Is the DM the most important person at the table

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.
Yeah, I wouldn't disagree with that. Like I said, I'm not really trying to say that GMing is as easy as playing. My point is it's not as significantly harder (or need not be, at least) that many seem to think. I'd like to see more people try to GM, and the perception that it's so hard is an obstacle.

I think there are resources available to help make gaming easier. Like anything else, there's plenty of noise to go with the signal. But there is stuff out there. Of course, what will work for one person may not for another.

As for what can or should be ported into D&D, that's certainly going to depend on the specifics. There are plenty of mechanics that, however great they may be for their respective game, simply wouldn't work in D&D. There are others that may.....see my post above in response to @Imaro for a few examples.

I do think that playing more games than D&D and those similar to it is something that will help a lot of people by offering different methods and practices that, even if they cannot be ported directly to D&D, can inform how they DM.
 
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 would agree with the last sentence....more knowledge of the rules may certainly be beneficial to the table. But at the same time, I'm thinking of the guy I know who can tell you what page in the PHB to find a specific rule for just about every edition of the game.....and yet, he's not a very good DM. Rules proficiency is a component of the role, for sure, but it's also a component for players, too.

My point about a player knowing more is that player can help shore up the DM's shortcoming. It really isn't absolutely necessary that a DM be ultra rules knowledgeable. If the players know more, they can help out. If they know less, then they'll go along with the DM's rulings, and everyone can learn as they play.

I mean, I learned to play as a little kid taught by slightly older kids, and doing things maybe 25% correctly. But we were having a blast.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
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.
I don't think any of this was that big a deal for my players... they've been introducing elements into D&D through backstory, goals, etc for years it's just a step less removed to throw the stuff into play also since we've played D&D with the "any ability score + skill" variant, picking your approach also wasn't earth shattering for them with the XP well they reward inspiration in 5e to each other so there's that....

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.
How does the system do the heavy lifting... IMO the heavy lifting is determining position and effect (often IMO harder than selecting a DC because there are now 2 axis instead of one), coming up with the fiction to suit the various results that can happen (D&D can be and is often binary while BiTD rarely is so instead of one outcome I have to come up with various smaller outcomes on the fly)... and framing the scenes on the fly (adding an element X infinity without the break afforded by having numerous players to pick up the slack when one is tired or hard pressed to come up with stuff.)

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.
See I fail to see how this makes running a game easier. How is telling a new DM that they have to come up with and adjudicate success conditions as well as various complications on the fly easier or simpler than having to decide a binary result? Especially if said binary result is planned out ahead of time?

"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.
IMO this seems to be conflating personal preference with "easier" and because it is your personal preference it probably feels easier to you... not sure that would hold out in the wild with a brand new DM/GM
 

aco175

Adventurer
To expand on my OP after all this good discussion; is there a difference in DMs that homebrew over run a published adventure? Does this affect DMs being or thinking they are the most important.
 
To expand on my OP after all this good discussion; is there a difference in DMs that homebrew over run a published adventure? Does this affect DMs being or thinking they are the most important.
I can't say with certainty. My group occasionally runs published adventures, but not often. We prefer homebrew.

That said, I would be surprised if there was a difference. Running a published adventure can be as much (or more) work than homebrewing. With a published adventure you need to absorb the material at a minimum, whereas with homebrew you're free to improvise as needed. (Obviously, you can improvise with published adventures as well, but too much improvisation without being familiar with the material can paint you into a corner, since you might establish something that contradicts an important fact in the module. Additionally, under certain circumstances, such as organized play, your authority to improvise may be limited.)

Important in what sense? In that they have the greatest authority? The most responsibilities? That only their fun matters? Some of those I would posit as factual, whereas other(s) I would say are an indicator of unhealthy hubris.

I don't think that running a module makes the GM's role any less significant FWIW. It makes certain aspects of the GM's job easier, but IME it can make others more challenging. I don't think that homebrew vs module changes much with respect to the GM's role overall.
 
As for ENWorld, that was an example of GMs not hording their knowledge. I wouldn't recommend it to a new GM either.
Actually, as a relatively new GM, I find ENWorld extremely helpful. Research is easy for me, though, and I am used to sorting through the parts that will help me and the parts that will not.

It’s hard to learn on your own, but you don’t require a mentor to do it. Hell, it’s hard to do it with a mentor. But that doesn’t constitute gatekeeping. Something being hard isn’t gatekeeping.
Agreed.

