Theory of Roleplaying

Discuss Mongoose RPGs here, such as the OGL rulebooks, Jeremiah, Armageddon 2089 and Macho Women with Guns

What player type are you?

Mostly NAR
3
13%
Mostly GAM
5
22%
Mostly SIM
0
No votes
NAR and GAM
2
9%
NAR and SIM
8
35%
GAM and SIM
1
4%
Mostly balanced
4
17%
 
Total votes: 23
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Theory of Roleplaying

Postby Clovenhoof » Sat Jun 09, 2007 1:29 pm

This here came up on "my campaign thread" -- it would deviate too much from actual topic there, but it may be worthy of discussion.
It sounds like he didn't get the etiquette of gaming either. This can be innocent in a way but some players do kind of take fantasy to an extreme...
Actually, it is a valid style of roleplaying. It's just not the style I chose for our Conan game. This element here is called Player Empowerment: the players are free, even encouraged to shape the world. T

To be more precise, there are three "planes" in an RPG:

1. Character plane: The power to determine what a certain character attempts to do. ("I try to grapple him.")
2. Conflict plane: the power to determine events directly relating to the character ("I grab him and throw him through the window.")
3. Creative plane / director's plane: making statements unrelated to a character ("An Orc shows up.")

Classic distribution: Players influence only the 1st plane. The GM determines what happens, i.e. dictates planes 2 and 3.

Player Empowerment: the players may also influence the 2nd and sometimes 3rd planes to varying degrees. In the extreme, there is no single GM, but all players are GM at the same time.

There are also three basic types of Gamers, or let's say: Players with preferred playing styles. This is in RP theory known as "Threefold Model" (there are other, expanded models like fivefold, but this here is pretty commonly accepted):

Narrativist (NAR) - a.k.a. dramatist: this play style expects a satisfactory plot, and demands of a game system to give the players enough space to actively shape the story, rather than just experiencing it. The story as such may be epic drama, action-centered or even slapstick.

Gamist (GAM) - this style focuses on solving puzzles, fighting enemies and overcoming obstacles. This is about a fair competition between player and GM, revolving around combat, puzzles, schemes or mystical stories. The players' goal is "to win", i.e. solve problems, whereas it is the GM's job to make the competition as hard as possible while remaining manageable. It may be acceptable for players not to strictly separate player and character knowledge or abilities (e.g. an Int 4 fighter is allowed to solve a riddle if the player knows the answer).

Simulationist (SIM) - this style strongly emphasises internal logic of the game world and credibility of the story. As opposed to the Gamist approach, problems may not take place or be solved on the meta plane, but are resolved strictly within the game world, as realistically as possible.
It is all about simulating the reality of the game world and immersing in the other world, which is often significantly different from ours.
Thus, a SIM game often focuses on exploration of this foreign world.

Of course, many or most games cater better for one style than another. SIM gamers often prefer (or accept) rules-heavy systems. For example, in The Dark Eye 4th Ed, you have three and a half pages (!) regulating purchasing skills. In Conan, the matter is dealt with in 11 lines. You can imagine a Gamist is not going to be happy with TDE.

Also, IME many players change in their preferred style. Typically, many start as Gamists, then want something "more realistic" and become Simulationists, until at one point they may grow tired of that and morph into dramatists. Others are dramatists all the way. Actually I witnessed pretty much any change.
Personally, I want an internally consistent world (which is a SIM aspect) but I want rules to be quick, effective (which is GAM) and reliable (which is not NAR). I have some NAR aspects as well, but it is probably my least developed side.

Cast your vote on the poll if you like. And please share any thoughts you have on the subject.
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Postby Aholibamah » Sat Jun 09, 2007 1:50 pm

Maybe I'm a little tired but I'm sort of confused...I've never even heard of player empowerment. Where did this concept come from?
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:51 pm

It is commonly used in the Forge Theory, I don't know if it originates there but it surely is widely accepted there:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/articles/
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Postby Trodax » Sat Jun 09, 2007 2:56 pm

I'm probably mostly GAM, I would think, although I'm not sure if I have grokked the concept of the three styles 100%. Here are some questions to check if I'm thinking about this straight:

I vastly prefer Savage Worlds over GURPS. Does that make me more GAM than SIM?

