Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #63 - Outsourcing



A quick N&B this week. Rather than dive deep into rules or setting I want to talk about execution at the game table. Specifically I want to talk about the fact that outsourcing is a good thing. Specifically I am referring to using outsourcing to keep play moving.

During combat for instance, GMs should delegate rule look ups to the players, it's the natural response for the GM to look up the rule in question, they are the arbiter of the game after all, but doing so stops play in its tracks. Instead GMs can simply ask a player to find it while they continue to run things. Likewise players should volunteer to take on these tasks, the GM is putting in a lot of work to run the game, and while we GMs enjoy the job, it is a job, helping to take some of that work off our backs, especially during the session, and even more especially during combat, is something we'll really appreciate.

Combat is where this will come up in most instances. It's the part of the game were the rules most often come up, and the part that often requires the most management by the GM. Need to know what some ability does? Get a player to look it up after they have taken their turn. It will keep them occupied, save you the effort, and allow you to keep running through the other PC and NPC combat actions, at least until you intersect with that question, at which point hopefully your helper will have found what you need.

This doesn't supercede the idea that a GM should be willing and able to simply state that "this is how it'll work tonight and I can look it up later" to keep things going over all, but for easy items that you are fairly certain are in the book, or for critical issues that you feel you probably just missed or need a refresher on, this will help to avoid slowing down the game to check the rules.

I've been blessed with my monthly Shadow of the Demon Lord game to have a bunch of GMs as my players. I discuss any rules changes I want to make at the start of the session and often get good feedback ideas. Likewise when combat comes up they are quick to jump in to look up what True Seeing does, or how blindness affects combat, and how both of those things intersect. It keeps combat rolling and is truly appreciated by me.

Outsourcing isn't just limited to rules issues however. How many times have you needed to determine the name of a town, NPC, ship, or the like and found yourself unprepared? At times you can quickly rattle something off, but sometimes you come up blank. When you do, try asking a player to provide the name. This can work for all manner of details that you didn't think to prepare ahead of time. It also has the added benefit of giving the players a stake in creating the world. That in turn can make then care about the world more.

Next time you are running a game and something comes up that you need to crack the book for, or you need a detail about the world that you hadn't considered, have a player do it if possible. Give it a try and see how it works for you. It may help to make for a better session for all involved.