I can't say with certainty. My group occasionally runs published adventures, but not often. We prefer homebrew.

That said, I would be surprised if there was a difference. Running a published adventure can be as much (or more) work than homebrewing. With a published adventure you need to absorb the material at a minimum, whereas with homebrew you're free to improvise as needed. (Obviously, you can improvise with published adventures as well, but too much improvisation without being familiar with the material can paint you into a corner, since you might establish something that contradicts an important fact in the module. Additionally, under certain circumstances, such as organized play, your authority to improvise may be limited.)

Important in what sense? In that they have the greatest authority? The most responsibilities? That only their fun matters? Some of those I would posit as factual, whereas other(s) I would say are an indicator of unhealthy hubris.

I don't think that running a module makes the GM's role any less significant FWIW. It makes certain aspects of the GM's job easier, but IME it can make others more challenging. I don't think that homebrew vs module changes much with respect to the GM's role overall.
I can somewhat see your point, since I have to do so much research about the various areas we go to. However, as a relatively new GM, having a published adventure to start with makes a ton of difference.
 

aco175

Adventurer
Important in what sense? In that they have the greatest authority? The most responsibilities? That only their fun matters? Some of those I would posit as factual, whereas other(s) I would say are an indicator of unhealthy hubris.
I guess I'm not sure is some let hubris in when they think that their game is the end all. I tend to think that when I used to homebrew my whole world I felt I needed to control some things and maybe some of that led me to think I was more 'right' in making the rules and being important. It may also have been that I was younger and some of that may have crept in.

Today we play with FR and I generally make my own adventures but use the shell they provide. While I do not think I have some of the same attitudes, I wonder if others have .
 
I can somewhat see your point, since I have to do so much research about the various areas we go to. However, as a relatively new GM, having a published adventure to start with makes a ton of difference.
I don't deny it. IIRC I had an easier time using published modules myself, when I first started out.

Different approaches work better for different people. Which is why it's so hard to come up with generalized DMing advice for new DMs. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me.

My younger sister, for example, completely homebrewed the one and only game she ever ran. She was a natural at DMing, far beyond my skill level at the time (we were in our teens) even though I had been studying DMing techniques for years at that point (and had run a few games as well).

Knowing her, however, I honestly don't think she would have done as well had she tried to run a published adventure.

There's nothing wrong with preferring published adventures. It's simply that they work better for some DMs than others.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
My take on this has always been that as DM I don't need to know or remember all the rules all the time but I do need to remember roughly where to look them up as and when required.

Put another way, if you're going to memorize anything make it the rulebook index. :)
 
I don't think any of this was that big a deal for my players... they've been introducing elements into D&D through backstory, goals, etc for years it's just a step less removed to throw the stuff into play also since we've played D&D with the "any ability score + skill" variant, picking your approach also wasn't earth shattering for them with the XP well they reward inspiration in 5e to each other so there's that....
I meant more declaring elements as part of an action...especially Flashbacks. That seems to me the big one that throws people.

Backstory and goals and fictional elements like NPCs and organizations and all of that were all things my players were comfortable with. Also largely the kind of stuff that Blades bakes into PC creation.

How does the system do the heavy lifting... IMO the heavy lifting is determining position and effect (often IMO harder than selecting a DC because there are now 2 axis instead of one), coming up with the fiction to suit the various results that can happen (D&D can be and is often binary while BiTD rarely is so instead of one outcome I have to come up with various smaller outcomes on the fly)... and framing the scenes on the fly (adding an element X infinity without the break afforded by having numerous players to pick up the slack when one is tired or hard pressed to come up with stuff.)
I find the position and effect to be pretty intuitive. The narration of what happens on a partial success or a failure is the area that’s trickier for me, but after some time I’ve become comfortable with it, and think I do a decent job of varying consequences a bit without relying to heavily on one kind. The fiction first approach is one that clicks for me.


See I fail to see how this makes running a game easier. How is telling a new DM that they have to come up with and adjudicate success conditions as well as various complications on the fly easier or simpler than having to decide a binary result? Especially if said binary result is planned out ahead of time?
I wasn’t necessarily saying this is something I’d recommend for new DMs. Just that these approaches are worthwhile to learn or see in practice, and may help making the job easier.

Having said that though, I would think someone whose first exposure to RPGs was Blades and then they went to D&D, that shift would likely be easier than vice versa.

