Day 44: GM, not “Game Master”

September 9, 2009

During our first session, there were several spots where I or another player was unsure of the rules. Monty, however, knows his shit. Naturally, he jumped in to help when someone was struggling.

Now, I could tell Monty enjoyed teaching the game, but was a little worried that he was stepping on my toes as GM. He even volunteered to be punched in the face on account. I declined, but looking back it would have given the game a very gritty feel. Live and learn, I suppose.

Seriously, though, I was grateful for the help. I wanted to get 4e right, with monsters that fight to win. I’ve run many games where the rules were only nominally used. That’s what you get when you use a game’s fluff, but the system boils down to the six word RPG.

I don’t buy that the GMs are the highest authority on the rules, free to arbitrate them mid-session as they wish. The rules are part of the pitch for the game, the “hey guys, let’s play this.”  When player’s decide “yeah, we’ll play that.” – the game rules are the this and the that.  They’re the baseline of the agreement on what will happen at the table.

So these days, if I’m running six word, I tell my players that I’m running six word.  If I’m running In A Wicked Age, I tell them that.

And when we play 4e, we’re god damned playing 4e, and if I start GMing A Flower For Mara, the players can and should call bullshit.  I said I’d run 4e D&D, step-on-up style, and I nailed my house rules to the church door, and that’s why the players showed up.

The term “Game Master” implies a hierarchical relationship to the players, and really, that’s not what I do.  I’m the GM, which is a shorthand for “The guy who is responsible for framing scenes and creating the fictional environment.”  That’s where I have fun.


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