The One Who Could Be Many

Wrapping up RPG week at an odd time, I know, but that's what happens when you start on a Tuesday. And I'm ending on a thought I had this weekend. Sometimes a game will force you to do something as part of its basics and teach you'll want to port that over to your other games. Maybe you like Call of Cthulhu's Sanity rolls or Paranoia's secret memorandums, whatever. I've been running Dream Park for almost two decades and yet the following idea just occurred to me.

In Dream Park, players take on the roles of role-players in Niven & Pournelle's future in which RPGs have been taken to a new level (a super-LARP, basically). These role-players in turn play a character in games designed by Dream Park's GameMasters. This gives the GM the opportunity to ALSO play that second level (the GM as character) and indeed, to use different GM personalities from game to game.

In my games, I invented 4 GMs who might invite the players' players to a game. I basically assigned the GM based on the type of game. One might go for pure genre, another for detailed historical settings, and a third a multi-genre junky. One might be good at one-offs, but another always do longer games (2 sessions was pretty much our limit). Once assigned, it was a matter of PLAYING the GM with that character's personality. So one of them relished humiliating the players, but it was all in good fun. Another was antisocial and wanted the least to do with the characters as possible. A third was merciless and quite a bit obsessed with Lovecraft. And the fourth had a sense of humor and fair play. Dream Park allows for interaction between these characters outside the "game", but in the game, they would affect my GMing style. And as the players got to know the GMs, they looked forward to certain games more, or dreaded them, or a mixture of both.

So only now it occurs to me that this scheme could be ported over to other games. For example, in my Planescape campaign, we're using a calendar based on each faction. So for example, the month attributed to the orderly Guvners is an orderly one where it rains at precise times for precise amounts of time each day. The more chaotic month attributed to the Xaositects would be the opposite, but you wouldn't notice because of the riots. I only really played with this as atmosphere (weather, crowds, festivals), but what if I changed my GMing style accordingly? What if an orderly month (or a Lawful plane of existence) made me rule by the book, while a chaotic one saw more free-form play?

Not all games would seem to support this, but some ideas come to mind... In a Supers game, what if you attributed a real comic book writer to each story? What kind of GM would Morrison be? Mantlo? Stan Lee? Time of year, planet, genre, opening narration by tv anchor... anything could be a springboard for a slightly different GMing style, no?


Anonymous said...

Could this be called "meta-gaming"?

And not just for the GM. In this, the players could emulate different gamer styles: The Optimiser, The Jerk, The Ninja, The Rules-Know-it-all, The Backstabber, etc. For extra laughs, if the gaming group is constant, the players could emulate a compatriote's gaming style.

Truely for "meta-geeks" only.

Anonymous said...

OMG, This gets deeper:

Integrate LNI style improv and get:
First Hour:
The Last of the Great Wyrms
1 GM to be played as Lyrical and poetic,
1 Fighter/Warrior -Player style: optimiser
1 Mage - player style Whiner
1 Paladin - player style Rules-Lawyer
1 Thief - player style - Swashbuckler
General Style:
To be played in the form of a WOW instance party.


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