Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gaming With Non-Gamers

A year and change ago, My 13th Age GM's wife joined us "for one session" as a birthday gift for our GM. She's a non-gamer, you see.

But she showed up for the next session.  And the session after that. In fact, she's become a regular member of the party. It's been really good having her in the group.

She's brought an energy to the table that I hadn't realized was lacking. An energy I haven't seen in a while.

An energy I wish I still had, actually.

Last session, we were stuck.  We could sacrifice a party member to achieve our goal, but that was something that most of the party wasn't especially willing to do.

The goal was (essentially) healing the forest. And her character was a ranger with a healing spell that she could cast as a ritual.  "Can I cast the spell to heal the forest?"

Cue GM blinking.

But it was a good idea.  One that none of the rest of us had even come close to thinking of.

The GM took a few seconds and laid out some conditions for us that made sense. Essentially, the party was not allowed to take any aggressive action for the amount of time it took her to cast the spell.

It worked.

Over the years, I haven't been able to game with non-gamers nearly as often as I would like. Because I love the ideas they have. I love the excitement they bring to the table. And I love their problem-solving.  When you don't know the rules, you don't know what limits they have.

Using a healing spell to heal a forest glade? Brilliant. None of the experienced gamers at the table thought of it. And, when she asked if it was possible, I know the skeptical look was on my face, and I saw it on at least one other face at the table.

GMs for new players have a few challenges that co-players don't have, too.  A GM needs to be rules-familiar enough to teach the new player what they're doing, but the GM also needs to be able to encourage creativity within the rules.

Tons of GM advice books encourage the GM to say "Yes," to players. That doesn't mean "break the rules."  It means "If the rules don't cover it, figure out how to make it work. Especially if it's cool."  If you screw a rule up, fix it between games.

Oddly, this doesn't just apply to a brand new gamer. It also applies to people learning a new system. In the L5R game I'm running, none of the players are hugely familar with the system. Three of them played an earlier edition, the rest are new. And we've had a few rules hiccups - I let a player use an inappropriate skill at one point, for example. The fact that skills can sometimes be used with different attributes is still throwing them a bit, too. But we're getting there.

Hell, I still struggle with the binary nature of the system - you succeed or your fail most of the rolls. There's no "margin of success" in the game. If you want greater effect from your roll, then you have to call a Raise before you make the roll. And that's tough even for us experienced guys.

But it does keep me looking forward to the next session.  And makes me think that I need to come up with something fun so that my GMs look forward to our next sessions more than they already do.

Oh - and Steph and I have started our annual Christmas Scheming.

Tonight is the Game Night Anniversary Potluck.  We'd love to see you there.

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