table. If you want to learn to play a game that actually helps everyone at the table get better in this area, check out my Intro to *World RPG Gaming course!

Good luck and happy hunting!