My open-ended gaming experience


I'm currently playing a game with an open-ended GM. He has a world and a timeline of major events, but everything else is pretty much left to the group.

In this world demons are controlling elves and other sentient "good" creatures and their army is wiping out kingdoms.

My character is the only one with ties to anything. I am playing a knight of the church and I keep getting sent on missions for said church. Of course, the rest of the party tags along because it'd suck if we split up and went our separate ways.

The demons come in various forms and the ones that we have seen erupt from their host's throat when the host body is killed or becomes useless.

The missions that we are going on are driving us apart more than anything else. We got sent to slaughter a caravan of possessed people, including children. We did so but not one of them had a demon pop out.

We went back to the church, angry and disgusted over what we had done, and confronted the Council of High Bishops who told us that demons come in all shapes and forms and may not all burst out when the host body is killed.

They sent us on another mission against soldiers lead by a demon. These soldiers turned out to be the Queens guard, lead by the queen of the neighboring country, which the church is at war with.

We only killed a couple of the guard and captured the queen (who was unharmed outside of the knot on the back of her head from being donkey punched into unconsciousness). We sent the guards hoofing it butt naked across the wilderness and are in the process of bringing the queen back to my church.

The problem is that half of the group are from that neighboring country and this is their queen. None of us believe that she is a demon, although we know that she is a magic user and magic has been outlawed by the church as demonic in nature. Not only that but we have another knight of the church, his squire, and three other soldiers who all want her executed on the spot, as per our orders.

The party is about to disintegrate in a gory explosion of conflicting ideals and I don't see how to stop it. If I side with the other PCs and free the queen, after killing off the other half of the party (no easy task), than I will have forsaken my character's entire life's work in the church, all my vows, and my father's memory.

On the other hand, if I try to bring the queen back to the church then I run the risk of being caught between both parties. Even if I make it and successfully bring her back, I'd need to have proof that she was a demon before letting them take her, which I doubt they'd do.

I don't look forward to having to fight my way out of our church's equivalent of the Vatican, especially as we are on war standing and have an entire army surrounding the city with nothing to do.

And if I side with the church I'll end up killing off the other PCs. None of them are a threat to me in combat. But that'd suck both in and out of the game (one of the other players is my wife and killing her character would definitely not be good for our marriage!).

I understand that a large part of the problem lies with the GM. He didn't have his world created when we started making our characters, he put us in a position that causes strife and conflicts of interest within the group, he started running his first fantasy campaign in a system that he has never played, and he left the game so open that we continually do things that he isn't prepared for and has a hard time reacting to.

I think that if this was a linear game as opposed to the open ended style of play, it'd be a better game. It'd give the GM more control over what happens and would cut down on a lot of problems.

Of course, more preparation would have helped immensely.

he put us in a position that causes strife and conflicts of interest within the group

Do you think he is doing so deliberately? It certainly sounds so. On the face of it, the episode with the caravan of children that you were sent to slaughter sounds too much like a set-up to be called 'open-ended'.

Some GMs get their kicks from causing party strife. Now I happen to think that a little internal friction in the party is a good thing, and I think the 'malevolent PC' angle can work well if handled carefully and players are mature enough to have their PCs react in a realistic fashion.

The problem is when the logical conclusion of the internal dissent is the collapse of the campaign in any playable sense. As long as things remain playable and the dissent doesn't spill out into real life, it can be a nice piece of roleplaying.

Trouble is, if you have a 'strife is fun' GM and that's his primary way of getting enjoyment from the game himself, then he will keep cranking up the pressure until he gets the huge explosion that he wants....

Then the campaign gets shelved as it has become unplayable. So he starts up another one. I've seen this happen more than once.

From what I know this GM isn't like that. He's ran dozen of great campaigns in Shadowrun and just made the switch to running a full-time fantasy campaign with a GURPS.

He seems lost.

I've tried running a game for him to teach him the systems and all, but he doesn't want to play.

Oh well, we'll figure something out...

Hmmmmm. As I recall, Shadowrun has more of an 'implied setting' than GURPS. Maybe that's why he's a bit lost.

From what I can tell it's lack of preparation before running the game. He didn't study or play in the game system before having us make characters and he only had a vague idea of the game world.

If he knew the game system better than he could challenge us more without overdoing it. If he had the world designed more or better, than we'd have more options for character creation.

And lastly, if he had the campaign thought out in advance, he could have steered us towards characters that would have more of a reason to work together.

He tells me that he prefers running games to playing them, but then he flounders and chokes with the game. He is a good GM with Shadowrun, probably due to the information on the world that he got through the sourcebooks and novels, like you said.

I guess that I just wish he'd work with me a bit. Let me help him create the world. Let me run him on an adventure or two.

So much potential... such a waste...

Since you gave him a seal of approval as a good Dm, I cant see any other reason then "bad prep time" or "lack of notes"

Again...if you are going to have an open game it must have enough documnetation to stand alone. The mistake I think on would make in making notes for an open game- is writting to much about the little things.

in a linear game, each step of the way is ually jammed with action or diaolog between PCs n NPCs. the Gm has every moment lined when making an open game, the GM tends to take that much time with small situations like a walk to the store (placing somthing everywhere along the way, trying to pack in detail and action) when alls he needed to do was note where the store was, who owns it, and what do they sell...a walk to the store dosnt have to be an adventure...nore does passing every open game can allow alot of movment that dosnt just provide action the second you get there (like a linear game often does). In an open game its often that you find yourself in a tame place, or a safe land...the GM is not forced to fill your time with jumping monsters and minute by minute gotta go find it.

This guy prolly tried building somthing too fast and thought it was like keeping linear notes (which are just story pages with numbers and multible choices randomly put along the way). He shoulda spent time building at lest a small city or a country side village before letting you loose inside his creation.