"Before I learned how to play and GM with gamebooks and RPGs, playing pretend was testing whether you could deal with X, and ALSO was telling a story, AND the story had to make sense - that includes not violating what I know of munitiae like sword swings and your state of mind when someone is trying to push a blade into your skull*.
When I learned gamebooks, and later RPGs, I
discovered the Three-fold theories (both of them!), and suddenly the
game EITHER was about what you do to deal with X, OR about telling a
story, OR about respecting and exploring munitiae like sword swings or
conversational tactics, or whatever.
Now I understood Unfettered GMing, also known as Lazy GMing, and I'm just running a game that explores the munitae of details, and that produces a story, and people at the table treat it as a game."
Asen R. G., your host
that was a rather clumsy way to paraphrase well-known
sentence ("Before I learned martial arts, a
punch was just a punch and a kick was just a kick. When I studied
martial arts, a punch was no longer just a punch and a kick was no
longer just a kick. Now I understand martial arts, and a punch is just a
punch and a kick is just a kick." - Bruce Lee, who was in turn paraphrasing Takuan Soho, AFAICT).
After reading Ron Edwards's Sorcerer (the annotated edition), I noticed that he's saying the campaign when he was "just playing the NPCs, and this generated the narrative" as one of his most successful ones).
I'm doing the exact same thing "the father on Narrativism" recommends - although I consider myself a Simulationist. Then again, I've heard the same advice from mainly Gamist players.
Yeah, the divisions in the RPG hobby are mostly BS, indeed.
discovered the "just play the NPCs" GMing approach in, more or less, the
same fashion as Ron Edwards. I was running a game; the game was set up with
interesting characters from both sides of the screen. There were
conflicts and alliances between them to give a pause to any Vampire
So I just asked myself "why the hell should I prepare it in
advance, if the players aren't going to do what I expect anyway - and I find it
fun to catch this kind of surprise shots and return them?"
The answer was "no fucking reason in Hell", and so I ran the next session... two hours after the one that had just finished.
the end, I had more material than I had before, because no PC ran from
conflicts. The players laughed, and cried - for real, not roleplaying -
and were exhilarated.
Years later, I almost got a beating when I announced ending
But all of this was because the players knew that risking your character is fun. To the PCs, that's no doubt the analogue of playing extreme sports...but then most PCs should be extreme sports enthusiasts.
The end conclusion is, to me: You need to teach
unfettered roleplaying to the players, if it doesn't come naturally to
them. After that, you can be the Unfettered GM.
Most books teach you
to be the Fettered GM. Take an adventure, self-made or not. Start the
PCs so and so, says the adventure. X happens... After that, Y happens.
After that, Z happens (and hopefully, that means you get to meet Zorro).
That's how I began running games, too.
But right now, I only need a
setting book and easily applicable rules. Everything else, including
genre supplements? Yeah, nice, but largely unnecessary. "Just play the
NPCs", and if it needed to be said, make them interesting. (Nobody is
completely uninteresting in real life, either. If you didn't learn that in English classes, learn it now, and practice. Talk with a boring guy and find something that makes him non-boring).
I mean, the guy that
makes your accounts might be a Combat Sambo champion (yes, I know such a
guy!) The plumber next door might be an ex-convict, or just having had
an interesting youth. You** probably have a hobby that's out of the
ordinary for your profession - namely, roleplaying. And you're reading
RPG-related blogs! In your FREE time! Seriously, do you have any idea how
obscure that is to everyone else? (I guess you have an idea, indeed).
Yeah. People with no unexpected
interests and skills are so rare, this makes them interesting. So, yes,
it's impossible by definition to be boring.
Don't be afraid your sessions would be boring - just make them interesting.
You don't need pre-planned adventures for that. You just need to have the GMing tools internalised, too. And that means "playing the NPCs as logically as you'd play a PC".
And if your playing PCs is lacking, you should work on that.
Or maybe I should just write a module the way I imagine it should be done.
*Yes, that's for the kind of first-hand experience that I haven't asked for.
**The "you" that's reading an RPG-related blog.