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Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource' started by Winged_Jedi, Jan 18, 2012.

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  1. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    And now, something a bit ... topical for thought and possibly comment. Reposting from a fellow named the Angry DM. It's for all the GMs out here. The rude words have been ... taken care of.




    If you are a player, get lost. This is an open letter to Dungeon Masters, Game Masters, Watchers, Storytellers, Keepers, Game Trustees, and all other runners of role-playing games, regardless of title, game preference, style, or affiliation. If you’ve never sat behind the screen or you’ve sat there only once or twice and swore you’d never do it again, you have no business reading this. And no business responding to it.

    And if you are a master of games and want to disagree with this, you are an enemy of the cause. Don’t bother. You will find no friends here. No allies. No sympathy. We don’t want to hear it.

    Dear Master of Games,
    You are different. You are special. And you should be proud of that. There is this oft-repeated maxim, especially among players but occasionally among games masters, that GMs are not really special and should not be elevated. This is a toxic, terrible attitude. It is wrong. You are special. And you have a right to be proud.

    Whatever your style, whatever game you run, and however you do it, you love your game and you work hard to make it happen. Whether you sit for hours drawing maps or spend a few minutes dashing off some stat blocks between work and the game; whether you lose yourself in traffic fantasizing about some imagined city to bring to life in your game or just set your brain to racing trying to find a voice for an NPC in the scant seconds you have before you have to respond to a player; whether you labor over glue and paints and ceramic bits to build a sprawling model for one ten minute combat or you just weave a verbal description off the top of your head for every skirmish; you are special and you should be proud of what you do.

    Without you, the game cannot happen. Without you, the best anyone can hope for is a board game. A video game. You make it possible for the players to make real choices, even if they haven’t been planned out in advance. You make it possible for the game to wander off in sudden, unexpected directions and to take on a life of its own. You give the world life and depth and vibrance. You do that.

    GMs will argue endlessly about the best way to do this and that. They will argue about “yes, and…” and failing forward and binary rules and simulationism and player agency and binary outcomes and this will be good and that will be bad and the other is the only way to get players invested. And those arguments are so much noise and fury that signify nothing. They don’t matter. They are window dressing. They are bull****. And the more passionately you argue for one over the other, the more full of bull**** you are.

    The best way to run a game is just to run a great game. And to run it passionately. To run it with love. I know that sounds like sentimental crap. But it is true. If you don’t love running your game, stop doing it. Because you will never make anyone happy. You will never make yourself happy.

    I have been called a terrible, awful DM. I have been called that by other DMs. Because I am railroady. Because I keep a tight leash on world building. Because I am old fashioned and old school and don’t believe in player agency over the narrative. I have been called a bad DM because I encourage other DMs to set whatever restrictions on the game they think they need to ensure they love their game. But those people have never sat down at my table and played my game. The people who have played my game, they keep coming back. They don’t call me terrible or awful at all. Well, most of them don’t.

    Look, it is going to happen. Eventually, you are going to do something or decide something and a player is going to object. You are going to place a restriction and a player is going to chafe at it. You are going to run a serious game and a player is going to try to inject ridiculous silliness. You’re eventually going to come up against one or more of your players.

    And then, you have a choice to make. If you stand your ground, you may make the player unhappy. The player may become angry or disruptive. Or they may get over it and have fun anyway. Or they may walk away from the game forever. If they are a friend, you may lose that friend. Of course, if you give in on something you think is important, you may learn to live with it and keep loving your game. Or you may not. And you may lose the game.

    And that is one of the hardest decisions a GM has to make. And no matter what anyone tells you, there is no pat, simple answer. There are those out there who will say the GM should always give in, that the GM’s love of the game and their sense of fun is always less important than that of the players. They will say the GM has a duty to give up his or her fun first for the sake of the players’ fun. And that is a stupid, stupid standpoint. I have nothing against compromise. I have nothing against making sacrifices for the players’ enjoyment. But the idea that that is always the only answer is moronic.

    When you face this problem (and you will someday), be immediately suspicious of any GM who tells you which path you should choose. No one – NO ONE – can make that decision but you. Because you have to get through it with your love of the game intact. You have to love the game you are running. Sometimes, the right answer is to accept that you have a player whose style doesn’t work at your table. And that player needs to find another table. And you need to find another player.

