GMs are an endangered species!
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  1. #1
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    GMs are an endangered species!

    The situation is dire, friends. The world is running out of GMs, and we might never get them back. Just look at the cute, little things, in their natural habitat:
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    Let's look at the causes, so that we can begin to form a solution:

    - Not enough Dungeon Master's Guides. Lots of games put all of the rules in one book, giving players easy access to the GM's secrets.
    - Rules-light games. If there are few-to-no rules, for what do you need a rules referee? Such games also facilitate low-prep, which could also mean low-need-for-a-GM.
    - Narrative moves. These let players control the story, not just their characters. Formerly a GM's job.
    - Fate points. These allow PCs to say, "sorry GM. We're gonna change that," thus diminishing GM authority. See also: GM Intrusions.
    - Random generators. Players can create their own unexpected content with these. (Here's looking at you, OGRE!)
    - Virtual Tabletops. Who needs a GM to describe a scene, when a VTT lays everything out in PICTURES!? And sometimes animated fog-of-war...
    - Gloomhaven, an RPBG (...board game), is GM-less and the second printing has about $4 million in Kickstarter pledges.

    Two questions:

    - Would you like to see a hard line between the GM role and the PC role?
    - If not, where do you draw the line?
    Last edited by DMMike; Thursday, 9th May, 2019 at 05:05 PM. Reason: Too many exclamation marks?
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    The situation is dire, friends. The world is running out of GMs, and we might never get them back. Let's look at the causes, so that we can begin to form a solution:
    That's not true.

    The real situation is that there are plenty of DMs, but that good DMs are non-existent.


    And I know that has to be true, because I keep reading it here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    I don't think there was ever any risk to DMs, but yes, (5E is) a return to DM-centric mechanics, that put more of the pretend 'power' on the DM side of the DM/Player dynamic. It's harder to DM than 4e was (though still arguably easier than 3.x), and requires a different style of DMing. The Player v DM would, a most be 'emulated' - that is, the DM would have to set some bounds for himself to 'let the players win.' PvP would be fine, but would really /need/ a DM supervising it.
    I'd actually like to see 6E pick up where 4E left off, where some other games currently are, and make the GM role more mechanical - putting more narration in the hands of the players. I would expect it to go well with today's Burger King have-it-your-way players. And with a nod to "game modes," it could either leash or unleash the more creative (gonzo) players.

    Paizo would probably like that too. (Does Pathfinder have "GMs" or "DMs?")

    Regarding an earlier comment from @lowkey13 - that there are no good DMs (snark noted) - what are today's games doing to make GMing easier, and thus, allowing the GM population to flourish? Not in terms of enabling PCs to co-GM, but having a clear GM role that isn't intimidating.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post

    Regarding an earlier comment from @lowkey13 - that there are no good DMs (snark noted) - what are today's ga
    In the midst of the word DMMike was trying to say,
    In the midst of his laughter and glee,
    The Good DMs softly and suddenly vanished away
    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMMike View Post
    I'd actually like to see 6E pick up where 4E left off, where some other games currently are, and make the GM role more mechanical - putting more narration in the hands of the players. I would expect it to go well with today's Burger King have-it-your-way players. And with a nod to "game modes," it could either leash or unleash the more creative (gonzo) players.
    While a 4e approach might have been as or more accessible to new players as 5e's, and might've become more so in the long run, it's failure with established fans and 5e's reversion to type means that a new generation of fans are being indoctrinated into the same expectations as the old generation. D&D as it was in the 80s, and is again today, is how it will remain for the foreseeable future. If there's a 6e - and that seems unlikely - it'll be at least as similar to 5e as 2e was to 1e.

    Paizo would probably like that too. (Does Pathfinder have "GMs" or "DMs?")
    "PMs?"

    what are today's games doing to make GMing easier, and thus, allowing the GM population to flourish? Not in terms of enabling PCs to co-GM, but having a clear GM role that isn't intimidating.
    IDK about other games, but the 5e/classic-D&D approach to helping GM's flourish to make it /hard/ to DM, making it a prestige position since fewer players can make the leap, and to incentivize it with built-in privileges (DM Empowerment ftw).

    Besides, think about it in terms of buzz. A gaming community in which players are always looking for games and are excited to find one with an opening creates an impression of the game being very popular, while, even if you had the exact same number of equally-enthusiastic participants, if the ratio were skewed more towards GMs, you'd have a situation of games going begging for players, scheduled games not going off, and that would create an impression of crumbling popularity.

    So keeping the bar for DMs high is a good idea, in that sense of image, too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    While a 4e approach might have been as or more accessible to new players as 5e's...
    I think most of us here are so removed from being "new players" that we have forgotten what makes it easy or difficult.

