Jun 07 2012

Identifying Expectations

I don’t think gamers do a good job of identifying their expectations well enough because we understand what we want out of a game. The problem is we don’t think about what the other players, including the GM, want out of the game. This gets into discussions of social contracts, meeting in the middle, and all that lovey dovey hippy tree hugging stuff. Nothing wrong with that. Really. There isn’t. I love a tree hugger as much as the next person, plus, my girlfriend is a tree hugger. Sorry. Got off point.

So where was I. Ah yes, identifying expectations. This seems self explanatory, you identify the expectations of the game and share them with your group. First off how many of you do that. Now be honest with yourself. Ok. Good. Now the real question is how is this done effectively? My preferred method is an expectation blurb. It’s a blurb because it’s pretty short. You should be able to explain your games expectations in a paragraph and reinforce the paragraph with a bullet point list. Here’s an example of an expectation sheet I should have made for an Eberron game I ran until I killed it because of too many unmet and divergent expectations.

This is an Eberron 4e D&D game of gritty pulp-noir action. Expect to be in over your head a lot of the time and feeling like the whole world is against you. Deciding who to trust is as important as how well you can fight. You’re the little guys and the “Man” won’t hesitate to take you out. Your problems aren’t something you can walk away from. You need the truth, either for salvation, a clear conscious, or to clear your name.

The Game will be:

    • Tough – Don’t look for balanced encounters
    • Filled with mystery
    • Gritty – There is a system in place for damage beyond hit points. Broken legs and concussions won’t be fixed by spending healing surges.
    • Loose with the rules – Trying things outside convention is encouraged and I will be trying different house rules to get the pulp noir feel.

I hope to use blurbs like this in my future games so my expectations can be understood but for it to be useful to others I’ll try and break down what I did. I identify the style, feel, system and setting of the game, I push a few ideas I feel are important to convey the style and feel, throw in some of the weird things I want to try, and give the players an idea what role the characters will fill. The hope is this prepares the players for what is coming. Once they’ve read this a discussion about what they expect should happen to answer questions and see if things match up or need a little tweaking. This is also a good way to find players who are interested in a particular style of game and to keep players from getting involved in something they won’t have fun with. This can be done with a discussion but I like having a document to reference back to and allow the players to reference if any of us ever need a reminder of what the game is about.

This method may also be effective for building a new gaming group. It’s short and packed with a lot of information so potential players should read it all be it on a message board or Facebook post.

If you have any ideas about this topic please leave a comment below, hit me up at Chris@misdirectedmark.com, or drop a note on the Facebook page or get into the Misdirected Mark Facebook group.


Game On,

Chris “The Light” Sniezak

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