GM: You enter a warehouse the size of a
football stadium packed with a maze of crates and moving equipment. It is dimly
lit, a few low wattage bulbs dangling from the catwalk overhead provide the only
illumination. No windows can be observed and other than the large door through
which you entered there is no other entrance visible to yourselves.
GM: The catwalk creaks and faint
footsteps on metal grating can be heard from the far side of the warehouse.
GM: Your thermo vision picks up a faint
heat signal moving up the catwalk.
GM: The signal continues to approach and
is now about twenty meters away. The thermo intensity appears faint around the
GM: This is probably the result of a
large amount of body armor.
GM: As he enters the faint light you can
see he is carrying an assault rifle.
GM: With a grenade launcher.
GM: He also has a kazoo up his nose.
GM: In his other hand he appears to be
carrying a Donna Summers album.
GM: I believe it is the one with the
remake of "MacAuthur Park".
GM: He ties a rope around the catwalk
railing a begins to descend.
PCs: We shoot him.
OK, I know we all have our off nights.
Maybe we haven't had enough sleep, or have to go to work the next day, or have
been doing shots of Tequila for several hours. But it appears some groups are
simply prone with the "_______" disease. And when you GM it gets annoying. There
are only so many things somebody can say about a warehouse and at times it feels
as if the PCs would allow me to continue until I'm describing the individual
termites infesting crate wood. It's nice to have help from time to time. It is a
lot easier for a GM to answer questions about a location than it is for him or
her to keep vomiting scenery.
There are several ways to conquer this
problem. The simplest is to double the number of NPCs for every fifteen seconds
the PCs don't say anything. But this results in the players getting wasted, and
tons of NPC sheets, and it's no fun for anybody. A better way is to let the PCs
generate some of their surrounding themselves. Although you do have to establish
limits ("I'll dive into the cockpit of the Wasp.") it takes some of the load off
the GM and speeds up the game tremendously. Instead of the PC: "What's
immediately to my left?" Burned Out GM: "A crate" PC: "I'll dive behind it."
dialogue you get to skip right to the end. The person I once bribed into being
the GM so I could play let me do this and it was fun. There's TONS of things I
had always wanted to do, simple things like vaulting off the head of a dwarf,
that I normally couldn't do spontaneously without asking "Is a dwarf next to
me?". Will allowing the PC to spontaneously reach for a paperweight and whip it
through a window off set the game balance? Hasn't happened to me.
I've never figured out why, while I'm
keeping track of NPCs and half a million dice and fifteen out of date books, I
can come up with better PC actions than the PCs can. Every GM has experienced it
at least once. You're in the middle of a fire fight, the NPC is partially
concealed behind an apartment's front door, the PC is across the room on the
floor behind a couch and he just LAYS there, occasionally taking a shot at the
door before returning to just LAYING there. And the GM, pissed that he or she
has to wait a full minute just to hear the PC say "I pop up and shoot" is
silently screaming "Do this! Do THIS!" while two billion possible actions play
jai-ali inside his skull. You just want to possess the player's body for a few
moments and have him shatter the coffee table, grab a piece of glass, and
frisbee it under the door and into the NPCs foot. But you can't and just sit
around waiting for the PC to slowly say, once again, "I'll pop up and shoot."
The way I handle this is to have the
NPCs beat the crap out of them with creativity. Not only does it give the PCs a
glimpse at what they should be doing but it also gives the GM a way to divert
his or her hostility so it doesn't result in a reality based speech. Give the
NPCs weapons other than guns and skills which aren't based solely on making a
bullet go really really fast. Have a troll throw furniture or an ork bust
through a wall. Splash hot water in the kitchen, throw the top of a toilet, make
traps out of razor blades. Get away from the BANG, bang, BANG, bang exchanges.
And if all else fails: Force six turn gun into silly putty.