GMing Discussion with Clyde

Kevin and Clyde talk over skype about their recent gaming experiences at Forge Midwest. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Lady Blackbird, and Clyde offers Kevin some constructive criticism about his GMing style. What follows is a pretty good discussion about how to use Bangs and how to identify when you are blocking another player’s desires.

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19 Responses to “GMing Discussion with Clyde”

  1. Pete Figtree Says:

    This was a really informative discussion. I understand Bangs vs. Challenges a little more than I did before the cast, and I understand civil discussion a lot more. Clyde and Kevin were very cool to each other and the listeners.


    an exploration of gaming in the classroom

  2. Theory From the Closet » Blog Archive » Show064: Don’t Call it a Podfade… Says:

    […] The Walking Eye: GM-ing Discussion with Clyde […]

  3. Omega Says:

    Unless I completely missed the point, the 5-10 minutes spent explaining a bang could have been solved with an easy example, which is probably also a DnD cliche. “You’ve come to a locked door, Player Characters, what do?”

  4. Kevin Weiser Says:

    From my understanding, I would call your lock example a challenge, not a Bang. If you have the right mechanical “key” (Lock Picking) to unlock the “lock” (Lock DC) you move on to the next portion of the story. Otherwise you figure a way around it to continue on towards what you want. A Bang is when you pick what you want.

    So a D&D example of a Bang might go something like: “A nearly slain dragon, whose heart is needed for a powerful spell, offers the wizard the location of a artifact grimoire in exchange for its life.”

    What does the wizard do?

    Challenges describe how the story is progressed, and Bangs decide where the story goes.

    *Hell, maybe the grimoire is the wizard’s missing father’s, and has a spell in it that can release the father’s soul from a prison. Or something.

  5. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Although upon further thought I did think of an example of a Bang that actually involves a locked door:

    “Behind the locked door you’re fairly certain your brother is committing Regicide. What do you do?”

  6. Omega Says:

    Okay, maybe mentioning DnD was a poor way to say it. Because, y’know, there are a whole shitload of ways to bypass a locked door.

    Of course, looking at your examples, it sounds like a Bang is a Moral/Ethical dilemma, and a Challenge is everything else, which is strangely specific and makes me wonder why we need a distinction.

    Okay, I want to understand this better (I’ve only been GMing a year, and running my own material for 4 months, so I’m trying to grow here), so here’s a scenario. I’m in Eclipse Phase, and there is an electronic lock. Now, I can use my handy lock pick gadget, and open the door in a couple seconds, but my intrusion will be noted, and alarms raised. Or, I can hack the lock, and probably not get caught, but it will take me 10 minutes. (Or any of the many other ways to open a closed door. I’m not here to discuss how many ways you can bypass a lock in EP) Is it only a Bang if I can hear orphans being murdered on the other side of the door?

  7. Clyde L. Rhoer Says:

    Hey Omega,

    I would say that is a challenge. A bang has no direct answer. Basically the GM, or another player in a GM-less/Peer game, asks a question that has no right answer. The person asking doesn’t know how the question will get answered, and doesn’t care. It’s the passing of an interesting question to your collaborator, and seeing what they do with the question that is the fun part. Seeing what they do with it. It’s not having a set of constrained choice, like your example. Constrained choice can be an absolutely great way to have challenge.

    By the by constrained choice is a great way to handle task resolution. Before the dice are rolled you can set up a victory condition and an interesting failure condition. For example;

    Player: I want to use my tracking skill to track the ninja.

    GM: Hmmm. They are– Ninja. Difficulty hard, because they are normal Ninja and you are an excellent ranked tracker. If you succeed you find the Ninja camp and get a bonus to a sneak roll if you want to surprise them. If you fail you run into an ambush. They’re Ninja, they left a trail….

    Player: Cool (Player knows the whole scope of the roll, before rolling. If being surprised by Ninja is too risky, they can try something else instead. Everyone is on board.

    Anyway… sorry for the aside.

    If Bangs still don’t make sense, this is the best writing I’ve ever seen on the subject:

    I personally learned a lot from those threads. They go really into depth though. If it’s still confusing… throw up more comments.

    Also keep in mind, I could be full of shit with this challenge versus bang thing. No other RPG theorist/pundit is making this distinction that I know of. This is all my own unchallenged thought.

  8. Clyde L. Rhoer Says:

    Sorry… pay close attention to what Mike Holmes says in those threads. That’s where the pay off is.

  9. Timo Says:

    Misspent Youth actually has a great structure if you are looking for some Bang training. In essence, every scene breaks down to: Player sets up the situation, the Authority bangs on it, free roleplay, conflict. The conflict in my mind usually comes from the authority adding challenge to the events that come from the bang.

