How to be a Director Physical / Metaphysical Law in NycosRPG Masterbook. | World Anvil

How to be a Director

THE Important Rule

  I am switching to the first person present so that we can be clear about things. Running any Roleplaying Game System is, by nature, a kind of handshake agreement between the designers and the storytellers. So before we head into the Passages specifically, I want to take a moment to thank you for wanting to embark on this relationship, this understanding. Any way that Passages can help your RPG experience be better, more fun, and more exciting than otherwise possible, I am highly motivated to assist.   Roles are easy for people to pursue. Becoming an adult is a role; a parent, a different one; a politician, preacher, poet, prophet. So it may not surprise you, but I have a kind of penchant for that latter. I think that we all play roles all of the time; we drift between them sometimes quite easily; at other times, we wrestle hard and strenuously about the prospect. So taking on the role of being a storyteller, a dungeon master, a Director, whatever your preferred term - is as straightforward or as challenging as you make it. This article, while trying to tell you how to run the game, really is more about becoming comfortable with the decision-making process and communicating your decisions, concisely, cleverly, and quickly enough to prevent the session, series, or saga from falling on its face.   It may surprise you, but one of the greatest experiences in my life, one that colored my capacity to tell compelling stories, keep players engaged, and accomplish all the other parts of being a games master necessary, was becoming an air traffic controller. Ironically, it was a kind of destiny that put me on that path, but that is another story entirely. The gist, though, is that the first months of training are about building and bolstering self-confidence. Making decisions for the safety of others means you have to KNOW you are making the right ones and holding onto the big picture. Pilots are flying cylinders, moving relatively at hundreds of miles an hour. They can't see the picture, so they depend on YOU, the controller, to decide where to go, how fast to do so, and whether to climb, dive, or maintain elevation. It is a daunting and sobering realization.   But here is the kernel I want to convey to you, the storyteller, GM, DM, or whatever... YOU are the authority. YOU see the big picture, and your decisions create the environment for your players. So making decisions needs to be quick, precise, and, as I said earlier, clever enough to keep the players - plots - and potentials 'in the air.' Maybe you will have a bad day, become confused, or worse, have to deal with Players who do so all by themselves. Just remember this section of the system - The decisions are yours. They have to be to keep it all rolling. So now, let's talk about Passages.  

Know where you are going.

A story consists of a beginning, middle, and ending. Some do so clearly with a detailed outline, and the person experiencing the Story knows the path almost as well as the writer. With RPGs, it isn't always that clear-cut, and the players, your cadre if you will, may have a very different idea about where the Story is going. So it may sound counterintuitive, but when you are the one telling the Story, you have to become good at listening. Sure, you want to have YOUR idea of who the bad guys are, where the action happens, and such, but knowing where you are going is also hearing whether the players are following your lead, understanding the situation as you intended it or not. By keeping in front of the Story, in engaging the players along the way to guide them into the encounters you have planned, you demonstrate an understanding of your players, and you give them what they want, in terms of experience, without a rigid hand at the tiller, that breaks the collective experience.

Let the Wookie Win.

I know the source of the quote. But the point here is that the players, not the Director, are running the show. Don't freak out, but rather, let that sink in. Your players are looking to you for engagement, entertainment, some laughs, some intentional in-game stress for all of them to experience. Being a Director isn't being a line judge, and it isn't being a teacher, a troll, or a tyrant. Well, none of them exclusively, and not all of the time. It is a springboard and cheerleader when it comes to innovation and imagination. It IS being the creator of imagery, the governor of what is or isn't REAL in the game, and the person whose ideas hold the most weight at the table.

Balance is a Plumber's Task.

