Like it or not, when you sit down behind a GM screen, you are shouldering the burden of certain expectations. If D&D is the game in question, and if I’m a player, I want to walk away with my fair share of sword fights and magical maguffins. If it’s Vampire: The Masquerade, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get my recommended dose of court politics with a side order of blood drinking. And if you tell me that you’re going to run a fantasy police procedural for me and my band of smokin’ hot hard-drinking female adventurers, I damn sure better get chewed out by a police captain.

For GMs, there’s a balance between expressing your own creative vision and giving the people what they want. Sure, maybe you’re sick and tired of dungeons. But if your players are expecting an old fashioned crawl, maybe you should find a way to make it interesting for you. That’s true even if you’re that aforementioned Vampire ST, and even if you had grand designs for a campaign based on moral quandaries rather than combat. If your players want to play Hunters gunning for the monster of the week, then maybe it’s time to shelve your heart-wrenching “innocent werewolf pup” story arc.

That’s because player expectations aren’t determined by GMs, rules sets, or a game’s setting material. Sure, those things all have an influence, but what your players really want has more to do with them as individuals than the components of a campaign. My advice is to keep your eyes sharp and mind open. Chances are your players will let you know what they want and expect from a game. Even if you sat down in that GM chair to express some kind of creative vision, you’re also there at the service of the players. Learning to live with that is part of the job description.

That brings us to today’s discussion question, and it’s for all you GMs out there. Have you ever shelved your own preferences and predilections in favor of giving the players what they want? Did it feel like you were somehow betraying your campaign, or was it ultimately a good thing for the group? Let’s hear all about your creative conflicts down in the comments!


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