The GM is Not There to Entertain You

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yep. Playing a game is all about consent. Players consent to the referee running the show. The referee consents to the players running their characters. And anyone can withdraw their consent at any time, for any reason. The only way it works is everyone agrees to engage in good faith…otherwise it falls apart.

If there is disagreement, those involved have limited options. In the game, the referee can do whatever they want, infinite dragons and all that. If that bothers the players, they have little recourse besides asking the referee to stop or walking away.

It’s interesting that referees almost always frame it as “there’s no game without the referee” while players almost always frame it as “there’s no game without the players.” In truth, it’s both. But considering there’s a burgeoning market for paid referees but no market for paid players…it’s not hard to see the demographic imbalance and the reality of who needs whom more.
Really? You think that a player paying for a service isn't the customer, the person that is the most important and who will be catered to?
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Well, if you stop being so hostile to the GM, and just get immersed and play the game, then everyone has fun. Having a player that calls out the GM and complains every couple of minutes does not make for a fun game for most people. Though sure, some peoples idea of fun is to disrupt the game.


Note that it is your assumptions, not mine. I think it is the best way, but not the only way.
Yeah again I don't think that "fun" is causally guaranteed from a complete submission to GM authority as you suggest here. By comparison, there is a jump to conclusion that involves the citizens shutting up and accepting the Divine Right of Kings to a fruitful and happy state.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Just want to pop in and say PbtA games do not step all over player agency. In fact, I feel like my character decisions matter a lot, scarily so! There's been a ton of discussions and explanations about these games but there is still so much misunderstanding. They are great games that do work. They aren't going to be loved by all. No system is. They are worth trying or at least understanding because the vast majority of criticism about PbtA games comes from lack of understanding how they actually play out at the table.

When coming from the Wargame tradition, the mechanics of wargames are a list of allowed actions; if there's a referee, they get to pick which of the allowed fits the action if one goes "off the list"... anything that has no fit. doesn't happen.

Meanwhile, AWE's list is 1+moves entries: the moves list, and "Anything else that makes sense - Autosuccess"

Most RPG GMs I've seen run run things somewhere closer to wargame tradition than AWE's "Anything but the moves is say-yes"

There also is a subset of the OSR that runs D&D as if it's AWE...

But it's a wide spectrum.
I know it's fairly common to compare MHRP to Fate, but personally I don't really see it. It doesn't have compels (Limits can sometimes resemble compels, but they're much more targetted and "fine-tuned") and you don't earn Fate points for having your aspects invoked.
The similarity is in play process. Crerate assets to use, then use them.
The plot point economy works very differently, but the basic cycle of "If you can't gank them yourself, build some assets, and then try again."
While it has no compels, it does have tagging complications for use in your pool. Compels aren't entirely needed; Distinctions as disads is equivalent and voluntary...

Both are built around building assets from existing ones, & using those, and flexing the expendable meta-point pool to pull off a number of related stunts, to go beyond the stated distinctions.

It's also worth noting that MHRP is NOT the archetypical Cortex Plus; the prototypical is Smallville; MHRP is the breakout, but Firefly was, while just as good, seriously different in the details, but nearly identical in process... MHRP is closer due to

If I'd not played Fate first, I'd not have found MHR nor Firefly nearly as intuitive. They're different, but in the details, not in the mindset.
If I'd not fought to understand AW itself, I'd have had a hard time with Sentinel Comics, since it's related (distantly - the quickstart set includes the thank-yous.)
Huh? The rules of AW are clear: if the table looks at the GM to see what happens next, the GM makes a soft move unless (i) it's a failed throw or (ii) the GM has been handed a golden opportunity to follow through with a hard move.
Not to everyone. In order to grasp what was being meant, I had to ask for help. That help came from Luke Crane and Thor Olavsruud. On their forums.
There is no "his game". It doesn't exist. There is only "their game". A GM with no players has no game.
False on several levels, the simplest of which is that prep is a form of play, usually unique to the GM.
Then, there's the function of solo-play, where one runs the game as both player and GM. Very common in the PBTA space.
There's also the solitare modules (esp. TFT, T&T, LAW) - but that's play sans GM, really.
There also is the tangible element: those books still constitute a game even if unused.
There is literally no way the game grants any authority not granted by the player. There is no mechanism to make a player accept something if they do not wish to enough to leave the game.


