Is the DM the most important person at the table

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
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.
Late to the discussion and I don't have much to contribute except to say that this post I quoted above couldn't be more true in my view and should be framed and put on the wall of every DM's gaming area with the headline "Get Over Yourself."

I would have suggested it go in the DMG, but nobody reads it, especially not experienced DMs.
 
Sure, because D&D is such a paragon of TTRPG brilliance right? Oh wait, despite its popularity it's still a game with significant holes. Where could we possibly turn for a model of how to do some of these things differently? Where could we find models written by people familiar with D&D who wanted something different and went out and wrote that? Hmm.....

Anyway, the argument from popularity sucks. It's not helpful. Yes, lots of us love D&D. I love D&D. Saying that talking about any RPG but D&D is pointless because D&D is is so popular is some bonkers nonsense.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Sure, because D&D is such a paragon of TTRPG brilliance right? Oh wait, despite its popularity it's still a game with significant holes. Where could we possibly turn for a model of how to do some of these things differently? Where could we find models written by people familiar with D&D who wanted something different and went out and wrote that? Hmm.....

Anyway, the argument from popularity sucks. It's not helpful. Yes, lots of us love D&D. I love D&D. Saying that talking about any RPG but D&D is pointless because D&D is is so popular is some bonkers nonsense.
Good thing no one in this thread has said this.
 
Good thing no one in this thread has said this.
Yeah, good thing. It would be pretty wacky if someone said that only D&D is relevant to a discussion about role playing because it's so popular. Reeaaallllyyy wacky. It would be especially odd on an internet forum where a great number of the regular participants do play and are quite familiar with those other games. So, yeah, good thing. Whew.
Those are niche games...

I feel like those beating this drum are akin to someone claiming that everything we know and use to classify a mammal is only a slice of the possibilities because... platypus.

There has to be a baseline in any discussion and sorry but D&D is the baseline for the hobby through sheer dominance. It's great to note these exceptions but ultimately if 99% of the hobby goes one way it's probably alot more relevant to examine that and use it as your baseline vs claiming a game that accounts for 1% or less of the hobby's playerbase means that baseline is faulty.
No; but it's most of it, which means if discussions like these don't largely revolve around it they're not much use for the vast majority in the hobby.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Yeah, good thing. It would be pretty wacky if someone said that only D&D is relevant to a discussion about role playing because it's so popular. Reeaaallllyyy wacky. It would be especially odd on an internet forum where a great number of the regular participants do play and are quite familiar with those other games. So, yeah, good thing. Whew.
Yep stand by that statement that the largest piece is the most relevant and I agree that it should LARGELY... not EXCLUSIVELY revolve around the most popular game/modes of GM'ing and playing.
 
'Largely' enough to casually dismiss talking about anything else as irrelevant. Platypus was the word, right? Ok then.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
'Largely' enough to casually dismiss talking about anything else as irrelevant. Platypus was the word, right? Ok then.
Not irrelevant but certainly being overly stressed as a solution to the problem of difficulty GM'ing in a traditional playstyle when it's instead a preference for a different playstyle.

In other words improv as opposed to planning sessions out isn't a solution to making running a game easier unless I prefer improv/am good at improv, don't have anxiety, can think quickly on my feet and it won't degrade the quality of my game for my players. It's not solving the problem in the context of the game most people are running/playing (which is traditional D&D)... it's basically stating go play a different game... which yes IMO isn't all that helpful for the vast majority of people trying to come up with an easier solution.

EDIT: If anything this is the solution for people who don't like D&D not those who enjoy D&D and want to have an easier time running it.
 
Not irrelevant but certainly being overly stressed as a solution to the problem of difficulty GM'ing in a traditional playstyle when it's instead a preference for a different playstyle.

In other words improv as opposed to planning sessions out isn't a solution to making running a game easier unless I prefer improv/am good at improv, don't have anxiety, can think quickly on my feet and it won't degrade the quality of my game for my players. It's not solving the problem in the context of the game most people are running/playing (which is traditional D&D)... it's basically stating go play a different game... which yes IMO isn't all that helpful for the vast majority of people trying to come up with an easier solution.

EDIT: If anything this is the solution for people who don't like D&D not those who enjoy D&D and want to have an easier time running it.
This is actually a really interesting response. This was the topic of several large threads recently and the consensus here seemed to be that there was no consensus on what a 'traditional playstyle' was. The opinions seemed pretty entrenched either firmly in the sandbox, or in opposition to the sanbox as the 'one true way'. I'm probably not being fair to either side there, but you get the drift. When you say 'traditional playstyle', what are you actually indexing?

As to your second point, I have played and am familiar with many, many, different RPGs. There are a bunch of non-D&D games that I love. That said, I probably spend more time mining them for ideas to port into D&D to fix problem X or Y than I do playing them. That's mostly because where I Iive I don't have much (any) choice about players, and D&D is what fits. So I hack bits and pieces off the other games I really like and bolt them on to D&D in ways that I think are interesting. That's why those games are relevant even to people who only play D&D. Everyone (many people?) eventually get tired of the current D&D edition's take on X and wants something different. Not a different system, just some hacks or homebrew solutions to those little rough spots in the rules that keep catching your attention.