IMO this seems to be conflating personal preference with "easier" and because it is your personal preference it probably feels easier to you... not sure that would hold out in the wild with a brand new DM/GM
Some of them, sure. I’ve said it’s subjective and that different things will work for different people.

Let’s move away from specific examples and instead ask “Can every GM do something new to make their game easier?”

I would lean heavily toward a yes, with the specific thing varying by GM.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
To expand on my OP after all this good discussion; is there a difference in DMs that homebrew over run a published adventure? Does this affect DMs being or thinking they are the most important.
I'm pretty sure there's a difference between DMs who homebrew their settings and DMs who don't. I'd guess the differences are probably on axes roughly corresponding to time, energy, and experience. In my case I have tons of time, a reasonable amount of experience, and intermittent spurts of energy. Also, I literally can't make sense of published adventures when I read them, I can't keep them moving and/or together when I'm running, and I actively hate playing them if a DM insists, so I need to do homebrew if I'm going to run. My guess is someone running published adventures/adventure paths has roughly nothing in common with that.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
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.
I think it's useful to note the difference between gatekeeping and barriers. As you say, gatekeeping is a deliberate action. If I refuse to allow someone to join me at a game table because I don't like the RPGs they play, I don't think they know enough about the setting, or they smell bad all the time I am gatekeeping. (Not all gatekeeping is bad.) Barriers to play might include the costs and availability of materials, access to other players, or difficulty understanding the rules and these aren't typically deliberate efforts to keep others away.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think it's useful to note the difference between gatekeeping and barriers. As you say, gatekeeping is a deliberate action. If I refuse to allow someone to join me at a game table because I don't like the RPGs they play, I don't think they know enough about the setting, or they smell bad all the time I am gatekeeping. (Not all gatekeeping is bad.) Barriers to play might include the costs and availability of materials, access to other players, or difficulty understanding the rules and these aren't typically deliberate efforts to keep others away.
I disagree that this is a useful definition of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is, simply put, the erection of artificial barriers to entry. This may be intentional, which is often seen as more egregious if based on extraneous or unnecessary criteria, but it can also be unintentional. If you require intentionality, you're going to miss a lot of structural and systemic gatekeeping that grows up not through intentional action, but emergent or unforeseen consequences of non-intentional actions that combine to create artificial barriers to entry.

And, the "hard" in GMing is largely systemic, now. It's the accretion of expectation that's been built up around what being a GM is. Here's an example: a three room dungeon with 3 encounters with 2 goblins each is a D&D game. It has no fancy bells, no whistles, it's straightforward, and requires very little to GM. The problem is that, immediately, the response will be all about how this wouldn't satisfy "my" table, or there's more you could do, or that's too simple. IE, we're going to add our expectations for a game onto the definition of what it means to GM. We're going to erect artificial barriers to entry through increased expectation of work on the part of the GM, and then codify that as the actual job of the GM. We're erecting barriers based on the aggregate of both 35+ years of the hobby and our combined personal expectations of what a game looks like. But, that's not actually part of the necessary tasks of being a GM. I can be a GM at a much lower level of output. So, if we're going to classify GMing as "hard" and name the GM as the "most important" person at the table do to the expectations we've assigned, we've created an artificial barrier to entry to being a GM. And, that's gatekeeping. Not intentionally -- we're all acting in ways we deem to be reasonable and not intentionally keeping people out -- but still in a way that restricts the membership into the GM club. Even if you welcome a neophyte GM, if your mentorship is showing them all the hard work they'll have to do, you're gatekeeping even though it's wearing the guise of being helpful.

To take some examples from responses to me, it's been said that adjudicating actions is harder than declaring them. But, most of the list are almost always trivial -- and should have been part of the player's job to make sure remain trivial because the player has the duty to engage with the fiction. The "hardest" parts of the job are picking a DC, which, again, if you use the DMG advice, is a question of "is this task easy, moderate, or hard?" This isn't hard. The numerated list presented mostly trivial steps in an attempt to make the process look more complicated that it actually is, in practice. I think a lot of that list comes from the unstated belief that it's the GM's job to police the players -- that the players will not be acting in a disciplined fashion and will present action declarations that require extra work on the GM's part to vet and untangle from abuse. But, that's a player problem, not a GM duty.

