More Meta-Fight Rewards for GMs

Yesterday, I continued my stream of RPG Blog Carnival posts by talking about about why many of the player rewards for participating in a fight didn’t apply quite as well when on the GM’s side of the screen. But what other sorts of rewards can a GM whose thing just isn’t combat look for or learn to love?

The joy of a plan well-accomplished. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the antagonists win, mind; in fact, sometimes it takes full advantage of the fact that the players expect to win and sneaks a more subtle victory into its existing loss. In fact, the more of a victory for the other side one is sneaking into its defeat, the more fun these things can be. The catch, though, is that this needs to be used sparingly; if the players are losing every time they win, at some point they’re just going to get sick of fighting.

“Be a fan of your players’ characters.” I got this one secondhand from one of my player/GMs, the same one responsible for yesterday’s quote, who in turn got it from Apocalypse world, but if it transmits it works, right? By investing ourselves in the awesomeness of the PCs, we allow ourselves to gain the benefits of being attached to a character’s success without knowing that the character will by necessity lose—all we have to do is provide sufficient room for the players to be awesome. The catch, of course, is that it still makes our satisfaction depend on our players’ behavior, and if they’re having a slow day or just can’t figure out how to work it in the context of this fight, we miss out on our GMing bennies.

Working wow. Okay, we can’t get the kinds of reactions a PC might get from the NPCs most of the time, but there are some ways in which a GM is expected to shine when running a fight. Environment, for one, is our job; choosing a setting that people will find worth it and making it That Much Cooler, so that, say, the city-sized corpse they’re pinging around in doesn’t just look like a generic Monster Innards Level from a video game, or they can say that they didn’t just fight a dinosaur, but an elemental dinosaur! So big the entire group could sit on its head! With trees growing out of its back and moss covering its sides! Similarly, one can get this kind of wow out of the kinds of revelations one sneaks into the fights, either spoken or implied through the behavior of the characters involved. Emotional reactions also work; if I can scare my group, or get strong indications that someone’s sniffling on the keyboard, or tick someone off enough that the caps lock goes on every time their fingers wander anywhere near the quote marks, I consider it a job well done.

I admit, I actually don’t have too many of these rewards; there’s a reason why my games tend to be combat-minimal, and it isn’t just that my players can talk their way out of almost any fight. What about you? What rewards do you specifically get out of running fights in your games?

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