Monday, September 15, 2014

Attitudes in Gaming: DM/GM Responsibility

I have noticed an interesting attitude from some gamers, that the GM of the game is there to entertain the players and make sure they have a good time...even if it means the GM does not.

Role-Playing Games are just that, GAMES.

Games are a form of play, and therefore meant to be fun, for everybody involved, the GM included.

If a GM wants to run a horror game, and the players want to play a comedy game, then it should not be up to the GM to change their style of play to fit their players if they will not have fun running a comedy.

This does lead to only a few choices

  • The GM can run the comedy game and not have fun
  • The GM can run the horror game and not have fun because the players are not having fun
  • The GM can find other players
  • The players can find another GM

The GM decides the story elements, works constantly on encounters, treasure/loot, NPCs, voices and making sure there is enough paper, books, dice and pencils for the players in case someone forgets something.

From my players I expect them to show up on time, voice any major concerns they may have, and participate in the game.

As a player, I expect the GM to fairly interpret the rules of the game, and not obviously railroad the players into something.

I do not feel it is any single persons job to make sure that everyone at the table is entertained, or that the story is good, I feel it is the responsibility of every person at that table to encourage the fun, in the spirit it is presented in.

As a GM, I spend most of my free time working on encounters that will be challenging, fun and vaguely survivable, researching rules and making sure everything is ready for the next session.

Mapping, writing descriptions, creating NPCs, writing plot points, reviewing previous notes to tie things together, going over character sheets to make sure the PCs have the appropriate skills, changing encounters because PCs do not have the appropriate skills, etc.

On top of that, we are the primary focus of the players.  We are expected to entertain, use funny voices, provide pacing and fair rule judgments as well as not (obviously) railroad our players.

Over the past few years I have seen more and more people state that it is the GMs "job" to provide entertainment.


This is not my "job."  This is my hobby.  This is (supposed to be) my fun time.

GMs are not slaves to the players to accommodate their every whim and fancy.  GMs are players who do not get to kill the big bad.  GMs are players who do not get to grow a personality from a bunch of mere stats on paper.  GMs do not get to tell the glorious tales of how their character, alone and afraid, overcame the odds and became a hero.

No.  GMs get to be beaten down and looted, tricked and insulted, left to die or banished back to the bowels of hell from which they came to destroy the world they created.

I am a GM, a referee, not a player.  Not your personal RPG slave or lackey.

I posit that the players are there to entertain each other, but within the confines of the rules set forth by the GM.

The GM gets to use the information they have been working on, the players get to have fun overcoming challenges, and the game goes on.

If you want someone to entertain you, without doing anything yourself, go to a comedy club, or watch TV...but that is not what RPGs are about.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

GM Notes: Checking the Poles in Dungeons & Dragons

Lately there have been many discussions on Alignment in the various groups that I attend, facebook, tabletop and general talk with other gamers.

Hitler, Stalin and Mao
At some point in discussing the Alignment system of D&D (all incarnations) someone pipes in about how <insert Hitler, Mao, Stalin, etc> could be viewed as Lawful Good, and then speaks about how they saw themselves and how they thought or felt like they were doing the right thing, etc

This is rubbish.

In D&D, Alignment is more than just how you view what you do.  It is a manifestation of cosmic forces.  Lawful, Chaotic, Good and Evil are present in the universe and represent absolutes.

A Lawful character, or creature, believes in order and fights against the forces of Chaos.  Likewise, a Good character or creature, believes in others over self and fights against the forces of Evil.

Notice the use of capital letters.  There is a difference here between good and Good, lawful and Lawful, they are pronouns, they are named Forces that manifest in the universe at large.

I can go on for lengths of time regarding how the Empire from Star Wars was a Lawful Good society, sometimes it can be fun to argue that, but everytime I do, I have to admit to myself that it is complete and utter balderdash.

Yes, the Empire brought about Order, yes, that makes them Lawful.  But the Emperor, and Vader, were Evil.  They were power hungry despots that had not a care in the world for who they destroyed, as long as they were on top.

The Rebellion, honestly, was also Lawful.  They believed in Order, but they were also founded on principles of Good.  Fair people, and fair laws, must be the rule, and differences should be handled with discussion and compromise.

Again, these are universal, cosmic, definitions.  Not definitions imposed by a single person, their friends/enemies, or society.

At the basic level, a lawful person obeys the laws of the land, a Lawful person instinctively strives towards order and away from Chaos without really understanding, or even caring, why, it is "right" to them while Chaos is just fundamentally "wrong," even alien in their thinking.

Classic Good vs Evil
In the real world, Evil may not realize it is evil, but in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons, it knows what it is, it embraces what it is, in order to act good, it has to force itself.  And the same goes for Good, Lawful and Chaotic also.

One of the major aspects that separate Fantasy from other genre is the fact that these cosmic forces are there in the world, tangible, definitive and absolute.  Evil creatures destroy because they are Evil, Good creatures protect others, because they are Good.  There needs to be no other reason.

Science Fiction, and our real world, have come to view good and evil as merely gray areas instead of the black and white that is presented in the Fantasy genre.  Evil is a term used by the other side that believes itself to be Good, and the other side feels exactly the same.  Both sides cannot be Good, one side has to be Evil, or both sides have to be Evil, because if both sides were Good, there would be no conflict.

As someone who goes from game to game, genre to genre, I get where things can become clouded and grey-areas may pop up.  But there is a huge difference in the fantasy genre were "Humans are Evil says the Orc from his perspective" and "Orcs are Evil, because that is their cosmic alignment."

I am speaking in generalizations, not ALL Orcs are Evil, not ALL Dwarves are Lawful, those that stray from their racial alignment are outcasts (like Drizz't from R.A. Salvatore's novels), and will invariably end up killed by their own kind, exiled, or self-outcast from their race.

I feel like I am starting to ramble and type ad nausea at this point, so I will end it here.

For those that skipped to the end for the final statement:  Law, Chaos, Good and Evil are presented as cosmic absolutes in the game Dungeons & Dragons.  They are black and white, there are no "grey areas."

Last thought:  "What about Neutrals?"

They just have not picked a side yet.