What do you think the value of contributions to a game is? Do you think it’s fair for the GM to give out experience or character points for contributions? If so, what qualifies? What about the informal value of contributions? Do they balance or unbalance a game?
I’m thinking that my ideas about contributions continue to change.
When I first began GMing Amber, I didn’t like contributions. Why? Only because I saw this as a place where Player commitment could “fall down” somewhere in the cycle of the game. Particularly in promises to make long-term efforts. I run games that last years.
I’m not comfortable with asking someone to do a ‘chore’ in order to validate their game experience.
Once online, I saw that other GMs had similar experiences. The rule-of-thumb became, experience points-on-delivery for game adds actually handed in. That made sense to me.
Time passes. Now I see something more of what Amber DRPG’s design did to change the way everyone looks at a RP game.
In the same way that I invest myself in a game I’m going to run. Players can invest themselves in a game they are going to play in. The joy shared is doubled.*
One of the biggest kicks for Players that I’ve debriefed about my games is feeling as though they’ve impacted the world. They’ve changed something. They’ve left a mark. What their characters did mattered.
And contributions can be like that.
They can also speed ‘sticky’ involvement. If I know your PC has a boyish face because of the Trump contribution you took the time to design, I can write that into our joint experience. Communication. Shared vision. If your Rebman is pale, or green, or blue, then it matters to You. If it matters to you, then I can make it matter to me.
Shared joy. Symbols of community.
If a twenty minute sketch graphic can invest a handful of people in how a place is laid out. Not only have I saved reams of explanation, but everyone will use the common points of reference so easily gained.
Does this unbalance a game? Hardly at all. Anything that makes interaction more confident is a plus. For each addition of energy to the game, one individual might get a reward, but everyone will gather reward as the GM capitalizes on that energy to deliver a more confident game environ.
If someone figures out a ‘game add’ that seems fitting—it confirms the GM’s vision. Confirms that the GM is getting ideas across. If someone proposes a contribution that doesn’t really help the GM, but seems to excite the Player—-well, that might need a closer look. This could become a reason to talk about what the gap is between Player excitement and GM hesitation.
Communication. Shared vision.
Given all the good, there is still something to be said about the downside.
Contributions should never change the starting premise of the game. If all players are starting with about the same points, contributions should not make you have to do a re-design of NPCs after six months. Contributions should not create a “have nots” class of PC. One Player’s handy set of mad Trump skillz should not leave other PCs diminished by steady collection of character points.
Balance to the original premise. That vision should only change because of things done Internal to the game, not External.