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Is the DM the most important person at the table

aco175

Hero
Another thread has me thinking about this. On one hand the DM tends to be the person who arranges the game and puts in the most work. He plans things and runs the game. On the other hand everyone is there to have fun and most times these people are your friends and family. Everyone is giving up time to play and social norms tend to make things 'fair' to everyone.

I tend to think that everyone needs to be having fun at the table. I also think that the table needs to be a partner in making the fun. This means that players should help the DM and play PCs that are part of the campaign that the DM is making. Nobody wants to play with the player that is trying to disrupt the game and derail the plot. Now if that person is your brother or best friend, things become harder.

Not sure if you all are going to have vastly different opinions, but thank you.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
It's a social game above all else. So yes, everyone is there to have fun, and everyone is there to have ideas heard. Also, the DM is the most important because there's only one there, and they put in the most work and effort to make the game happen.

Good DMs try to make an effort to incorporate all players and facilitate their fun.

Good players respect the efforts of the DM and work within the DM's world and don't try to overturn the apple cart by forcing their own ideas into the game world.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Important, in what sense?

I mean, is the GM a highly placed government official? An influential celebrity? A time traveler from the future, here to save humanity, apparently by way of a tabletop role playing game? No? Okay then - so the folks at your table are.. just folks. In the grand scheme of things, even if they are a government official or a celebrity*, they're just the same meat and bones as you. There's seven billion other people on the planet - none of us are particularly important.

I mean, maybe it is Joe's birthday. Or maybe Sarah's had a hard week, so you could take it easy on her with the friendly insults, okay? But otherwise, nobody's really any more important.

And, if your GM is sitting down to run a game, and anywhere near the front of their mind is, "Ah! I am the most important person in the room!" they are probably going to do a crummy job running the game, and see how important they feel when the players go... "Dude, it isn't all about you. This isn't fun. We're going to go bowling."

Don't worry about who is "important". Worry about who these people are, and what their wants and needs are. And, knowing a bit of that, see if you can make the world a little nicer, just around the table, for a little while.



* I cannot vouch for the time traveler. They probably have some weird transhumanist carbon nanotube bones, or somesuch.
 

Campbell

Legend
James is still James no matter where he sits at the table. If I switch places it does not matter.

In the end I think approaching this thing we do in terms of rights and power dynamics leads to getting things twisted. I think it is a lot more fruitful to think about expectations, our responsibility to one another, and boundaries all of which are highly dependent on individual group dynamics.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Yes.

But mostly in the sense that if a player leaves, the game can go on, but of the GM leaves, you might as well break out a board game or watch a movie.

I think anyone that has run or tried to run a campaign for people has, or ought to have, a great deal of respect for anyone that puts in that work. The more I do it, the more respect I have for anyone that runs a game. It's a ton of work. It's not easy to be a good GM. It's not easy to keep a bunch of players engaged and interested.

I totally agree with you though that players have to do their part. We talk a lot about skillful GMing and how to as a GM ensure everyone has fun, but being a skillful player and ensuring everyone (including the GM) has fun is also a thing. Exactly what skillful play constitutes is going to very from table to table. Is it becoming part of a well oiled machine, and executing plays with cunning and elan, so that collectively the party vanquishes its enemies and there are high fives all around? Yes, that's a sort of skillful play. Is it being able to read another players cues and provide a framework for them to monologue in (think Horatio to their Hamlet), or witty in character banter, or cooperating in some melodrama where you characters have a grievance even though neither player actually does? Yes, that's a sort of skillful play as well. Which one is the right type depends on the group and the game and sometimes the moment within the game.
 

aco175

Hero
I'm happy to see that everyone agrees so far.

I DM because I like to and I enjoy putting in the extra time and effort. I guess someone could argue that the DM cannot choose to not show up and the game can still go on, so more important to making the game go on, but certainly not more important overall in a cosmic thing- unless he is a time traveler.
 



Wulffolk

Explorer
Not quite so.

Every DM can be a capable Player, but not every Player can be a capable DM.

Thus, the DM is more important than any one Player.

However, both the DM and the Players should be contributing to the fun of the group.

Too often certain Players have a sense of entitlement, believing that the DM is there to cater to them, while the other players are just along for the ride.

Conversely, there are some DM's that use their position to feel some sense of control and power over the players.

