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D&D General The DM is Not a Player; and Hot Topic is Not Punk Rock

This conversation has always been more about usage (prescriptivism) than descriptivism, which is why it has been incredibly disheartening to see people retreat into catcalls about "semantics" and "word games."

I feel like I have to keep quoting the last sentence of the OP:
Again, there are other TTRPGs that are built in a different way, but when it comes to D&D, there is a distinction between players and the DM that is useful to maintain, both as a matter of language and in terms of the roles that they play at the table.

This is why, when you are a DM, you would never say to another gamer that you are a "player," because that term has a specified use in the context of D&D; just like if you were in a group of people that had PhDs in mathematics, you would not say you were a mathematician because you happened to split the check (unless you were either joking or had slept at a Holiday Inn Express). For that matter, the long-repeated, but true, joke is that no matter what your opinion is on PhDs, if someone drops on the ground and someone screams, "Is there a doctor in the house," you probably won't rush forward because you have a PhD in Comparative Literature.

So when people say (as in the quote that gave rise to the OP) that the DM is a player like any other player, then they are not making a descriptive claim about dictionary definitions. This is a normative claim about what D&D is, or ought to be. As you can see, people saying, "Well, maybe that is how it was, but not how it is." And using the idea that this is semantics (and ignoring the context-shift) as a cover for the normative argument about how they want the game to be played. a/k/a, this is how the game should be played, because this is how the term is defined.

Eh, forget it it Jack. It's Chinatown.
It’s a culture shift and not one I am fond of.

people are worried about authority and others cramping their style and identity. That’s not just how it is or how it should be—-for some it’s the focus. Gotta root out bad stuff, it’s everywhere!

can’t have anyone with “authority,” authority is bad. It’s gotta be a drum circle of storytelling.

that is what is driving the resistance to old institutions. Gotta tear down the old.

in practice? We get together with friends. Someone designed a world and adventure. We play in that creation and alter it when we play. The dm roots for us but sets limits so it’s fun and risky. Otherwise it’s just “pew! Pew!” I killed the bad guys ‘cause story!

the culture is shifting. There is some innovation there is some good stuff and then there is ponderous fit throwing whining and resistance.

play with like minded players (as concerns game philosophy). Diversity of opinion is fine to a point unless the opinion is that the game needs to be dismantled. In that case, you can go play in that corner and we can go play in this one.

for some it’s an argument about simple preferences. For others it’s a mindset that is pretty generalized.

I guess for some it’s just fun to argue too
 

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Well, for starters, game design became an actual thing. And also principles of good gming were formulated.
Perhaps as an art; but not as a science. Certainly not as a technology (ground we've already demolished with a backhoe in other threads).

In sub-circles of OSR circles that isn't busy with cargo-culting and paraphrasing B/X for a thousandth time (which means: people who actually know what they are doing) term "referee" comes up pretty rarely.
Check the 'tude. Preferably after checking your facts.
 

Nevertheless, the term is in use, and is so for a reason—just as some RPGs call the position "narrator" or "storyteller" for the purpose of placing different emphasis. (And somehow, I doubt that either of those "terms of art" would get slapped with the same sort of dismissive, descriptivist/prescriptivist quibbling as "referee.")
You've never heard my opinion on calling the GM a Storyteller. I consider referee a bad term because it's fundamentally incorrect - but you actively can't run an RPG as a referee as you control the NPCs. It's not even misleading, just incorrect thanks to being a legacy term.

Storyteller on the other hand is a fundamental mistake in terms of what to call a GM because it implies it's the GM's story and the GM writes what is going to happen. It (unlike Referee) actively promotes bad behaviour on the part of the GM and is therefore a far far worse choice than referee.

I can't think of any games off the top of my head that call the GM a narrator, and whether that works depends on how it's done and what the game is trying to do. If you mean narrator as in a play that has a character that handles scene transitions that could work really well.