And yeah, this includes everything from playstyle down to little bitty rules hacks.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Nope as I stated earlier I'm playing BitD right now but if someone asked me to explain or give an example of how a roleplaying game works... I'm going to lean on more popular fare for my explanation because it makes more sense.... In other words I just realize we've been going in circles because there's almost always an exception to anything.
You've said a few things about how you're currently playing BitD -- that GMing is work intesive for you and that your players haven't had to make large adjustments coming from D&D. That has me very curious as to what play looks like at your table, because those two statements are very different from my experiences -- or, if I may, how I've understood @hawkeyefan's related experiences. Since this thread appears well and truly derailed at this point, would you mind presenting a quick overview of how one of your sessions goes? I'm curious if you're importing some D&Disms into play.
 
I mean....to anyone not in the know, a bunch of people sitting around a table playing a RPG is synonymous with D&D.

But does anyone consider people posting here to be people not in the know?

If the relevant topic hereon ENWorld was film, would we all expect it to be limited to big studio movies and nothing else? Or if it was music, that we’d have to stick to Top 40 fare?

It’s just silly to expect that or to insist it.

Now, having said that, the OP did make mention of DM rather than GM, so I suppose in this instance, I would expect that to be the default expectation in some ways. But, it’s also in the General RPG Forums, and we’re on page 16...so yeah, other games are gonna come up in discussion.
 
Anyway, the argument from popularity sucks. It's not helpful. Yes, lots of us love D&D. I love D&D. Saying that talking about any RPG but D&D is pointless because D&D is is so popular is some bonkers nonsense.
Seems persuasive to me. Why talk about curling when we could be talking about basketball or football?
 
I mean....to anyone not in the know, a bunch of people sitting around a table playing a RPG is synonymous with D&D.

But does anyone consider people posting here to be people not in the know?

If the relevant topic hereon ENWorld was film, would we all expect it to be limited to big studio movies and nothing else? Or if it was music, that we’d have to stick to Top 40 fare?

It’s just silly to expect that or to insist it.

Now, having said that, the OP did make mention of DM rather than GM, so I suppose in this instance, I would expect that to be the default expectation in some ways. But, it’s also in the General RPG Forums, and we’re on page 16...so yeah, other games are gonna come up in discussion.
The problem is when the same few keep bringing up the same not-very popular games into nearly every one of these discussions.
 
You mean those same few well designed and award-winning games? By recognized and decorated game designers? Those games? I have no idea why they'd keep coming up. Wacky.

I'm not even sure which games you mean, a lot of games have come up. Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Apocalypse World, PbtA, FATE, Dresden, Houses of the Blooded, Blades in the Dark, Fiasco? That's just off the top of my head and they've all been brought up in the last day in one of these threads, and not just by me. Other than maybe Houses of the Blooded (although that is written by John Wick) those are not not-popular games.
 
The problem is when the same few keep bringing up the same not-very popular games into nearly every one of these discussions.
It depends on what games you mean. Yes, D&D is the most popular, but that doesn’t mean that the remainder of the hobby is not popular.

And even so, why is it a problem? If we’re going to look at RPGs overall, we have to look at more than one. I’m glad when people bring up games I’m not familiar with...it’s one of the ways I learn about new games.
 
I think that RPGs that aren't D&D are certainly pertinent to the discussion. At least some new GMs will enter the hobby through those game.

That said, it's important to recognize that the majority of people are introduced to TTRPGs through D&D, so you can't expect the majority of new DMs to have exposure to the techniques in those games. And while many of those games have interesting and useful approaches, adding them to D&D is not necessarily straight forward.

4e tried it, and while IMO it was probably the most newbie friendly version of D&D that we've ever had, it also got enormous pushback for "not being D&D". Though I disagree with that last sentiment, I don't believe it stemmed from people wanting the barrier of entry to the hobby to be high. I think those people just didn't care for the game, at least not in the sense of D&D, in large part because it took risks in incorporating different techniques than prior editions.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
So I haven't seen anyone here characterize DMing D&D as hard. We've said it's harder than being a player and this is a fact. Saying that we are arguing that DMing is hard and then constructing a counter is a classic Strawman.

Take your 3 room dungeon for example. The DM had to create a dungeon. The players didn't. The DM had to come up with the encounters to put into the dungeon. The players didn't. The DM has to describe the evironment. The players don't. The DM has to run 6 goblins, deciding where they move, who they attack and how they attack, if they run, etc. The players have to worry about 1 PC each. The DM has to adjudicate all actions the PCs take. The players adjudicate nothing.

DMing is not hard. It is in fact harder than playing.

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.
First you have to decide if the outcome is in doubt. You don't even get to a roll until after the DM completes this step and decides that the outcome is in doubt. Then the DM needs to figure out if there are any bonuses, penalties, advantage or disadvantage that apply to the roll, and often those things don't come from a player specific ability. THEN the DM comes up with the DC. If the action isn't specifically covered by the rules, which happens fairly often in 5e, the DM has to come up with even more in order to adjudicate things. The DM also needs to figure out if the action in question is going to use the typical stat for the skill, or use an unusual stat. Afterwards, the DM narrates the result. The player just declares what he wants to try and do, and hopefully how.

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.
Not according to the 5e DMG, page 5. That page gives a very clear example of the DM's job as master of rules including correcting a player error on movement.
 

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