Recently, in a bout of what may be seen as either genius or extreme desperation on my part, I convinced people to play “The Quiet Year“. You should go check it out if you haven’t already, but in very broad strokes it is essentially a pen and paper RPG without a single person acting as GM. Now, as the person who typically takes the GM mantle, I entirely support this as an option. I love being the GM, I love the challenge of developing a story that people find interesting, compelling, and complicated. I like to challenge people. Sometimes, however, I also like to play on the other side of the fence. Now, for those who have listened to our Actual Plays before know that there are several people in our gaming group who like to play powerful characters and to work the system in their favour. Its just part of the culture of our gaming group. So, when I laid everything out for The Quiet Year (and bribed everyone with cake!), it was with more than a little trepidation.
After a short period of getting people used to what was going on, and slowly stressing the idea that we are supposed to not just solve all the problems and make everything better, there was a wonderful moment where it just kind of clicked for everyone. After a short period of people genuinely trying to just solve problems in the community, they began to create problems too. People became invested in the different groups in the community. We had, specifically, a community of many ages which had adopted a fascinating social structure but had tensions between the youth and the more senior members of the settlement we had created. People died. There was buy in. It was everything I had hoped it would be.
The lesson here, is that sometimes you just need to put the game down in front of people and ask them to try it with you. Ask them to try something new and a bit different. Then just let the chips unfold where they may. The results can surprise you.