    And the fact that you even have to agonize over that choice – and it is an agony – is part of why you are special. And why you should be proud. Because no one else at the table has that weight on them. No one else voluntary carries that weight like you do. This is a ****ing game about elves pretending to kill orcs at a renaissance faire. On top of the work that is required just to make that game even happen, you have to worry about the fact that you might have to sacrifice your love of it or give up a friend forever. Holy ****.

    That’s the thing. You can’t be a lazy GM. You can’t half-ass it. The longer you are at it, the more likely you are going to face one of those choices. Even if you manage the workload, even if you find all the tricks to focus only on the parts of the game you love, eventually, there is going to be a human conflict at the table and you will have to be the one to resolve it.

    Sometimes, it sucks to be the GM.

    Seriously. Sometimes you will have to do the game prep even when you don’t want to do it. Sometimes you will have to break up a fight between two players. Sometimes you will want to do anything but run a game, but you can’t bring yourself to ruin the night for five other people who are relying on you. Every decision you make affects every other person at the table. And if you don’t love doing it most of the time, eventually, all those suckages are going to add up. Sometimes, they add up even if you do love it. And you burnout. Or you quit.

    And so, again, you are special. And you should be proud. Remember, your players do keep coming back. Every time they show up, they are electing you as their leader. The runner of the game. You are winning a popular vote every single game session. You are beating out other GMs and other games, but you are also beating out movies and video games and miniature golf and whatever other **** kids get up to these days. And that means you have built something great. Something worth being proud of. Even if you’ve done it through agency and delegation and collaboration, you have still made that happen. It isn’t easy to get people to work together. It isn’t easy to direct people toward a unifed whole. And you’ve done it. You.

    You are special. And you should be proud.

    And every GM should be willing to tell every other GM: “you are special and you should be proud.” Because the players won’t always say it, even if they are thinking it. Any GM who tells you that the GM is nothing special and the GM’s happiness is less important than the players is a bad GM. Not an ally. Not a friend. Because we all face the same things.

    However we run our games, whatever choices we make as GMs, they are between us and our players. And they are personal choices. But all GMs are on the same side. We need to stick together. And we need to love our games. And we need to tell each other: “you are special and you should be proud.”
    Yes. Anyone COULD be a GM. But you actually ARE a GM. Anyone COULD do a lot of things. But only a select few choose to do it. And fewer still stick with it when it gets rough. The special people are not the people who could do things. The special people are the people who do do things.

    You are special. And you should be proud. And don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

    Sincere Regards,
    The Angry DM
    Last edited by Saintheart, May 14, 2013
  2. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 23, 2005
    star 5
    But seriously - the how doesn't matter as long as it works for you.
  3. Bravo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2001
    star 6
    Great re-post Saintheart! =D=
  4. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    Ditto, thank you for putting that up, Saintheart. I'm going to get pashatemur to come over and read that.

    You are winning a popular vote every single game session. You are beating out other GMs and other games, but you are also beating out movies and video games and miniature golf and whatever other **** kids get up to these days.

    Wanted to add, when players warn they are going on holiday or vacation and will be out of touch for a week or two; and ignore the sun, sea, palm trees, whatever to find a fragging internet portal so they can get a post in, you have definitely beaten something too.
    Last edited by Sith-I-5, May 14, 2013
    jcgoble3 likes this.
  5. Bravo Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 10, 2001
    star 6
    I agree 100%! :) Very, very true Sith. :)
  6. pashatemur Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 21, 2004
    star 4
    Thanks, Sithy. Much appreciated and I am reading. I know that the number of players in GAW have fluctuated wildly. Regardless of the snail's pace and low number of participants at present, the scope and complexity of interweaving plots leads me to suggest that those criteria are good indicators of whether a game is considered "large" or "small" - at least from the GM's perspective. However, said taxonomy would depend also on the reason for the need to determine game "size." More players and rapid pace might indicate the interest generated by that game, or the "pull" a certain game has.

