[GAAAH essay post O_O; This is way longer than I had intended. Just bear with me! ^^;]
Without falling into the "I'm just here to backup the guy who's givin' me some sugar" trap, I do agree with Talen on the singing. Sorry Zeke. Which reminds me, from back in the first episode I listened to - you guys all got the Pokémon theme wrong*, and you pronounced it wrong too
That aside, I really enjoyed this one, which suckily translates to "lack of useful feedback". I did want to hear more talk about sex as a character
payoff, rather than a player payoff - the jokes were good fun, but they meant tyou neglected to talk about exactly how much of a motivator sex is for... well, most people, in some way or another. I've gotten into a lot of arguments with people regarding what is and isn't gratuitous when it comes to in-character romance, but for me it comes down to this.
- People like sex. Most people want to have sex with somebody/thing or other, most of the time. It's not usually their primary concern, but it is at least secondary concern for just about anyone.
- If you're okay with a character wrestling a dragon, swimming up a waterfall, balancing on air, or coming back from the dead, why is it getting some that strains your suspension of disbelief?
Of course, this doesn't mean that I want to foist sex upon the people in my group who aren't comfortable with it. But when somebody else wants to schmooze it up IC, you get to sit back and be polite about it, just like they do when you're going after your
(I suspect somebody will tell me this was covered in the "Sex in Gaming" episode, and it probably was. Sorry if I'm doubling back, I haven't listened to that one in a while, and I don't have it one hand.)
I loved the Douchebag of the week section this time around. We had a serial Novelist in our group, who never once completed a game because the players always got sick of not being able to have any solid impact on the plotline. She also, without fail, would throw in a GMPC with crippling emotional issues who flew off the handle every few sessions and needed to be stroked and coddled for an hour or two before we could move on with the plot. This character was, of course, absolutely central to the plot - much moreso than any of the PCs. The first time, I tolerated it because my character was a dirty old woman who was trying to score with the victim. By the next game, I had learned my lesson.
At the risk of carrying on about this one person, this GM also had the worst grip on player/character payoffs that I've ever encountered. In one game, I was playing a Healer (I know... sorry u.u;) apothecary who was a strong antitheist, who actively hated the god of the setting (one of your schizophrenic omni-deities; the pantheon were all aspects of the one god). I had spoken to her on numerous occasions about how excited I was that my charater would soon get his unicorn companion - the main reason I wanted the Healer is because it gives you a unicorn regardless of gender (hooray for ignoring senseless patriarchal bullshit!) - and how I envisoned the unicorn as a sort of spiritual guide and guardian for my character, a mentor much like the archetypical "wise old wizard" (a bit Dumbledore, a bit Gandalf... just not an arse. You know the type). I really
wanted this - every other level was just a stepping stone to unicorn city.
My unicorn was a bimbo religious apologist. He had a wisdom of like 26, but was still somehow dumber than a brick and twice as oblivious, and utterly unhelpful. She barely bothered to play him, except when he would whine passive-aggressively at my character to make him feel guilty about hating god.
The worst case was when one of our players had written a backstory for his chivalrous thief character, who had become a sort of pacifist (subdual damage, trips and disarms, etc.) after the accidental death of a woman he'd had a playful rivalry with (kids, don't fence on rooftops). We all understood why he'd crafted his story this way; the guy was a hopeless romantic shaped by a terrible event in his past. That's a pretty easy archetype, surely? But this GM proceeded to bring the woman back, saying she'd never really been killed in the first place (despite that the character had visited her grave regularly)... and turn her into the whiny self-insert NPC of choice. And an irredeemable bitch
At this stage, we don't play with this GM anymore - our styles are incompatible, to say the least - though we do keep encouraging her to work on her damned novels XP
Talen, on the other hand, is a great GM (I know I'm his wife, but fuck off - he is
!). For example, he knows I love the "recruiting" aspect of console RPGs such as the Suikoden
series, so when I took Leadership, he gave me the opportunity to develop relationships with NPCs during the storyline, who would move into my fortress and help run the place (rather than just having faceless mooks accrue at my stronghold because the feat says so). We have two mechatronic engineers in our group; Talen set up a plot which involved investigating the layout and construction of a particular building, letting one character in particular utilise his heavily-invested Knowledge (Architecture & Engineering) skill to gain various clues about what was going on. In one of your more "magepunk" games, our geeky inventor character was able to repair a tank we commandeered from an enemy group, and convert a Sunblade into a device that was basically a laser - in turn, she became renowned in the setting's canon for inventing such devices. Two of us played dedicated weapon/armoursmiths in our first game, and in games set hundreds of years later, we ran into items crafted by those characters which had become prized for their exceptional quality.
Writing this, it occurs to me that "payoffs" is pretty much synonymous with "fanservice". Anime had it right all along
Myself, I'm trying to be what I would think of as a "Director" GM. I do indeed strive to have an "epic plotline", but the whole point is that I want it to be almost entirely character-driven - I require plot hooks as part of character creation. I've organised my plot seeds by the characters they relate to, and noted all the ways I can imagine them turning out so I have at least a vague idea of how to adapt them to suit the players. A number of my NPCs are designed to be good guys by default, but have "negative" versions I can switch to if it seems that the players want them to be antagonists.
Time will tell whether or not I do a good job - this is my first game I'm currently running - but observing other GMs, particularly the success of Talen's games compared to the Novelist GM's games, made me realise very quickly how important payoffs are.
Indeed, that was one of the key factors in what I chose to run - it's using the Bleach
anime/manga setting. We have one particular player in our group who is tricky to please - he likes to keep his character fairly aloof and/or stoic, doesn't like being in the spotlight, and isn't very comfortable with teh drama - but when he got to make his signature weapon, choose its awesome fanboy-fodder name, and finally reveal its true form for the first time (complete with acting out how his character posed and spoke), "payoff" was written all over his face. As a GM, seeing him in that moment was tremendously rewarding ^_^
(*It's "you teach me and I'll teach you". But I'm sure somebody else pointed that out back when it was relevant.)