Hollyhock God (as used IIRC in Nobilis) on the other hand is slightly ridiculous. On the positive side Vincent Baker's MC/Master of Ceremonies is spot on in terms of what the GM in that game should be doing.
Precisely. We aren't having this discussion in a vacuum, absent context. Dictionary definitions shouldn't even be entering into the matter.
It's because we aren't having this discussion in a vacuum, absent context, that dictionary definitions should be entering into the matter. The way words are generally used is part of the context.

Edit: To sum up a good term for the GM makes it easier by summing up what the GM should be doing (and it's different in different games). Referee doesn't do this at all because the GM can't do this. Which is still massively better than Storyteller which is something the GM almost certainly shouldn't be.
 


Olrox17

Hero
Well, for starters, game design became an actual thing. And also principles of good gming were formulated.



In sub-circles of OSR circles that isn't busy with cargo-culting and paraphrasing B/X for a thousandth time (which means: people who actually know what they are doing) term "referee" comes up pretty rarely.
You have this bad habit of dismissing and ridiculing people who like different things than you. I already asked you to be careful about it in another thread, I'm warning you again, next time I'll just report.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Publisher
Is there a way to phrase that less dismissively? Is it possible that there are people who don't ascribe to the same things that you do that also know what they are doing?
Yeah, sure. Steve Jackson would be the prime example — GURPS isn't my cup of tea, but the old man and co know, well, more like knew what they were doing.

Can't say the same about Raggi or that LL dude.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
You take 10 hp of irony damage for failing to say “I am here to boldly split that infinitive”.

Well played! I don't know what emotion is stronger in me ... admiration of you for catching that, or the self-flagellation that comes in the realization that I missed it!
 




TheSword

Legend
I was specifically talking about paid DMs.
I've never been paid to DM, and I never paid anyone to DM for me, but if I ever happened to pay a talented DM to run a game for me, my expectations would be a lot different than if one my childhood buddied did it for free, instead.

I would expect a paid DM to deliver a good, satisfying show and a fun experience for us, the clients. I would not expect them to "play" and have fun.
I find this whole argument bemusing, but I would point out that many people get paid to work and have fun doing some or all of it. In a lot of cases it makes them better at their job... teachers, trainers, coaches, managers, actors, scientists.
 

Yeah, sure. Steve Jackson would be the prime example — GURPS isn't my cup of tea, but the old man and co know, well, more like knew what they were doing.

Can't say the same about Raggi or that LL dude.
The really interesting part I find is that Gygax was a poor designer (as the games he designed himself, like Mythus: Lejendary Journeys, and Cyborg Commando demonstrate) but was a superb developer on D&D based on Arneson's basic design.
 

Olrox17

Hero
I find this whole argument bemusing, but I would point out that many people get paid to work and have fun doing some or all of it. In a lot of cases it makes them better at their job... teachers, trainers, coaches, managers, actors, scientists.
Err, ok? If a person I hire to do a job has fun doing that job, great, but what I care about the most is getting my money's worth. Again though, we are wasting time debating valueless semantics.
 

TheSword

Legend
Err, ok? If a person I hire to do a job has fun doing that job, great, but what I care about the most is getting my money's worth. Again though, we are wasting time debating valueless semantics.
This isn’t semantics, it’s your expectation that a paid DM wouldn’t have fun. That isn’t a question of meaning thats just an odd opinion about having fun at work. I mean, unless you’re paying them $10k a session in which case I’d do it, even if I hated D&D with a passion.

Would you not expect someone who is passionate and enjoys the process of DMing?

Some jobs you do for the money, some you do for love because the money is a pittance. I suspect DMing is very much the latter unless you’re famous.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This isn’t semantics, it’s your expectation that a paid DM wouldn’t have fun. That isn’t a question of meaning thats just an odd opinion about having fun at work. I mean, unless you’re paying them $10k a session in which case I’d do it, even if I hated D&D with a passion.

?

A lot of people would take $10/hr to DM, even if they derived no joy from it.

It's called work, and not "happy fun time" because you get paid. If you happen to really enjoy it, that's great. But I don't think that many wage slaves toiling (a synonym for work) in the service industry are sympathetic to the idea that work is, or should be, fun.
 