    Best,
    Pash
  7. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    If any GMs are still reading this, I would be interested in a comparison of major expenses that you have had to outlay during the run of a game, eg. your desktop or laptop has died, and you have needed to get another, or get repairs done so that your players are not flailing about without you, or depending on your style of GM-ing, maybe the game stops dead while waiting for you to return.
  8. Saintheart Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2000
    star 6
    For Tide of Flames it's going to come to about $900 all up, though that's made up of a physical copy of the module we're running and the special gift I have in mind for the players as we head towards the end. This is an insane number, I know, but it's been an insanely good experience over the five years. All other expenditures were, um, bargains because of the Internet.
  9. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 6
    Yes.

    Bargains.

    I think all total my bills come out to about $100 - had to get new RAM when I fried one of the two modules in my laptop in a water spill accident (My thesis was my primary concern at the time, though, so I was only out of commission for about a day while I transferred important files to a second laptop), and I bought a fourth edition Dungeon Master's Guide 2 for use while I was running Saga of the Nameless Lands. And I guess non-trivially occupied HDD space has some kind of opportunity cost associated with it, if I wanted to get technical.
    Last edited by Ramza, Sep 11, 2013
  10. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    I use my Internet for a lot of things so that doesn't count. Hm. I made SotS a nice hardcover book for thirty Euro. iCafes probably earned a hundred bucks total over the years from me. About half for checking the boards? Basically the good thing about Post-by-Post rping is, it is for free.
  11. Ktala Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 7, 2002
    star 6
    Wow.
    Never really thought about it. If I did, Id probably cry. lol

    I mean, over ten plus years, yes, Ive lost a few motherboards, chips, hard drives, etc. But my computer is for more than RPG'ing so, I just count that into the norm for things. Monthly internet access, upgrades of system, etc.

    I've also run to the library, when my net access has died, and I could not access it at work.

    My biggest cost is time.
    And thats the hardest sometimes to come up with.

    :D
    Saintheart likes this.
  12. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    A question to all who care to share insight:

    How do you choose your projects you Gm?
  13. greyjedi125 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2002
    star 4

    That's a good question, Fins. My first consideration for a project is, 'do I like it.' Second, 'Will other's like it'. Third, 'Are there enough resources and references to run this game'. I start with those three basic factors. The game subject must be interesting to the GM, since he or she will be spending a long time indulging the material. Players must also remain entertained throughout the gaming experience. Reference material serve to enhance the 'realistic feeling' and 'immersion' of the game. As we all know, a picture can convey a thousand words.

    Some games might be 'hot' because it is based on the topic of the moment ( blockbuster game, movie, book, etc ) and is likely to gain immediate popularity. But once in a blue moon, you'll have a GM like Winged_ Jedi, who gave us Man Cub's ( I'm still awed at the genius of his game, even today ), and by sheer creativity and execution, can capture the interest of both new and veteran players alike.

    It's generally known that obscure subjects don't do well ( generally speaking), especially if not well presented, so a GM must keep these things in mind whenever planning on launching a game. That's one of many reasons why I think the Interest Measurement Thread is an absolutely necessary tool for GMs who are planning to launch a game. It's a bitter sweet lesson when you've worked on a game for so long and you have a poor turn out. Better to see what sort of interest you can garner before launch. This is basic, but also fundamental when creating a game one is planning to launch here in the RPF.

    Those are my two cents on that. [face_peace]
    Last edited by greyjedi125, Nov 21, 2013
    Imperial_Hammer likes this.
  14. Sith-I-5 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2002
    star 5
    Interesting point on the Interest Measurement Thread. I was unaware that it was frequented enough by players to perform that role.

    On the subject at hand, since all my GMing has been Assistant or Co' roles, I tend to be invited by the existing GM, though of the three games, none were for the same reason.
  15. SirakRomar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2007
    star 4
    Interest Measurement seems to be frequently watched by people as far as I can tell.

    Anyway, to the question.

    I used to think of only one thing. Will people play it? Originally that was what everybody seemed to believe in was the only important question. It still is an important one, but I really think that we had games like Asylum, ManCubs or even the beloved Sins of the Saints which were actually all very, very leftfield.

    Junglebook in SW? A game about people accidentially becoming God as a mystery thriller? Yeah, those are our most apprecaited game of today, probably. So that changed my view on things. Today I ask myself a different question and I mean really only ONE.

