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Recently, I’ve got my Geist chronicle off the ground and the first two sessions went really well. And while I’m still plotting the course of this adventure, I am already looking into the future (remember my 1886 post?). I mean, a GM just can’t help it: the flow of ideas is unstoppable, and holding it back would just backfire sooner or later.

One of the thoughts that struck me today was the following: how can I give players more influence on shaping not just the course of the campaign, but also the world itself. Even though the player characters will do things that change a town, city or sometimes a nation, such things only happen on a rare occasion as the conclusion of a storyline. What tools could I give my companions to let them shape the world around their alter egos?

Well, the easiest thing I could do is tell them to come up with parts of the world. Let’s say one of them wants to play an elf sorcerer, but nothing in my setting notes has covered elves or their attitude towards sorcery yet. I could tell the player that he can create a little write-up about those topics, send them to me via mail and I will work with them. Using stuff your players created in your adventures gives them the feeling that they are involved in the creation process, but leaving things out might make them question why they did “all the work” in the first place.

In addition to that, this doesn’t give players actual influence on the changes in the world. But how would one go on doing that? Creating some kind of strategic downtime game in which the players take control of the powerful nations, vying for control of an unclaimed area? It surely sounds like an interesting idea, and I will see with what I can come up…

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We all know them: player archetypes. As humans, we try to categorize every part of our daily life, and so we also try to put gamers into different “boxes”, based on their behavior at the table. Players who fine-tune their characters are often called power-gamers, and those who like to really live their second identity get the title of “method actor”.

There are many ways to identify certain playing styles and preferences, but my favorite way has its origins in another geeky hobby: Magic – the Gathering. I’m not an active player of that far too awesome and expensive card game anymore, but I still remember the Timmys, Johnnys and Spikes. These three archetypes will be the focus of my mini-series “Labeled Boxes”. In this series, I will clarify these three categories, and tell you how to handle them at the table. Today, we’ll start with Timmy.

Well, this might be the wrong Timmy..

Well, this might be the wrong Timmy..

Back in the days, I loved to play Magic just for the fun of it. My decks were anything but highly efficient, and when they harbored a logical combination of cards, it was by pure coincidence. Losing was no problem for me, as long as I could play with these beautiful cards, and see what my adversaries had up their sleeves. Back then, I was an archetypical Timmy.

A Timmy plays the game purely for the fun and the whole experience. In role-playing games, a Timmy doesn’t care about maximized statistics, effective multi-classing or picking the right magical items. All a Timmy wants is to see his character in action, and see how the world around him reacts to that.

For the most part, Timmys don’t tend to cause trouble at the table. They’re no attention-seeking players who demand more screen time, or number-crunching munchkins who get bored when they can’t show off their awesome skills for five minutes. However, a Timmy can annoy a party on a whole different level, simply by not caring enough about stuff. Losing against the vile necromancer? Oh well, just a minor setback. I mean, we all had fun…right?

In a party filled with players who care about achieving things, a Timmy can cause quite some drama. On the other hand, it is a Timmy who brings that certain amount of tranquility and easy-going attitude to a group. It will be your party’s Timmy who cheers up the rest of the group after an elaborate plan didn’t work out as intended.

So how can you challenge a player who is there for the fun? Well, give him stuff he considers “fun”. Many Timmys enjoy combat, especially when it contains flashy stuff. Let a Timmy fight against an undead orc sorcerer who shoots his magic missiles out of his eyes, instead of letting him clobber Goblin number two hundred and forty-five. Other Timmys consider it the pinnacle of joy when they witness some fantastic location that seems too unreal to be…well, real. Just make sure your Timmy has something that keeps his attention where it should be, and you shouldn’t have a problem with your fun-lovin’ criminal.

Well, next up: the Johnny. Stay tuned!