Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Angry DM

"But, look, it’s no secret that I am not talking about your hoity-toity story games who think they are the only way to get a satisfying narrative experience in an interactive medium. And I’m not talking about those abstract as f$&% specialty games whose rules are three layers removed from any actual game fiction. I’m not talking about the elitist indie crap that seeks to elevate the medium. No, I’m talking about the standard fare. The Dungeons & Dragons. The Pathfinder. The Star Wars. The old school and the new school action-adventure games. The ones that CAN be great epic stories of mystery and intrigue, like that Game of Thrones thing the kids are all playing. And the ones that CAN ALSO be the dungeon-crawling fun of killing green-skinned evil-doers and taking their stuff. And the ones that CAN ALSO be tear-your-hair-out challenging tests of your strategy and gaming mettle. D&D can’t be anything to anyone, sorry. I’ve said that before. But it can be a lot of things. And it’s pretty easy to get to a lot of things from D&D.
"Oh, and just because I talk about traditional RPGs and play traditional RPGs, that doesn’t mean I also don’t play (and even sometimes LIKE) other games. I play and run A LOT of games. I try a lot of s$&%. Anyway, I got distracted. My point here is that this site is unapologetically about teaching you how to get the most out of traditional RPGs, however you define 'the most.' Deal with it."
The Angry GM,

What I like about the above is how clear it all is.  When I read writing on this level, I come away from it nourished, refreshed and emboldened by a brand new, crystalline version of reality, as the scales fall away from my eyes and I realize, at last, what I need to know to be a better dungeon master.
"What is a Role-Playing Game?
"A role-playing game is a game in which players take on the role of fictional characters in a hypothetical universe. The players attempt to make the decisions that they feel their characters would make if they were real and if their universe were real. Those decisions are based on the characters’ motivations and the games goals. The results of those decisions are played out and new decisions are made.
"Ultimately, an RPG is about choice and consequence. The players make choices for their characters and then deal with the consequences. And goals provide benchmarks for success and failure."

 See?  If I knew nothing about RPGs, I would want a definition like this one: thorough, exemplifying a full detail and aspect of what's going on, right down to the nuts and bolts of the thing.  "Ah, I see," I would say.  The universe is hypothetical, but we pretend that the hypothetical is real.  That's brilliant!  That is completely different from most things that are hypothetical, which are merely theoretical, conjectural, speculative, putative or notional.  Thank gawd that's made clearer.

But the real genius in the above is the description of RPGs involving choices and consequences.  That is so, so very different from other types of games, activities, sports, recreations and past-times.  None of those involve choices in any way, and certainly are not subject to consequences.  This is so cool, this role-playing thing.  Tell me more.
"The Most Important Rule in Every RPG
"There is one rule, one structure, that underlies almost every RPG that exists. It is the most basic process by which the RPG runs. And it goes like this. The GM presents a situation to the players. The players project themselves into the mind of their characters and decide on a course of action for their characters to take. The GM determines the outcome of those actions and describes the results, which becomes a new situation to which the players then respond."

Wow.  A situation.  That is so deep.  As a GM, all that's needed, the most important thing that is needed, is that I need to present a situation.  Damn.  My head is just on fire with all the ideas in my head.  Don't say any more.  I get it now.  I get it all.

... sigh.


This is such a good example of a typical attempt to explain the game, I had to march it out.  Go on, read the whole post.  It doesn't get any better, it doesn't get any clearer.  The gentle reader and I understand what he's saying for obvious reasons.  We're the choir.  But someone who has never heard of a role-playing game?  The above is an empty field of useless wordage.

The above, however, has nothing at all on the comment that praise the above:
"These abstract articles are good (and necessary) but it’s watching the way you are able to use the concepts in regards to minutia and moving the little bits around that I find fascinating. Well defined examples, or vague generic ones when you’re in that mood, are exciting to follow because you can see thru the bulls&$(# that trips the rest of us up."
"It’s nice to see this clear outline of definitions. While all of these concepts have been touched on in previous articles at some level or another, putting them here in one place serves well to tie them together."
"Very concise and lays out information and concepts in an easy to follow format. You haven’t peaked, this seems like a good foundation for future published work. Great stuff here!"
"This blew me out of the water. I love the systematic way that you laid out and connected concepts from all your articles. I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back to this article for years. Well done, and thank you for all the great work you put in. I truly appreciate it."

These are Russian bots, right?  They're deliberately creating obsequious content in order to promote a lax, non-educational precept to the investigation of RPGs ... no one actually read the above post and actually felt it worthy of actual praise.  Did they?

I'm afraid that, yes, they did.

"Blew me out of the water?"  Which part, exactly?  The part where the DM wears three hats?  Where two of them were "running the game" and "administering the game"?  Because, apparently, these are different things:
"When running the game, the GM presents situations, determines the outcome of actions, and presents the consequences of those actions."
"When administrating the game, the GM handles the organizational and social aspects of the game. The GM must deal with interpersonal problems, disruption of the game, and other social issues."

Funny, because I call both those things, "running the game," because I do them both at the same time, in synchronization.

