Even though I consider myself a pretty good GM (and I am not alone in that!), I have done things as a ref that have not set well with me. To the point that they often come up as I think about these posts, and what I could have done instead. So, I figured I might bare my gaming soul a bit, and tell you of these personal fail moments as well as ways I might have done them better. Take away what you will, either my catharsis, or a bit of advice!
I have often said that I am not so good at ending campaigns. Usually I can write this off as my thinking the game world continues, with one of it’s problems solved. But not to long ago, I was playing the original Plot Point Campaign in Rippers (A great Savage World setting). We had come to the final story beat and I screwed it up…Big! Now, because this is the final event in the story, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I am going to have to talk around it a bit, but I will try to be clear. A little earlier in the campaign the players did two things that I forgot to take into account in this event. First, an NPC escaped them, and then they, shall we say, left a door open that should have been closed. (For those that know the PPC that should be clear, without giving much away). These two things should have had a HUGE impact on how this final scene played out. But for whatever reason, I went to run the final scene as it was presented. Because of this, the climactic encounter flopped. The world should have changed for good or bad, and it didn’t…and then, I basically wrapped the campaign, rather than embraced the change and added my own adventures to reach that conclusion, because I was mad at myself and was soured on that story. Wrong, Wrong, WRONG! Now, I kick myself and bawl myself to sleep over it. How could I have avoided that? First and simplest; Preparation. I should have taken a few moments to look at what had happened to lead up to the final encounter, which happened either way. But now, the door that was left open had consequences to the escaped NPC and to the number and type of opponents the PCs would have encountered. Since I didn’t do that, I should have taken the time to decide what would happen when the primary opponent escapes. This could have added several more adventures to this game! LESSON HERE: Prepare enough to keep the story line consistent, and when a mistake happens, gloss over it and carry on! The world didn’t end (Probably!)
As I have mentioned before, the story set-up and setting is the purview of the referee. As such, there are times that one needs to take over the story. (This is not just the ref’s story, so this needs to be kept to a minimum to help set-up a better game experience!) In a fantasy setting of my own creation, my players were going to explore some reported goings on at a outlying holding. When they got there, the Garda (The holding keeper) offered a banquet! But all was not as it seemed, and they had been drugged! I had everyone roll drug resistance, and expected they would all fail. Of course, one of the players succeeded very well…and then I declared the drug was plot strength, and even he was affected. While I did give him a bit more info after they woke up in a pit, I wail and gnash my teeth about how that happened! I easily could have either declared it plot strength from the beginning to move them to the next scene I had created; Or the one PC could have made his roll, and we could have played that out! I almost decide to let the player have it, but decided that would probable spend too long in game time on just one player…Which it may have, but it might have simply been “i will run into the woods, and watch what happens…” LESSON HERE: If you are going to let the dice decide, let them decide! If you have considered carefully and decided that it is important for the GM to decide how a beat plays out, just DO IT!
The last nit i wish to pick is another fairly recent game and an ending. In this game, an epic game of Role Master Standard System, in a world of my own creation, the game was reaching it’s climax, but I had begun to bore of the setting. Because of that, I was not putting the energy needed into the play, and the final battle ended, not quite as I had expected. The final battle with the enemy never happened, but the last of his forces were defeated, so he raged impotent in his hidden fortress! So, not a bad ending, but not what I had expected. So, I tried to wrap the game up, and ended up with an unfulfilling mish-mash for my player. It kind of left a sour taste for a favorite setting for me as well… LESSON HERE: Stay Energized! If you are not having fun as a ref, it will reflect in your game. Think about this. Is it because you are burned out as a ref, on the genre, on the system, or the setting…or something else. You need to figure this out, to see what they correction is. It may just be have a conversation with your players and switching games for a bit, or alternating games…or letting someone else ref (I plan on doing a post about this, if I get around to it!) Whatever the problem get it fixed. If you can’t then the other players at the the table will feel that lack, and no one will get the fun they want from it.
As a second comment on the last whine, in retrospect, I should have stopped the game. I let it play about 4 sessions too long that were simply waiting for things to pick up again. I should have asked the player, yes it was a game with my Lady Wife, how she would like this story to end. We could have worked out a good ending, with a good reason to come back. As it is, we do have a reason to return to the story, but I’m not sure the desire is very strong. TALK WITH YOUR PLAYERS! Your table knows what they like. They, including you, as you are one of the players, just with a different role, can come up with what is your BEST FUN!
I hope that these few glimpses at my whiny side help you look at some of your problems or issues. I am here for advice on this or any other topic. Feel free to ping me about it. Who knows, maybe it will inspire a whole new article!
Keep rolling, and enjoy your “Rich Fantasy Lives!”