Monday, October 18, 2010

God, I

The tail-end of the comment from runjikol included the following: "...What ever dice rolling method a group uses it must be agreed to ..."

Funny how the smallest throwaway phrase can get right under your skin.  My apologies to runjikol - he's started this post and I doubt he intended that phrase as it sounded.

Nevertheless, I find myself wanting to respond with anger that I can barely contain.  So I will write this slowly.  As a DM, it is my world.  It is my campaign.  I design it, I build it, I run it.  I decide what goes into it and what does not.  I decide how the running is played.  No matter who 'agrees' to whatever, the only opinion regarding the way the dice are rolled, or any other mechanic of the game, is mine.

You sit down at my table, to play my game, and you'll obey the rules of the game as I lay them out, or you can take your ass right on down the road.  I'll listen to reasoned argument.  I will rule in the player's favor if the argument is convincing.  But I won't subject myself to any democratic protest except the one where people decide to get out.

The reason why should be obvious.  This is a complex game, demanding that someone assume the role of judge, an individual who has the power to made a de facto ruling that must be accepted by the participants.  These are individuals who have a great emotional investment in what is going on.  They have much to win or lose.  Every die roll carries with it a potential for happiness or depression.  To give the passionate a say over what goes on is inviting chaos.

Yes, the Judge has authority, but the Judge must also be dispassionate.  It is dispassion is what gives me the right to hold over my players the absolute authority over the rules.  I have nothing invested in the playing of the game, only in the existence of the world.  My investment is in the lines of my maps, the variety and personality of my monsters, or the cleverness of my tables.  As long as those tables function, as long as the map is accurate - and as long as I am not dissuaded from my presentation of those things - I am content.

You live or you die, that is your issue.  My world continues unabated.  My life's work is unaffected by the sufferings of your characters.  That is my privilege.  I have done the work.  I have labored upon each feature prior to my describing it to you, the player. 

To me, my world exists with my love.  But you, the player, are free to spit on my world, to laugh at it's ideosyncracies, to scoff at things I find important and to mock my efforts to challenge your preconceptions.  As a Judge, I am allowed no vindictive response whatsoever, nor may I give compensation for your woes, or sympathize with your disappointment, or cater to your whims, or bend to your pleas.  The world is, and you are in it, and what happens there is up to your efforts.  I won't impede you and I won't deliver you.

But I won't let you run my world.  That's my business and none of yours.  The die - as well as the tables, the features and the 'fluff' - are the function of my world, and what's rolled or how it's rolled is subject to no one's whim but my own.  Your privilege and influence rests with what your characters are able to do. 

The best that you as players may do is advocate ... and on most things, I am implacable.

I hope that's clear.


  1. It's funny how that happens - one phrase can really niggle and get under one's skin.

    The terms of play should be described up front. It helps everyone know what they're in for. If the GM says 'x' is the only way I'll run a game then players agree there's nothing left to bitch about.

    In building a world that's a labour of love and sharing it with players then those terms have even more gravitas. I have an ongoing labour - - that is across decades with lots of love and passion. When I GM there I expect players to suspend their disbelief, get involved in the game-world, or f@(# off. So I'm on a similar page.

  2. It doesn't sound like people enjoying themselves and having fun with you is a priority.

    "Barely restrained anger," seems to be a disproportionate response to the offhanded mention of group consensus.

    It may be "you. . . you. . . you" when it's all conceptual, but the instant you begin playing a *game*, it becomes a social activity.

    I expect fair adjudication, risk, reasonable consequences for my actions, neither punishment or reward for my IC actions - in short all the things you describe.

    The idea that you've ever ran a session that didn't invite chaos is fallacy - side conversations happen, things are missed and forgotten about, people become tired.

    What exactly is the point of your post? You state a bunch of precepts of old school play (which most people in these games already accept). You state that they can do it the way you want or leave. Well, I can tell you, the sky is blue, you'll have to die and pay taxes, and the cost of living keeps going up.

  3. I've spent an hour in a game waiting for the 'group' to come to a group consensus. That's an hour wasted to me. The GM should have made a call and moved on. The 'group' finally came to a consensus when we got the one player making a stink to give up.

  4. Well then, you misunderstood completely what I meant by "Group Consensus"

    When you're playing and the GM makes a call or a decision, you should honor that and move on. The GM has heard the arguments, and is responsible for keeping the game moving. He is trusted and (hopefully) fair and impartial. Socially it's appropriate to discuss it later after the game - but at the table it's rude to take time away from other players like that (as you so clearly pointed out Oddbit)

    On the other hand when you're deciding to engage in a game like activity with people who are your friends, and one of them goes, "I like mystery adventures" and another goes "I made these nifty dice trays" and another is like "I'm interested in swashbuckling type fights" and the DM goes "This is MY game. We're going to do what I want - and if you don't like it, go away" that's something else entirely.

    Dice rules, House rules, who brings the food, what type of game everyone is interested in playing - these are some of the things you can have discussion about. If you run a game regardless of the preferences of the people who are supposedly your friends, and more to the point, have "barely restrained anger" at the thought that, you know, you might want to include the ideas of a group of friends in your activity for your group of friends, then that's arrogant, narcissist, and selfish.

    Also: last time I checked consensus doesn't mean "Everyone has to do everything this way". Often it means, "Hey, we'll play this type of game for a few weeks, and then this other one next." Communication, sharing, understanding, and compromise. Most of the people I'm playing with learned these skills in grade school. :-) YMMV.

  5. Runjikol,

    Funny that someone felt the need to defend your minor comment - twice - when in fact you agreed with me. Obviously, my purpose in writing this post was to invite the aggrieved author of both long comments to tell us what's what, to remind us that we're being too serious for his sensibilities and to remind me, in particular, that my overall demeanor should not be one of barely restrained anger, but apparently of long-winded nebbishness.

    Funny how one phrase can get under someone's skin.


    Being a long time reader of this blog, you're well aware of how this post fits into my overall agenda, as opposed to being a stand-alone manifesto. I know very well the inconvenience of having someone at the table whose sensibilities disrupt a campaign (or a post), unrestrained by DMs who hang onto their grade school ideologies like grim death.

  6. Yeah, the lot of you is basically saying the same thing.

    I just love that each of you is writing it clearly, fluidly, and with wonderful, proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my grammatical soul.

  7. The lot of you are basically saying the same thing.

    Thank you Ethan.

  8. Agreed, Alexis.

    "Get on board or get off my train." How we go about it may be different but the essence remains.

    Good gaming.

  9. I thought about that several times as I wrote it, Alexis.

    The question of whether "the lot" was a singular or a plural subject, similar to the use of "none", caused my hesitation.

    Even in grade school in the late 70's, I recall being taught the subject of "none" to be singular, ignoring the context of the preposition in all cases.

    It seems today, however, that the context of the preposition dictates the status of singular vs. plural.

    After I'd posted the comment and thought about it some more (can I even make an equal comparison of "the lot" and "none"?), I was going to go back and change it. Then RL got in the way and I totally fucking forgot about it.

    Ah, well.

  10. I see what you did there. :-)

  11. The way you write it is surprisingly arrogant, intolerant and inflexible. Pity that.


If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.