    Or so say I. I’m probably wrong.

  10. Omega Says:


    Okay, after reading some of those threads, I think I understand this better. My locked door doesn’t work, because no matter what they choose, they are still bypassing the door, IE, it has the same end result. (My Eclipse Phase-specific might count, by as I just said, that is a very specific situation to a specific system/setting). A way to make it better is, say, while walking on their way, they pass a locked door, behind which they can hear orphans being murdered. Or, even better, they are standing at their locked door, deciding what to do, when they hear an explosion in the distance, possibly from orphan storage.

  11. Clyde L. Rhoer Says:

    Hey Omega,

    Part of the problem talking about bangs sometime is it’s difficult to see them, or create them, as examples, because they require some set up work.

    To keep towards your example… player A has established that their character is heroic, and has established their character is afraid of fire. You introduce a fire and a kitten stuck inside. That would be a bang. Does the character walk away from their fear when it’s a small cute animal in danger? It creates a question for the player to answer. It let’s us know more about the character than we did before.

    It’s hard to create an event to demonstrate what a bang is minus players, and characters.

    An orphan explosion might be a bang, if a player has established a character with an extreme mercenary outlook, someone who won’t lift a finger to help someone without pay. Then the question is; will your character not help even the helpless, and defenseless? Maybe the character doesn’t, and we know more about who that character is.

    I think in most games, orphan explosions are more about challenge, or they may also be a hook. Always bangs are about asking questions to players about their characters. The best questions arise form using previous created narrative content. One way to do this is with flags.

    On top of all this, keep in mind that not all forms of roleplaying make heavy use of bangs. In some really dungeon crawly, or heroic games, a bang might be seen as, “fucking with my character.” It’s simply a tool that is used to a lesser or greater degree depending on the type of game you’re playing.

  12. Mathalus Says:


    This is the best podcast I have ever listened to about gaming. It was a hardcore blow-by-blow critique of GM skills that I wish I could have found earlier. Kevin, thank you for letting Clyde point out (his perceived) flaws in your GM style. That is a scary thing and I commend you for it.
    Where can I get more of this? I’m new to the “Story Game” styles and techniques of play. I’ve read a bunch of glossaries and I am playing as many games as I can, but I want to get better faster. Everyone on the Story Games forum is really nice and helpful, but I feel like I need a more critical voice. I desperately need more of this blow-by-blow critique of actual play, using terms that I need to look up. Can someone point me in the right direction?

  13. Kevin Weiser Says:


    I can point you in a few directions. Check out Actual People, Actual Play ( They play a game and then right after that gather ’round the mic to discuss that session and how the mechanics worked each session.

    Narrative Control ( talks a lot about storygaming techniques.

    Other than that, there’s our archives, of course. 30 Discussions in there, loads of actual play of lots of different kinds of games, and interviews with the designers. My only other advice is to get out there and play as many games as you can. I started this podcast because these hippy storygames were weird and I wasn’t finding good examples of how they actually play at the table. Coming up on three years later the variety of games I’ve played on here has drastically changed my understanding of gaming.

    So, get out there and play! It’s always a process, you’ll never be done. Gotta start that journey sometime.

  14. Clyde L. Rhoer Says:

    I like , that dude’s early episodes talk about Flags, Bangs, Social Contract, and other things.

    Also this is awesome GM-ing stuff:

  15. Kevin Weiser Says:

    Yeah, that guy is ok. His interviews usually don’t suck either.

  16. Mathalus Says:

    Thanks, Kevin and Clyde. I appreciate the links. I’ll keep movng through your archives, and I hope there is a ton more goodness to come.

    Someday I will have highly refined GM skills like a Shaolin MC.

  17. Bang, now what do you do? » Misdirected Mark Says:

    […] the shows primary host Kevin and Clyde from Theory from the Closet. You can hear their conversation here. From there I went on to check out story games (a forum dedicated to bringing more story out in all […]

  18. Podcast Review #1 | Forja RPG Says:

    […] The Walking Eye – GM Discussion with Clyde – Neste episódio, o Clyde do Theory from the Closet discutiu o estilo de mestrar do Kevin, e fez isso de forma bastante interessante, explicando claramente algumas técnicas como os Bangs. Recomendadíssimo, foi o melhor episódio do Walking Eye que já ouvi. […]

  19. Podcast Review #1 – Elucubrando-me Says:

    […] The Walking Eye – GM Discussion with Clyde – Neste episódio, o Clyde do Theory from the Closet discutiu o estilo de mestrar do Kevin, e fez isso de forma bastante interessante, explicando claramente algumas técnicas como os Bangs. Recomendadíssimo, foi o melhor episódio do Walking Eye que já ouvi. […]

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