Is the DM the most important person at the table

macd21

Explorer
But, it's not hard. That's the gatekeeping. It's not harder than playing, really, as you need to know the same general things to do both: how the mechanics work and the idea of a shared fictional space.
My own experience as both player and GM, combined with conversations I’ve had with other GMs and players, suggests to me that this is very much not the case.

When I’m a player, I don’t need to know as much of the mechanics as when I GM. Nor do I need to know/think as much about the ‘shared fictional space.’
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, it's not hard. That's the gatekeeping. It's not harder than playing, really, as you need to know the same general things to do both: how the mechanics work and the idea of a shared fictional space.
Yes it is harder than playing. When I DM I have to create the encounters. Players don't have to do that. When I DM I have to roleplay all of the monsters and other NPCs. Players deal with 1 PC. When I DM I have to adjudicate the actions of all of the PCs. Players have to do 0 of that.

Also, players don't need to know the rules to the same level as the DM, or even all of the rules. The DM is the one who adjudicates actions. When you get down to it, he's the only one that needs to know most of the rules. A player should just be able to say, "I want to try and grab the dagger before the guild master does." and let the DM tell him what needs to be rolled and how the action plays out.

Again, harder doesn't mean hard, but there's simply no way that playing is just as hard as DMing.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Why not? If they're having fun, this is fine. If they aren't having fun, that's a completely different question from how hard GMing is. Again, this goes to the accretion of expectation and tradition built up in certain segments of the hobby rather than an actual evaluation of how hard it is to run a game of D&D. Sure, it can be very hard to live up to this table's expectations, but that's that table, not GMing.
Why not? Because I would assume there is a purpose or goal to GM'ing... which let's one know whether they did it successfully or not... something like having a game that your players want to play... do you agree? If not, well driving isn't hard without any sort of training because any 12 or 13 year old can push pedals with their feet, shift a gear and turn a steering wheel... irregardless of what the result of them doing that on a busy (or even non-busy) street is...

Oh, that very much depends on the game system. For D&D, I'll agree that there's extremely little expected of the players in the tradition of play that has built up. But, that's not actually in the rules as such. The rules say that player should be actively engaging the situation and coming up with actions which the GM adjudicates. Depending on the fiction, that can be very demanding. Or not. The tradition is usually to put all of the effort on the GM's shoulders, but that's not required.
I disagree. The DM has to create these situations (frame scenes) and adjudicate the actions that every one of their players is making in said situation as well as declare actions for and adjudicate said actions of any NPC's monsters, etc in the situation... The player has to declare their action. We aren't even talking funny voices and facial expressions just basic running of the game and the DM already has more to do. can you name a game where the procedures specifically call out the players having to do more not equal but more than the GM? I'd honestly be interested in taking a look at said game out of curiosity.

Oh, no, I work very hard for my D&D games. I work that hard because that's the expectation of my table and because, usually, I enjoy it. But, I recognize that that's my choice, not a requirement of running a D&D game. And, when I GM Blades in the Dark, I show up at the table with no prep, I wait for the players to start driving the action, and I react to each thing individually, building up the game by pieces. It's super easy, and my players end up doing as much work as I do. So, no, the difficulting in GMing is largely due to choice and the traditions and expectations built up around the games played rather than an actual, required, difficulty increase.
It's funny you bring up BiTD because I am currently running it as a break for our normal D&D campaign and in all honesty I find it hard and exhausting in a way my pre-prepped D&D games aren't. I have to continuously improv various NPC's & situations... continuously judge position and effect for actions... frame scenes... write down notes so I don't loos all of that improv I'm doing and keep track of the different phases we are in, some of which have totally different mechanical resolutions. It's fun but I wouldn't call it easy, difference in where the mental load is maybe... but not necessarily easier than D&D prep.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Is it? Am I, as GM, taking a risk to my character? Am I, as GM, weighing all the option available and trying to meet my character's goals alongside my goals as player? Do I not need, as player, to have a fair grasp of probabilities to determine the riskiness of my action declaration?

