Creating Space

A couple of things came together for me today and as per usual, in my head they turned into ideas about making stories about imaginary people even MORE exciting.

I've been re-reading Harrison Owen's Open Space Technology, which describes a type of meeting ("Open Space") that I've been dying to run for years. Yeah, it's weird. I wouldn't really care what the meeting was ABOUT, I just find the process so thrilling to consider that I just really want to see what it's like in "real life".

"The job of the facilitator is to create the time and space in which the group can realise its potential."

Also Steph was talking about what she loved about the book club she was part of back in Vancouver: that it was a place where each and every person was given time and space to speak and to share their ideas. She loved helping the group create that space, and found it extremely rewarding to be part of what they created.

Naturally I immediately thought of Dungeon Mastering.

I don't think it's quite as big a leap as it may appear to be. The job of the DM, after, is to create space and time for the players -- both in the imaginary sense by describing the scenes and characters encountered, but also in the actual, "real-world" sense. When the players come together at the table, and begin to interact, the DM has to manage the social situation, making sure that everyone around the group gets their chance to shine. While at the same time describing scenes that will give the players chances to do what they each long to do.

Great DMs listen to their players and identify what they need in order to realise their potential. EVERYONE at the table will have more fun if EVERYONE at the table has more fun. The biggest challenge a DM will face is making sure that all the varying definitions of "fun" around the table are manifested without destructively conflicting with each other.

The first step is understanding those definitions, and embracing them without demanding they conform to one's own. No player is ever going to have exactly the same definition as I do, and so it's futile for me to try and bend my players to MY definitions of fun. All I can do is try to understand what my players think is fun, and match that.

Of course, if my players think throwing dice at each other is fun, maybe the whole thing is doomed from the start.

I've remarked before that Dungeon Masters are a strange breed: like goalies, drummers and QA Analysts, DMs must have a very narrow set of skills, traits and interests in order to be good at the job, and not many people come with that mix. But how many other pastimes allow you to create space -- on two levels at the same time?

Photo by Barun Patro