I wouldn't mind if the players went into plane 2, and even plane 3 more often and took a little bit of control over the story. We don't really play that way currently in our group, though. Does that mean I would like to be more NAR than I am?
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sat Jun 09, 2007 3:01 pm

I'd say that both your preference of Savage Worlds over GURPS and your thoughts on Player Empowerment make you a NAR waiting to come out of the closet. ;) So more GAM than SIM yes, but probably an increasing portion of NAR. ^^
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Postby Se Chris » Sat Jun 09, 2007 6:58 pm

One of my favourite quotes from rpg.net:

"So... is RPG theory worth learning? Sure, why not? But if you have something better to do, do that first."
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Postby Ichabod » Sat Jun 09, 2007 10:16 pm

I've really liked the attempt by some to categorize players as it's obvious to me that there are different player types and that the GM needs to do different things to satisfy different people. I read this in my friend's copy of Robin's book. I grabbed this from somewhere using Google to find it.

From "Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering", pages 4-5

The Power Gamer wants to make his character bigger, tougher, buffer, and richer. However success is defined by the rules system you're using, this player wants more of it. He tends to see his PC as an abstraction, as a collection of super powers optimized for the acquisition of still more super powers. He pays close attention to the rules, with a special eye to finding quirks and breakpoints he can exploit to get large benefits at comparatively low costs. He wants you to put the "game" back in the term "roleplaying game", and to give him good opportunities to add shiny new abilities to his character sheet.

The Butt-Kicker wants to let off steam with a little old-fashioned vicarious mayhem. He picks a simple, combat-ready character, whether or not that is the best route to power and success in the system. After a long day in the office or classroom, he wants his character to clobber foes and once more prove his superiority over all who would challenge him. He may care enough about the rules to make his PC an optimal engine of destruction, or may be indifferent to them, so long as he gets to hit things. He expects you to provide his character plenty of chances to engage in the aforementioned clobbering and superiority.

The Tactician is probably a military buff, who wants chances to think his way through complex, realistic problems, usually those of the battlefield. He wants the rules, and your interpretation of them, to jibe with reality as he knows it, or at least to portray an internally consistent, logical world in which the quality of his choices is the biggest determining factor in his success or failure. He may view issues of characterization as a distraction. He becomes annoyed when other players do things which fit their PCs' personalities, but are tactically unsound. To satisfy him, you must provide challenging yet logical obstacles for his character to overcome.

The Specialist favors a particular character type, which he plays in every campaign and in every setting. The most common sub-type of specialist is the player who wants to be a ninja every time. Other specialists may favor knights, cat-people, mischief-makers, flying characters, or wistful druid maidens who spend a lot of time hanging about sylvan glades with faeries and unicorns. The specialist wants the rules to support his favored character type, but is otherwise indifferent to them. To make a specialist happy, you have to create scenes in which his character can do the cool things for which the archetype is known.

The Method Actor believes that roleplaying is a medium for personal expression, strongly identifying with the character he plays. He may believe that it's creatively important to establish a radically different character each time out. The method actor bases his decisions on his understanding of his character's psychology, and may become obstructive if other group members expect him to contradict it for rules reasons, or in pursuit of a broader goal. He may view rules as, at best, a necessary evil, preferring sessions in which the dice never come out of their bags. Situations that test or deepen his personality traits are your key to entertaining the method actor.

The Storyteller, like the method actor, is more inclined to the roleplaying side of the equation and less interested in numbers and experience points. On the other hand, he's more interested in taking part in a fun narrative that feels like a book or a movie than in strict identification with his character. He's quick to compromise if it moves the story forward, and may get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You can please him by introducing and developing plot threads, and by keeping the action moving, as would any skilled novelist or film director.

