In my last article, I touched on several basics of building a good game for people to explore – where your setting is, your rules system and more. Now I'm going to touch on specifics, such as props and storylines, sub-plots or other design mechanics you may need to pay attention to.
Sub-mechanics are one of the few things that most new GMs overlook – while many people that play in games follow the plot offered up by the GM, there’s also a fair few that find the world that you create too interesting to enjoy the way you’ve laid it out so go off and explore. We're not even talking the players that like to deliberately ‘munchkin’ their characters - designing them so they've got ‘broken’ stats – most players though will just go off and explore the area you've described.
Those sorts of players are actually the best type because they'll give you some of the best feedback on both your world, and the overall plot you've got. A great way to make sure they take up the plot – eventually – is to have a ‘time lock’ on the plot. In other words, put a deadline on it. If you do that the world changes anyway - even if they don’t interact with it - and they may notice the next time they get involved with the plot.
Another way to absorb players into the main plot is to give them props, such as maps that lead them to specific areas of the world that you need them to be in, or letters indicating something is going to happen. This may seem like effort, especially if they’re not involved in the story right now, but if you’re keen to use a subtle clue by four, props are the way to go.
You should also consider encouraging your players to keep notes, and keep them yourself, so you don’t trip yourself up with different information later – these sheets can be props all of themselves and can be the representation of ‘eidetic memory’ if your player wants that talent. If it’s not on the page, they can’t claim they remember. While this seems unnecessarily cruel, when characters are trying to put themselves in a position of controlling the story, or being a critical part of the story with skills that put them at the fore of their party, then you should make them work for it.
Next week, D Kai Wilson-Viola looks at tips for writers playing in games and how not to take over with your own ideas