Creativity at the table

Aka, How to think outside of the box and get away with it.

Consider the following. The house Reyne of Castamere royally pissed off the Lannisters. They end up fighting and the last of the Reyne retreat into their main fortress known for its subterranean systems, defenses and living areas. The fort is an absolute pain to take and could sustain them for a long time. A siege could prolong the war for far too long, being costly and an assault would likely end up with high casualties and loss for the Lannister Army.  Tywin Lannister knew this and ended up deciding on a third option. Close off any and all entries/exits to the fort, leaving only a small opening for the massive amounts of water from a nearby river, which he had diverted into the fort. Flooding and killing every Reyne inside, ending the war and suffering no extra loss in the process.

This single decision (that most would not even think about) delivered not only the desired results but also in a record time and with minimal expense. Being able to see and understand things that others could not or simply providing effective answers to questions others struggled with is one of the traits that made Tywin such a great character and a power to be feared.

Tywin Lannister – The Great Lion (Actor: Charles Dance)

Being creative at the table can be an absolute boon for your game. Having a group of people that collectively come up with amazing stories, solutions and interactions is some of the best experiences I’ve had at the gaming table during a roleplay. Not only will it liven up the GM and the other players but it may produce a vivid story filled with memorable moments. And the story may even take an unexpected and more interesting turn that not even the GM had planned for.

“But how?” i hear you ask, “How can i be creative at the table?”. Well, you can’t simply just ‘be creative’ and no one can expect you to be. You will need to work on it. Thankfully there are ways to help you get started.
In an earlier post we have discussed how to improve GM interactions from a player standpoint and come to an understanding of what (in their eyes) is at least a plausible suggestion/solution to a situation. Feel free to toss any and all ideas about at the table and bounce them off your group to get some feedback. (Having support is always a great thing before you spring to action.)
Just make sure that your idea is at least realistic and executable…

You may have gathered from this that being creative at the gaming table is a two way street. You may have the best idea ever. But an unprepared or insecure GM may simply flat out work against you out of fear of the unknown. What can this mean for their story? Their prepared sessions and overall idea of the game?
Give them some credit though, not every idea is a good one and expect your GM to say ‘no’ or ‘can’t be done here’ once in a while. Or for them to repeat the description of the problem at hand, since you are way off the ball.

As for GM’s, at least make the effort to see the situation from your players perspective. Be prepared for an outcome you haven’t planned for, even if it royally fucks up your story (which is bound to happen any way, you are still dealing with ‘players’). A great GM can work around this however, and still keep the flow of the game nice and open while keeping the overall story relevant.
We will likely talk more about this in the future but the overall idea is to ‘give your players a ‘chance’. If your players are in an empty square room and you present them with only a few bits of information (and never anything more beyond this point) on how to solve your linear and single possibility puzzle…then you are doing it wrong.
(I will admit having to learn this myself and struggling with it. It’s rewarding though so don’t lose hope.)
Instead, present a situation with an outcome you may even have intentionally  left open.

Obstacles only lasts as long as your players creativity or tenacity.

An example is, presenting your players with a money safe (with a  minor description). The question is, how to get it open. That’s it. Leave it at that. The rest is up for your players to decide. Questions may arise about the safe. What is it made of? Is it new? Have we seen one of these before? Does it look solid? Can we take it home with us? Does it need a key? Does it have a dial? Is it magical? Is it hooked up to an alarm network? etc
To which now, you as a GM, can work with their questions/suggestions and alter its features on the fly (if you haven’t said ‘no’ to everything. And please don’t… Instead go out of your way to say ‘yes’ to a few things and actively describe them. Steal idea’s from movies if you have to :p). Since all you knew and planned was that it was a safe (with a minor description). Your players (through their interactions)  are shaping this safe to have a keyhole, a dial, be portable, and possibly familiar to the groups burglar.
See where i’m going with this? Now it’s only a matter of how to open it. Will your players use a lock pick? Would they brute force it open with a grinder? Or will they go as far as to secure acid to burn the lock or hinges? Would they blow it open with explosives or even use thermal force to attack the materials structure? Would they drop it down from a great height in the hopes that it busts open? Hell, they could bribe a locksmith to get it open for them. etc

Creativity can take many forms but it helps to know your options and what your dealing with.

Let me tell you a little bit about Koza Rakeesh. A PC in my Arabian nights campaign. Koza is a nobody, a desert bandit, someone who doesn’t like to be out in the open, who prefers to blend in the background and shadows. Someone who is all about ‘that money’ and how to get his hands on more of it the only way he knows how. By stealing things and selling them off on the black market (Or pass them on to Aamir for a story profit in the long run). There are however, a few conditions to his actions:

  • The item needs to be worth enough to actually risk his neck for.
  • He needs to be able to sell it off quickly without any hassle or the item being too hot to fence.
  • He needs to actually get away with it. Which means, no traces & minimal risks.

How does he do this? By thinking outside of the box. If an item seems too good to be true, it typically is. A floating gem on a pedestal in the middle of a room with a spotlight on it? High chance it has an alarm or a trigger to a trap on it. A set of golden statues, bolted down on marble pedestals in an ifrits bathroom? Now thats easy money. Nothing a crowbar and a bag of holding can’t fix. And who would rig up ornaments and decorations in their own bathroom? Who would expect those to get stolen? Can’t get out of the house for a few hours? Cut open a pillow and hide your bag of holding in it in case you get searched. For the bigger thefts, there are usually interesting and more risk/reward suggestions thrown about, though handled with the same inventive solutions as above.

This has made Koza simple, but effective and perhaps one of the more interesting PC’s in the story since he is clever and adds to the story in his own creative way.

I hope this advice will improve your games in the future!

Happy Gaming!


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