I Worry.

One of the difficult things to do when you’re running a game is to try to balance everyone’s interests. It’s a classical small-‘you’ utilitarianism argument, really. As a Storyguide, you do your best to maximise the amount of happiness generated by participation in your story. And so when folks express dissatisfaction with what you’re doing, it’s very difficult sometimes not to attempt to also minimise unhappiness.

But in a game, that is a mistake.

I think it’s a mistake in any endeavour you undertake that involves more people than just yourself. I mean, really, you are responsible for your own happiness. You can choose to participate in what pleases you, and you can choose not to participate in what does not please you. Other people are not *really* responsible for your happiness. And running a game is really no different.

You write a story, a story in which most of the main characters are, as at the time of writing, undefined. You provide a venue for people to unravel the story as they propel it forward. You provide interpretation and adjudication for settling altercations…this last bit is known as ‘the rules’. If people like your story, they keep coming to games. But if someone doesn’t like something, the temptation is for you to make concessions (so-and-so doesn’t like that character, who is an NPC, so if I remove that NPC from the game, so-and-so will be happier, which will increase the general pleasure in he game). It’s not a good idea to make concessions (if I remove the NPC from the game, three other people, who are creating plot lines of their own that involve the NPC, will be upset, thus reducing the total pleasure in the game) because, just like in a novel, you need to stay true to your story. If you don’t, you do your players (the characters) a disservice, and you do the game itself a disservice.

If a player is upset enough that they come to you as the Storyguide with their issues, you can sit down and talk things over. You can offer suggestions and you can ask for suggestions. I’m certainly not saying you should ignore the unhappiness of your players. I’m saying this is the balance you have to figure out. At what point do you realise that the players aren’t enjoying themselves? And at what point do you ‘capitulate’ and admit that what you’re doing isn’t working? When one player is unhappy? When four players are unhappy? When most players are happy but one or two would like some subtle changes?

An RPG, and in particular, a LARP is a constantly changing, dynamic, living, breathing creature.
It takes on a life of itself, and that is the most exhilarating part of running a game. Like writing a play, but it doesn’t have to end after one act. Or three acts. Or five acts. As long as people enjoy themselves, the play goes on. Like a novel, but with characters that are out of the author’s control. Like poetry, but the imagery comes in the characters that the players create, and the realities they make; the power of language comes in the dialogue in which they engage.

But managing a LARP is a little like running a cruise ship, I expect. Some people are going to get seasick. Others have the best time of their lives. And as the captain of the ship, you must decide how many motion sickness bags you’re going to provide before you put in to port.

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Back in the day when RBN still ran, I was in a position where I could toss off plot lines to others and not do anything myself. I even attempted to take someone under my wing to be a childe. Did I spell that term tonight? Anyways. What I noticed was, even after throwing the plot down right in front of some people, they failed to do anything with it. Then complained that they weren’t involved. Comes back to my problem with university classes too. You only get out what you put in, so if you want to be involved, get involved, otherwise move aside and shaddup.This is a really long winded response to say that I’ve truly enjoyed the games you’ve run and never felt you’ve actively ignored or attempted to minimize the fun available to any character.Keep it rollin’ Ceno!

  2. Have you ever read “Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads”? It’s a GM guide to Cyberpunk, but I treat it more like a book on RPG GM Theory. Many MANY great ideas to make yourself, um, your players happy. ;-)EG – guy complains about not being involved. So involve him. Involve him so much that he chokes on it. Buckets of acid in doorways are good…so are neuro-stun grenades. But I digress.In fact, now that I think on it, many “smack down” sessions became the the sessions we *still* talk about when “getting our nerd on”.I miss gaming.

  3. Coyote, I’m currently low on vectored thrust drones loaded with Gammascopoline needles. ;-)Maybe Ceno can run it. I’m sure the object (?) lessons and plot smack downs would be a hundred times better and more devestatingly devious than anything *I* could devise.Ceno has powers.

  4. Speaking of which. I want to do some gaming. Of somekind. I almost don’t even care what anymore and I am interested in checking out your LARP (if your group will have me that is). Let me know some specifics, (ie: what can I play, how many build points, etc.) It has been so long since I have LARPed that I might need a brief refresher, maybe Coyote can help me out there.

  5. Neo: I would LOVE to have you join the game. We should do lunch sometime soon and talk about it. The games are always on the last Saturday of the month – next game 27th December.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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