Alysia (my fiancee) and I went to see The Descent last night, and one aspect of the movie really surprised me.
It translated well to GMing, too: Focus on something unexpected, and enrich the game in the process.
I figured The Descent would be about things in the cave system eating the spelunkers — a monster movie, pretty much like The Cave — which it was. But they played up the claustrophobia brilliantly, which I wasn’t expecting at all. (The Cave didn’t do this, and it should have.)
I don’t get claustrophobic easily, and there were scenes in the movie that made me cringe. The caving was shot quite well, and it really ramped up the tension. The movie would have met my expectations without doing this at all — and by focusing on this element, it exceeded my expectations.
When you GM, look for these opportunities — chances to add more depth than your players might expect, or to focus on a secondary element of the adventure.
This can be unplanned, too, as long as you’re paying attention to what your players are interested in. If they like something more than you thought they would, run with it and see where it goes.
Good advice; it’s hard to predict what’ll excite people– but once you get a whiff, don’t be afraid to concentrate on it.
If your players do find one aspect of the story more interesting than the rest, and that takes your adventure off-track (not that that ever happens . . .) is it better to roll with it and play out the rest of the session winging it, or to try and get the scenario back on track by making that aspect of the story the new center of the plot?
I can see both approaches working – I might improvise the rest of that session focussing on aspects that the player’s enjoy. Then after the session has ended, go back and rewrite my adventure for the next session to focus on those aspects again. I could also see an attempt to salvage the adventure I have written by making that aspect the focus of the game. Maybe if the players are more interested in the legend of a haunted house instead of tracking down the monster terrorizing the local village I can have the players discover a connection between the haunted house and the monster and still have some thign of a plan.
Let me be clear that I am not talking about railroading players into a predetermined situation just for the sake of keeping with my plan. It is just that I believe having some sort of adventure framework improves the quality of the game, you just have to make sure that the players don’t realize that you are sticking to that framework. You have to keep whatever interests them as the highlight of the session, while still moving the plot along so that the players feel like they made progress and accomplished something.
VV: Both approaches work just fine, and it realy depends on the situation — your group, styles, etc.
It can even be a good idea to pause the game, mention to your players that they’re going off in a very unexpected direction, and ask them whether they’d prefer to keep going or head back to what you had planned. That way, they know you’re winging it and will take that into account.
If the direction they’re headed would suck to improv, you can also stop the game for the night, explain why, and prep that for the next session.
Hi martin long time listener first time Caller…. So I jsut wanted to say I felt the same way what I liked best about this movie was I was surprisignly scared and claustrophobi in the first half. that and I found that they were actually understated and clever with the character background giving just enough and handling it without extra exposition.
Stephan! It’s good to see you here — and it’ll be even better to see you in a bit less than a month, at the wedding. 😀