Let's Play The Pool---Towards the Night

I’m going to be honest, in a very raw way. I’m shitting myself at the only thought.
I have a deep-seated fear of… well, let’s say a lot of things commonly associated with the process of gamemastering. Still, I want to learn and approach. I will not shy away from something only because it’s out of my comfort zone.

I thought about “which game?” a lot, but when @Froggy suggested The Pool, I checked it out and found it interesting, so I thought I might as well begin from The Pool. I have some ideas about the kind of mood I’d like to go for, but it’s not like I carved it in stone.

What do I do now?

Wow, I mustered the courage to actually write this. Now let’s see what happens next.

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It’s not clear to me whether you’re asking for help on how to practically go about writing your LFP or if you need more general advice. Or if you just expect people to sign up. What is the case?

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The first step I recommend to whoever volunteers for the GMing tasks is carving in their head the following key points:

  1. You aren’t the Qualiy Assurance’s department. You don’t have to provide an experience nor certify the success at the table. It’s responsibility of everyone joining the activity.
  2. As any other game or artistic endeavour, you will get better. Start from the assumption that you’ll make mistakes and that’s totally fine. No one pays you nor you must perform in front of an audience. Will it suck? I don’t know, but it’s enough pulling out the ego from the equation and simply discuss what happened, learn, and move on. Tabletop RPGS are instruments/tools: each game is different and you must learn something new every time about how they work; it’s the same pleasure of learning to play the piano or the guitar. And like piano and guitar, everyone sucks at the beginning.

If you like, we can discuss any other detail and clarification about The Pool. But 1 and 2 are the starting points.If you remember 1 and 2, there is no fear.

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I was about to write something similar to Alessio’s post, but he beat me to it! @LordPersi, I really love how you phrased this.

GMing is not that different from not GMing, it’s just a slightly different role. You already know how to do it, the less you stress about it, the better.

What I usually tell people is, e.g. if we’re four people at the table, “The GM doesn’t have more than a quarter of responsibility for how the game goes, and we don’t have less than a quarter of responsibility”.

How to get started: I suggest making the Start Document that I describe on my custom version of The Pool. This can also be used as a good “hook” to find players that are interested in the same tone and aesthetics.

I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours.

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Independently from what are you concerns, I always recommend reading Understanding The Pool by Ron Edwards to begin with. It’s the best and most complete introduction to the game I currently know. Perhaps, the document will answer to one of your questions.

Understanding_The_Pool.pdf (267.1 KB)

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Towards the Night — Philippe Soupault

It’s late
in the shade and in the wind
a cry rises with the night

I don’t wait for anyone
to nobody
not even to a memory

The hour has long passed
but that cry that the wind carries
and push forward
comes from a place that is beyond
above the dream

I don’t wait for anyone
but here is the night
crowned by fire
from the eyes of all the dead

And everything that had to disappear

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Cool! That actually works. I usually do a paragraph of prose, but this is perfectly good. Let’s see if anyone gets interested.

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This is a great initiative!

The Pool is both a simple and a challenging game, in different ways. I think everyone has a slightly different way to play it, but it’s got a delightful clarity in design and procedures. It’s simple and powerful.

I will add this:

I think that one untouched frontier of RPG play is the idea of co-GMing. There have been a few experiments, but nothing too mainstream, and I think it’s something that has a lot of potential.

While GMing isn’t too different from playing, in some ways, it can also require a lot more than 25% of the weight of participation (to comment on the above). I’ve found a really nice balance with two GMs in a series of experiments I tried with a friend during the pandemic. It’s something I’m quite keen to explore more, but few have agreed to take me up on it!

This can work in terms of “two people together GM the game, as equal participants” or more like “here’s a coach sitting beside you whom you can tap for help at any time”.

I would potentially be willing to participate in a such a role, if time permits.

Of course, you can’t just jump into that without some thought. You need to have a clear sense of how the two GMs are going to interact. Still, there are some very basic and workable arrangements. I’ll give just two examples:

  • One GM runs the game, more or less as usual, but they only worry about the fictional content. The other GM is a facilitator, helping move the game along, remind people of next steps, and handle all the rules content (traits, dice, conflicts, etc).

  • One GM runs the game, handling scene framing and rules application. The other GM plays all the NPCs.

I think some kind of co-GMing arrangement could be a great way to learn to GM (as well as just being fun to play, as well! The balance can feel really good) and to take some of the pressure off.

