Telecanter posted the following on his manifesto on what the OSR means to him.
My “system” is better thought of as my goals for a night of D&D and how I go about trying to do that. Rules are just part of the equation.
In the end, this blog and designing an RPG system is getting to exactly this. What are your goals for a night of gaming? The next question is, what are the activities that you enjoy that let you arrive at those goals?
Let me summarize a few of my own goals and how I try to arrive at them.
I like to see players emote. I like to see them nervous, and I like to see them triumphant. I like to see them laugh at the comedy of a situation, and feel something like fear in the face of their character’s death. How do you get emotion at the table? You have to build a culture where the players buy into the game, and are willing to immerse themselves in their characters and the choices they make. I have to construct situations that matter to them and their characters. Rewards should come fought tooth and nail, so that there is drama which helps build that emotional buy in. I enjoy the shared experience that comes from the roller-coaster the dice can lead us on.
I love to see players solve problems in interesting ways. I hate when I set up an evening’s game, and then realize the players can just walk right over the conflict because of some uber-magic-item or spell that trivializes the challenge. On the other hand, mixing things together in unexpected ways, talking to unexpected people, and otherwise problem-solving your way to success – that I really enjoy. Alexis is right when he says, in his post on How to Play, that the GM secretly wants to see the players succeed. The GM just can’t let that on at the table – has to make it as damn difficult and rewarding to succeed as possible. But ingenuity by the players is a big reason I like to come to the table.
Most GMs enjoy this to some extent – it’s part of why we’re running a game in the first place. We like to see a world come alive. I want the players to explore that world damn it! I want the players to invest with me in the world, and make their characters a part of that world. It’s the shared experience of story-telling, and if the players aren’t engaging, then the story gets stale. It’s my story, and I just decide where it goes and how it ends. This is dull. I want the players to be driving things. Make things happen! We’re not stuck in our lives, with responsibilities and work and a fear of failure! I want to build a world, and yes I enjoy that in and of itself, but I really want to see how other people react in that world.
I like to add some challenging situations, although I worry about them sometimes. I don’t want to present a game where no matter what you do, “you can’t win.” On the other hand, I won’t want to ask the players to simply make a decision between good and evil. I like to see how each person thinks about these situations, using their own mind, and find out what they would do if they were in that situation. Or, I suppose to be more accurate, what they think they would do, if they were their character in that situation. I wonder what the world would be like if the great heroes were like us, like the people who I enjoy spending time around the table with. How would we do better? Mess things up? What does this mean about right and wrong?
Okay, enough of my thoughts. While I run the game, and participate in everything you do, I’m coming from a different perspective than the players. What is it that you like doing at the table? This could be as simple as enjoying the threat and tactical nuance of combats, to exploring what the world would be like if you were pulling the strings, to role-playing a character very different from yourself, etc.