About role playing and being a flexibel GM

Role playing is fun, at least I think so. Role playing is about interactions, be it to solve a puzzle, kill a monster or overcome a challenge, the interactions between the players and the GM are the most interesting. You could argue that almost all interactions are between these two, since the GM’s job is to create a narrative/a series of challenges for the players to overcome and almost everything can be said to be a challenge.

What I am focusing on though, is when the players force the GM to think on his/her feet, when the players do the unexpected. When the GM’s plans wither and burn, when everything goes in a totally different direction.

As I stated before, the GM’s job is to create a story/narrative/series of challenges, which most often requires some planning and “preproduction” from the GM (unless they use a published adventure). He/she might have decided that the players will be facing a dragon in their next session. The GM could stop at that point of planning and just have a pure slug fest between the dragon and the players, but it wouldn’t, probably, be much fun since it would boil down to “who can produce the highest number fastest”. Instead the GM could put some more planning in to it and decide that the dragon is inside a cave filled with treasure, traps and monsters. The dragon might have a really awesome chamber in which it resides, so that the players might have to use said chamber’s features to defeat it. Everything from dropping a chandelier to fighting on top of pillars in lava could make the challenge more interesting. Then, the players ruin it.

The players might get information about the dragons keep and decides it is way too much of a hassle to go through the dungeon. So what do they do? They blow up the dungeon, killing the dragon and all your rigorous planning. This sucks, the GM might think. Which it does, but it forces the GM to be flexible and react to the players and not the other way around, as it usually is. The GM could say that the players’ actions indeed succeeded in killing the dragon, but it also shook the ground so hard that the tremors destroyed several nearby villages. This would turn the players into villains instead of heroes.

Even though the players might ruin your awesome story or overcome your challenge in a very unheroic way, it is still fun. It is fun when things don’t always go as planned and it is fun to react on the spot. ‘Cause that is what role playing is about, to step in to a role and react to things on the spot. If everything is predecided than it isn’t role playing. It would only be a play. Being a GM can be an ungrateful endeavor, since all your work might be undone in just a few seconds or just completely ignored. However, the most successful RPG sessions I has had was when I had to react to the players actions. So don’t be mad if things don’t turn out as you planned, instead see it as an opportunity to do something else.

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