And, having to be the one that knows the rules best at the table is also part of the assumption that it's the GM's job to police players. You need to know the rules so that you can make sure the players follow them properly. But, that's a player problem, again, not a GM required duty. I, personally, have a cleric in the group I run for and I couldn't tell you at all how Turn Undead works, or what things that PC has that might interact with that. I know she can Turn Undead, but that's it, and I really don't think about it at all. If it comes up in a session, like it did a few months ago, I'm often surprised, because I forgot about it. My player knows her rules, and follows them, and I don't have to think about it at all. If a question comes up, I'll tell the player to read the rule and report back while I move on to other things. OR, I'll make a ruling, and we'll address it later. I don't need to know these rules to run a game -- those rules are player facing, it's their job to know them and apply them through their action declarations. I'm there to frame the scenes and adjudicate the actions. Those rules I know very well. Luckily for me, even in 5e, they're pretty straightforward.

The worst part of running D&D is running the monsters, especially if they have a ton of special abilities. But, again, as GM, I pick the monsters, so that's entirely under my control as GM as to how much difficulty I add to myself. Same with campaign design, or adventure design. I pick my workload. If I ever feel like my players are dictating my workload, it's time to have a serious discussion with the group. If players are just there to do the minimum effort show up and toss dice and be taught/led through the rules by me, or constantly declare actions that require my vetting, we have a problem, and it's not that GMing is hard.

Part of the issue in this thread is the assumption that players have very little responsibility to the game and that it's the GM's job to compensate for this. Nope. That's on you if your take that burden up, it's not a task inherent to GMing.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I disagree that this is a useful definition of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is, simply put, the erection of artificial barriers to entry. This may be intentional, which is often seen as more egregious if based on extraneous or unnecessary criteria, but it can also be unintentional. If you require intentionality, you're going to miss a lot of structural and systemic gatekeeping that grows up not through intentional action, but emergent or unforeseen consequences of non-intentional actions that combine to create artificial barriers to entry.
Not all barriers are artificial, though. If nothing else, there's a good case to be made that being a GM is more expensive than being a player, at least if the game's publishers follow the D&D model and publish a separate book for GMs. Sure, that's something like a business decision, and you'll see that as natural as you see any other business decision; you'll probably describe this as "systemic," which ... sure, but I"m not sure whether it needs to be addressed as a gatekeeping issue. There's something similar if you're trying to introduce the people at your table to a new game; chances you're the one who bought it (and there's probably a correlation between that and wanting to play/run it); if you're introducing a game you absolutely need to know the rules, and I'd say the probability that you know the rues better than the players approaches 1.

And, the "hard" in GMing is largely systemic, now. It's the accretion of expectation that's been built up around what being a GM is. Here's an example: a three room dungeon with 3 encounters with 2 goblins each is a D&D game. It has no fancy bells, no whistles, it's straightforward, and requires very little to GM. The problem is that, immediately, the response will be all about how this wouldn't satisfy "my" table, or there's more you could do, or that's too simple. IE, we're going to add our expectations for a game onto the definition of what it means to GM. We're going to erect artificial barriers to entry through increased expectation of work on the part of the GM, and then codify that as the actual job of the GM. We're erecting barriers based on the aggregate of both 35+ years of the hobby and our combined personal expectations of what a game looks like. But, that's not actually part of the necessary tasks of being a GM. I can be a GM at a much lower level of output. So, if we're going to classify GMing as "hard" and name the GM as the "most important" person at the table do to the expectations we've assigned, we've created an artificial barrier to entry to being a GM. And, that's gatekeeping. Not intentionally -- we're all acting in ways we deem to be reasonable and not intentionally keeping people out -- but still in a way that restricts the membership into the GM club. Even if you welcome a neophyte GM, if your mentorship is showing them all the hard work they'll have to do, you're gatekeeping even though it's wearing the guise of being helpful.
I'll admit that your hypothetical very smol dungeon wouldn't satisfy me as a player or a DM, but that doesn't mean I think a table that enjoys it is Doing It Wrong. My expectations for my game aren't any more relevant to your game than you allow them to be, really.

