spiderwrangler wrote:But this is the difference between running a game and writing a story... the characters are always going to do something unexpected
Sometimes, that's when the magic happens. Other times it's an annoyance. The line between these occasions is razor-thin.
or miss something you feel was obvious.
And yet somehow it never occurs to a player to ask "so, dear GM, what was your intention for this scene?", not even after he starts dropping hints that you've perhaps made the "wrong" choice for his purposes, and he might like you to reconsider. There's a difference between having a will of your own, and being utterly bull-headed about using it; I respect a player's desire for independence and autonomy, and much of the time I'm perfectly happy to provide for it, but sometimes (and the exact frequency is higher for certain players), they seem to choose exactly the most frustrating occasions on which to express this need, and their doing so comes at substantial expense to myself.
As I said to a couple of actual-world players this weekend, when I actually got to run the first of what I hope to be several real-life Whiteleaf sessions, I recognize that the players and their fun-having are the game's raison d'etre, but at the same time, I go to a fair bit of effort and I'm entitled to want to enjoy myself too. So if the players are being too much of a burden, is it wrong for me to want them to back off a little? (And while I can objectively recognize that the correct response is to take a step back and discuss the problem reasonably, rather than to sublimate these feelings into varying degrees of unpleasantness within the game's context, in practice that distinction is hard to draw in the moment; the snippier I start to feel
, the harder it is for me to realize that I'm acting
snippy, and should knock it off before the players start to reciprocate.)
Being fluid for the sake of the game is useful in dealing with multiple players. That may be more difficult since you've invested so much into the creation of whiteleaf, I have the luxury of making stuff up on the spot and letting it remain canon in the games I GM.
That's largely what I do as well - the main issue is that I'm not willing to contradict such canonized material later. Every time I create even the most trivial of continuity errors, it bugs me to no end (you may remember my disclaimer about compass directions a little while ago; you have no idea how much psychic pressure had to build up before I was able to even verbalize that problem internally, let alone admit it to other people). Where the literal or metaphorical map is blank, I can create ex nihilo; what I won't do is take the resulting thought-sculpture and mash it back into primal clay, even if its continued existence becomes an imposition, and/or I find myself starved for building material. Partly this is just inertia and/or OCDness, but also after a weird quasi-spirutal fashion, I feel responsible for my creations, and am unwilling to consign them to oblivion for the sake of short-term convenience.
So, for a practical example, I can't have you guys fight any Chimeras anytime soon, because at least two full years ago, I wrote up a paragraph-long summarization of my decisive reworking of Chimera mythology for Whiteleaf purposes, taking a monster that looks like it was glued together out of taxidermy leftovers, and explaining exactly what its existence means and why it came to be as it was*. I then misplaced that writeup somewhere among my effects, and to this day I don't know where it is, or have more than the vaguest half-sense of what it said. In its absence, I cannot fart together some other conceptualization of the Chimera; if I used one in the game at all, it would simply be a random monstrosity, and all of its potential coolness would be wasted. The only way I'd even consider using it in such an underwhelming way would be if the alternatives were massively inconvenient, such as if I was running a module that contained a Chimera, and I didn't want to shop through the various Monster Manuals, comparing CRs and mentally workshopping effectiveness against the party's particular builds (eg the Reflex Save DC for the Chimera's breath weapon vs. any other monster's SU abilities and their effect upon the party rogue), for a functionally near-identical creature to use in its place. Outside of such a constraint, I can easily enough just use a different antagonist/challenge/etc, and continue saving any and all Chimeras for the perfect in-game reveal, which necessarily postdates my rediscovery (whether finding the written note or remembering/re-generating its salient aspects; I don't need the whole exact text, just the "vital spark" contained therein).
And what I absolutely won't do is sit down and try to brainstorm some other
really cool idea about Chimeras instead, which would take up the same ideological "space" as the existing one, making both of them incapable of existing in the same universe (at least without some sort of ridiculous schism between two different varieties of Chimera that both use the same stats, or assigning one to the actual mythological Chimera and the other to a random creature with the Chimeric template, or some similarly Gygaxian solution). Thusly, I'll just never have a Chimera in Whiteleaf - and that means that even if you see a Totemist using the Threefold Mask of the Chimera soulmeld, and are filled with a burning passion to scour the entire Multiverse in search of an actual living Chimera, you can never succeed no matter how hard you try
. And so, I wish you'd listen to me when I start hinting that you should stop trying. (Actually telling you to outright is not always possible, for reasons addressed in the last paragraph of this post.)
*To illustrate the parallel, I'll quickly summarize my similar reflavoring of the Griffin, which I've never before formally written up as more than a brief snippet anyway, and which I do happen to remember in pretty much its entirety. "A griffin is not merely the body of a lion combined with the head and talons of an eagle; it is also the heart which can unite these dissimilar components. That heart does more than graft the eagle's sharp eyesight onto an extra pair of lion claws and vice versa; it fundamentally combines those separate halves into a harmonious whole, and that is what truly makes it a Magical Beast, rather than simply an unusual one. That is why we Totemists venerate griffins among our patrons, rather than extending such honor to an eagle or a lion; they are merely animals, and griffins, like ourselves, are not 'merely' anything."
I would be interested from a worldbuilding perspective to hear what you'd had in mind, and where we misstepped.
Telling you now would spoil a surprise that I've become too heavily invested in to give up, if there's any possible chance of salvaging it. If you said "fuggit I'm out" and the campaign was officially over, then I'd be able to tell you OOC, though by then it is of course likely you'd no longer care. Otherwise, though, you'll find out fairly shortly in the course of the game. The exact definition of "fairly shortly" to be determined, of course, but if you don't take another wrong turn (and I'll try to ensure that this doesn't happen, and to avoid being too ham-fisted about it), you'll definitely be on the fast-track toward seeing this particular situation unfold in its entirety. After which I can happily pull back the curtain and tell you how the trick is done; I'm not the kind of guy who wants to take my secrets to my grave, I just don't want to rob you of the opportunity to enjoy the magic while you still can, before you find out where the smoke and mirrors were.