Smooth Game Flow

Monday, 21. June 2010

One of the more important tasks in keeping running a role playing game is keeping it flowing smoothly.  Any entertainment or fun that might have been had can be quickly quashed through a long delay looking for information or just as bad: looking for a rule for a given situation.  Therefore it is crucial that a storyteller stay organized, knowledgeable of the rules and lastly; flexible enough with them to improvise as needed.

Organization is something that was previously mentioned, but takes on a new life again when keeping a game flowing smoothly.  No one wants to wait around while a storyteller looks for maps, characters or other game information.  It is therefore quite helpful to keep information segregated into some sort of 3 ring binder, or file folder or some sort of digital storage.  I prefer the former, as when properly setup it’s easier to locate and remove items as needed.  Folders tend not to have the necessary organization unless they are huge.  Digital storage is also somewhat of an issue as it can take time to locate the necessary information while looking at a computer.

Knowledge of the standard rules of game play is also quite important for a storyteller.  With most games, there is a standard way of doing “normal” game actions such as combat, movement, skill tests and the like.  Normal is quoted because game actions are rarely normal in a real life sense.  In any case, knowing how these actions are run is essentially standard operating procedure with how a game functions.  Beginning storytellers are cut a lot of slack here, because nobody wants to chase them off.   However, by the same token not knowing them after a certain time period is like going to a cashier that doesn’t know how to do their job. Infuriating!

Lastly, it is quite important to still be flexible with the rules in terms of game play.  Some rule sets are cumbersome, and make governmental bureaucracy look efficient.  Spending too much time looking for an obscure rule or clause for something that should be an easy call kills the inertia of play.  There is a certain level of gut check that is involved.  If the rules are ambiguous, simplify in a fair fashion and resolve them quickly.  Playing too fast and loose with the rules however, is not advised unless players are obviously forewarned ahead of time.  Players can spend a good amount of time looking at rules and expect their characters to perform to a certain standard.  Brutally quashing this, while necessary from time to time is very disheartening and bad for morale when done on a regular basis.

By keeping organized, knowing ones rule set, and being flexible enough not to be chained to the rules a storyteller can greatly improve game play and flow.  Moments of inertia and excitement can be preserved going into the next scene or fight.  The overall results can be a much more dramatic game, not to mention less stressful in the long run for a good storyteller.

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