To take some examples from responses to me, it's been said that adjudicating actions is harder than declaring them. But, most of the list are almost always trivial -- and should have been part of the player's job to make sure remain trivial because the player has the duty to engage with the fiction. The "hardest" parts of the job are picking a DC, which, again, if you use the DMG advice, is a question of "is this task easy, moderate, or hard?" This isn't hard. The numerated list presented mostly trivial steps in an attempt to make the process look more complicated that it actually is, in practice. I think a lot of that list comes from the unstated belief that it's the GM's job to police the players -- that the players will not be acting in a disciplined fashion and will present action declarations that require extra work on the GM's part to vet and untangle from abuse. But, that's a player problem, not a GM duty.
Both of the campaigns I'm running have pretty good tables, but even the excellent players there make mistakes.

And, having to be the one that knows the rules best at the table is also part of the assumption that it's the GM's job to police players. You need to know the rules so that you can make sure the players follow them properly. But, that's a player problem, again, not a GM required duty. I, personally, have a cleric in the group I run for and I couldn't tell you at all how Turn Undead works, or what things that PC has that might interact with that. I know she can Turn Undead, but that's it, and I really don't think about it at all. If it comes up in a session, like it did a few months ago, I'm often surprised, because I forgot about it. My player knows her rules, and follows them, and I don't have to think about it at all. If a question comes up, I'll tell the player to read the rule and report back while I move on to other things. OR, I'll make a ruling, and we'll address it later. I don't need to know these rules to run a game -- those rules are player facing, it's their job to know them and apply them through their action declarations. I'm there to frame the scenes and adjudicate the actions. Those rules I know very well. Luckily for me, even in 5e, they're pretty straightforward.
Every time a player asks you "Can I [verb]?" they're asking a rules question. They're asking for your judgment. Judgment isn't necessarily hard, but I wouldn't necessarily call it easy, either. It's nice when the players know the rules for their own characters, but sometimes situations or odd unexpected interactions arise, and ti's good to have enough of a handle on the rules to be able to handle those.

The worst part of running D&D is running the monsters, especially if they have a ton of special abilities. But, again, as GM, I pick the monsters, so that's entirely under my control as GM as to how much difficulty I add to myself. Same with campaign design, or adventure design. I pick my workload. If I ever feel like my players are dictating my workload, it's time to have a serious discussion with the group. If players are just there to do the minimum effort show up and toss dice and be taught/led through the rules by me, or constantly declare actions that require my vetting, we have a problem, and it's not that GMing is hard.
Sure, and that's why there's been some discussion about homebrew adventures versus published. Some GMs have the time, energy, and inclination to make their own settings/adventures; others don't. It's another way of choosing your workload. It's absolutely within a GM's rights to take steps to reduce their workload.

Part of the issue in this thread is the assumption that players have very little responsibility to the game and that it's the GM's job to compensate for this. Nope. That's on you if your take that burden up, it's not a task inherent to GMing.
I think GMing is different from playing, in ways that tend to make it more difficult (or at least more complex, which isn't exactly the same thing). The GM is, in many games, the final authority on the rules for that table, which implies an expectation to at least know the indices, if not the entire books. While the players are usually responsible for one character each (sometimes players run multiple characters), the GM is responsible for the world. Even in a published adventure, the GM needs to keep straight what is going on offstage, and know what a given NPC's motivations are, and where things are in the neighborhood and in the world. Some people will find the complexity more daunting than others, some will find it more difficult than others.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I disagree that this is a useful definition of gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is, simply put, the erection of artificial barriers to entry.
You're using gatekeeping in a manner that is very much outside the norm. Almost everyone else uses gatekeeping to mean the deliberate effort of limiting access to something and the way you use it to describe any barrier leads to confusion.

This may be intentional, which is often seen as more egregious if based on extraneous or unnecessary criteria, but it can also be unintentional. If you require intentionality, you're going to miss a lot of structural and systemic gatekeeping that grows up not through intentional action, but emergent or unforeseen consequences of non-intentional actions that combine to create artificial barriers to entry.
You can refer to the structural and system roadblocks as barriers instead of gatekeeping (at least when it's not a deliberate effort to exclude people). The main books for FFG's Star Wars line retails for $60 and for some people that is a barrier to entry but it's not gatekeeping. If a young woman asks me if she can join my Edge of the Empire game and I grill her to ascertain her grasp of Star Wars trivia I am gatekeeping.

