Thursday, April 5, 2012

Are you sure you want to do that?

Apparently I ask this question too much. I was cleaning up an old mailbox from my Moria game and came across one of the email post-session discussions we had. In the context of figuring out why the group sometimes took a long time to decide on a course of action, my use of this phrase came up. One of the players said it pretty much stopped the group in its decision-making tracks. I was pretty surprised by that reaction, and came back with why I used that particular turn of phrase. I usually say it for one of three reasons:

  1. As a general query for the group to affirm that everyone is on board with the chosen course of action (or at least not loudly opposed). It's a way for me to check in and be sure everyone is going along with the plan. 
  2. In situations where an individual is taking an action that doesn't sound sensible based on my perception of the situation. My intent here is to insure the player and I are on the same page. It may seem like this precedes something bad happening because if the player and the GM aren't on the same page, the odds of bad stuff go up significantly. 
  3. In situations where an action has a binary state: either you do it or you don't. For example trying a weird key in a lock. It's an action that requires committing the key to the lock. No half measures, no cheesy "I did, but only half way" stuff. Once you do it there's no turning back. 
The net result of the discussion was two-fold. First the group had a better understanding of what I was trying to accomplish with the question. This helped them feel less threatened by the phrase and keep moving. Second, it forced me to look at how I phrase things to be sure I'm not messing with the player's heads unintentionally. The biggest change for me has been in case two above. I've really tried to alter my phrasing so I get to the heart of the perception mismatch instead of questioning the player's judgement. It's funny how the little things you do out of habit affect perceptions of the game.

Image courtesy of Colin_K:

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