As GM, to adjudicate, I have to determine if the outcome is in questions. That's not hard, I could, according to the DMG, default to 'yes.' Then I ask for a check. Again, according to the DMG, I should be asking for an ability check, so I only have 6 options. The player should be suggesting a proficiency, if one applies, so that's a pretty easy yes or no. I set a check -- the DMG again recommends that almost all checks be 10 (easy), 15 (moderate), or 20 (hard), and that's according to the fiction, so should be easy to pick if the thing attempted is easy, moderate, or hard. Then the player has to role, the mechanics tell me if it's a success. I narrate the oucome according to the dice. The hard part of this might be the part where I decide how I narrate a failure -- fail forward, success with complication, or no progress.

This conjecture only applies if you really think the players do not care about what's going on and not declaring actions with full intent. IE, that the situation is one where the action declaration is trivial for the player but complicated for the GM, and I really can't come up with a non-ridiculous example of this.
I claim it is harder, yes. One must consider many more things when adjudicating an attempt than the person does when declaring that attempt.

Taking risk is not hard. I take a risk every time I but a lottery ticket or ask my spouse on a date. Those are not hard acts, but risk is involved. Calculating the second integral of an discontinuous function can be hard, but there is no risk to the activity.

1) One must examine the situation to determine if the declaration is even possible inside the shared fiction or if the declarer made a basic error. "I swing my sword!" "Um, the receiving staff took all weapons when you entered the mansion, remember?" The declarer should perform this step, but quality assurance is necessary.
2) One may need to determine if a unrevealed aspect of the fiction prevents the action. "I swing my sword!" "OK, as you reach for the hilt you discover it is missing!". The declarer cannot perform this step.
3) One needs to then examine the situation and determine if a default answer is appropriate or if stakes are present that would require some form of negotiation or check. The declarer can not perform this step.
4) One then needs to determine stake either by (a) knowing the rules, (b) determining what the shared fiction will look like upon resolution, or (c) negotiating. The declarer can be involved, but does not control this step.
5) One needs to determine the mechanic used for resolution. Fiat, die roll, talking, bribery, whatever.
6) One needs to update the shared fiction with the actual result and be prepared to handle the next declaration.
 
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Imaro

Adventurer
I claim it is harder, yes. One must consider many more things when adjudicating an attempt than the person does when declaring that attempt.

Taking risk is not hard. I take a risk every time I but a lottery ticket or ask my spouse on a date. Those are not hard acts, but risk is involved. Calculating the second integral of an discontinuous function can be hard, but there is no risk to the activity.

1) One must examine the situation to determine if (a) the declaration is even possible inside the shared fiction of if the declarer made a basic error. "I swing my sword!" "Um, the receiving staff took all weapons when you entered the mansion, remember?" The declarer should perform this step, but quality assurance is necessary.
2) One may need to determine if a unrevealed aspect of the fiction prevents the action. "I swing my sword!" "OK, as you reach for the hilt you discover it is missing!". The declarer cannot perform this step.
3) One needs to then examine the situation and determine if a default answer is appropriate or if stakes are present that would require some form of negotiation or check. The declarer can not perform this step.
4) One then needs to determine stake either by (a) knowing the rules, (b) determining what the shared fiction will look like upon resolution, or (c) negotiating. The declarer can be involved, but does not control this step.
5) One needs to determine the mechanic used for resolution. Fiat, die roll, talking, bribery, whatever.
6) One needs to update the shared fiction with the actual result and be prepared to handle the next declaration.
Let's also not forget in D&D the DM is responsible for also declaring and adjudicating the actions of numerous NPC's and monsters...
 

Nagol

Unimportant
So if the player declares they grapple a monster in D&D 3.5... That's easy to adjudicate?

Let's also not forget in D&D the DM is responsible for also declaring and adjudicating the actions of numerous NPC's and monsters...
Easier than 1e...
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Let's also not forget in D&D the DM is responsible for also declaring and adjudicating the actions of numerous NPC's and monsters...
True enough, though tangential. That's another area where the GM role can be harder.
 

FrozenNorth

Explorer
A entire game being more difficult doesn't really impact whether GMing is more difficult. You have to make the specific case. And, from what I've seen in this thread, the reasons cited for GMing being more difficult in playing are preferences, not requirements. It's also very D&D specific, which ensaddens me.
Not just D&D: Pathfinder, CoC, Savage Worlds...

