As a card-carrying (not really) gamer geek, I just had to watch Wil Wheaton’s Web series Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, part of the Geek and Sundry programming.
This is a ten-episode series in which we follow game-master Wil Wheaton and his four players through a short role-playing campaign based on an original science fantasy setting and using Green Ronin Publishing’s Adventure Game Engine (AGE) system, which also powers their licensed Dragon Age RPG and the upcoming second edition of Blue Rose. Titansgrave will soon be released as an adventure and setting sourcebook for AGE. This professional show offers the high production values missing in amateur recordings of role-playing sessions and is meant to address geeks who are not already role-players.
I’ve posted a review of Dragon Age RPG a few years ago on RPG.net. In short, AGE is a pretty traditional system but a pleasantly streamlined and consistent one. Some of the suggestions for changes which I had at the time are addressed by this most recent version of the system, such as expansion of the use of stunts. But intrinsically, it’s not a hippie game and it should not feel disconcerting for most gamers.
Therefore, it makes a perfect example of how easy it can be to “say yes” as the GM even without fancy system features to support it. I really appreciate that Wil Wheaton has been giving great examples of this throughout the show so far. For example, when a player says she wants to do something fancy and cool, Wil doesn’t say “No, you have to wait until you know whether you have stunt points for this.” Instead he says “OK, and if you have stunts points, [insert cool effect here] may happen.” I have yet to see him just saying “No” to a player’s idea.
He also wants the characters to have exciting adventures, not just walk along dotted lines through the scenario. When the rolls are failures, he describes the results, or encourages the players to describe them, in terms of bad luck or the opposition countering, not in terms of player characters’ ineffectiveness. Something happens and throws a new twist or danger. And Wil asks his players to create details, to name characters, and so forth, and uses these details to shape the story. Sure, he could fill in all those little details himself, but this is more fun and gets the players more involved, more invested.
I sure hope GMs are watching this!