The Gassy Gnoll: Layers of Lies (Playing on Perception)

This Gassy Gnoll is not a poker player. Take one look at my face and you’ll know if I’m telling the truth or spinning a lie. It might be a bit more difficult if you’re just listening to my voice or reading my words, but I’m sure a perceptive person would be able to tell if I was talking through a smile or tight-lipped and serious…

But the whole concept of the “truth” during a campaign can get muddy, don’t you think?

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

Let’s look at some of the different layers of perception and pre-conceived notion that a player might have to deal with.

First, let’s say there’s some pre-written material the GM is using in the campaign. Let’s assume it was written by some third-party publisher for a shared world shepherded by that publisher. So we automatically have a few folks involved there – and yes, they may be the same folks, but let’s agree that they may have different purposes. The publisher has ideas about their shared world. And the designer who wrote the module has ideas about the shared world and the story elements revealed in the module itself.

Second, the GM using the shared world of the publisher will have a different perception of that world and his or her own ideas on how the pieces go together. And that same GM may have a different collection of conclusions about the module as well.

Third, each player brings a different point of view to the table. Each player’s previous experience colors every new experience. And a good roleplayer will also take into account the experience and personality of their character.

There may be other
layers, but let’s leave it here for now. Each layer offers a new level of misdirection. Facts are interpreted. Connections and conclusions are made. And it becomes like the “Telephone Game” where what you hear through the grapevine may not be what was said in the first place…

Honestly for me this is one of the best parts of gaming. Different GMs and players make every single game a unique experience. My group playing the third Zeitgeist 4e module will not have the same experience that another had playing the same module. That’s what makes shared storytelling and role-playing games so cool.

Even if you play with the same group for 30 years, though there will be patterns of behavior that emerge, your experience can be wildly different from session to session due to an infinite number of variables. It’s that classic quote from Heraclitus – “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

How the game designer, the GM, and the PCs/players present the “truth” from their own perspectives colors everything. There are always multiple levels of misdirection. A player’s conclusions may differ from the other players’ conclusions, the GM’s conclusions, the designer’s conclusions… all the way up the line.

So it boils down to playing on those perceptions on both sides of the game table and even before that with the module the game designer presents.

How do you play with those perceptions? And as a GM do you “correct” your player perceptions or let them go wild? I tend towards letting them go wild, which offers its own challenges usually. 🙂

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