The initial statement was “The GM is the most important person at the table”. I’m not sure it is really useful to respond “Not if you exclude the games that 80% of people are playing...” :)
 
A entire game being more difficult doesn't really impact whether GMing is more difficult. You have to make the specific case. And, from what I've seen in this thread, the reasons cited for GMing being more difficult in playing are preferences, not requirements. It's also very D&D specific, which ensaddens me.

As for gatekeeping, I do see the reasons given in this thread for why GMing is hard as the kind of gatekeeping that accretes around an activity. There's a preponderance of opinion that GMing requires being good at this host of things that are, ultimately nothing but preference and tradition. And, that gestalt conception of what GMing is (at least in D&D) erects a barrier to entry. If a new GM uses the random dungeon creator in the DMG, puts in some monsters and a trap, and runs an Orc and Pie game, it's indisputable that they are GMing D&D, maybe well for the goals they have. But, according to this thread, they haven't yet reached the bar for GMing because they aren't acting out NPCs, they aren't taking copious notes, they're scope isn't big enough... pick a post from this thread and you'll likely find some added requirement for GMing. That accretion of traditionals and expectations is definitely gatekeeping. Is it intentional? No, I don't think so, in that people don't intend their ideas to be gatekeeping, but it does that anyway. Someone that wanted to start GMing that read this thread will come away with the idea that they have soooo very much they have to do, and that doing it is hard, and that's gatekeeping.
I don't think most people (if anyone) in this thread are gatekeeping. You and I have already agreed that ENWorld is not the place to send a newbie, so I'm unsure as to why you're even making this argument. Are you suggesting that we password protect the thread and vet anyone who is interested so that only experienced GMs can read it?

People are allowed to have discussions on topics on the internet without it being gatekeeping.

While gatekeeping is a serious issue, I don't think that most of the things you put forth as gatekeeping are actually gatekeeping. I suspect that by your definition, if I were to do my absolute best to help out a prospective GM, but I gave them bad advice unknowingly (maybe it worked for me but doesn't work for them) that I would be guilty of gatekeeping. Which as far as I'm concerned makes it a useless definition, because literally anything could fall under that scope. A more useful definition of gatekeeping is based on intent. If I do my best to help a newbie, I am not gatekeeping, irrespective of whether I was actually helpful. If I tried to hinder or drive away the newbie I am gatekeeping, regardless of whether or not I am successful.
 
My own experience as both player and GM, combined with conversations I’ve had with other GMs and players, suggests to me that this is very much not the case.

When I’m a player, I don’t need to know as much of the mechanics as when I GM. Nor do I need to know/think as much about the ‘shared fictional space.’
I am currently DMing a 5e game for my group. I do not know the rules as well as two of my players. This does not in any way impede me from DMing.

Ultimately, the DM needs an idea of the rules and general procedures. Instead of remembering all the rules, I think it would benefit the DM to know that uncertainty of a rule means he should make a ruling and keep the game moving.

Yes it is harder than playing. When I DM I have to create the encounters. Players don't have to do that. When I DM I have to roleplay all of the monsters and other NPCs. Players deal with 1 PC. When I DM I have to adjudicate the actions of all of the PCs. Players have to do 0 of that.

Also, players don't need to know the rules to the same level as the DM, or even all of the rules. The DM is the one who adjudicates actions. When you get down to it, he's the only one that needs to know most of the rules. A player should just be able to say, "I want to try and grab the dagger before the guild master does." and let the DM tell him what needs to be rolled and how the action plays out.

Again, harder doesn't mean hard, but there's simply no way that playing is just as hard as DMing.
I think that generally it's more a case that the DM has more to do than the players. I would agree with that. Exactly how much more, I would probably disagree with most. Also, if any of the individual tasks of being a DM is all that hard.

