Talking to the Combat-Reluctant GM

I’ve spent this week talking about the reasons why a GM might be prone to combat evasion, as a continuation of RPG Blog Carnival. No amount of knowledge, however, does any good without putting it to use. So what can you do if you’re looking for action but your GM isn’t enthused?

First, see if you can figure out where this disinclination comes from, particularly if it’s a recent development. Yes, one can’t always identify the exact causes, but observation, particularly of the combat scenes your GM does run, should at least be able to get you some decent guesses. Similarly, see if you can figure out what she likes about the scenes she runs, and whether that element can be replicated and introduced to the ones with which she is discontent. While this preliminary step isn’t required, it comes in handy when you start talking to your GM directly; a lot of people don’t look at themselves too carefully, so they might not actually be able to put reasons to their reluctance. Being able to suggest possibilities from your own observations of her work might give a GM otherwise unable to figure out what’s actually going on with her something to work with and try to verify.

(An important point: don’t be afraid to consider the possibility that you might be, or at least might highly contribute to, the problem. Frustrating players can be a major turn-off.)

Next, ask your GM if the frequency of combat scenes can be increased, and if not what the problem is. This is when your background comes in handy—at least, as long as you’re careful how you put forward your hypotheses. If you push too hard, your GM might feel pressured, but if it’s just a simple “this is an issue, what might we be able to do about it?”, it’s likely to go through pretty well. It’s important to both look for problems and try to look for incentives for the GM to fight more; all stick and no carrot makes for a very, very balky GM.

Most importantly, you need to be ready to help out once you’ve asked for the change, or at the very least to offer something else, like less obvious complaining about another sort of scene she likes, in exchange for the changes. Keep firmly in mind that the GM is probably already doing the bulk of the work in keeping the game going, and that actually thinking about changing her style generally means even more effort for what might come out to less reward. If it’s really that important to you, you should be ready to invest in the outcome you want, and if it turns out your behavior is part of the problem… well, you might want to think about whether that behavior is really worth it to you.

Have you tried this? How’d it go?

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