Speaking personally, there’s nothing I like  better than inventing setting details on the fly. Coming up with cosmological explanations for flying islands or improvising weird holidays on the spur of the moment is fun for me. And on an intellectual level, I guess I’m aware that this is an acquired skill. What I struggle against is this weird logical fallacy that happens with a lot of gamers. You wind up assuming that, just because you think a thing is fun, everybody at the table thinks it’s fun too. This is where you get accusations of bad wrong fun. It’s also how, as a GM, you wind up making your players uncomfortable.

Case in point, my players were at a costume ball in a French-inspired setting. They’re chasing down this criminal, hoping to find him in the crowd before he does something dastardly to His Majesty. In the midst of the chase one of the PCs bumps into an impressively dressed general, spilling his drink and mussing his chapeau. Thinking this could be a fun world building moment I put her one the spot, asking her to describe the guy and give him a name.

“Umm… Fuck,” she says. It doesn’t take long for me to realize that she’s drawing a total blank.

“OK,” say I, feeling like a dick. “So General Fa’Huick’s mustaches twitch in vexation as he wipes champagne from his lapel. He glares round at you and etc. etc.”

It didn’t make the game more fun. It made the player feel like she failed at being creative, where in point of fact I was the one who failed to deliver a fun moment. As I thought a bit more about the situation, I came to realize that I’d been guilty of similar screw ups in other games. I’ve asked bards to come up with clever insults or song lyrics, paladins to recite their prayers, and cavaliers to come up with a formal challenge before entering into a duel. These moments might have been fun in my imagination, but they fell flat at the table.

For me, the lesson is a simple one: Know your players. Know how comfortable they are with off the cuff world building. And in a more general sense, know their likes and dislikes. We play these games to entertain one another; we play for the benefit of the other guys at the table, not just ourselves and our own predilections. Give your buddies the game they want. And if at all possible, try not to giggle too much when their war cries miss the mark.