Part of the issue in this thread is the assumption that players have very little responsibility to the game and that it's the GM's job to compensate for this. Nope. That's on you if your take that burden up, it's not a task inherent to GMing.
The players do not typically have the same level of responsibility for the game as the GM does. However, I would certainly agree the players do have some responsibility and they're certainly important.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Not all barriers are artificial, though. If nothing else, there's a good case to be made that being a GM is more expensive than being a player, at least if the game's publishers follow the D&D model and publish a separate book for GMs. Sure, that's something like a business decision, and you'll see that as natural as you see any other business decision; you'll probably describe this as "systemic," which ... sure, but I"m not sure whether it needs to be addressed as a gatekeeping issue. There's something similar if you're trying to introduce the people at your table to a new game; chances you're the one who bought it (and there's probably a correlation between that and wanting to play/run it); if you're introducing a game you absolutely need to know the rules, and I'd say the probability that you know the rues better than the players approaches 1.
I'd say it is systemic, but may not be a bad thing. Again, gatekeeping is not always a negative, although it quite often is. In this case, there's a balancing factor between the cost of printing, change of sale, amount of material to digest, etc., that may justify making the DMG a separate purchase expected of GMs but not of players. Still an artificial barrier to entry if owning a DMG is expected of being a GM, although a small and justifiable one. It, by itself, may not rise to gatekeeping, but it does add to the systemic costs of other things that erects the gate.


I'll admit that your hypothetical very smol dungeon wouldn't satisfy me as a player or a DM, but that doesn't mean I think a table that enjoys it is Doing It Wrong. My expectations for my game aren't any more relevant to your game than you allow them to be, really.
Exactly. If that person is GMing, then the actual tasks of GMing aren't as hard as presented, but rather our preferences that add the difficulty.

Both of the campaigns I'm running have pretty good tables, but even the excellent players there make mistakes.
Perfection is not a requirement of any of my positions. I don't think 'mistakes' attribute to the duties of a GM. Mistakes tend to cut both ways, and tend to be obvious.


Every time a player asks you "Can I [verb]?" they're asking a rules question. They're asking for your judgment. Judgment isn't necessarily hard, but I wouldn't necessarily call it easy, either. It's nice when the players know the rules for their own characters, but sometimes situations or odd unexpected interactions arise, and ti's good to have enough of a handle on the rules to be able to handle those.
But, here's the rub, you're choosing to accept those questions. @iserith has a great read on not playing questions in a game, because it's the player's job to declare actions, not ask questions. If you accept players asking "can I" to get likelihoods, then that's your choice, not required by the rules. You could say, "you have to declare an action" and have them then try things in character to find out what they can do.

Now, if they're asking a rules question, as in 'do the rules allow..." then I think it's fair to have them read it and present a case to the table. You can make a ruling if there's a legitimate question. This isn't any different than if playing Monopoly, though -- it's handled however the social contract sets it up. If you've set up your social contract that you, the GM, are the sole source, then that's on you. Having the rulebook say you're the final authority on the rules doesn't mean that you can't delegate, or that you must know the rules. Heck, if you make stuff up, that's by the rules, right? How much easier can you get than 'make stuff up?'


Sure, and that's why there's been some discussion about homebrew adventures versus published. Some GMs have the time, energy, and inclination to make their own settings/adventures; others don't. It's another way of choosing your workload. It's absolutely within a GM's rights to take steps to reduce their workload.
Which means that the difficulty of what material is run is a choice by the GM, and not a requirement? Rhetorical, my answer is 'yes.'

I think GMing is different from playing, in ways that tend to make it more difficult (or at least more complex, which isn't exactly the same thing). The GM is, in many games, the final authority on the rules for that table, which implies an expectation to at least know the indices, if not the entire books. While the players are usually responsible for one character each (sometimes players run multiple characters), the GM is responsible for the world. Even in a published adventure, the GM needs to keep straight what is going on offstage, and know what a given NPC's motivations are, and where things are in the neighborhood and in the world. Some people will find the complexity more daunting than others, some will find it more difficult than others.
I think GMing is different from playing, and is a different challenge, but I'm not convinced it's "hard". "Harder" is, well, not terribly helpful, because that may mean a little bit harder or lots harder and opinions in this thread have differed. I think the players actually have more rules to follow than the GM. Being the final authority doesn't mean more work, it just means you have control over it. However much work you want to put into that control is up to you -- you can farm it out to the table or a specific player, you can make stuff up on the fly, you can study and consider and write up papers... lots of options, but all up to the GM. If we're including the things that we choose to pick up as adding to the core difficulty of the task, then I think we're making a error. But, it's the collection of theses we pick up on our own and attribute to the actual task that build the myth that GMing is hard work and players don't have much to do, and so on that creates a systemic and structural, but unintentional, barrier to entry to the GM club.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You're using gatekeeping in a manner that is very much outside the norm. Almost everyone else uses gatekeeping to mean the deliberate effort of limiting access to something and the way you use it to describe any barrier leads to confusion.
I don't use it to describe any barrier. I use it to describe unnecessary barriers to entry. Most of the examples given of how GMing is hard are actually unnecessary to the task of GMing.