    Anecdote, not data, but I taught a couple of 13/14 year-olds to play 5e, and they found it plenty accessible. One of them quickly went off to put together a game with her peers, who also had zero difficulty picking it up.

    We could have a long argument about what's more accessible, but wherever it sits relative to 4e, 5e is "easy as pie".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    I think most of us here are so removed from being "new players" that we have forgotten what makes it easy or difficult.

    Anecdote, not data, but I taught a couple of 13/14 year-olds to play 5e, and they found it plenty accessible. One of them quickly went off to put together a game with her peers, who also had zero difficulty picking it up.

    We could have a long argument about what's more accessible, but wherever it sits relative to 4e, 5e is "easy as pie".
    Agreed.

    I teach 6th-9th graders to play in my area, and they regularly form their own groups in 5e.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    I think most of us here are so removed from being "new players" that we have forgotten what makes it easy or difficult.
    Or what's appealing, sure (I recall harboring some hearty skepticism in the playtest when Mearls started going on about reaching back to early experiences with AD&D to get insight into what would make 5e appeal to new players - being a new player in the 80s or 90s has gotta be very different from being one today!). And the dynamics at the table can have a big impact. But, while 39 years (yeah '80) of experience separate me from my new-player self, only the width of a table has separated me from actual (no scare quotes) new players, since Encounters first got rolling in 2010 (well, not /first/, I came in with the second season).

    Anecdote, not data, but I taught a couple of 13/14 year-olds
    Cynicism, not data, but I've noticed that any characterization of an RPG as complex, unwelcoming, complicated, 'hard' or what-have-you, almost instantly conjures an anecdote from someone about a young person mastering it effortlessly.

    I have to consider it evidence of youthful enthusiasm rather than any quality of the system in question, since I've noted the phenomenon with quite a range of systems.

    For my own experience, I ran a lot of introductory 4e games and played & ran Encounters which included both new & casual players, and special introductory games & Encounters/AL for the first few years of 5e (until health issues kept me from attending my usual cons). And, yes, IMX, I found that 5e was more welcoming to returning players (who, yeah, tended to be 'older'), who found in it what they expected from D&D, while 4e was more accessible to new players (yeah, some quite young, but plenty of adults, too) without preconceived notions.

    That's not to say that 5e isn't accessible, especially at a mixed table with an experienced DM and/or player or two to set expectations and explain things: getting that just-right balance between acceptability to established fans and accessibility to newcomers is the great accomplishment of 5e there's no overstating the difficulty, importance, or impact of that accomplishment. But it is a balance, it's less accessible than 4e was /and/ it trains new players to have similar expectations & attitudes to established & returning ones. That was my actual point, that 5e represents a return to the feel of the classic game, after a really quite short experiment, not just a pendulum swing or cycle - the 4e style of D&D isn't coming back.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Friday, 17th May, 2019 at 09:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    I think most of us here are so removed from being "new players" that we have forgotten what makes it easy or difficult.

    Anecdote, not data, but I taught a couple of 13/14 year-olds to play 5e, and they found it plenty accessible. One of them quickly went off to put together a game with her peers, who also had zero difficulty picking it up.

    We could have a long argument about what's more accessible, but wherever it sits relative to 4e, 5e is "easy as pie".
    Absolutely. While my daughter had a grounding in RPGs via Savage Worlds, she took to D&D5e like a fish to water and almost immediately started running games for her friends. Her second best friend played in only a couple of her sessions before volunteering to run D&D5e. So, for her circle of friends, it was super easy to pick up and take off with.

    Might also help that I have all the books via DND Beyond and they all have access to them through a campaign I made for them using my Master subscription. As such, it's almost a $0 investment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    the 5e/classic-D&D approach to helping GM's flourish (is) to make it /hard/ to DM, making it a prestige position since fewer players can make the leap, and to incentivize it with built-in privileges (DM Empowerment ftw). . .

    So keeping the bar for DMs high is a good idea, in that sense of image, too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
    5e is "easy as pie".
    Are we talking about the same game, here? Part of me likes the idea of putting the GM in a prestige position (and one way to do that is by making GMing a difficult task), but another part says that everything is disposable these days, so why not just dispose of a game if it's hard to find a (good) GM for it?

    Sorry - that last part was the little marketer on my shoulder telling me that everything must appeal to the masses (although that is a rule that D&D, as a brand, must follow).

    If GMing is (or should be) a prestigious, difficult thing to do, why is the DMG the most prominent, and for me the only, example of clearly setting GMs apart from PCs? ...taking the cost explanation as a given.
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