I'm not really sure where you are going with this, because it's a pointless distinction. Regardless if it's because a DM is abusing their power, are just a bad DM, are a great DM but not a good match for how the player wants to play, if the DM claims the rules give them authority but also claim they can change the rules as they want, all of it doesn't matter. If a GM is net decreasing fun the players can take away the power they have granted the DM over themselves by walking.
There is the implied social contract as an aspect of selection of a ruleset. Which is a powerful lever. Not quite Archimedies' level of lever, but still a psychological lever of much utility.

WHile I agree that it's bad GMing to abuse it, especially with Gygax's rule 0,
 


pemerton

Legend
It's also worth noting that MHRP is NOT the archetypical Cortex Plus; the prototypical is Smallville; MHRP is the breakout, but Firefly was, while just as good, seriously different in the details, but nearly identical in process
OK. At all points I was quite explicit that I was talking about MHRP.

If I'd not played Fate first, I'd not have found MHR nor Firefly nearly as intuitive. They're different, but in the details, not in the mindset.
I found MHRP pretty intuitive, except for managing the Doom Pool. There are a couple of places where I think the rules could be clearer, but I was able to work around that.

Not to everyone. In order to grasp what was being meant, I had to ask for help. That help came from Luke Crane and Thor Olavsruud. On their forums.
I'm a pretty big fan of Luke and Thor! I think the biggest deal for some people in coming to AW seems to be taking literally the instruction to make a soft move unless the appropriate trigger for a hard move is in place.
 


aramis erak

Legend
OK. At all points I was quite explicit that I was talking about MHRP.

I found MHRP pretty intuitive, except for managing the Doom Pool. There are a couple of places where I think the rules could be clearer, but I was able to work around that.
I mentioned the differences because Cortex Plus/Prime isn't a single game system in the same way 2d20 or YZE aren't... each is a group of closely related games with similar task resolutions.
I'm a pretty big fan of Luke and Thor! I think the biggest deal for some people in coming to AW seems to be taking literally the instruction to make a soft move unless the appropriate trigger for a hard move is in place.
For me, the sticking point was "To do it, do it." Which to me read as nonsense until explained by Luke and paraphrased by Thor.

"To do it, do it." = "To engage the move rule, have the character do the action in the fiction."

That was the hardest bit.
 

pemerton

Legend
For me, the sticking point was "To do it, do it." Which to me read as nonsense until explained by Luke and paraphrased by Thor.
For me, that contrasts with "say 'yes' or roll the dice" - instead of the stakes being determined by intent, we have a set of moves built around a conception of what sorts of actions in this fiction raise the stakes. As I posted in another one of these recent threads, that's why custom moves become important - to allow specific sorts of stakes to be brought within the scope of the action resolution system.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Yep. Playing a game is all about consent. Players consent to the referee running the show. The referee consents to the players running their characters. And anyone can withdraw their consent at any time, for any reason. The only way it works is everyone agrees to engage in good faith…otherwise it falls apart.

If there is disagreement, those involved have limited options. In the game, the referee can do whatever they want, infinite dragons and all that. If that bothers the players, they have little recourse besides asking the referee to stop or walking away.
I'm with you here.

Well, for a subset of games at least like D&D. The rules of some games put different levels of restrictions on the GM.

It’s interesting that referees almost always frame it as “there’s no game without the referee” while players almost always frame it as “there’s no game without the players.” In truth, it’s both. But considering there’s a burgeoning market for paid referees but no market for paid players…it’s not hard to see the demographic imbalance and the reality of who needs whom more.
Being a GM is more work, especially away from a session - sure there are more players. On the other side players are generally focused on the fun part - it is it's own reward for the entire time put in, while especially for traditional games like D&D the prep for a GM may be hours and may not be as enjoyable at all times.

That doesn't mean that a bad game you don't enjoy is better than no game.

So we have players just looking for enjoyment who could want a paid GM, either because they want a professional level of GMing that they can't get for free, or have a lack of GMs that they are willing to play with (such as abusive or bad GMs). On the other hand because play is pretty much just enjoyment (when the table is good), the only people who would want paid players are those who provide an unpleasant game that can't attract players otherwise.

So yes, the market for high end GMs exists, and a market for players to be miserable does not. That unbalance there explains why only one market exists.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
If I owned a gun, I could walk out and shoot some random person. I have that power. That I would never do something like that doesn't mean that the ability is gone. That the first person of few people can run away(leave my game) also doesn't stop me. I can just go out and find more people(get new players). The power resides with the DM, even if he would never abuse it.
I said power isn't a point source, it is a description between things. With a gun, you can project that over others. It's still a description between things. If you tell no one you have a gun and never use it, it has no power. It has power when you use it, when you threaten with it, when you intimdate with it, when you bring up owning it for some purpose. Without doing any of those, the gun has no inherent power. Not until it or it's existance interacts with something else.