I suggest walking away from either of those toxic types if having a diplomatic and mature discussion does not help them improve.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So we have a group of 5 and the DM leaves.... now we have a group of 4 with a new DM.
Or you have a group of 4 with nowhere to play (IME the game is invariably at the DM's home) who then just drift apart.

Is a good DM more important than a good player? I'm not as sure anymore.
A DM of any kind is more important than a player in one respect, in that without a DM the player has no place to play.
 

Jacob Lewis

Ye Olde GM
Every person at the table, whether they're a GM or a player, has the potential to be as valuable as anyone else by contributing to the shared experience of the game in a positive way. Good players attend regularly, participate to include everyone else, and follow the queues set by others to build a shared narrative and a fun atmosphere. Mostly, they ensure that everyone else has a good time playing together as a group.

That being said, the role of the GM is the most important of any RPG. The person who accepts the role responsibly and competently should be both respected and appreciated. But just like players, there are good and bad GMs who have the potential to make or break a game.

A good GM, for example, sets the tone for the group and cultivates a fun, entertaining environment for all players to enjoy. This is especially important when introducing new players because a negative experience can create a wrong impression that will stick. That kind of damage is hard to undo. By contrast, a bad player can be overlooked, and when necessary, removed from the group if unwilling or unable to be corrected.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
First among equals.

Everyone's enjoyment is important. However, the DM/GM assumes a position of responsibility at the table. They are the referee. They ostensibly prep material for each game (or are on the hook for improvising it). They aren't more important than anyone else, but their role bestows different/more rights and responsibilities (within the context of the game table) than the role of player.
 
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Wolfpack48

Explorer
Another thread has me thinking about this. On one hand the DM tends to be the person who arranges the game and puts in the most work. He plans things and runs the game. On the other hand everyone is there to have fun and most times these people are your friends and family. Everyone is giving up time to play and social norms tend to make things 'fair' to everyone.

I tend to think that everyone needs to be having fun at the table. I also think that the table needs to be a partner in making the fun. This means that players should help the DM and play PCs that are part of the campaign that the DM is making. Nobody wants to play with the player that is trying to disrupt the game and derail the plot. Now if that person is your brother or best friend, things become harder.

Not sure if you all are going to have vastly different opinions, but thank you.

I always liked the term "referee" better -- it implies neutrality and doesn't have importance overly tied to it, as "Dungeon Master" and "Game Master" do. Yes, they run the scenario, but the best referees let the chips fall where they may without trying to influence proceedings. That said, I've seen scenarios run where the party WANTS the referee to influence things, to point them in the right direction, give hints, etc. But that's more a party dynamic and preference. Some players want to be lead, some groups want more agency. It should all be an agreement about "how we'll play" at the beginning.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Or you have a group of 4 with nowhere to play (IME the game is invariably at the DM's home) who then just drift apart.

It could be the reverse just as easily - they are at the player's house and when he leaves they have no place to play and drift apart.

A DM of any kind is more important than a player in one respect, in that without a DM the player has no place to play.

I'm not seeing why.
 

Aebir-Toril

J.C. Denton probably
If the DM leaves, then, someone else will become the DM... People are people. I suppose, if the DM leaves, it will destroy the campaign, while, when a player leaves, the same does not happen, but, in a traditional sense, the DM is no more important than any of the players. I play D&D to have fun with my mates, not to become the lord of the table.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Another thread has me thinking about this. On one hand the DM tends to be the person who arranges the game and puts in the most work.

That's not always the case. For example last weekend we had a player miss and decided it best to wait on him to return to continue our primary campaign. So the players created characters which took them about an hour and I helped and put about 15 mins of thought into their adventure. They certainly put more work in this week than I did.

He plans things and runs the game. On the other hand everyone is there to have fun and most times these people are your friends and family. Everyone is giving up time to play and social norms tend to make things 'fair' to everyone.

Sure, but a good player pushes the game forward and really makes the game come to life - sometimes even making a bad DM appear good.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
If the DM leaves, then, someone else will become the DM... People are people. I suppose, if the DM leaves, it will destroy the campaign, while, when a player leaves, the same does not happen, but, in a traditional sense, the DM is no more important than any of the players. I play D&D to have fun with my mates, not to become the lord of the table.

I think what we are seeing here is the general perception that it's harder to DM good than play good. I'm not sure that's the case.
 


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