The Casual Gamer is often forgotten in discussions of this sort, but almost every group has one. Casual gamers tend to be low key folks who are uncomfortable taking center stage even in a small group. Often, they're present to hang out with the group, and game just because it happens to be the activity everyone else has chosen. Though they're elusive creatures, casual gamers can be vitally important to a gaming group's survival. They fill out the ranks, which is especially important in games that spread vital PC abilities across a wide number of character types or classes. Especially if they're present mostly for social reasons, they may fill an important role in the group's interpersonal dynamic. Often they're the mellow, moderating types who keep the more assertive personalities from each other's throats -- in or out of character. I mention the casual player because the thing he most fervently wants is to remain in the background. He doesn't wnat to have to learn rules or come up with a plot hook for his character or engage in detailed planning. You may think it's a bad thing that he sits there for much of the session thumbing through your latest purchases from the comic book store, but hey, that's what he wants. The last thing you want to do is to force him into a greater degree of participation than he's comfortable with. (Of course, if everybody in the group is sitting there reading your comic books, you've definitely got a problem...)


Our Conan group has (usually) had: a power gamer, a butt-kicker, a casual gamer/method actor, a casual gamer/tactician, and a storyteller/method actor. That no one has a particularly demanding personality is the only way this "works".

My D&D group is similar in having no two players alike. It should come as no surprise to anyone that my campaigns have laughably incompetent parties.

I think you need the GM to give some guidance before you start making up details about the world on your own. Many games/GMs let you assume anything reasonable for cinematic games (like Feng Shui). Of course, there's a chandelier to swing from. Etc. But, I think you have to wait for that cue.

On the flip side, as a GM, what sort of details do you really care about? Obviously, it's annoying when the player biases things in the player's favor, but if the player is just trying to move things along to get to something interesting, that may be something the GM can go with.
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Postby Strom » Sun Jun 10, 2007 12:16 am

The theory has been debated since the start of roleplaying. Back in the day, AD&D broke down the player types as such:

1) Adventurers - "To Adventurers, a good game is full of physical challenges taht their character abilities allow them to overcome. Combat is their top choice of action and they rate their characters' quality by the amount of sheer mayhem and carnage they can cause. The needs of the Adventurer are easily met. Monsters to fight and booty to haul can satisfy them for weeks on end."

2) Problem solvers - "These players see the campaign as a great puzzle and their purpose, indeed their joy, is to put all the pieces together. The more twisted and convoluted the plot, the better. They love unique and mentally challenging gaming sessions and rapidly become bored with anything that does not seem new. They go to great lengths to concoct imaginative and occasionally workable plans to deal with every eventuality."

3) Role-players - "At some point, every player fits into this category. Role-players love to develop the details of their character's lives, right down to minor possessions, ancestry, and personality quirks. To them, even the routine parts of the game session, such as equipping a character, are an opportunity for a role-playing experience. Given the chance, they'll haggle in the market over every item in their inventory. Charter development may take precedence over othe rminor aspects, like survival or mission success."

The categories in the poll appear as an update to the AD & D categories from a DM (or GM) perspective, which is just another way of looking at the same coin from a different side.

Bits and pieces of each category (the poll & AD&D) come into each game to a degree - but with Conan, the genre dictates a gamers mentality for the majority of the quick, explosive, heroic situations my PC's find themselves in. Investigating, character development and puzzle solving also seem to lead to gamer situations for the most part - it's that type of world in my game.
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Postby Spectator » Sun Jun 10, 2007 12:39 am

I'm a gamer who likes copious amounts beer, pizza, and a nudie mag to look at, if the GM starts talking too much.
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Postby rgrove0172 » Sun Jun 10, 2007 1:17 am

I gotta say Im shocked at the percentage of GAMs out there. When I read this thread I actually thought "Dang, who would want to roleplay in that kind of game, you may as well play a board game or something". Ive never played in one like that, nor would I.
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Postby Trodax » Sun Jun 10, 2007 6:38 am

rgrove0172 wrote:I gotta say Im shocked at the percentage of GAMs out there. When I read this thread I actually thought "Dang, who would want to roleplay in that kind of game, you may as well play a board game or something". Ive never played in one like that, nor would I.
What is it that you consider so terrible about this approach? Do you look at GAM as "rollplaying, not roleplaying"? Where would you put yourself in the NAR/GAM/SIM spectrum?