It's funny you bring up BiTD because I am currently running it as a break for our normal D&D campaign and in all honesty I find it hard and exhausting in a way my pre-prepped D&D games aren't. I have to continuously improv various NPC's & situations... continuously judge position and effect for actions... frame scenes... write down notes so I don't loos all of that improv I'm doing and keep track of the different phases we are in, some of which have totally different mechanical resolutions. It's fun but I wouldn't call it easy, difference in where the mental load is maybe... but not necessarily easier than D&D prep.
Blades is complex in ways, for sure, but it's mostly in how all the different pieces fit together. I also think that the learning curve with Blades in the Dark mostly seems to come from having to unlearn what D&D and similar games have ingrained in us.

I had one player who was only passing familiar with D&D, and he took to Blades so much faster than my D&D guys did.

Not just D&D: Pathfinder, CoC, Savage Worlds...

The initial statement was “The GM is the most important person at the table”. I’m not sure it is really useful to respond “Not if you exclude the games that 80% of people are playing...” :)
Right, but if some games have GMing techniques that may help ease the burden of running game, perhaps there's something to be learned from those games for folks running D&D?
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Blades is complex in ways, for sure, but it's mostly in how all the different pieces fit together. I also think that the learning curve with Blades in the Dark mostly seems to come from having to unlearn what D&D and similar games have ingrained in us.

I had one player who was only passing familiar with D&D, and he took to Blades so much faster than my D&D guys did.
Not sure I agree with the unlearning part as my players had no issues with BiTD... It's pretty traditional in it's player side mechanics... of course we are speaking to whether the GM has a higher cognitive, mental, etc. workload than the players In BitD (After running it I still believe they do) not whether it's harder than D&D (I don't think either is "harder" in an objective sense but running them requires different skillsets which may be harder or easier for some to leverage.).
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Right, but if some games have GMing techniques that may help ease the burden of running game, perhaps there's something to be learned from those games for folks running D&D?
What are these techniques? And would they do that universally for anyone who leveraged them?
 

macd21

Explorer
I am currently DMing a 5e game for my group. I do not know the rules as well as two of my players. This does not in any way impede me from DMing.
A player knowing the rules better than the DM isn’t the issue. It’s that a DM needs to have a higher familiarity with the rules than is required of a player. There is a far lower level of system mastery required of a 5ed player than 5ed DM. And a DM having more system mastery is more beneficial to the table than a player having it.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
A player knowing the rules better than the DM isn’t the issue. It’s that a DM needs to have a higher familiarity with the rules than is required of a player. There is a far lower level of system mastery required of a 5ed player than 5ed DM. And a DM having more system mastery is more beneficial to the table than a player having it.
I agree about a player having system mastery not being a problem. I have a player in one of the campaigns I'm running who's probably about as up on the rules as I am, if not more, and I use him as a resource (and he doesn't mind that). When I play, I try to be at least as helpful as he is.
 

FrozenNorth

Explorer
Right, but if some games have GMing techniques that may help ease the burden of running game, perhaps there's something to be learned from those games for folks running D&D?
There is absolutely room for resources to help DMs (both new and old) improve their game.

That said, finding and using those resources (and avoiding resources that though well-intentioned may be detrimental to your game) is a skill in and of itself.

I’m also skeptical of any claim that X system has made GMing as easy as being a player, and can (should?) be imported into D&D.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
While gatekeeping is a serious issue, I don't think that most of the things you put forth as gatekeeping are actually gatekeeping. I suspect that by your definition, if I were to do my absolute best to help out a prospective GM, but I gave them bad advice unknowingly (maybe it worked for me but doesn't work for them) that I would be guilty of gatekeeping. Which as far as I'm concerned makes it a useless definition, because literally anything could fall under that scope. A more useful definition of gatekeeping is based on intent. If I do my best to help a newbie, I am not gatekeeping, irrespective of whether I was actually helpful. If I tried to hinder or drive away the newbie I am gatekeeping, regardless of whether or not I am successful.
Technically, I would say that something being harder than another is somewhat gatekept, at least in an structural sense - and that's a far cry from the gatekeeping term we use when we talk about actively trying to keep the unqualified or uninitiated hoi polloi out of the hobby. Equating the two is being unhelpfully pedantic about the term gatekeeping (something we've seen on these boards before).