TheSword

Legend
?

A lot of people would take $10/hr to DM, even if they derived no joy from it.

It's called work, and not "happy fun time" because you get paid. If you happen to really enjoy it, that's great. But I don't think that many wage slaves toiling (a synonym for work) in the service industry are sympathetic to the idea that work is, or should be, fun.
Running a game of D&D is not working cleaning shifts at the local motel. I’m very surprised that two people now would seem expect a DM not to have fun in a game if they were being paid to do it?

Do you appreciate that you are more likely to be good at a job if you enjoy it? Or that for creative jobs this is even more important. You have to at least enjoy it in part.

Let be honest most people capable of getting a $10ph paid gig as a DM can probably get considerably more by doing something else. I’m surprised that you think a paid DM would do it because they’re desperate for cash rather than they passionately enjoy delivering great D&D sessions to people.
 



Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Running a game of D&D is not working cleaning shifts at the local motel. I’m very surprised that two people now would seem expect a DM not to have fun in a game if they were being paid to do it?

Do you appreciate that you are more likely to be good at a job if you enjoy it? Or that for creative jobs this is even more important. You have to at least enjoy it in part.

Let be honest most people capable of getting a $10ph paid gig as a DM can probably get considerably more down by something else. I’m surprised that you think a paid DM would do it because they’re desperate for cash rather than they passionately enjoy delivering great D&D sessions to people.

First, let me say that I think that this is a bizarre and unnecessary distraction. This isn't particularly relevant or germane to the topic of the thread, other than to acknowledge that there is a growing number of DMs who get paid for their work. That aside ...

I disagree with pretty much every thing you have written, because I disagree with the assumptions that go into it. The reason why I disagree (and strenuously) is because this rhetoric often unknowingly devalues labor. I don't think you mean to do it, and it comes from a good spot, but it nonetheless does so.

Look at the way you start by classifying different types of work. Running a D&D game (a service) "is not working cleaning shifts at the local motel." ... and so? It's also not slinging french fries, or working in a mine, or being a mime, or working as a rock star, or driving an uber. But you know what it is?

It's work. It's something that you are doing, that you are being paid to do, because if you weren't getting paid to do it ... you would be doing something else. And while some jobs might be more physically taxing (working in a mine, waiter at a busy restaurant) and others more mentally taxing (DMing, designing logos) and others might be ... well, just taxing (toll booth operator) you are being paid for you labor.

And to denigrate the work that people do is far too common, especially in the creative fields. "Oh, we don't need to worry about paying that graphic designer what he wants, after all, he's just an artist and I'm sure he just loves what he is doing, and he's probably middle class and not desperate for cash."

If someone is paid for their work, then it's work. Period. I respect that. To the extent that I am being overly strenuous in stating this, it's because this is a point that I feel very strongly about. People deserve to be paid for their labor, without others saying, "Oh, don't worry, it's just 'fun' for them."
 

Olrox17

Hero
Running a game of D&D is not working cleaning shifts at the local motel. I’m very surprised that two people now would seem expect a DM not to have fun in a game if they were being paid to do it?

Do you appreciate that you are more likely to be good at a job if you enjoy it? Or that for creative jobs this is even more important. You have to at least enjoy it in part.

Let be honest most people capable of getting a $10ph paid gig as a DM can probably get considerably more by doing something else. I’m surprised that you think a paid DM would do it because they’re desperate for cash rather than they passionately enjoy delivering great D&D sessions to people.
Getting paid to do something changes expectations. I don't get paid to DM, so I know that I don't have to always be at the top of my game, I know I can skimp on prep if I want and maybe run a lazy session if I feel like it, I know that sometimes I can do stuff that is fun for me and not as much fun for the players.

If I was getting paid to DM, I would feel much more pressure to deliver a top-notch product, and I would prioritize the group's fun over mine every single time. Heck, I would not think about my own fun at all! Work is work.

But yes, this tangent has probably been going on unnecessarily long.
 

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