(I'm not being snarky, I'm just trying to figure out what these different styles mean to different people.)
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Postby Ichabod » Sun Jun 10, 2007 8:15 am

I have difficulty categorizing myself using the poll terms. I think I'd be more toward NAR than the others.

The descriptions are just too broad as I care about a few different things. Strom's three types of players is too broad as well as I don't think I fit any of the definitions that closely.

Now, Robin's gamer typing might not be perfect either, but it's really, really easy for me to exclude some of the types. I am so, so far away from being a power gamer or butt-kicker, which may sound strange to people who only ever see my posts on forums as most of my posts to forums have to do with fixing mechanics. I may analyze things to death, but it doesn't affect much how I play or how I want to run something. It's just a side exercise that often leaves me frustrated as I find problems with the mechanics of all RPGs.
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Postby Clovenhoof » Sun Jun 10, 2007 11:53 am

What I don't like about GAM is the part about not separating character knowledge and player knowledge. That's never been acceptable in any of my games.

Looking at the Laws list, I have some elements of a Butt-Kicker, but also of a Tactician, I suppose. I have certain character preferences but I'm not a Specialist (I have played Rangers, Fighters, Rangers, Sorcerers, Rangers, Rogues, Rangers... you get the idea.)
I admit there was a time when I was a powergamer, but that is past.

I guess a definition that matches my preferred playing style would be "Adventure Role Playing" (ARP). I want to have an effective character, as not to say a "Hero", not some weakling who trips over his own feet or coughs up blood when he tries to cast a spell. I want to experience exciting adventures, explore foreign worlds, and kick some ass. I am prepared to roll dice to determine my success, because that's solid and predictable, and not dependant on the whims of the GM. I also want the world to be internally realistic, so I don't have to wince all the time about stuff like ill-set climate zones, because that really disturbs my immersion. I also don't want the rules to be too too "realistic", because that usually means complicated as hell, which bogs down the game, and achieves the opposite of their intention -- disturbing immersion rather than increasing it. I like to act out my character, but that needs to happen "on the fly", I don't want to spend entire sessions sitting around a campfire and telling about adventures my character experienced before the game started.

And of course when I GM, I try to do that to the same standards.
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Postby rgrove0172 » Sun Jun 10, 2007 5:23 pm

I definitely in the NAR-SIM section with a lean toward SIM. I prepare my world in a logical fashion and pretty much allow it to run itself, responding to the actions of the player. They have as much power to determine events as any person does in their current environment.

As for the GAM - the mear mention of "competition between the GM and teh players" and the fact that players are seeking to "win" is completely alien to my way of gaming. The absolute first priority of our games is to experience the world, this is normally a bit more enjoyable if its on the player's terms as when they are successful, but "winning" just isnt in the equation at all. The only reasons they have to succeed are personal ones, from their character;s point of view, and to live to enjoy even more adventures and experience the world for a bit longer. I would never think of pitting myself as the GM against the players, heck its no contest - I could wipe them off the map on a whim. There is simply no fun in that. Even designing what I would believe to be a fair challenge would only limit the way in which I presented it, and as I said, for us - its all about the story. Tie my hands and Ive lost my interest.
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Postby VincentDarlage » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:07 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:I guess a definition that matches my preferred playing style would be "Adventure Role Playing" (ARP). I want to have an effective character, as not to say a "Hero", not some weakling who trips over his own feet or coughs up blood when he tries to cast a spell. I want to experience exciting adventures, explore foreign worlds, and kick some ass. I am prepared to roll dice to determine my success, because that's solid and predictable, and not dependant on the whims of the GM. I also want the world to be internally realistic, so I don't have to wince all the time about stuff like ill-set climate zones, because that really disturbs my immersion. I also don't want the rules to be too too "realistic", because that usually means complicated as hell, which bogs down the game, and achieves the opposite of their intention -- disturbing immersion rather than increasing it. I like to act out my character, but that needs to happen "on the fly", I don't want to spend entire sessions sitting around a campfire and telling about adventures my character experienced before the game started.
This fits me as well.
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Postby Trodax » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:09 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:What I don't like about GAM is the part about not separating character knowledge and player knowledge. That's never been acceptable in any of my games.
Ah, I see. I definitely don't like when players act on information their characters shouldn't have (such as being overly suspicious towards some NPC just because "he's in the adventure, and someone has got to be the bad guy"). However, I do like to run mystery-type stories (often horror-mystery, sort of like Call of Cthulhu), and then I definitely prefer for the players to try to figure stuff out from the clues available (using their own, out-of-game intellect) rather than "roll Int, DC 20".