You can refer to the structural and system roadblocks as barriers instead of gatekeeping (at least when it's not a deliberate effort to exclude people). The main books for FFG's Star Wars line retails for $60 and for some people that is a barrier to entry but it's not gatekeeping. If a young woman asks me if she can join my Edge of the Empire game and I grill her to ascertain her grasp of Star Wars trivia I am gatekeeping.
Sure, but I'm not talking about the cost of books.

The players do not typically have the same level of responsibility for the game as the GM does. However, I would certainly agree the players do have some responsibility and they're certainly important.
This is an assumption, one that removes the effort from one group and adds to to another for no good reason other than tradition. Players have many responsibilities, it's just that the general zeitgeist is to not expect much from a player or hold them to account. The GM's job is vastly simpler if you remove the assumption that they have to police or entertain the players all on their lonesome. This is one of those persistent ideas that adds to the unnecessary burden of the GM and helps prevent entry.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Perfection is not a requirement of any of my positions. I don't think 'mistakes' attribute to the duties of a GM. Mistakes tend to cut both ways, and tend to be obvious.
Sure, GMs make mistakes. I've made some (and I've apologized to the tables for them). I think a GM's mistake has a higher likelihood of blowing up a session or even a campaign than a player's decision (short of a decision by the players to attempt something impossible that inevitably TPKs). I guess it seems in my experience as though it works better socially if the GM is the one enforcing the game rules, to keep the players all roughly equal with each other (rather than having one quarterbacking or something).


But, here's the rub, you're choosing to accept those questions. @iserith has a great read on not playing questions in a game, because it's the player's job to declare actions, not ask questions. If you accept players asking "can I" to get likelihoods, then that's your choice, not required by the rules. You could say, "you have to declare an action" and have them then try things in character to find out what they can do.

Now, if they're asking a rules question, as in 'do the rules allow..." then I think it's fair to have them read it and present a case to the table. You can make a ruling if there's a legitimate question. This isn't any different than if playing Monopoly, though -- it's handled however the social contract sets it up. If you've set up your social contract that you, the GM, are the sole source, then that's on you. Having the rulebook say you're the final authority on the rules doesn't mean that you can't delegate, or that you must know the rules. Heck, if you make stuff up, that's by the rules, right? How much easier can you get than 'make stuff up?'
Here's the thing. The characters have a better understanding of the situation than the players do. I find that when a player is asking "Can I [do the thing]?" they're really asking how it would be implemented in the rules, as a way to know if it's worth trying. If I asked the first question and got slightly-smug "You can try ..." I'd ask how the GM intended to make the rules work, and if the GM didn't answer I probably wouldn't do that thing. I don't think that's the kind of play I want at my table. You want to do the thing, your character should have a good sense of whether they can do the thing, here's how I'm likely to apply the rules, see if you think your character should try to do the thing. Players being blindsided because the GM won't explain the rules as applied doesn't sound like good GMing to me, so it can't really be what you're advocating (though I think the implication is there).

And passing rules questions to the table seems like a way to bog a sessin down in half an hour of Rules Court. Hard pass.


Which means that the difficulty of what material is run is a choice by the GM, and not a requirement? Rhetorical, my answer is 'yes.'
Sure. I personally find running published adventures to be harder than homebrewing, so I guess I'm choosing my own easier path.


I think GMing is different from playing, and is a different challenge, but I'm not convinced it's "hard". "Harder" is, well, not terribly helpful, because that may mean a little bit harder or lots harder and opinions in this thread have differed. I think the players actually have more rules to follow than the GM. Being the final authority doesn't mean more work, it just means you have control over it. However much work you want to put into that control is up to you -- you can farm it out to the table or a specific player, you can make stuff up on the fly, you can study and consider and write up papers... lots of options, but all up to the GM. If we're including the things that we choose to pick up as adding to the core difficulty of the task, then I think we're making a error. But, it's the collection of theses we pick up on our own and attribute to the actual task that build the myth that GMing is hard work and players don't have much to do, and so on that creates a systemic and structural, but unintentional, barrier to entry to the GM club.
Maybe consider "hard" to mean some combination of "requires more time," "requires more effort," and "requires more bandwidth."

