A few years ago I joked “The GM’s Section of an RPG should just be three words:
“We Trust You”
It was a joke, but like most of my jokes I was kidding on the square. So much of running an RPG is about experience and making good calls on the spot, and mostly that’s not something you can teach. Mostly, what holds people back is fear they are getting those things wrong, and they probably will get those things wrong. But it doesn’t matter. Your games will still inevitably a lot better than you think they’re going to be, and better than you imagine them to be in your head. You can’t really stuff up that much. Trust yourself. And we, the game designers, trust you.
You don’t have anything to prove or to live up to. You can’t do it WRONG. Games don’t work like that. There isn’t actually a right way to do things with them, there’s only the way the players play. And so it is an act of trust giving your game away.
All art is a kind of leap of faith: this is my truth, tell me what you think about it. But games are a tool, an artifact of engineering. Here is something that might produce fun, we say, and then we watch how you use it and how you react. And we then fix it until it is fun, not based on the idea in our head, but on the experience you created. We trust you to tell us when the tool is fun. We trust you to be our eyes and ears and our insight. Take this clay and mould it, take this puzzle and solve it, find the fun, unlock the secret. And you know best, not us designers and certainly not the game. We put our trust in YOU. You are the centre, the true north, that leads us to the game. We trust you, not the vision in our heads.
I just wrote the last four words in Relics, and they are along these lines, but even stronger. They aren’t we trust you. They’re
We believe in you.
Relics is a game about belief, in all its forms. It’s a game about what to do when you have nothing left to believe in, and the answer turns out to be, believe in things harder. Believe in God only as practice for the really hard things, like believing in yourself, and believing in other people.
Relics is about memory, and it aches with age now that it’s taking me two years to write it. Relics is about the audacity of action in a world where being passive feels like the only way to be safe, and it is my scream into the void, my audacious act of unfettered creation that deforms the universe and demands to be seen. Relics is about the problem of evil and so much of that rises up around us. And Relics is about belief, and in the end, that’s what the act of writing a roleplaying game is.
It’s not just that we trust you to tell us where the fun is, but that we believe in the stories you will tell with it. We believe in the greatness you will find in it. We believe in the power you will wring from it and the glory you will shine with it and the lessons you will teach with it. A lot of people ask “is this right? is this okay?” when they are making characters and they’ve always been amazing and inspiring to me. When I began work on Relics I was burned out on GMing but I’ve come to love it again because every time I run Relics people astound me with the ideas they bring to the table and the majestic things they create.
Relics wouldn’t be Relics without Jake’s input – he’s already taken my world and filled it with amazing characters that make it even more real and wonderful. I believe in his gifts. I believe in all of the characters you will make and the stories that you will tell, that they will not just fit Relics but exceed it, and all my dreams of it. I believe in all the characters you’ve made already and all the stories I’ve begun to see. It’s not just that I trust that they will be good. I believe that they will be real and solid to you and to me. And I believe that they will go amazing places. I believe in the hope and wonder they represent.
Here’s my game. It says: I believe in you.
Relics: A Game of Angels goes to Kickstarter April 10th. Join the mailing list and find out more here: http://tinstargames.weebly.com/relics.html