In my previous post I stated a sort of manifesto that defines a 'good game' for me:
I want a game where vital and active characters come up against personal and dangerous plots with relevant bad guys and epic monsters. I want the players and the GM to engage with a plot that weaves them all together - forestory and backstory - against a common foe. I want the game to reflect the desires of the players rather than the ego of the GM. Rather than saying 'I will entertain you, this is how, enjoy!' I want to say 'How do we want to be entertained? Cool - right, we can all help make this happen, lets go!'
Reflecting on this, I realised that I had missed out one aspect - fun. Fun is paramount for me as part of the roleplaying experience. Like many people of my age I have limited spare time between work and family commitments and I like to use it wisely. Therefore I seek to maximise my 'fun' whenever possible. Sometimes this drives me to almost maniacal degrees of activity but hey, thats half the enjoyment!
So I was ruminating on how we bring 'fun' to the table and indeed, what 'fun' is?
I settled on a reasoning that 'fun' was when a game delivered the groups expectations. Even this answer, in my mind, was a little surprising as I naturally disassociated my personal fun from the groups fun - which I placed as paramount. If the group is not having fun, then an individual (unless possessed with some sort of egocentric issue) cannot be maximising their fun.
Of course, this suggests that the group needs to be aware of their expectations, have the ability to communicate them and to measure fairly whether they have been met. That all sounds very academic but in the end it just means being able to be honest at the start of a game about the sort of game you want to play, what you think would be cool to feature in the game and having a sound feedback mechanism - fora, blog, phone, email, pub, whatever - to let the GM know whats what. Oh, and having a GM that can take that feedback and channel it constructively rather than having a stroppy diva moment.
So therefore, how we 'bring the fun' to the table relies on us all being clear about what we want and also buying into the idea that we can make that fun ourselves but we can make it far better as part of a group.
The question is, how do we 'bring the fun' in practicality, as players? Two things spring immediately to mind.
1. Use the Knowledge to Press the Button
If you know that someone has a certain agenda for their character and you are in a position to offer them a route to advance that agenda in a fun manner, then press that button for them. In Pendragon I knew that Ian needed an 'intervention' to turn Aeryn from the path of unintended evil and back to the path of righteousness. Ian knew that Brion needed someone to focus his rage into some constructive (well, destructive really) weapon. Both of us needed that moment when our pain and our confusion could be rallied into one point and then moved on. An email to Nigel and voila! Two knights braying seven colours out of each other in a forest in the tradition of many an action film. It moved the game on for the characters in a fun and appropriate manner.
2. Share the Limelight
I'm aware that the concept of niche protection in RPGs is a little bit of a hot potato but in a long running campaign 'niche at the table' is a palpable sign of players identifying their own fun. Again in Pendragon we have players who are quite blatantly angling their characters towards certain areas - Guillame is 'the Courtier', Brion is 'the Warlord', Merrin is 'the Manipulator', Aeryn the Younger is 'the Warrior' and Aeryn the Elder is 'the Pious'. By recognising this we can guide our play and give each other room to shine. So when we are at Court, barring a few angry outbursts Brion shuts his mouth and lets Guillame and Merrin do their thing. On the battlefield however, everyone has been gracious enough to allow me to 'be the Warlord' - not just as a matter of fact by title in the game, but also in that I get to write the troop lists and lay out the field of battle etc. That willingness not to just scream 'me! me! me!' all of the time and take pleasure from other peoples gaming pleasure is something I believe is crucial.
There are indeed more - feel free to add more as comments!
Of course there is always the flip side of this and thats when players suck the fun out of the game or worse, steal fun from other players. This is an area of the game that I think rarely gets a mention because it lends itself to direct criticism of the play style of other players in your group and sometimes that can be a little spikey! However, nothing loathe, I am always willing to be the first to cast stones at myself!
Impatience is something that I think comes from my background as a serial GM. Obviously one of the things that is pretty idiosyncratic to any GM is their idea of good pacing and how to manage the ebb and flow of a game. As a player, I naturally have a lot of sympathy with any GM I am playing alongside and I do find myself having to bite my tongue a little if I try to push the game along if I sense it getting slow, or worse being slowed by a player who maybe isn't quite firing on all cylinders. The need to recognise when someone else is enjoying their fun is paramount here. Sit tight, shut mouth and enjoy their good times.
Stepping back is also I problem for me sometimes. I has been said, occassionally, that I have quite a forthright attitude. Not backward in coming forward. Quite opinionated. Maybe even a little gobby (for those not from the NE of England - mouthy and loud.) As such, on occassion I recognise that sometimes I can force myself onto a game and a style of play and despite the intent of my character, become a defacto mouthpiece. I saw this in Ian's Mistridge game when my bard (an arab teacher on the run in drizzly West Yorkshire - you had to be there, it made perfect sense) almost acted as party leader despite being the lowest of the low, barely speaking the language and generally not having any business to do that. I don't think that was good roleplay and it is certainly something that made me aware of this issue even though I haven't mentioned it before! Indeed, in SotC @ Cottagecon, my character is absolutely NOT the mouthpiece and by design never can be, and thats quite on purpose!!
So, there you go - some initial thoughts on fun and how we can make it, and how we can harm it.