So Dave who was on our Fiasco/Zombie Cinema review cast just posted this to his facebook page. I thought it was a good read.
I think the best thing about it, though, as I responded to Dave’s post, was just the idea of thinking about the characters vs. the players. The best thing you can remember as a GM is that, in most games of this style, you’re enabling the players to tell their story as much as you’re telling your own story.
Here’s the chart of it:
GM -(enables)> Players -(to Create)> Fiction -(using)> Characters -(with the)> GM
In words: the GM enables the players to create a fiction using their characters with the GM. The GM’s tools are the world, the NPCs, and the mechanics. The players’ tools are their characters, their character’s backstories and connections, their character’s stuff, and the mechanics. These tools, however, are all tools that everyone has access to, but that’s the way their generally broken down.
To me, the big question here, with regard to villains, is whether or not the actions of the villains advance the player’s fun/desires/story as well as or above the GM’s fun/desires/story. That doesn’t mean making it super easy on the players or letting them do whatever they want, etc., but it does mean letting them get what they want out of the characters and letting them have interesting relationships with the villains.
For example, in the “taking their stuff” comment, I think Rob makes a good point: when a villain “takes something” from a character, does it advance the story that the GM and the players are creating together? If so, then the player will probably be psyched to go get it back. I know I would. Conversely, does it take something cool about the character away?
Example- Player: “My character has this awesome sword which her father forged for her out of a dragons claw.” GM: “Now she doesn’t. Now Smidely McEvilwizard, the Big Bad, has it, and he’s using it against you.”
The problem with this is that the hypothetical player obviously felt that this sword was important to her character and now she doesn’t have it, and not in a cool “I must quest to retrieve it” kind of way, but in an arbitrary way. It’s kind of the whole thing about how what the players put on their character sheets is a way of telling you what they want to see in the game, right?
The “outshine” example Rob gives has some of this too. It seems a lot of this boils down to remembering that your players want to craft a cool fiction where, most likely, they do interesting, exciting, meaningful, important, or emotional things. They are usually dropping you huge hints on how they want to do this by how they create their characters. Your players will love to hate your villains if you work with them to create the fiction as opposed to against them. If you work against them, they’ll see the villains as Mary Sue manifestations of yourself in the game, and they’ll probably be right, and they’ll hate them in all the wrong ways for it.