You know in ROTJ when Princess Leia is chained to Jabba’s throne in a bikini? That scene taught me one of the laws of GMing – the GM isn’t a level designer, he’s a wish fulfiller.
This was when I was running a loose-canon Star Wars campaign where the PCs were mercenaries doing corporate espionage. I was allowing a lot of player input on this campaign, and they said they wanted to do something on Tatooine.
Then our Goth Girl player rolled high on Streetwise. But instead of asking me what her character found out, she had her own idea. She asked, “Can I find out that the Hutts are hosting a ball, and other wealthy businessmen will be there, and we can crash it and snoop around?”
This was kind of unorthodox (because of course what she was really saying was, “can the place where we find the next clue be a Hutt party?”), but the group liked the idea so much that I crossed out my own idea and let them have it. ...and
anyway, I had a sneaky plan to really give them what they were asking for.
So I said yes, they did a few more rolls to rustled up some fancy clothes, crashed this Hutt party, and started asking questions and planting bugs. I changed my outline so that the information they were looking for was in a Hutt-owned
warehouse. And didn’t they think they were lucky for picking the right party to crash. And when the warehouse turned out to be a trap where they were “GM-captured,” they didn’t even mind.
The reason was, they had wanted to tangle with Hutts in the first place. We all know what Hutts do (put men in dungeons and women in bikinis) so when they wanted to bring a Hutt into the game, it was obvious what they wanted. So, next scene, the male PCs were in dungeons and the female PCs were in bikinis. The guys had a great time engineering an escape, and Goth Girl had a great time playing up the fact that no-one could ever take her dignity.
My point here is that it’s important to realize when your players are asking for trouble – or whatever they’re asking for. None of the players were trying to get captured – they had their PCs’ best interests in mind and even fought me on some of the details of the capture – but in the end this was their favorite session. Even though the PCs didn’t want any trouble, the players wanted an iconic Star Wars moment.
When you know what your players want, your job becomes easy – and everyone thinks you’re great at it. You don’t have to worry about coming up with original ideas. They’ll already be steering the story towards stuff they think would be cool – and you can take that stuff to its logical conclusion before they even realize that’s what they were really asking for. And afterward, everyone will think you’re an amazing storyteller, when really, you just know your players well.