Game Leading

The job of Game Leading is complex and difficult, requiring hard work before, during and after the game. It is also thankless because if you are doing it right no one will notice, but if you get it wrong everyone sees your mistake. This not strictly speaking correct; the Game Leader notices when everything goes well. The satisfaction of watching players become scared of the dark or find emotional depth in a character which ten minutes ago was just a blank piece of paper is second to none. The pleasure from those moments when a Game Leader gets it right is worth all the hard work.

What Game Leading Is Not About

A Game Leader needs to be many different things. They need to be creative, be a fair adjudicator, a diplomat when personalities clash, a story teller, an event organiser, an actor and an encyclopedia of rules. But there is one thing the Game Leader is not.

They are not in charge.

The Game Leader does not tell people what to do. They are not masters of the game who lay down the law and decide how the game will be played. Their word is not final. They are just one of the players around the table who collaborate to create a game world. The only difference between the Game Leader and the other players is that instead of playing a character the Game Leader plays the whole world.

Setting Resistances

One of the most common tasks for a Game Leader is to set the resistance against a character's action. If there is a combat situation and a monster involved this is straightforward and the resistance is set based on the creature's potential and advantages. Outside of combat it can be less clear cut. When the Game Leader is having to ad-lib or the characters are doing something unexpected there may be no monster sheet or clear guidance to the appropriate difficulty.

Game Leaders should simply trust their judgement. Pick up whatever seems an appropriate number of dice and roll them. If the task seems a tall order for the character, roll lots of dice; if it should be easy, roll less. The game's rules have been specifically designed to support this quick and easy approach. Game Leaders should avoid getting bogged down in checking rules, especially for rolls of little importance. If the outcome has the potential to significantly change the direction of the narrative it is appropriate to pause for a reasonable amount of thought and discussion with the group before deciding on the resistance.

The Art of Leadership

90% of what it takes to be a good Game Leader are the same skills it takes to lead a group of people in any situation. Players wishing to develop their game leading skills are strongly recommended to investigate the mountain of books and web sites on the subject of leadership. Conversely, if you wish to develop your general leadership skills, taking on the role of Game Leader will provide valuable experience.

Set An Example

Leaders do not tell people what to do, they set an example others choose to follow. In role playing, specifically in the 6d6 RPG, a friendly atmosphere is needed where players can exchange ideas, discuss and disagree without fear of criticism or censure. To build a group where this is possible the Game Leader must set an example with their own behaviour.

Build A Space

The two biggest killers of creativity and motivation are too much space and too little space. Faced with an endless blank sheet of paper, even the best creative minds struggle as the infinite possibilities overwhelm them. Too little space and there is no room left for creative ideas. Frustration and disillusionment follow from either situation. Creating a space where there are limits but with plenty of scope for creativity and self-expression is key to keeping a group happy. This is the difference between a boss who sets a goal for their employees and a boss who micro-manages the way their employees work. Both groups may complete the work but those employees who are given a goal and the space to complete it in their own way will be happier and more productive.

To forge a creative space Game Leaders develop game worlds. The world needs to be defined with a theme, concept or genre which the players can understand but the world also needs areas in which the players may explore their own ideas. This creative space only exists within the players' minds and can just as easily be called permission. Good Game Leaders give their players permission to be creative and self-expressive in ways which enrich the game world, especially in how they play their character, the character's back-story, their actions and how the character uses and combines their advantages. Whenever a Game Leader ignores an idea or prevents the player from expressing themselves though actions and advantages, they are constricting the space and denying the permission to be creative. Every creative space needs limits and not everything can fit in the same space but the Game Leader must always be aware of how their decisions about what is and is not permissible change the nature of the creative space.

Recognise Good Ideas

Leaders need to be creative. There will be times when only the leader can supply an idea or solve a problem but these times are rare. Leaders must be able to recognise good ideas when they come from other people and also have the self-confidence to drop their own ideas when presented with a better solution. Adopting other people's ideas is not a sign of weak leadership, it is a sign of a strong leader.

Role playing attracts creative minds and around any game table there is a sea of ideas. The chances of the Game Leader having the best solution to a problem are small which is why it is not the Game Leader's role to decide everything. Leaders should present their own ideas and solutions to the group but when a better solution is found the Game Leader should be quick to recognise it. This sets an example to the group that decision making is not about egos but about good ideas, and helps build the creative space by giving players permission to find answers to any problem the group faces.


