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Hot Seat Game Mastering: My Thoughts

I stayed out of it mainly because of time commitments, but partly because I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of switching GMs in a traditional RPG campaign. I felt, considering the emphasis most business-making RPGs place on character building and adventure / campaign construction, that everyone would have too much invested in their game roles to readily switch. Also, swapping the starring characters in and out on a regular basis is an obvious break in the campaign’s continuity. (Before you say anything about having the GM run the character, what’s the point when the GM was only just playing the character?)

Lately, though, with all the downloading of indie RPGs I’ve been doing – and wondering when I’d actually get the chance to play in or run them – I’ve been thinking about Boots’ idea. I called him last night, and we talked it over some more. His immediate thought was octaNe (probably because I’ve been harping on about it of late) and while it’s definitely fast and loose enough, it’s too freeform and zany. There’s also little incentive in the mechanics or setting to run a campaign.

Instead, I suggested InSpectres and Lacuna. The “franchise” mechanics in InSpectres give incentive and meat for ongoing campaigns, and the fact that players earn experience for the franchise whilst only healing themselves back to starting levels means they’d be more willing to set their characters aside for a session. Lacuna has a similar sense of structure for its sessions to InSpectres, although it’s nowhere near as hard and fast, and the complete-yet-incomplete nature of the setting would allow different GMs to bring a different spin to what may or may not really be going on – the stronger concepts and plot threads could then be woven into something almost Babylon 5-esque. The “mission” or “job” structure in both games would allow for changes in players and GMs between sessions with little damage to campaign credibility.

I think Boots’ original idea is more adversarial, though. As I understand it, he saw each player having three “criteria”, and when all of a player’s criteria are met by the game master, that player becomes game master while the original game master picks up his or her character sheet and enters the campaign as a player (until, of course, his or her criteria are met). While the GM is trying to steer the adventure toward meeting his or her players’ criteria so he or she can stop being GM, the players are also trying to steer away from those criteria so they don’t have to be GM.

It’s an experiment that’s likely worth trying (a) just to see if it would work and (b) because no one else has yet. Still, I have the feeling that, once the novelty wore off, the regular musical chairs act would be jarring and ultimately detrimental to the fun. I had something closer to a round-robin rotation between sessions in mind, and I’m also not particularly adversarial when it comes to roleplaying games – maybe because I’m used to having my arse kicked in things like Crimson Skies.

Anyway, Boots ‘n’ me’ll have a chat about it soonish. God knows; maybe we’ll be able to surprise Jared Sorensen by actually getting a Lacuna campaign off the ground!

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