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Joaquín Ollo
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In my last experiences GMing, I've found that many of my issues at the table are about organization, layout, keeping stuff where I can see it. I'll talk about two games that are dear to me: BW and AW. In the former, I've found it difficult to keep at hand all the players' BITS. I'll try and jot them down, but when I do, I often have to make them shorter, and even then I might end up with 12 or more player priorities per session, too much for my poor brains. Similar thing with AW: fronts are great, and of course way more simple than bits, but I find the triptyc format and the saturation of info quite a hassle. More often than not, I find that I don't use those GM aids in play, which is a shame because that's what they're there for.
Anybody out there feels gaming aids (cheatsheets, layout of priorities or opposition advance, for example) should also be a priority for the designer? Which games do already a great job at organizing info relevant for play and keeping it visible?
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Hoy, en Runas, damos una serie de consejos y técnicas para crear contenido interesante para tus partidas, ya sea antes de la sesión como durante la misma.
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Un golem marcha desde las entrañas de la tierra hacia la superficie, para llevar a sus moradores la ruina. Averigüen el por qué de su misión en esta entrega de Cuentacuentos.
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<3
La profecía de una bruja, la voluntad de una guerrera y la aparición de un desconocido pueden cambiarlo todo en este nuevo relato de Cuentacuentos, a partir de una sesión de Sagas of the Icelanders.
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Establecer un clima de trabajo apropiado entre los jugadores es vital para el éxito de una sesión: ¿cómo lograr que todos cooperemos, que no bloqueemos los aportes ajenos? Hoy nos ocupamos de esto en Roleródromo, y damos algunos ejercicios grupales para lograr una mayor sintonía.
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Nueva columna en Runas Explosivas!
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Acompañen a estos tres ladrones a realizar su primer gran robo en este nuevo post de Cuentacuentos, basado en una sesión de Blades in the Dark.
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Conbarba y Nosolorol se fusionan, Rifts sale de su era glacial, y los nominados a los premios Origins en esta nueva entrega de Gaceta Rúnica!
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Nada mejor que el dark ambient para poner de fondo al jugar rol
Dark Ambient is awesome to roleplay while listening to it
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LONG POST INCOMING
I had some thoughts inspired by an intense and amazing session of Monsterhearts last week, about immersion and the roles of GM vs. players. I wrote a post about that for my blog, but I leave here a translation. Some questions related to the post: what is it that enhances on hinders our "immersion" when we play? In which sense do players and GMs play differently? Could we give the GM an experience similar to that of being a player?
 
LONG POST INCOMING
I had some thoughts inspired by an intense and amazing session of Monsterhearts last week, about immersion and the roles of GM vs. players. I wrote a post about that for my blog, but I leave here a translation. Some questions related to the post: what is it that enhances on hinders our "immersion" when we play? In which sense do players and GMs play differently? Could we give the GM an experience similar to that of being a player?

I have to say first that, since I got started with indie or weird games, I've been a player really few times (except when playing GM-less games), to know how does it feel like to be "on the other side of the screen". What I'm about to tell would be my first intense experience running a PC, probably I've achieved the fabled "immersion".

My PC is an infernal: he gets his power from dark entities, in exchange of being in their service. I was instantly attracted to this skin, as I found it the darkest of them, and I wanted to run my character as a dark guy. Not only that, but have my PC be a violent person, quite the opposite of how I am.

Omar is a sort of popular guy in the school (football player, goes to parties, etc.), who got this after committing suicide and making a deal with a demon. He's impulsive and ambitious, and also pretty violent and dominating, but sometimes he also feels quite guilty and wants to bow out. At first (first session), it was a little hard to run this character, have him fight with other for status, seduce other guys just to see how can he manipulate them. Even then, I felt some real connection with him.

The more intense stuff came with the second session, that started with my character getting into his darkest self. Infernal's DS is terrible, the character has to do things for his dark power in order to gradually lower his power (strings) over him, to eventually gain back his freedom. The thing is, I consciously turned my PC into a monster during that session: I seduced a guy who constantly suffered bullying, then I took him to the forest and sacrificed him to a demon; I betrayed another good guy, almost a friend, to the same demon to be corrupted and possessed; I set a church on fire (perhaps this was the least terrible thing :P). And all that felt REALLY personal; I mean, I knew he was getting into truly deep shit, but there was still no disconnection from the character; Quite the opposite, I felt "near him", to the extent that having him do those things was a little uncomfortable for me (for context, I usually can't have my characters in videogames do immoral things, 'cause it makes me feel guilty).