If a decision you make is breaking the play experience, walk back the decision on your terms. I have dozens of friends who run RPGs, and almost to the individual, they all have this single issue as the hue and cry for game changes in every system ever played. The ability to keep the characters on an even keel, while allowing advancement without running aground in boredom or crashing in chaos, is the basis for the Passages processes. Players progress gradually toward their own objectives in-story, but they by necessity have to share with you, the Director, their intentions in play. Having that simple point of leverage - that you know where you, and they are going, is really the anchor, the basis, the plumb line for in-game balance.   To balance conflict, you have to know where your players are, in terms of skills and talents, both martial and otherwise. The simple mechanical knowledge of the Character Base and Core values are, and what their Selected Combat and Defense values are, is a quick balancer - if your intent is to put the players on the edge, you overmatch them on either or both of the Martial values, and keep the Bases Equal or nearly so. If you want them to have an easier time, you lower either or both. But there are times the course they choose leads them into places they should not go... In those instances, give no quarter, and instead buff both Attack and Defense, even just a little, and the players will feel the change. The system, if you leave the two on par, or nearly so, will self-regulate over the duration of the engagements.   Of course, the Plumber reference here is also referring to the pressure level you desire as Director. Put the pressure on by making the balance have such, release the pressure by slowing the engagements. Remember, YOU control the flow.

Use Conditional Changes Sparingly

A story develops from an idea, bounces, and carroms between the players and the NPCs. It is enjoyable to envision the Persona you have in your Story as experimental resources, and it is appealing to change up the situation on the fly. I've experienced that appeal, but as the creator, fight that urge, particularly as you begin to tell your Story. You want the players to see the world as solid, real, and a place where they, not you, are learning the basics of existence. The concept that players feel their way through your game by their ears isn't specifically true. When they ask questions, they are digging into the foundation, seeing what the boundaries and barriers are. If you spend too much time changing up the situation in the microcosm of an encounter, they have difficulty holding onto the core. This is more of a guideline than a law, but then again, I think you will see that as a storyteller, you kind of get to determine how solid those guidelines, rules, and laws are.

Don't Give Away the Farm

A story, as I said, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. When you are running your game, be aware of the tempo at which you disseminate information about the Story, the world, the situations the players find themselves in. Let them explore, discover by action and interaction, both with each other and your world at a metered pace. If you race toward the middle, you leave them disconnected from their existence in your environment. If you drag out items too long, they will lose interest. Ultimately, the Story is the experience you create together, not your notes, not their Persona, but how you all relate together. Ther Farm becomes a masterpiece between you.

Have Fun and Do Stuff

A game's purpose should have priority over the rules. If the players are not having fun with a particular dynamic of the Session, Series, or Saga, feel okay about a retcon of the situation, or simply replay the Scene or Stage. This is a game, and it is under your guidance. If it isn't fun, why are you doing it? Poke fun at yourself, let go of the uncomfortable, and get back to the good stuff. Really. It isn't that big of a deal.

Passages is Progressive

Here is the sheer math of Passages: If you play one game a week, and your player Persona advances mechanically at one percent growth per session, it will take nearly two years to achieve the much-vaunted 95% CAP. Even if they successfully ramp at each opportunity, they simply can't proceed fast enough to be problematic to you as a storyteller. That doesn't mean they don't get better, or that your task as a Director won't become more challenging as they do so. Just become comfortable with their advancement. In the older forms of RPGs, the GM maintained direct control of the Player Characters, in effect, by holding them to arbitrary values like Class Levels and such. So in Passages, it is just simpler to follow the Balancing of RULE 3, the Tempo of RULE 5, and the Awareness of RULE 7. Wait. This IS RULE 7.

Words Mean Things

Awards in the game have to have value to you, or else they won't mean anything to the Players. This means that you have to find a variety of ways to instill values that engage your players in ways they value. The obvious ones are mostly cliches - treasure, items, and advancement - and can be tired and boring for many. Some value the story itself, the dialogue, and the conversation. Others hold valuable descriptions, props, and scenery. So, when it is time for the players to achieve meaning in your session, series or saga, take into account the player valuation systems, and find ways to make such have meaning in your game as well, which anchors them into your perception of reality, and keeps them playing YOUR game, as well as their own.

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