Friday, July 28, 2006

GM Hell!

You will hate this man when it's all over

Since I'm stuck at work tonight and have nothing better to do, I will resume humiliating myself by regaling you with stories of my gaming past. If you've gamed at all before, you know that pretty much all games require a game master, or "GM" for short (or in the world of D&D, the "dungeon master"...yes, it's stupid) and that this GM is the one who ultimately decides how the game will go and what your fate will be.

Unfortunately, this GM is all too often a fallible human being like yourself, and since the GM is usually from the same circle of people playing the game, he's probably been on the opposite side of the table in other games or campaigns. Consequently GMs who are long on memory and short on forgiveness can take the opportunity to take revenge on their hapless friends for supposed slights in prior campaigns, resulting in massive player character death, dice throwing and hurt feelings table-round.

GMs vary dramatically in their quality and technique. A truly great GM will leave you feeling as if you yourself determined the entire fate of the campaign. A poor GM will leave you feeling as if you were merely a mechanical robot in an absurdist play, constantly rescued by various deux ex machinas that the GM must dream up on a moments notice to save you from the over-powerful and bizarrely motivated characters he's pitted you against.

One experience I had was with a friend who took on the role of GM in a campaign that he had put together. He was bound and determined to have us follow the path he had laid out for us. Being as one of my other friends-a fellow player in this campaign-is extremely strong-willed, he was determined to defeat our GM's desire every step of the way. In this instance the dice went his way, and our GM friend became quite frustrated with the both of us and, I'm sure, came close to flat out killing us and forcing us to start over again more than once. That day of gaming ended with one of our characters (mine, incidentally) imprisoned, and the other escaping out of the city, with the GM's original storyline in tatters and egos brusied. To this day, I'm not sure if that campaign has ever been completed.

GMs can also be more or less original when it comes to the storylines they create for the players. The most original storylines I've ever had the pleasure to take part in were dreamed up by my youngest brother when he was but a wee lad of 8 or 9, including one which involved a highly surreal other world of dragons that existed inside a tree. The least original is a storyline I put together for one campaign that I'm pretty sure in retrospect I borrowed from the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark." It's a testament to the kindness of my friends that they went along without once complaining.

So that's "GMs 101". More on gaming to come. Though God willing, not tonight.


Xanthippas said...


James said...

don't we know someone who uses big words like that?

Nat-Wu said...

Well...that was certainly a weird comment on the subject of gaming and GM-ing.

Xanthippas said...

I declare this comments thread hijacked.

We can never return to the days when our comments were innocent and free.