But that's all pretty moot because the rules do not allow you to project power over someone who does not wish you to.

Can the rules force someone who hasn't granted power by agreeing to be your player? No. Can the rules force someone who wishes to revoke that power by leaving? No.

The players leaving would be taking with them the pros and the cons that they brought to the table. The new players would be coming in with new pros and cons. They may not be exactly the same, but my game would still run the way I want it to.
It's all very Ship of Theseus. If an abusing GM loses their players one by one and replaces them, is it still "the game"? From your point of view you've made it clear you feel "the game" is a construct of the GM running it and that individual players are not a defining point of "the game".

I disagree, I think everyone at the table is important in defining "the game". That's why I called it "their game" when you were calling it "his game".

So your protests about still being able to run as you like (assuming you still have players) are just missing the point. "The game" isn't just the construction of a single person.

If you are playing in my game, I have authority over the game and everything that happens within it, even if I don't exercise that authority to the fullest.
Woo, thank you for finally agreeing to my point. I'm glad you see that a GM only has power when people are agreeing to play in their games. That power can be taken away by the player deciding not to play in the game. It is not inherent in the rules, it is granted by the player.

You can remove yourself from that authority by leaving the game, but you cannot remain in the game without placing yourself under that authority, or remove my authority over the game by leaving it. You have no ability to affect my authority over the game.
Since "the game" isn't just yours, by removing my character I've already changed the game in a way you have no authority over.

Heck, if a group leaves and another GM picks up with the characters where they left, it would seem like you are removed from "the game" and all authority removed from you. Unless you feel that changing the people at the table means it's not "the game", in which case removing myself as a player also means it's not "the game". Either way you pick, you end up incorrect.

You're arguing against something that I never said. Either you stay in the game under the authority granted to me by the game, or you leave the game. Leaving doesn't affect my authority over the game at all.
Something you never said? You stated authority comes from the rules. I said authority is granted by the player. I am arguing that we can easily show that the player can revoke authority that the rules can not enforce. And yes, you absolutely said authority does not come from the player, it comes from the rules in post #336 so what I am arguing is exactly to your point.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
For me, the sticking point was "To do it, do it." Which to me read as nonsense until explained by Luke and paraphrased by Thor.

"To do it, do it." = "To engage the move rule, have the character do the action in the fiction."

That was the hardest bit.
Yeah, it's weird how bad some designers are at explaining what they mean by things. Jargon and obscuring phrases just take over.
I'm with you here.

Well, for a subset of games at least like D&D. The rules of some games put different levels of restrictions on the GM.
Sure, but then we're back to being unable to make any broad statement about RPGs because there will inevitably be a game that goes against that broad statement. The default, as in the vast majority of games as written or games that are actually played, is games that are incredibly lopsided in favor of the referee.
That doesn't mean that a bad game you don't enjoy is better than no game.
The longer I'm at this the less I have patience for phrases like this. Just because you personally aren't enjoying a particular game doesn't make it bad. It's not a good fit for you or your preferences, sure, but that doesn't render you subjective opinion into objective fact about the quality of the game.

And there's also the bizarre effect this kind of thing has on new referees. I don't think it's best practices to put even more pressure on new referees or normalize any mantra that makes it seem like unless they're perfect from the go they shouldn't bother trying. To me that seems like the opposite of what we should be doing.
So we have players just looking for enjoyment who could want a paid GM, either because they want a professional level of GMing that they can't get for free, or have a lack of GMs that they are willing to play with (such as abusive or bad GMs). On the other hand because play is pretty much just enjoyment (when the table is good), the only people who would want paid players are those who provide an unpleasant game that can't attract players otherwise.

So yes, the market for high end GMs exists, and a market for players to be miserable does not. That unbalance there explains why only one market exists.
There's a lot of assumptions in there. Paid doesn't mean "professional-level GM," nor does a derth of referees mean lots that do exist are abusive or bad, nor does paid mean "high end GMs." It just means there are so many more players than referees that some players are desperate enough to pay referees to run games for them.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I said power isn't a point source, it is a description between things. With a gun, you can project that over others. It's still a description between things. If you tell no one you have a gun and never use it, it has no power. It has power when you use it, when you threaten with it, when you intimdate with it, when you bring up owning it for some purpose. Without doing any of those, the gun has no inherent power. Not until it or it's existance interacts with something else.

But that's all pretty moot because the rules do not allow you to project power over someone who does not wish you to.

