Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Creating Like A Creator: An Introduction

Creating Like A Creator

By Chris Scholten

An Introduction

 I have played tabletop RPG's for many years now, and during this time I have come into the opinion that game masters, narrators, referees, or whatever you decide to address them as, are by far the most important element to a roleplaying game. I've played a great number of game sessions as both a player and as a referee and generally found that a greater deal of responsibility falls upon the referee.

To look at this from a purely mechanical standpoint, the referee is tasked with a number of responsibilities. They are generally the primary narrator, they shape and mold the world and the setting the story takes place, they are expected to modify and develop their plans on the fly as the players make arbitrary and unexpected decisions, and must present the players with challenges and difficulties that are exciting, enjoyable, and interactive to the players at all times. And let's not forget the countless characters and enemies they must develop with individual statistics, even personalities and backgrounds in some cases. What's more, all of these things can be dismissed at the drop of a hat if a player decides to take his adventure elsewhere.

I say this, mind you, as a dedicated game master of many campaigns that I love to run and narrate. In fact, often times I find that it is my obligation to act as referee for a number of different reasons. You see, the referee isn't just the person who guides the story and does the most homework. The referee has a degree of authority in the game. This is not to say that the referee should run his game with an iron fist. Rather, because of the referee's responsibilities and guiding role within a game, his decisions have a certain weight to them that players (usually) respect.

This authority translates further than one might expect, and in subtle, often unnoticed methods. For example, a referee's sense of morality or virtue plays a large part in the background of the game, whether one intends it to or not. If, in this campaign we have created, Evil is greater than Good, and righteousness is neither rewarded nor recognized, what considerations does that carry upon the players? If Good cannot prevail, what sense is there in it? How does that effect the atmosphere of the game? Does this influence the outlook of the characters, or to be more dramatic, the players?
Furthermore, of what importance does divinity hold within this world? Are this world's divine beings a representation of our God or his attributes? Are they simply deified because they are the most powerful entities in the realm, but hold no true Divinity? Or do the characters reside in a godless realm devoid of purpose and direction? If they do exist, what role do they play in the world? How prominent are they? The answers to all these questions shape the spiritual significance of this world. They can be overt or subtle, constructive or adverse.

Now allow me to clarify, I am not making a moral assessment of any of these concepts. Each can be used for good purpose. The reason for which I bring these things up is simply to demonstrate that there are many aspects of a game that can have an effect on its atmosphericx significance. And as is most often the case, it all boils down to the intentions of the people using these tools and telling this story.

If you're playing a game purely for recreation and your players aren't taking it too seriously, then don't sweat it. But if you're intention is to use these tools to testify, to disciple, to make a point with your story; be intentional with your actions and the atmosphere your game creates. They can carry significant weight, even in the subtlest ways.