As a side note, it seems to me as though any of the suggestions for easing the GM's in-session workload (passing things off to the players) really seem more likely to slow the game down than anything else. Maybe keeping the session moving isn't everyone's top priority, but it's pretty close to mine.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Sure, GMs make mistakes. I've made some (and I've apologized to the tables for them). I think a GM's mistake has a higher likelihood of blowing up a session or even a campaign than a player's decision (short of a decision by the players to attempt something impossible that inevitably TPKs). I guess it seems in my experience as though it works better socially if the GM is the one enforcing the game rules, to keep the players all roughly equal with each other (rather than having one quarterbacking or something).




Here's the thing. The characters have a better understanding of the situation than the players do. I find that when a player is asking "Can I [do the thing]?" they're really asking how it would be implemented in the rules, as a way to know if it's worth trying. If I asked the first question and got slightly-smug "You can try ..." I'd ask how the GM intended to make the rules work, and if the GM didn't answer I probably wouldn't do that thing. I don't think that's the kind of play I want at my table. You want to do the thing, your character should have a good sense of whether they can do the thing, here's how I'm likely to apply the rules, see if you think your character should try to do the thing. Players being blindsided because the GM won't explain the rules as applied doesn't sound like good GMing to me, so it can't really be what you're advocating (though I think the implication is there).

And passing rules questions to the table seems like a way to bog a sessin down in half an hour of Rules Court. Hard pass.
I think I wasn't clear, here. If a player suggests an action, and you provide the difficulty, then the player should be able to change their mind, largely for tge reasons you note. This is off topic, though, and I'd rather not divert this thread into a discussion of GM techiques. Happy to discuss elsewhere.

I will leave the idea that I assume good faith in play. Anything breaks when used in bad faith. I'm not out to "gotcha" players.


Sure. I personally find running published adventures to be harder than homebrewing, so I guess I'm choosing my own easier path.




Maybe consider "hard" to mean some combination of "requires more time," "requires more effort," and "requires more bandwidth."

As a side note, it seems to me as though any of the suggestions for easing the GM's in-session workload (passing things off to the players) really seem more likely to slow the game down than anything else. Maybe keeping the session moving isn't everyone's top priority, but it's pretty close to mine.
Right, it's mostly what we choose to shoulder. Personally, I work much harder than my players, but it's all in prep. I play on a VTT these days, and the ability to have beat bells and whistles is something I like, so I spend way too much time on maps and lighting and tokens. I also homebrew monsters a lot. But, thise are my choices. I don't have to. If we theater-of-the-mind, I'd spend less time in prep that two of my players do reviewing their PCs for each session. My prep is about 5 minutes thinking of and jotting quick notes on prep, and 2 hours of building maps/monsters. Totally my call.
 
To expand on my OP after all this good discussion; is there a difference in DMs that homebrew over run a published adventure? Does this affect DMs being or thinking they are the most important.
I think it can, but does not always do so. I know when I was younger, I crafted my own home brew world and our games took place in that setting, and I clung to the elements of that setting fiercely. I had a very specific idea of what I wanted the setting to be, and allowed for very little player input. In that sense, I was certainly saying that my take on the game was more important than the players'.

Over time, I've drastically loosened such expectations. I now want the setting to be a shared world, crafted by all participants. I've found that to be far more rewarding these days, and I find that it helps engage players in meaningful ways that my special homebrew world never did.

I guess I'm not sure is some let hubris in when they think that their game is the end all. I tend to think that when I used to homebrew my whole world I felt I needed to control some things and maybe some of that led me to think I was more 'right' in making the rules and being important. It may also have been that I was younger and some of that may have crept in.

Today we play with FR and I generally make my own adventures but use the shell they provide. While I do not think I have some of the same attitudes, I wonder if others have .
I'm sure that this will vary from table to table, and that there would be plenty of examples of homebrew DMs who are perfectly fine with player input, and who don't rule their setting like a tyrant. But I certainly can see how creating a setting would make it MY WORLD and using one like Forgotten Realms is very clearly different.
 

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