Friday, January 16, 2015

GMing Back to Basics: Gming with very Basic Mnemonics - Active Listening GMing

The most basic mnemonic of GMing is being a good listener. Effective and Scientific Communication Skills are easy to take for granted - but there is a Science and Study on how often we fail to communicate - just some "house cleaning" about our communication habits would be a huge help our GMing or Playing.

Going back to Listening as GMing. Active Listening GMing, means the GM will restate his understanding of the Character and the Player's through a Narrative. Instead of restating what you understand in other words: you do it in a narrative. 

Player "Carlos believes in integrity, but does not care much for loyalty to any one individual."
GM (w/ Active Listening) "So how does that work? How does he seperate the sense of integrity vs personal loyalty to an individual" 
GM (w/ Active Listening GMing) "Carlos' works for Damien, a just and fair Patron. But Damien has certain expectations from his Agent, Carlos. Particularly Discretion, and begin talking to Carlos in private about his loyalties. Particularly what lines he would not cross for him, Damien his master."

Instead of Explaining or Restating. Work the question and conflict into the present situation (no time like the Present). 

What happens next is basically the GM taking the time to do this with every player. On their turn, he does this kind of Active Listening, and with every player his connects each one until he comes up with a narrative that involves them all. 

This method is so basic and fundamental, you can use it even if the characters are not together. The narrativistic Active Listening works and keeps the game fun when everyone discovers interesting things about each other and can make connections. 

I do realize this is the mnemonic I use when I run games. When I have the anxiety and doubt about what I can achieve in the narrative for the session, this method powers me through because who doesnt want the attention and the importance the GM gives to them in such a method? 

Other Tips: 
  • Like in Active listening: Keep asking, and try to get a picture. You ask what they want to do, while informing them of the extent of the situation where their character would be privy to. 
  • When the player explains and narrates a lot: Thats Great! (They're involved!) You save time by "Yes-&/But", basically agreeing but adding conditions ("...But") or complications ("...And"). Agree basically (while informing them of some particularities their charater would have considered for the optimum response). This way you give everyone as much attention as possible. 
  • When you ask for a roll, leave the player to set it up for you while you Start on the NEXT Player. This saves time and gets the game moving.  This technique grants a lot of Trust to the Players, reciprocating the Trust they place on the GM. 

Emphasis on Understanding.

Active listening is not better communications and not just simply having more data out of the other person. it is about having a deeper level of understanding and awareness. It is to gain understanding far greater than the sum of the words, Ideas, and non-verbal communication exchanged. 

Its the difference of a simple fact - ex. "Tom likes Jonie" vs "Tom is attracted to Jonie in a way that many of his negative compulsions arise and he is his worse self. Something about Jonie makes him more unstable, cynical, and sees the worse in people. In the same way Jonie enables this, despite Jonie's best intentions and attempts to correct and reverse this." 

Such great understanding its almost lke Cold Reading, but its through mutual trust that guards are down and good faith is assumed. 

It follows the Sun Zi tenet of "Know yourself, and know the Enemy" but instead of Enemy its just the other person. Its to better predict what the other person will want or do and how to best match that want with your own strengths. The "ultimate" strategy always boils down to the primary variables: which is people and being able to predict and react to what they are about to do or want. 

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