See, the baseball umpire wears two hats: he wears the game adjudication hat, and he wears the hat where he has to deal with players who respond to the game adjudication. Oh, wait, he actually wears three hats, because sometimes he calls balls and strikes, and sometimes he has to deal with all the other rules of the game.  Oh, wait, he wears four hats, because he also wears the Umpire is not involved in the Game hat.  Oops, there's five hats ... no, six ... wait, it's eight.  Or is it ten?  Fuck, that's a lot of hats.

Sometimes, as a DM, I wear my "gets out of a chair and grabs a coke" hat ... and sometimes I wear the "joke with the other participants of the game while we shoot the shit" hat.  Once upon a time, I even wore the "stops the game for five minutes while I go change the baby" hat.  RPGs are complicated.

Or maybe, what blew the reader out of the water was the 55 words used to describe "Campaign" (which doesn't even rate "The" Campaign):
"A campaign isn’t really part of the structure of the role-playing game. A campaign is the sum total of all of the game sessions involving any sort of continuity between adventures. Usually the continuity involves the ensemble of characters and the setting, but through one or more adventure paths, there may also be a story continuity."

There's a shell that goes straight for the ammunition supply.  That certainly blew my HMS Hood out of the North Atlantic.  "Any sort of continuity."  An unbroken and consistent existence of a thing over time ... of any sort.  Jeez.  That kind of stark lucidity doesn't turn up in a sentence just any day.

But okay, we were given some examples: there's character continuity and setting continuity, and one or more adventure path continuities, and story continuity.  My, my, my ... I do know everything a DM need to know about the campaign now, don't I?

Remember, that was the name of the post.  EVERYTHING you need to know.  Every blessed thing.  From now until the day you stop running RPGs when the cancer cuts you down at 95.  There are a bunch of different continuities and they all have an adjective in front of them.

When I say the RPG community has its head up it's ass, I mean crap like this sort of thing that is praised to the skies. Someone felt the need to write,
"This article is what every single dungeon master section is missing. I’ve paid money for products that have given me far less."
And someone else added:
"Ditto. Not enough DMGs or other such books really teach you to actually GM."

Now, lest I be misunderstood, I don't care that the Angry DM felt compelled to write this post.  He's been spewing out this inconsistent drivel for years.  He has a steady, consistent formula.  He starts with a long, long self-referential introduction that does little more than pick a given word in the previous sentence in order to go off on a tangent, which almost always ends with him disagreeing with something he said at the start, while obsequiously adding a few sentences to make sure hasn't unduly insulted someone by making a declarative sentence that something is something.  If you'll look at the opening two paragraphs that I quoted at the top, you'll see he's done exactly this.  If you go look at the rest of his writings, you'll find he does it virtually every time.

Of course I've read him.  He's called "The Angry GM."  I had to go find out what the fuss was about.  Truth is, he's not really angry ... except in the way that a drunk asshole on a train bridge finds a reason to scream at something, because they're there and, what the fuck, they feel like screaming.  There's no rationale.  He's not actually "angry" at anything.  He's adept at using a ten-year-old's vocabulary while letting his Mom, apparently, replace the swearing with the top row of his keyboard.

I use the symbols technique myself, occasionally.  It's fun.  But I'm also ready to say fuck and shit because, well, fuck it.  I'm guessing he uses the technique because he thinks there's a chance that mainstream television will pick him up and stream him someday, since it is the only medium still in existence (along with radio) that still gives a fuck about swearing.

My deeper issue is with the readers ... who must live in some oppressive hell where no actual light ever enters, where no academic book learning penetrates, where no documentary ever plays, where education and deliberation on a subject are perpetually hidden and who, when told to ignore the man behind the curtain, do so.

Because I would expect some fifty comments under such material to read, "What the fuck is this supposed to be" or "Are you fucking kidding?"  Yet I expect the same thing to occur when I read the comments under a Mike Mercer video or some piece of bullshit article proclaiming the death of role-playing.  Yet it never happens.

Where are the sardonic, embittered, fiery role-players of my experience, who scoff at movies and books that pander painfully to an audience of gormless gits who obviously haven't read a real book in their lives?  Where are the truly angry DMs of my acquaintance who railed for half-an-hour at the piece of shit module, wrapped in plastic, that they just forked out to buy, only to find they were nothing more than half artwork and a bad rehash of Legacy of the Drow?  Where is the anger of people who opened the post, only to find within a few paragraphs that it was nothing more than another pale, flaccid, insubstantial outline of shit that we actually Ought to Be Explaining?

Instead, there's some cheap little flame war in the comments about whether or not the DM is a player.  Like this matters in the enormity of the dearth of anything of consequence being said in an article entitled, "Everything You Ever Need to Know About Game Mastering."

The readers sicken me.  That's the truth of it. I look at those readers ... and then I compare them to the readers of this blog, whom I've flayed and insulted, whom I've belittled, whom I've mistreated and coldly misunderstood, and I get down on my hands and knees and kiss the fucking ground that you people exist and are tough enough to sustain a little abuse.  You guys are wonderful.  If I had to put up with the spineless syncophants that haunt the cloud castles of brown-colored smoke blown up, then ejected, from most of the RPG sites on the internet, I think I'd put a gun in my mouth.

Yes.  I am angry.  Not F$&%ing angry.

I am fucking angry.

The man behind the curtain.