GMing Mistakes 11 – Experience Doesn’t Necessarily Make Players Better

I was once in a game where the GM had somehow gotten in his head that he could require as to make harder rolls, because everyone in the group had been playing for so long. So what’s the assumption here? Experienced players get luckier? Experienced players have learned how to get away with cheating? I’m not sure. Sure, we might be able to use the resources we have more flexibly and in different ways, but we still have all the same limitations as the beginning playes.

… actually, I think experience is often a hindrance.

Okay, so I’ve had problematic new players as well. Sometimes they are unsure of themselves and are shy in beginning. However, this is nothing close to old players, who have some very rooted ideas on how things should work.

I’m a teacher in higher education and one of the things we probably don’t talk about enough is the so-called “hidden curriculum”. Hidden curriculum is all the stuff you teach knowingly or, most of the time, unknowingly. For example, even though its not mentioned in many courses, most of our courses teach some research, presentations skills, “learning to learn” and so forth and we know that. On the other hand, through my behaviour and actions, I also teach my students to respond in certain ways to things I do. I don’t want this to happen and we try to avoid it, of course, but I can never shed this completely. Some students (most, actually) are just naturally inclined to try to find the easiest way to get through their studies. This is often easier, if you understand your teacher, so they do that instead of learning what they are supposed to.

So, take the GM from the beginning. He tried his best to tell us to roleplay things out, but he’s approach communicated something totally different. He had a hidden curriculum. Never mind what he was saying, he was teaching us that since he made things harder for us, we should be gaming the shit out of the system.

How many older players have been in such a situation? They don’t act like their characters would, but rather they have learned certain ways of doing things because their GMs have basically required them to do certain things. They’ve learned to expect things to go a certain way. When they don’t… well, they won’t like it.

Compare this to new players. They might have expectations, but they are quite different. They are open to all sorts of things, because they just want to see what happens. No earlier GMs have had a chance to spoil them yet.

I’m not saying all new and old players are like this. For example, I’ve been playing for nearly three decades and I’d much rather do something new than rehash old stuff in new ways. I tend to lash out in different ways if a GM tries to impose the wrong kind of message, they don’t themselves see and/or understand.

Still, when I run games in a Con or something and have an assortment of players I don’t have control over, I would much rather have the less experienced players.

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