Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Transcendent Beauty Of Esoteric Miscellany

I am a rather pretentious person. Who isn't if we're really honest? But in relation to RPGs, I am of the opinion that the GM should be allowed to have fun as well as the players, and perhaps at their expense.

In particular this manifests as a sort of literary ADD on my part. I pride myself on being a fountain of cultural references (it's one of my few useful qualities), and so I enjoy slipping these things into my games. Call of Cthulhu and Kerberos Club are both marvellous settings for this sort of play. For example having Byron Humphrey from The Dreaming Stone campaign enthusiastically rambling about the fantastic research of Dr Cavor, or the detective abilities of Chevalier Dupin is a gleeful opportunity for me. Even such obvious things as having a pub named 'The Winchester', a cult known as the 'Esoteric Order Of The Golden Dawn' or the 'Knights In White Satin' in my RQ games are much more amusing to me than they perhaps should be.

I have no idea what it is that causes things like Alan Moore's famous 'League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen' to have such a profound effect on me, but even if I don't immediately get the reference I'll spend time looking it up and then savour the moment when the penny drops. I've lost count of the times I've lost whole afternoons to the minutiae of these things, giggling to myself hysterically as all sorts of ideas for connections come to me.

It also offers a genuinely connecting moment with a player if they understand the reference, especially if only one of them does. That glint in the eye as you see they understand is an excellent moment and one that should be encouraged often, but not often enough to exclude others of course. I've found this to be a good litmus test for how well I'm going to get on with a player, if they get around a quarter or more of the references and grin when they do, we'll get on fine. Those who are so uninterested in the backstory as to ignore even the references they do get are unlikely to stay a full campaign, either by my instigation or theirs. It's not a hundred percent proof though, so  I try not to make snap judgements on it. This can probably also be taken as 100% proof that I am a story-gamer at heart and will keep coming back to it even in my dungeon crawls....
I guess the point of this post (albeit in a roundabout and unnecessary way) is that one of the best ways to achieve player investment is to have players that are on the same wavelength as you, who have similar humour and interests. And who don't mind you mocking them (good-naturedly) for missing a joke.

1 comment:

  1. This is very true. The BEST games are those with your good friends that you have inside jokes with and who understand the game you want to run.