Friday, 22 February 2013

Confessions of an Unapologetically Old School GM (Part Two)

I am amazed sometimes at the amount of vitriol that is aimed at GMs on forums like (Oh, I know, baseless vitriol and ugly flamewars are what is famous for. Still.)

People seem to reel at the notion that a GM is there to do anything at all but sit quietly in the corner, roll dice for the opposition, and occasionally make a rules call. If you're making any kind of creative contribution to a game at all, you're controlling or manipulative or engaging in the capital-E Evil of railroading, a term which Ken Hite rightly pointed out has become entirely devalued.

I love you, Ken, but could you be a little less Republican?
Are there that many people who have had terrible experiences with GMs? Really?

In my experience, the GM is the person at the table who has worked the hardest to make the game a success, if it succeeds at all. The GM is the one that buys the books (often, the only one that does so), helps get the ball rolling when the campaign is in its infancy, the one that spends their spare time preparing material or doing research to make the game better, the one who brings the most energy to the table and sets the tone, the one that settles any arguments and works out the problems of rescheduling sessions, and sometimes the one who brings the chips (or, at our table, does the cooking).

In short, the GM is the glue that holds the group together. And if they aren't That Guy, then why are you playing games with them to begin with?

Sure, I've played in bad games with GMs who abused their power and acted like assholes. I played in a session one time with a guy who thought it was funny to solo me through White Plume Mountain (which would be challenging even with a group of experienced players) and added in a Tarrasque for good measure to make sure that I died horribly at the end. That was Not Fun.

An unkillable giant monster! Hilarious!
Most of my GMs over the years, though, have not been like that. In fact, even that GM wasn't like that most of the time. He ran some incredible adventures over the years that I enjoyed so much I was inspired to take up the screen myself. Sometimes he did things that were douchey, but hey -- we were kids. Kids are mean little beasts. I've done douchey things too in my years as a GM. I hope I've grown up a bit since then.

I don't play with people like that now, and haven't for probably twenty-five years. Still, the industry and the community seems to be labouring mightily to get out from under the shadow of the Douchey GM.

To be continued...

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