…and again.

Turn of a Friendly Die: WISH 5: Communication

Gaming requires the GM and players to communicate a large amount of information about system, plot, setting, character, and actions (among other things). There are a lot of places where a failure to communicate on the part of the GM and the players leads to disappointments for the GMs and the players. How do you deal with miscommunications and invalid assumptions as a player and a GM? Give one or more examples of situations and how you resolved them or how you are avoiding them.

One of the downfalls to freeform games is that a great deal is left open to interpretation by the reader, whether that reader is the player or GM. Add to that previous assumptions built on games with other players and gm’s, and you have a real mess right off the bat.
I’m no rules monkey, but I’ve found that I can have the storytelling freedom I want without throwing out every rule in the game… it’s like a sonnet — very strict rules, but complete freedom within if you know how to find it — some people find it terribly stifling, some find it freeing, allowing them to spend more time on the message and less on the structure.
Example: If you’re playing a structured game, you don’t have to deal with “I think my character should be tougher” or “well, I thought 4 hit points WAS tough enough against that guy” or “I really envisioned my fireball being bigger”. Sure, someone might say that, but the obvious answer is that there are clear rules for MAKING yourself tougher, your fireball bigger, or knowing if 4 hit points is ‘tough’, using the mechanics that everyone agrees on. If you didn’t do that, then tough noogies.
Now take the freeform rules: you thought you designed your character correctly, because the rules are vague and open to interpretation, and the gm didn’t have time to cover every frelling aspect of a day-in-the-life of your character, then we have a conflict based on failure to communicate.
The GM just needs to explain more? I’m in an Amber game right now in which the GM explains everything up to and including how far we can jump, what we can lift, and how long we can hold our breath, based off the same four stats everyone else uses… and we STILL manage to disagree on basic functions of the game system. That’s a hell of a lot of work when there are other systems that make the whole thing clear from the start.
Why work with a game system that starts you off on such a crappy footing, with extra work to do?
It all comes down to structure and rules for me — I hate arguing about them — not their interpretation, mind you — that can sometimes be refreshing as a mental exercise — but arguing whether or not the rule even exists makes my head steam. Pre-existing structure is good.
How do I avoid the problem? Well lately, I simply avoid GMing freeform games. Playing them — well, then it’s someone else’s headache. (Sometimes a headache caused by me, I suppose — there I go with those assumptions.)