Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game Masters

2008 Halloween Game
Originally uploaded by GameThyme
After reading through myGenCon haul, I'm beginning to suspect that the Game Master (GM) is an endangered species. Most of the Indie RPG's I purchased either share the GM duties or else do away with the GM entirely. It's very interesting to read.

And a startling realization. Every role-playing game I've purchased and played for twenty years has had a stark division between GM and Player. It was a line that was not crossed. Our GM's didn't tend to apprentice non-GM's, s it was a matter of Learn By Doing, which led to some (admittedly) bad games. I'd have killed for something along the lines of Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering back then. (FYI: Robin's Laws seems to have gone out of print, but is still available as a .pdf). In fact, I have half a dozen books designed to help GM's step up their game.

In the old days, we'd sometimes find someone with The Knack. The best GM I've ever had chose to run Rifts games.

Yes, that Rifts. You need to be almost perfect to be able to run Rifts, due to the sheer number of munchkins it attracts. But I'll talk about Rifts another time.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Rifts is Piledrivers and Powerbombs, which suggests rotating the GM duties among all players. Somewhere else on that spectrum is Polaris, where each player takes a specific portion of the GM duties based on seating position. So the player to your left has one responsibility, the player to your right has another, and the player across from you has another set of responsibilities.

Even Dungeons and Dragons (in 4th Edition) has a section in the Dungeon Master's Guide on playing without a GM. Whether that's due to the game looking towards a GM-less future or because it's now more board game than role-playing game is a debate or another time.

I don't think the office of DM is going away - but I do think we're due for a shakeup. Play Unsafe looks ready to help players step up their game.

I'll let you know.

1 comment:

  1. Heh. That's an excellent photo illustration.