Good leaders listen to their groups in many different ways. They accept feedback without taking it as criticism, setting an example of good behaviour which others can copy. They also listen to what the group is saying amongst themselves. Many good ideas are buried in casual conversations as throwaway remarks. Most importantly, a leader remembers listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is an active process where the listener seeks true understanding of what is being communicated and does not let their own filters and biases distort the meaning.

Let Others Lead

Just like their characters, each player has their own set of abilities, areas where they are strong and areas where they are weak. Leaders are no different. They are not experts at everything and more often than not they are experts at nothing except being a leader. A good leader knows this and recognises when different skills are needed. Faced with a task or problem where they themselves are not the best person for the job, the good leader will happily follow and support whoever is most suited.

For Game Leaders this is accepting another person's idea, recognising someone else may know the rules better or has particular knowledge which is relevant. Once again this sets a good example to the group but more importantly it is at the heart of the game's decision making process. The group decides what advantages are appropriate and the Game Leader must be comfortable with letting others take the lead in this process.

Stay Focused on the Prize

All groups become discouraged or distracted at some points. Personalities clash, group membership changes and enthusiasm wanes. Leadership is about spotting when this is happening and not allowing it to overwhelm the group. The leader keeps their eyes on the goal and keeps pushing the group forward. This may require a level of self-sacrifice, putting the needs of the group before personal benefit.

For the Game Leader the prize is a happy group of players who enjoy the game - nothing more and nothing less. Within this there is scope for the Game Leader to experiment with personal goals and ambitions but these are secondary to the needs of the group as a whole. This is not the same as giving the players whatever they want. The Game Leader defines the creative space and must at times resist the will of the players to maintain the integrity of the space for the collective good.

Rules of the Game

The rules written in this book are not the final word on how to play the 6d6 RPG. They are the starting point for discussions. Groups and Game Leaders are free to ignore anything and everything in this book. The aim of the game is to have social and creative fun and anything which interferes with this aim should go.

This is not to say the book in your hands is pointless. Role playing needs a way of making decisions about the course of the narrative. Does someone die? Do the good guys win? Does the hero escape? Rules create a framework for making those decisions, including how much randomness is involved. When a group decides to play a game such as the 6d6 RPG they are agreeing on what decision-making framework will be used. There is no reason why the group cannot amend the framework if there is consensus to do so.

Every time the group considers the appropriateness of an advantage in an action they are making a decision about the rules and how they are applied. This is why it is a group decision and not one left to the Game Leader. Should any player feel the rules need changing it should be approached in the same way, by making a suggestion and explaining why it is appropriate before letting others state their views and discussing it until a consensus is found.

Rules, like advantages, are dependent on the situation. What is appropriate in one set of circumstances may not work in another. Groups may happily tweak and change things on a case-by-case basis and not feel the need to conform to previous decisions. The only limit on what can and cannot be done to the rules is that of consensus. Without consensus a change is not fair and if rules are considered unfair the overall fun and enjoyment of the game may be harmed.

Open-Book Gaming

To form a consensus, everybody needs access to the same information. The Game Leader must explain the monster's actions and justify advantages in exactly the same way as the players do for their characters. Similarly, being able to see how much potential a character has available gives the Game Leader an unfair edge in combat. The Game Leader must let the players see the monster's potential or inform them when asked about it. This keeps it fair for the players and better represents what the characters can see. A creature with little or no potential is one which is occupied in another task and an easy target.

The need to keep players informed about creatures' potential, advantages and the Game Leader's dice rolls has led 6d6 to adopting an open-book approach to leading the game. For the most part the Game Leader does not hide monster sheets and other paraphernalia away from the players. It is a literal open book. Not all information is shared with the players, being surprised is part of the fun of role playing; but most of the Game Leader's information does not need to be secret. Game Leaders are encouraged to give players a quick overview of a monster's abilities before a fight. It speeds the game up and also reflects the characters' abilities to judge and assess danger that is hard to replicate in purely descriptive terms. Ultimately players need to be trusted not to abuse the situation nor to act on information their character does not possess. If your players cannot be trusted in this way it may be time to find new players.

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open/mechanics/core/gameleadersjob.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/06 10:39 by tregenza
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The 6d6 RPG tabletop store is owned and operated by Chris Tregenza. Who also owns and runs Myomancy, a site about ADD / ADHD medication, Autism and Dyslexia Treatments and also site called Poosk. Chris also provides copy-writing, web design SEO advice to sites like Dingles' Games pathfinder rpg resources.