I’ve been busy playing a good number of games of late. Particularly playtesting Fright Night scenarios (look here for more detailed thoughts after the ‘con this weekend). In addition, I’ve been having fun playing some rock-n-roll D&D and a little Delta Green.
The latter has reemphasized to me the importance of securing player buy-in for a game. The problem with Delta Green, and many other Cthulhu outings is that it requires the characters to engage with the scenario set-up in a way that is, perhaps, unrealistic for their characters (if Fox Mulder’s sister had not been abducted by aliens, would he really have investigated X-Files with a passion?). So, if the characters are played as real people, without agenda or other emotional baggage, why would they risk their lives and careers for obscure and difficult investigations into the strange and paranormal? Even seeing something unusual or frightening seems an improbable spur to such irrational behavior. If player realism is shattered, the consequences for a game can be profound.
The short answer is that the GM must get the players on board before the game. Explain and discuss the nature of the game he or she wants to run, seek input and advice, and then work with the players to integrate their characters into the plot in a way that will allow them to engage with it in a consistent and meaningful way.
It’s easy to say, but its much harder to actually implement, especially when there are so many other things that need to be prepared, read and considered to run a game. I loose track of the Cthulhu scenarios I’ve read that simply assume the players will dutifully follow the plot, irrespective of dangers and consequences for their characters, and while I can understand how this can happen – writing a detailed and authentic scenario with a unique flavor is very demanding – there really ought to be more attention paid to developing skills and introducing techniques to bridge this difficult chasm.