Motivated by this, first, some thoughts about "immersion":

I felt this as a strong connection with the character: I wouldn't usually hesitate about what to have him do or say next, and I kept putting him at risk, doing things at every moment (a player told me she felt he was in a constant hurry, always using all the resources at its disposition to get what he, or the demon, wanted). I rolled the dice LOTS of times, but without worrying about passing or failing, in fact I also failed lots of times. For example, I rolled stats at -1 o 0 (even -2) without hesitation; when I GM, most of my players tend to avoid rolling those stats, as they'd rather maneuver into a position where they can roll their highest ones.

The first thing I discovered is that I could get a strong connection with my character, and at the same time play it "to lose", or at least have him act wrong, both strategically and morally. I feel it is not necessary for immersion to have the character be a copy of yourself and run him only to win.

The second thing I discovered is that that connection wasn't weakened by the "darkest self" rule, in fact it strengthened during the second session. Most here must have read Monsterhearts: during your "darkest self", the game tells you how you should run your character (pretty loose instructions, still). We're talking about a severe transgression to the sacred player freedom, and yet (in my case, at least), there was still a connection. Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse here, but this experience confirms for me Vincent Baker's redefinition of immersion back in 2005.

But more important, this session got me thinking about the differences between being a GM, and being a player:

A feature of being a player, or at least a possibility, is to "play passionately": to strongly identify with a character, and put that passion into play. You play for yourself, for your character, not so much for the group. Your actions and choices stem from the inside, from what you feel your character is going through (though you should at some point explain that to the others).

The first thing I asked myself after that monday was, why can't I put that same "passion" or identification when I GM, but applied to my npcs?. But then, I think the  distinctive feature of being a GM is to stimulate and provoke players to help them reach that "passionate play". The GM doesn't normally play for himself, he does it for the group, to set a stage for them where they can play. Of all the players, he is the one from whom we demand the most in terms of explanations: he should be impartial to us, he shouldn't play to win, etc. Keep in mind I'm mostly talking about story-now games, not all rpgs.

But all that said, I believe this roles' distribution might start to change. I've always noticed that players are generally the ones who most easily run antagonists, as they can be as aggressive and passionate as they want, without pulling punches due to a fear of being unfair, partial, of abusing their power, etc. The design issue to address here would be: is there any way to design a game that could lead the GM to play like a player does?

I have the first tip of an answer: let's say the GM can run his most important npcs, those with an agenda and drive, at least, as if they were their pcs: think of them as their own, not only as opposition of someone else, identify with them ("identify" as I use it in this post, not as blindly defend them), have them act as they should, not only as would be best for the story of the main characters. That is, to make the relationship PCs-NPCs different from its traditional setup (protagonist-antagonist): it shouldn't be an issue if an npc suddenly falls in love with a pc and starts to help him, for example. But if the opposite happens, if an important npc acts against them, he should run her at its fullest, no brakes, no guilt.

I see some issues this hypothetical gaming style could bring up, or at least things that should be addressed in a system:

-To fully free the GM from his duties as an arbiter and let him oppose the players with no guilt (when so he desires), the rules that work as a frame for that opposition should be as clear as possible. Otherwise, we put again the GM in the role of being the opposition AND the arbiter at the same time.

-If we let the GM choose if and when he wants to be opposition, or not, according to what he feels their characters should do ("to play inwards"), the game could suffer, sometimes, from not having any player running an opposition for the characters. I don't have an answer for this, yet, but I feel it can be used in a way it doesn't mean dull play.

Okay, this session led me to think about lots of things. I'm working on a short game I'd like to show you something of in some weeks, because it is related to this new or different (as I see it) way of being a GM. I'd like to ask to you, do you feel the need to change the way the GM actually plays, in most games? Do you imagine any other difficulties in this hypothetical gaming style? Are there any games that already deal with this? I'm aware of many games where the GM runs the opposition and the rules present clear guidelines of what he can and can't do: Burning Empires, 44 A Game of Automatic Fear, S/lay w/me perhaps? But I feel there's something else that can be done here.
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