Random RPG Thoughts #12: Could Players Build their own Contacts?

While revamping the Samaris booklet, I tried to think up a way to make a sourcebook more interesting to players. In general source books, like modules and adventure kits are game master eyes only. Which means that all the effort you put into it only reaches about 15 to 20% of its potential audience - at least in the form you put it. Sure, a Game Master will translate what you think up, and make it into his or her adventure. Probably he or she will show the artwork, once it comes in handy. But otherwise it stays secret.

That's a shame, most of the time, I think.

Lost Processing Power in the Role Play Group

Which brings me to another area where energy is often lost. Most role playing games are structured like an old style single core processor. When multitasking, all programs have to wait for their turn to be processed by that single core. The same happens when players wait for the Game Master to hear what happens with their actions. Players have to wait a lot. Even with fast GMs. And even when they play out partial scenes with eachother while waiting for the GM response.

Also a shame most of the time...

Shifting Power to the Players

And then there was this poll on a recent blog (sorry, forgot who you were - let me know ;-) about who plays the Henchmen in a traditional dungeoneering group. Do the players play the henchmen, or does the GM do so. Or something in between? Now Contacts could also be considered to be sort of Henchmen. Sort of. Players could play their own contacts, at least to a degree.

Now you might say that part of the fun of contacts is that they provide role playing opportunity for the GM. But if you're like me, you'll have ample role playing opportunity anyway - and players could add some colour of their own. You could also co-play a contact with the player and decide what the contact does.

Alternatively, players could play eachothers contacts, based on simple game master instructions. Then you could have small scenes played out between players while the game master busies him or herself with other players. This can add a lot to the game, as is already kind of demonstrated in more theatrical live action role playing games. The NPC will become much more special if played by a player - in general.

Making the Setting Part of the Player's Responsibility

Going a step further, players could build their own contacts - or flesh out contacts suggested by the game master. The game master could give a few ground rules, and the player would actually make the contact as if it were a player character, with skills and background and all. At least where the player is concerned.

Then making a final step... players could flesh out contacts suggested by a sourcebook. When you as a player have to choose, say two or three contacts from a sourcebook, and have to flesh them out, then the sourcebook also becomes more fun to read. And it becomes legitimate to read the sourcebook too. (That's another thing, as sourcebooks may be well kept hidden from the players by jealous game masters).

Players would thus become cocreators of the setting too. Some GM-power would shift to the players. And the single-core processing model of role playing would shift a bit to multi-core processing.

So... the upcoming commercial Samaris sourcebook will have over a hundred potential contacts, to be fleshed out by the players. It's their town of adventure too! 

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn't find a contact email for you.

    A while ago I put out an ebook of my writing, called The New Death and others. It's mostly short stories, with some obvious gamer-interest material. For example I have a story inspired by OD&D elves, as well as poems which retell Robert E Howard's King Kull story The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune and HP Lovecraft's Under the Pyramids.

    I was wondering if you'd be interested in doing a review on your blog (either a normal book review, or a review of its suitability as gaming inspiration).

    If so, please let me know your email, and what file format is easiest for you, and I'll send you a free copy. You can email me (news@apolitical.info) or reply to this thread.

    You can download a sample from Smashwords:


    I'll also link to your review from my blog.