RogerBW's Blog

The Same Page Tool 10 March 2014

The Same Page Tool is a series of questions to try to get players and GMs onto the "same page" in terms of the sort of behaviour they expect in a game. The theory is that if one player's, say, used to lots of intra-party backstabbing and the others aren't, this will cause difficulties.

I confess I haven't often found this a problem; groups that stay together for a long time to develop their own styles of play, but generally a new player can readily adapt to this and pull things a bit in his preferred direction. That said, I haven't gamed much with young players since I was one myself.

The questions are presented as a multiple choice test. For example:

Player characters are:

a) expected to work together; conflicts between them are mostly for show

b) expected to work together; but major conflicts might erupt but you'll patch them up given some time

c) expected to work together; major conflicts might erupt and never see reconciliation

d) pursuing their own agendas

e) expected to work against each other, alliances are temporary at best

and the idea is to run through this within the group, to make sure everything's been covered and agreed. If it's needed at all, it's probably a good idea. But the formality of the questions is a problem; for most games of mine, in the example above, I'd expect both a and d. I love it when PCs go off and do their own thing; it's a sign that they've come to life. But I'd expect them to involve the other PCs in their schemes, or resolve them out of game time with the GM. Similarly:

After many sessions of play, during one session, a player decides to have her character side with an enemy. This is…

a) …something that shouldn't even happen. This is someone being a jerk.

b) …where the character becomes an NPC, right away or fairly soon.

c) …something the player and the GM should have set up ahead of time.

d) …only going to last until the other player characters find out and do something about it.

e) …a meaningful moment, powerful and an example of excellent play.

Or maybe it's a deception operation by the PCs acting in concert, or maybe the "siding with" is only in some respects and not in others, or… while I don't generally play with any significant level of conflict between PCs, I don't want to shut down those other options.

A question I would find useful, inspired by Jason Packer's recent comments, is: do you expect player characters' social skills to be resolved entirely by talk between players and GM, entirely by die rolls, or somewhere in between?

Both as a player and as a GM, I like characters who sometimes want to go off and do their own things. As a GM, I'd like the player to have a backup character available for such occasions, or to be prepared to wrangle things a bit so that he ends up staying with the group during the session, because the point of us all getting together is to do something that involves all of us. I can't be a purist about this; I recognise that the social activity is part of what makes things fun, so I tend to choose characters who will be part of a group rather than constantly go off to do their own thing.

As a player, the main thing I want to do in a game is mentally simulate another thinking being. While I can for a while enjoy a game that's just about the fighting, I end up missing peaceful interaction and plotting, because those are where the rules fade into the background slightly and I can listen to what my character is saying he wants to do next beyond "stay alive through this fight".

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