The big question here is whether or not Ovinomancer is deliberately trying to obfuscate the two - the fairly uncontroversial fact that GMing a game requires a bit more investment in effort than playing (and thus is harder) and thus suffers from a certain amount of inevitable, structural gatekeeping or that identifying the role of GM as being more difficult than being a player is performing some sort of unwelcome community gatekeeping. I hope he's just being unhelpfully pedantic.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The question that's been nagging me the whole thread, given the fairly obvious fact that a GM is in a fairly important position relative to any single one of the players in the game, what does this observation get us? Is there a further point to this topic?
So, the GM is the most important individual at the table. And...?
 
Technically, I would say that something being harder than another is somewhat gatekept, at least in an structural sense - and that's a far cry from the gatekeeping term we use when we talk about actively trying to keep the unqualified or uninitiated hoi polloi out of the hobby. Equating the two is being unhelpfully pedantic about the term gatekeeping (something we've seen on these boards before).

The big question here is whether or not Ovinomancer is deliberately trying to obfuscate the two - the fairly uncontroversial fact that GMing a game requires a bit more investment in effort than playing (and thus is harder) and thus suffers from a certain amount of inevitable, structural gatekeeping or that identifying the role of GM as being more difficult than being a player is performing some sort of unwelcome community gatekeeping. I hope he's just being unhelpfully pedantic.
I hadn't considered the term in the structural sense, but I also don't feel like that's what's being discussed. We already have versions of D&D that are less 'gatekept' in this respect, from the starter sets. Those are designed to ease entry into DMing. I suppose that one could argue that they don't go far enough, but when is enough sufficient to not be 'gatekeeping'? There's always going to be some minimal barrier to entry. I mean, given that the rules are in books, you arguably need some basic proficiency with reading (or at least someone to read them to you). I wouldn't call that gatekeeping (in any meaningful sense of the term) though.

Edit: After further consideration, I'm not sure I agree that the term gatekept applies to the structural sense. It certainly is a 'barrier to entry'. But gatekeeping strongly implies trying to keep someone out. I've never encountered it used synonymously with 'barrier to entry' before now, and I don't think that's a useful definition either.

Another Edit: Gatekeeping is a barrier to entry, but not every barrier to entry is gatekeeping. Serious study of quantum mechanics has a high barrier of entry simply because the concepts involved aren't easy. Gatekeeping could be another barrier, but is likely to vary by individual experience.
 
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Not sure I agree with the unlearning part as my players had no issues with BiTD... It's pretty traditional in it's player side mechanics... of course we are speaking to whether the GM has a higher cognitive, mental, etc. workload than the players In BitD (After running it I still believe they do) not whether it's harder than D&D (I don't think either is "harder" in an objective sense but running them requires different skillsets which may be harder or easier for some to leverage.).
My players found the ability to introduce elements into the fictional world to be a pretty significant departure from D&D. And also things like players deciding what Action is relevant, and players deciding how much XP they get.....although these were easier things to grasp.

On the GM side, I don't know if there's more cognitive load for Blades. I think that the system is there to do the heavy lifting so that the GM is free to determine the specifics of the outcome that the dice have called for.

What are these techniques? And would they do that universally for anyone who leveraged them?
I think a big one, for me anyway, is the idea of a Partial Success, or Success with a Complication. Those 4s and 5s in Blades are what drives a lot of the fiction, and I've found I can adapt that to D&D very easily, and suddenly encounters are becoming a little more dynamic because I'm adding complications or setbacks throughout.

"Play to find out" is an ethos that I've found is very helpful for any game I GM, even if it isn't a perfect fit for a specific game, like D&D. I've found that blending that mentality with the kind of prepared elements typically associated with D&D makes my game smoother, and focuses me on what's happening in play and not so much what I had written prior to the start of the session.

Then there are always other specific mechanics that can be swiped from one game. I mentioned earlier in the thread that we've ditched the default 5E initiative process in favor of the one from Modiphius's Star Trek Adventures. I've also instituted an Inspiration Pool where there are extra d20s and any player can use one at any time to gain advantage on a roll, or they can use two to roll over. These alternate elements don't work wonders to speed up play, but they do make things more dynamic and the players are more engaged and aware, which does wind up taking the load off of me.

All this stuff is subjective, of course, and what works for one person may not for another. I'm sure there are plenty of other ideas out there that we could come up with.
 

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