Along the same vein, I'm not a huge fan of "social systems" where you roll for social interaction (although I admit I haven't played with them very much), preferring to handle them mostly by roleplaying (maybe supported by a roll or two).

I guess that definitely makes me more GAM than SIM. :)
rgrove0172 wrote:As for the GAM - the mear mention of "competition between the GM and teh players" and the fact that players are seeking to "win" is completely alien to my way of gaming. The absolute first priority of our games is to experience the world, this is normally a bit more enjoyable if its on the player's terms as when they are successful, but "winning" just isnt in the equation at all. The only reasons they have to succeed are personal ones, from their character;s point of view, and to live to enjoy even more adventures and experience the world for a bit longer. I would never think of pitting myself as the GM against the players, heck its no contest - I could wipe them off the map on a whim. There is simply no fun in that. Even designing what I would believe to be a fair challenge would only limit the way in which I presented it, and as I said, for us - its all about the story. Tie my hands and Ive lost my interest.
OK, I see what you mean, and I agree with your view. It should definitely not be a competition in the sense that the GM is trying to screw over the players; I really loathe the old-school "Gygaxian" style of gaming (which could probably be considered ultra-GAM). However, the above mentioned mystery-horror stories I kind of view as a "competition" of sorts as well; the GM is creating a challenging task for the players to handle as best they can. And exciting combat against a foe that is challenging but beatable can be real fun as well. I am also a big fan of rolling the dice in the open and let them "fall where they may", adds a lot of excitement I think (that might be as much SIM as GAM though, I don't know).

I don't know; wouldn't these views place me in the GAM camp, or am I thinking about this wrong?
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Postby Strom » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:23 pm

The GAM description is confusing. First it reads:
this style focuses on solving puzzles, fighting enemies and overcoming obstacles. This is about a fair competition between player and GM, revolving around combat, puzzles, schemes or mystical stories.
That part is what I believe the majority of GM's who voted for GAM were thinking about - this is the essence of gaming in the Conan RPG world, for me.

Then it states:
. The players' goal is "to win", i.e. solve problems, whereas it is the GM's job to make the competition as hard as possible while remaining manageable. It may be acceptable for players not to strictly separate player and character knowledge or abilities (e.g. an Int 4 fighter is allowed to solve a riddle if the player knows the answer).
This fails as a description because it is to broad and includes dynamics that could fall into the other categories. Anyway, I voted GAM for the first sentence and the fact that my game isn't balanced - although it includes some SIM and some NAR (which game doesn't) but the majority of the game can be described as such:
this style focuses on solving puzzles, fighting enemies and overcoming obstacles. This is about a fair competition between player and GM, revolving around combat, puzzles, schemes or mystical stories.
That may be why others are also voting GAM. But I don't know.
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Postby Trodax » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:31 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:Looking at the Laws list, I have some elements of a Butt-Kicker, but also of a Tactician, I suppose. I have certain character preferences but I'm not a Specialist (I have played Rangers, Fighters, Rangers, Sorcerers, Rangers, Rogues, Rangers... you get the idea.)
I admit there was a time when I was a powergamer, but that is past.
I'm definitely more of a Storyteller than a Method-Actor; for me the story is more important than my character. I wouldn't consider myself a Powergamer, although I do enjoy "leveling up" and spending XP (not to maximise, but it's fun to fiddle with numbers and create a cool character, and I would never try to take use of "loopholes" in the rules). I am not a Specialist or a Casual Gamer. Sometimes I can enjoy being a Butt-Kicker and in certain systems that I know well (d20 mostly) I can be a bit of a Tactician.