Can the rules force someone who hasn't granted power by agreeing to be your player? No. Can the rules force someone who wishes to revoke that power by leaving? No.
Do the rules allow full power over anyone(within the game environment) who remains playing the game? Yes. You either remain under the authority or you leave the game and the authority behind. In no case have you removed or altered the DMs authority over his game.
If an abusing GM loses their players one by one and replaces them, is it still "the game"? From your point of view you've made it clear you feel "the game" is a construct of the GM running it and that individual players are not a defining point of "the game".
Yes and no. The results of the game will be different, because different decisions will be made by the two groups. The DMs full authority over the game remains unchanged, though.
I disagree, I think everyone at the table is important in defining "the game". That's why I called it "their game" when you were calling it "his game".
I understand that, and to a degree you are correct. The final creation is mutual, because of the dance between player decisions and actions and the DMs response and control over the game environment. However, only the DM has complete authority over everything that happens within the game, so in that sense the game is his.

Think of it like this. If I bring over Settlers of Catan, all the players are playing the game. The results of the game will be a combination of all parties involved. However, I own the game. It's mine and I retain full authority over it. I can decide in the middle of the game to just pack it up. Or not. It would be a jerk move on my part to do that, but it's my game.

That's what D&D is like. Ultimately it's the DMs game, even if the end result is a creation that is mutually arrived at.
That power can be taken away by the player deciding not to play in the game.
It can't. If every last player leaves the game, the game is still mine as is the power. Only I can take it and find new players for it. The others don't have my notes and ideas.
Something you never said? You stated authority comes from the rules. I said authority is granted by the player. I am arguing that we can easily show that the player can revoke authority that the rules can not enforce. And yes, you absolutely said authority does not come from the player, it comes from the rules in post #336 so what I am arguing is exactly to your point.
Yes. Something I never said. Not once did I say that my authority could prevent a player from leaving the game or would exist outside of the game. That's a construct you created for me. Within the game, though, my authority is absolute.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yeah, it's weird how bad some designers are at explaining what they mean by things. Jargon and obscuring phrases just take over.
Juxtaposition!
The longer I'm at this the less I have patience for phrases like this. Just because you personally aren't enjoying a particular game doesn't make it bad. It's not a good fit for you or your preferences, sure, but that doesn't render you subjective opinion into objective fact about the quality of the game.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Do the rules allow full power over anyone(within the game environment) who remains playing the game? Yes.
True, but since "in-game" is just a subset of the whole game, still irrelevant.

Yes and no. The results of the game will be different, because different decisions will be made by the two groups. The DMs full authority over the game remains unchanged, though.
This isn't logical. The game has changed in ways the GM does not have control over by the player leaving. How can you claim that they still have full authority?

I understand that, and to a degree you are correct. The final creation is mutual, because of the dance between player decisions and actions and the DMs response and control over the game environment. However, only the DM has complete authority over everything that happens within the game, so in that sense the game is his.
First, the GM has never had "complete authority over everything that happens within the game" unless they ignore all player agency. So we can discard any notion of that.

Second, if a bunch of players fire the GM and a new GM picks up with the existing characters and situation, the first GM still "owns the game"?

(Oh, and I've done that personally.)

Think of it like this. If I bring over Settlers of Catan, all the players are playing the game. The results of the game will be a combination of all parties involved. However, I own the game. It's mine and I retain full authority over it. I can decide in the middle of the game to just pack it up. Or not. It would be a jerk move on my part to do that, but it's my game.
Sure, you can take your ball and go home. But unlike Settlers of Catan this doesn't deprive the players of their characters. Can another GM step in? Heck, if you are running a published module can another GM pick up right where you left off?

"The game" isn't a physical thing like a Settlers set, it's an intangible shared creation. The GM does a bigger share of the set design, the players do a bigger share of moving the story forward.

And you play lip service to players making a difference, but until you acknowledge that they are just as instrumental as the DM into the specific story that makes up a specific game, you just will be missing the point.

Or let's go the other way. You bring over Settlers of Catan, and half way through the game the host throws you out. What does your authority over Settlers allow you to change that?

EDIT: Or a player gets a work call and needs to take off. Does your absolute authority over Catan by owning the physical game do anything about that?

That's what D&D is like. Ultimately it's the DMs game, even if the end result is a creation that is mutually arrived at.
Please explain how it's both the group effort but only belongs to one person. It's not like we're creating a physical mural somewhere, it's in the shared imagination of the table.

It can't. If every last player leaves the game, the game is still mine as is the power. Only I can take it and find new players for it. The others don't have my notes and ideas.
If you start another Settlers of Catan game later with different people, is it still the same game? Or has that first game ("your game" in your parlance) gone away and now you are playing a new game with the same basic configuration.