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Usually, if I’m playing in a game of The Pool, I’m facilitating, whether I’m GMing or not—for the mere fact that I’m usually the most expert player. I definitely agree with some of what @Paul_T said, although personally I wouldn’t be OK just facilitating for an entire game. I’d just make my own character at that point. Other subdivisions of GM tasks can work.

For example, a “Historian GM” could handle the backstory and world details, while a “Driver GM” would handle resolving and narrating outcomes (when no MoV is chosen) & situating NPCs in their current goals, locations, and decisions. The Historian GM would then be the one that prepares the situation, and then will present it during the session for the Driver GM to actively play. The Historian GM will make decisions on any backstory elements that become relevant during play.

You could even have an arrangement where there both GMs can assign a single Gift Die on top of a baseline of 1—yielding a range of 1–3 like in my version of the game—and they have to choose independently.

I think this can be a wonderful exercise to figure out the difference between different functional types of authorities, and I don’t think it messes with the baseline game too much.

I am less convinced about two people co-GMing without a definite split in tasks. You better be real chummy with that person! And even then, I think it kind of defeats the fun in having another person do it, if you just have to agree on everything to move the game forward. It’s like playing a guitar with one person strumming and the other person fretting.

This is getting a bit off topic though. I’ll split the conversation soon. Feel free to answer below, but try to keep your answers separate between the current thread and the idea of The Pool co-GMing.

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Good reply here, Claudio. I agree on most of that, and I’ve brainstormed various possible splits - there are lots and lots of ways to do this. I should dig up my list somewhere! Simply alternating scene by scene works, as well.

I also wouldn’t find being a facilitator to be particularly fulfilling for my own creative ambitions, but it would be a nice way to help someone learn the ropes of running a game. (And, depending on the particular game, it could be more or less involved, technical, or interesting.)

I like having each GM contribute (or not) a single die. That’s a great idea (you could even develop some themes in play by having each GM have their own criteria or goals).

For the purposes of this thread, I’d encourage Syd to run the game on their own and to have a great time! But, also, consider co-GMing as a way to learn just some aspects of GMing and reduce the responsibility/pressure. It could be useful to practice playing NPCs, for instance - there will be different considerations than playing a PC, and learning and practicing those could be a really useful skill.

I am sort of volunteering here (I don’t know if time will permit, but otherwise, I’m willing), but if you have a friend or colleague who you know and trust, consider pitching the idea to them, as well. (Assuming the idea is appealing in the first place, of course; nothing wrong with jumping in and doing it all yourself! That’s how most of us did. I think I only played in one and a half sessions of RPG play before I became the GM for my group, and I even have a friend who was asked to run a game by his friends, who had a D&D campaign on the go, even though he’d never played an RPG before at all! That’s hilarious to me. So, yes, as Alessio says, it will be fine, remember his two points :wink: )

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All of the discussion so far has been interesting and no doubt helpful, but let me offer you some extremely practical advice for getting this off the ground, @coelicidium : one way in which the GM or facilitator or organizer actually does have to be a sort of dictator is in terms of scheduling.

To put it bluntly, if you want to recruit players, post a list of times when you are willing to run the game. I recommend aiming about 2-3 weeks ahead—that’s far enough to give people time to block out their schedule, but not so far ahead that you’re likely to be derailed by stuff that comes up in between (“oh, turns out that weekend is my mom’s 80th birthday party…”). Also say what medium you’re using (I like Zoom, personally, but there are lots of options), how many people you want, and how long you expect the session to go.

Nailing down those practical steps is just as necessary to becoming a GM as mastering, say, scene framing.

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Uh! Let me put my thoughts in order for all of you.

@LordPersi I needed to hear these two points. I’ll do my best trying to get them in my brain and make them stay locked in place. Remind me in case I forget.

@Paul_T it’s an idea I toyed with since I rolled dice for the first time. I agree on virtually everything that has been said on the necessity of a clear distinction of tasks; if not the tasks, for sure the timing and the scheduling. I can see it happening. I have to think further about applying it in this instance, but on a more general note, I’m into it. Feel free to contact me anytime, I would be happy to hear your ideas/proposals/whatever’s going on in your imagination. I have more to say, but a dedicated topic is the place for those words.

@Deliverator I cannot stress enough how vital this type of information is. Golden advice, for real. Why the heck are logistics so overlooked?!

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It’s a Geek Social Fallacy, in my opinion: wishful thinking / hand-waving; if we all want to be able to play, surely we’ll find a way to do it. Let’s not worry about that mundane shit that mundane boring people care about; we’re nerds!

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