I guess that makes me a Tactical, Butt-Kicking Storyteller. Is that cool, or is it just schizophrenic? :D
VincentDarlage wrote:
Clovenhoof wrote:I guess a definition that matches my preferred playing style would be "Adventure Role Playing" (ARP). I want to have an effective character, as not to say a "Hero", not some weakling who trips over his own feet or coughs up blood when he tries to cast a spell. I want to experience exciting adventures, explore foreign worlds, and kick some ass. I am prepared to roll dice to determine my success, because that's solid and predictable, and not dependant on the whims of the GM. I also want the world to be internally realistic, so I don't have to wince all the time about stuff like ill-set climate zones, because that really disturbs my immersion. I also don't want the rules to be too too "realistic", because that usually means complicated as hell, which bogs down the game, and achieves the opposite of their intention -- disturbing immersion rather than increasing it. I like to act out my character, but that needs to happen "on the fly", I don't want to spend entire sessions sitting around a campfire and telling about adventures my character experienced before the game started.
This fits me as well.
Yeah, I can totally agree with that whole quote as well.
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Postby Axerules » Sun Jun 10, 2007 8:31 pm

Clovenhoof wrote:What I don't like about GAM is the part about not separating character knowledge and player knowledge. That's never been acceptable in any of my games.
I also hate it.
I have certain character preferences but I'm not a Specialist (I have played Rangers, Fighters, Rangers, Sorcerers, Rangers, Rogues, Rangers... you get the idea.)
For me it was more Barbarians, Rogues, Barbarians, Archers, Barbarians, Wizards, Barbarians... :wink:
I admit there was a time when I was a powergamer, but that is past.
Like a lot of us when we were new to RPG's, I think.
I guess a definition that matches my preferred playing style would be "Adventure Role Playing" (ARP). I want to have an effective character, as not to say a "Hero", not some weakling who trips over his own feet or coughs up blood when he tries to cast a spell. I want to experience exciting adventures, explore foreign worlds, and kick some ass. I am prepared to roll dice to determine my success, because that's solid and predictable, and not dependant on the whims of the GM. I also want the world to be internally realistic, so I don't have to wince all the time about stuff like ill-set climate zones, because that really disturbs my immersion. I also don't want the rules to be too too "realistic", because that usually means complicated as hell, which bogs down the game, and achieves the opposite of their intention -- disturbing immersion rather than increasing it. I like to act out my character, but that needs to happen "on the fly", I don't want to spend entire sessions sitting around a campfire and telling about adventures my character experienced before the game started.

And of course when I GM, I try to do that to the same standards.
Brilliant post ! :D
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Postby Aholibamah » Sun Jun 10, 2007 9:40 pm

I like that post too.

Right now I'm down to two players (due to real life circumstances but I'll miss the others a lot) and I found a nice balance in our current game between my desire to have my world explored and for daring adventures, the desires of one player for puzzles and strange magics, and the desire of the other player for a certain amount of romance and character personality. I think a good DM has to be a little flexible. For instance the latter player needs for her full enjoyment some npc/pc interaction, she wants to know what the stew in the inn tastes like and what kind of jewellry she can buy with her loot and that kind of thing, and yet will still get into it when I'm describing them sneaking aboard a smugglers' ship in the still of the night. The other would be keen enough on a bit of intrigue and a strange book of riddles to decipher but will also enjoy exploring provided that it is not the absolute constant of the game.

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