I think we both know the answer to this.

Yes. Something I never said. Not once did I say that my authority could prevent a player from leaving the game or would exist outside of the game. That's a construct you created for me. Within the game, though, my authority is absolute.
If you insist that lighter than air is the only method of flight, you don't need to utter the words "The Wright Brothers will never get their 'aeroplane' to fly", it's implied in what you said.

When you disputed that the player grants authority and can take it away, and instead insisted that the authority comes from the rules, you are saying that the rules are a higher level of authority than the player. Which means that your premise can only be right if the rules can prevent a player from leaving.

You never posted it because even you know it's hogwash and would undermine the rest of your statements. That does not mean that it isn't a necessary statement for your premise to be correct.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
No, the GM can (potentially) go out and get more players and create a new game that is based on what they have done before. If they have retained some players there can even be more continuity, like a show where a lead actor or director leaves and something with that same name continues, but it doesn't have the same chemistry or the same energy and needs to rediscover itself.
Or you just accept occasional player turnover as a fact of life. This is essential if one intends to run a multi-year campaign, and note that said turnover may or may not have anything to do with the quality of DMing (i.e. life happens).
And again, your statement seems to assume that players are cogs - you can replace them and they all bring the same thing to the table.
Au contraire - player turnover almost always brings new things to the table, which helps keep the campaign fresh. Sometimes in hindsight there's a net gain, sometimes a net loss, but everyone brings something different.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Or you just accept occasional player turnover as a fact of life. This is essential if one intends to run a multi-year campaign, and note that said turnover may or may not have anything to do with the quality of DMing (i.e. life happens).

Au contraire - player turnover almost always brings new things to the table, which helps keep the campaign fresh. Sometimes in hindsight there's a net gain, sometimes a net loss, but everyone brings something different.
I never said player turnover was bad. Though player turnover because the GM is being abusive is bad in my opinion.

I was debating that the player is the ultimate source of authority over them, not the rules. That the rules can not force a player to join nor prevent a player from leaving, so the GM only has authority as voluntarily granted by the player.

Your points, which I agree with, are orthogonal to what is being discussed with Max.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Or you just accept occasional player turnover as a fact of life. This is essential if one intends to run a multi-year campaign, and note that said turnover may or may not have anything to do with the quality of DMing (i.e. life happens).

Au contraire - player turnover almost always brings new things to the table, which helps keep the campaign fresh. Sometimes in hindsight there's a net gain, sometimes a net loss, but everyone brings something different.
Exactly. And importantly, the referee is still in charge of the game. Players come and go, the game changes as a result, but the referee is still there running the game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's all very Ship of Theseus. If an abusing GM loses their players one by one and replaces them, is it still "the game"?
Yes.

And the same applies to a non-abusing GM.
From your point of view you've made it clear you feel "the game" is a construct of the GM running it and that individual players are not a defining point of "the game".
To me "the game" (here synonymous with "the campaign") is a construct of the GM running it in a particular setting in a somewhat-continuous or related manner.

Same GM, different setting = different game.
Different GM, same setting = different game.

Same GM, same setting = (usually the) same game.
So your protests about still being able to run as you like (assuming you still have players) are just missing the point. "The game" isn't just the construction of a single person.
Well, it is once you realize that without that single person that "game" does not exist.
 

Au contraire - player turnover almost always brings new things to the table, which helps keep the campaign fresh. Sometimes in hindsight there's a net gain, sometimes a net loss, but everyone brings something different.

This is interesting to me.

I'm curious what you feel intra-game turnover yields in terms of "new players bring new things to the table?" What "new things" do you have in mind?

I'm curious about this because I don't remember the last time I had intra-game turnover. Like...I think it was 2 decades ago in a 3.x game I GMed due to someone moving out of town? Yet, having the same players all the time hasn't affected "campaign freshness."

The same players at every game (and just in the last 2 decades you're talking GMing probably 150 different players, yet every game had no more than 4 players with most of them 2-3 players) have consistently kept things fresh and brought new and different and very consequential things into play consistently...all the time.

So can you maybe elaborate on that second sentence above with some examples from your games?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yes.

And the same applies to a non-abusing GM.

To me "the game" (here synonymous with "the campaign") is a construct of the GM running it in a particular setting in a somewhat-continuous or related manner.

Same GM, different setting = different game.
Different GM, same setting = different game.

Same GM, same setting = (usually the) same game.

Well, it is once you realize that without that single person that "game" does not exist.
I think that last bit is exactly what blue refuses to accept/acknowledge.
 

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