    Do I believe it could be a good game?

    Funny thing is, with this new question I have suddenly managed to make up games . . . which seemed so hard with the old question.
  16. greyjedi125 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 29, 2002
    star 4
    Indeed, a very good question there, Sirak. Which in turn makes me wonder in curiosity as to what questions, if any, did Fins and Wing_Jedi ask themselves during their creative process. The answer may prove enlightening. [face_thinking]

    I must state, that every GM at some point has to ask himself the question, 'Do I believe it could be a good game'. I believe the answer in their minds has to be 'yes', before they hit that 'launch' button. Why else continue?

    So, yes...bring on those original adventures and awaken the sleeping giants! :)
  17. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 6
    These days I'm mostly worried about whether or not it would be fun to write an OP for the game, and whether or not I'd want to GM the game if it attracted players. It's kind of a selfish philosophy, and results in lots of flops, but I find it's the only method that consistently satisfies me - when I force things they just don't pan out.
  18. LordTroepfchen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2007
    star 4
    Well, there are probably as many ways as GMs to decide, are there? Two groups of GMs seem to be especially dominant around here. Number One tests interest and number two just pulls out an OP without any warning. At least the first group seemed to me interested in filtering ideas through a general process of testing before pushing them out.

    I think things like ManCubs, SotS, The Forever War or Lea Monde seem to be special in the regard that a lot work goes into the games before they even make it to the first OP draft. I guess at a certain point you cannot go back, can you? And as passion usually shows . . . it pays off.
    greyjedi125 likes this.
  19. Winged_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 28, 2003
    star 4
    Actually, IIRC, both Man Cubs and Lea Monde were conceived and written pretty much on the night they were posted.
    Penguinator likes this.
  20. Reynar_Tedros Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 3, 2006
    star 6
    I've always been impulsive. If I like the way something sounds, I'll write something up for it. If I like the way it looks, I'll usually go ahead and post it and see what happens. If I have an itch, I scratch it without feeling the need to ask for permission. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't (lately it hasn't at all), but that's just the way I do it. If I wait around to see if people are interested in it I run the risk of second guessing myself and then wind up not doing it at all. If a game gives me five minutes of enjoyment, then I did what I set out to do. Hell, just the excitement of waiting to see if anyone sends me a sheet is fun enough that I don't consider a failure a failure. If a game lasts two weeks and dies out, well, I just move on to the next thing. Fun two weeks? Yep. And that's good enough for me.
  21. Penguinator RPF Modinator and Batmanager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    May 23, 2005
    star 5
    I think the best thing to do with writing is to just write.

    I also think the best thing to do with writing is to plan and research. :p

    Both work, it's just a matter of what idea lights the bulb.
  22. DarkLordoftheFins Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2007
    star 4
    Well, except a whole prototype game called Seven Prphans were all mechanics and the tone of a fairy-tale SW game were already present month before. :p I loved Seven Orphans, so don't you think I forgot about it.

    Well, I haven't checked here for a long time, so I only saw this now.

    I actually believe players make games and therefore Sirak's question is not so relevant for me. If it becomes a good game I cannot decide in some auteur like brilliance of mine. If will depend solely on the question of my players and how they will embrace my take and then develop it into their story.

    So I want the "right" players. Meaning NOT AT ALL the cool kids or "great names" (I also believe newbies are the best players, because they bring a fanatism to a game everybody else has exorcised from his system). I want players who can work with my idea and understand what I am going at, so they can make it their own and "move" through this world without me having to explain it to them or railroad them. That's when a game becomes fun. In SotS, as praised as it always was, I lost several players early on who looked for something different. But I had a lot of people who obviously watched the same shows, loved the same fiction as I did and who were willing to develop this world as theirs in just the way I had hoped for. Lovely. Especially because when I asked my question . . .

    Will I attract players who will make this game work?

    . . . for SotS I was totally unsure if that answer could be a yes.

    If the answer above is a yes, the question will your game be good is automatically a YES, too. Players make games, GMs just invent them. That is my believe, which might be entirely wrong, though. It works well as a thesis for me, though.
    Winged_Jedi and heels1785 like this.
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