B is for Bold, Brave, Broke.


Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

The thing I love, love, love most about running roleplaying games is being surprised by the players (GMs are players too). When I GM, I don’t have a story to tell or a plot to keep. The kids now call it “Play to find out”. I love it.

B is about going for Broke! Don’t hold Back, be Brave, and leave it all on the table at the end of the session. Going for broke is about letting go and embracing the current fictional situation. I think about what I want from this character as its player. Where is the drama right now? My answer may not the best mechanical play, but if I trust the players ( and the GM is a player) I’m gonna let it rip!

Do not save the Big Bad. Do not protect the favorite NPC or that highly prepped plot. You’ve heard this all before. I play this way to be surprised. The story is what we have when we’re done playing. I don’t want to control the plot, the story, and I for sure ain’t trying to save it. In my experience if I go for broke each session; if I spend it all this session, right now I will have created the space for something new to take its place. Sounds all magical sparkly-like, right?

Gather round for storytime!

I once ran a game about a group of exiled dwarves in a strange land. These dwarves had various anti-dwarven-prince attitudes and enjoyed life without the prince around in this new land. The dwarf prince had gotten lost with half the exiles elsewhere in this new land. As sessions rolled by these PC dwarves began to sound like a gaggle of disgruntled haters to me. I thought the prince was probably fair and good. I wanted to show that and have the PC dwarves repent and beg for forgiveness! When the prince finally turned up the PCs straight-up murdered him…that same session! No speeches, no words, just murder. I didn’t stop it, I didn’t argue. No holding back. No body-double or resurrection shenanigans. I was sad, I put some work into the prince and then these trick-ass ducks…anyways, Now what?

Now, sweet, sweet nectar of drama! Multiple folks wanted to assume the power vacuum including some player-characters, more murder. The dwarven forge was held hostage for a time and murder. Unsettling times for these exiled dwarven peoples, strange agreements made with non-dwarf peoples. The prince dying opened up so many options for play we would have missed. Now the situation was something new, unknown, and unforeseen. Now we were playing in new uncharted territory.

As GM, I like to go all-in for the drama, for the thrills, the ups, and the risk that it all goes horribly wrong —and those are great stories. I do it because when it’s all spent and I’m prepping for the next session, Ron Edwards calls it: the New Now. My brain, and yours too, will see and/or create patterns in the aftermath. It will create connections in all those events and actions. There are new venues to discover and play in, I promise you! Just let it rip, and go for broke.

Players too!

“Let me die well” I’ll whisper to my dice then I cut loose! One of my best player moments was playing the Blue Planet RPG when my handcuffed character dives overboard to escape pirate kidnappers. I’m hoping the uplifted dolphin player comes and saves my bacon. The dolphin player did without prompting and this leads to the most awesome scene of a fastball special with me being launched at the kidnappers via dolphin throw from the water with a piece of sea rock as a weapon.

It’s what you want to do with your character, not what would my character do.

You gotta go for broke.

Play fearlessly.