Make it personal

15 March, 2008 at 11:24 am (actual play, game mastering) (, )

Since the Lemming had a post about this and some other blogs where he (or she) mentioned liking my GMing rambles, here is a new one.

Making the fictional events personal to player characters is a good idea. This blog post is not about that. Making things personal to players may make an excellent game or cause the entire thing to burn and crash. This is not the subject, either.


The first session of the post-apocalyptic game set in Finland has been played. (What is interesting that opusinsania ran a similar game not long ago; totally unfounded claims about spying were included in the session before play began.) I set the game to happen near Pori, because most of my relatives live in that direction and I have some familiarity with the area. To be more precise: a significant encounter happened in a location which I imagined as the home of my grandparents. This was a good thing for the following reasons: There was little fear of severe contradictions as I know where everything was and what everything looked like. Second, I had an emotional connection with the place: some of the player characters effectively assaulting the place was interesting to GM.

The session consisted of the characters saving the dog (named Fifi, as any dog tends to be) of one PC. The mood was not very dark (given a post-apocalyptic game), though one character did lose an arm at the very end. This was pretty traditional game in that there was background info the players know little about. Anyway. The relevancy of the dog.

Tara, the dog that lives with my mother and sister.

(Credit for the picture: My sister. Copyright her, I guess.)

I lived some years with Tara and still meet her at least once a month. I like dogs. Making the game about “rescuing” one means that it gets a n immediate reaction from me.


Make locations and events personal to you and you will certainly be interested in the game; the extra context the relevant elements give adds value. Enthusiasm is a likely consequence, and enthusiasm is a good thing.

Using actively painful elements might or might not work, but is certainly not adviced unless playing with close friends who can and are willing to take it.

Overall, this technique is useful for having a full, detailed mental image of something: A place, building, or person. Use it as you will. As an additional bonus, you get to know what a bunch of armed attackers would do if they wanted to attack your house. That might end up being useful.

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