Friday, July 27, 2012

Adapting your DM style to the group dynamics.

As many RPG blogs have explained, the table-top rpg experience is a dynamic one. With different people in a group, how a game is being played out would be different as well. With it comes the inevitable play style. Some players like to be lone wolf and do their thing in the darkness. I like to rush into situations without any thought and sometimes just wanna bash something.

Therefore, one man's meat is another's poison. As I ran games for different groups, I find that the needs of the group differ as well. My Star Wars group tend towards combat and would gravitate towards fighting than negotiating. This leaves interesting situation where the hostage need to be alive

My original group is more like what a blogger described. When we play a game, we analyse and analyse. We used detective skills and every situation is like a CSI crime scene. We build assumptions and correct illogical behavior. Essentially, as one of the DM put it, we are a paranoid bunch. Every move is a calculated one and we would talk through a situation endlessly to reach a conclusion.

In this situation, DMing for the two groups would be a differenr experience. Because of the player's needs, the most important part of the game would vary. For the Star Wars group, I tend to play more epic-like combat. Of course, it is not combat after combat. How the combat starts and the interesting features in the combat would be my obsession in the game. Maybe the environment would not be the smooth battleground and enemies could use the landscape to their advantage.

For my other group, NPCs play an important factor. Their personality is the key to the game, not their stats. To add in red herring here and there is equally important as well. I could not begin to describe the joy when my players obsesss about the fact that a wyvern has been sighted when it was just a random wyvern.

It is essentially a simple logic of answering the needs of the player. Any game ultimately needs to answer needs of both teh DM and the players. Obviously, it is not an indication of the DM needing to be a pushover. But player's needs is a priority for the DM

So, the next time you pick up the DM hat, think about your player's quirks and needs. Then, craft the game to suit them.


  1. I think I need to do a whole blog post myself on this. in a couple of months I will be running a game that will last for over 9 months, and with only two players that i know very well, the rest being picked for me by the society i'm a member of. I like it this way, as it encourages people to play with different people in different games and settings, but it means that every time we start, there's always a chance that it could be totally against a few people's expectations. I've had problem in the past involving just one guy out of a group of seven, who didn't get what they expected. Sometimes it's hard to know what to change, or if it is even possible to make everyone around your table happy.

  2. Maybe this is a difference in how you form the group? For me, my gaming group comes from close friends. If it is a group of strangers, I would go through a session of purely character creation. If it is a sandbox campaign, I would tend to use a simplified version of the campaign creation used by the Dresden Files RPG.