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    submitted 30 July 2004 @ 11:30
    edited 13 January 2009 @ 21:16

The Game Master (DM,QM, GM)

Article written by Jack Morris
Rating: Superb! (5) (5 rating, 9 ratings)

[ article listing | post comment | view/offer feedback (1) | rate this article ]


Introduction to the role of the GM

Why become a GM?

Progression toward becoming a GM

Playing God

GM Tactics

Complications

Finally . . .








Introduction to the role of the GM


Why would you want a Game Master (GM,DM, Storyteller) in your rp? A GM concentrates on the location and non-player characters (NPC’s) at their disposal to allow for great entertaining gameplay.



A GM in chat RPG performs the task then of setting the scene and giving it detail for the characters in the game. If there are non-player characters (NPC’s) involved, the GM role-plays their interaction with players. Foremost in the GM's responsibilities is keeping track of the plot and ensuring the scheduled times of play are known by all players. This is best done in notes on your computer, perhaps in an Excel spreadsheet. If the group has a website the GM also likely keeps track of other data there. A GM also has the responsibility for the creation of maps and other materials for the player’s campaigns.



Becoming a GM is not for the weak of heart! It’s a lot of work if you want to do it well. A GM should have a broad knowledge of fantasy and sci-fi and be well read on various other topics. Being a GM also requires the occasional deep research into books on history and even biology.



With all that said the first and most important job of a GM is to keep the players and that meaning all the players "HAPPY". Every player requires a certain slant and touch to be dealt with. If the player’s needs are not met then obviously you will be a lonely GM. In order to counter loneliness, GM's make concessions and put the player’s needs before there own







Why become a GM?


Well, while a GM will feel a different need to become a GM, I think the most pressing need is scale. Game Masters want to see things in larger scales and the limitations of a single character are soon unsatisfying. GM's build worlds and characters with the ease of a forge master working a piece of steel, putting out swords down an assembly line. Role-play for gm's is more about furthering there own ideas about a place or a thing in a collective atmosphere. The player’s reaction to what the GM places before them helps the GM mould it toward a final form. Oh, and of course there’s a lot there about power . . . of course one can't get into that power position still without gaining the respect of their players.







Progression toward becoming a GM


With all that in mind let's take a look at non-GM game play.



You enter a room as the scrolling text flows by. You look for someone who might interact with you and maybe even you figure out an idea on how to approach them in character. Say it's a tavern with no GM: it is unlikely there are any lush bar maids pacing the tables in playboy bunny costumes. Instead there may be a tender if you’re lucky for a good little interaction to let everyone in the room know a little more about your char. You pick up a conversation with a wood elf lady who is trashed beyond her capacity to fly home on a broomstick. The two of you talk for a while and watch the rest of the bar and a little fight. You obviously don't need a GM!



After leaving the tavern a little later you go walking through the woods and get in a fight and kill the would-be ambusher. Well that's it you've been in chat for six hours and that is the totality of your RP interaction.



Let's say you have some friends and you do a little romping around together and have a greater significant RP session. Your group of friends increase and you decide you want to call it a clan. Still, if you create a clan and just romp around in chat you're going to eventually run into a problem. The entire clan agrees that they want a house to live in; no, wait, Ragnog wants a castle, Windorf wants it to be a cave, and Turek thinks a spatial anomaly in a coke bottle will do just nicely.



Okay, so you realise that you're going to need to address the question of leadership. Only problem is the whole gang votes for you to be the hot seat. You are the leader and get to decide what sort of place the clan will call home and opt for a small abandoned city with a castle in a large cave and give Turek his spatial anomaly hidey hole in a coke bottle. Everyone gets what they wants and is happy.



Yet now you have this group whining at you and several of them want to start role-playing a clan business which, for this case, is mercenary work. You open up a public room and start off by entering it, yet now what? Who is going to RP the employer? Ok, Ragnog decides he'll create another account and asks you what he should call it? You start whining to yourself why everyone always asks you for the answers to every question. Still you make something up off the top of your head and Ragnog goes along with it. You all role-play out the meeting with the employer and everything goes smoothly. Yet now what? Well Ragnog, role-playing the employer, wants you all to raid a village and take away as many slaves as you can. As leader you start barking orders for preparations.



You still don't need a GM!



However, the room you all created is now filled to the brim with people you all don't know trying to get in on your RP and have succeeded in taking the fun out of it. All your friends leave as the RP has taken about an hour or two and you are ready for a break yourself.



You don't keep notes on when your friends will be on and you lose track of them all entirely. Thus comes the end of the clan. You had one good RP and that was it. Still, you meet other people and you recreate the clan because you liked it so much. In all those weeks you missed your friends to continue the raid RP you've had time to think about it. So you take it from the beginning on the raid for the village, yet there aren’t enough people to role-play the villagers and that garrison of soldiers you decided were there as well. Even if you could find enough people you doubt that they all would want to create temporary screen names that would never be used again.



Such a thing requires work and time and no one these days wants to do that. So you still have gathered about six people in a secure/protected room so no one else can join, what are you going to do? To the loss of your own RP you end up role-playing the villagers and those soldiers. It's still RP and you kind of still have fun and you keep everyone’s hands busy in battle and carting off slaves. Everyone has a blast. Well that is until Remus and Dunc get in an argument whether or not Remus can bring in his army of two thousand imps from the nether world. Dunc does not believe Remus can do it with a one line prep or some such nonsense. It kills the flow of the RP and everyone leaves.







Playing God


Likely everyone has experienced some of the things above and could give other good reasons where a GM can be useful or necessary. I like to think of GM’ing in terms of territory. I, as the GM, control NPC’s, nature, physics, and the environment.

Basically I play God and that’s kind of fun some times, (still it can be a hassle when the players start praying to you in mass numbers). In any case that's my territory, while the characters retain territorial rights over their characters. They move, speak, talk, make decisions, fight and use their abilities. Any time I think interfering with their rights I do so carefully and with great care and only with the plot in mind. I'm not really the God you see and GM’ing is a privilege lent by the players and can just as easily be taken away.



I understand that and keep it in mind.







GM Tactics


In order for players to want me in the role of GM, I have to keep them entertained and not bored because no orcs have attacked them from the woods yet. The trick there is to throw something of interest at the players at all times. There's been many a session that started out with a shiny coin on the floor that turned out to be the lead in to getting the players involved in a war. A GM must adapt constantly to the directions the players move in, as they will always succeed in ruining your ideas on how things should go. It's a rollercoaster ride most of the time with millions of tracks and you'll never know where exactly you'll end up.



The GM handles disputes between players to keep things flowing so the game is not a wash. With a little bit of order and group rules the GM keeps things on track for what works for the players. This often leads to creating a big stupid list of what is right and what is wrong and to tell you the truth that is unnecessary. Whatever works for your group and doesn’t mess with play causing hours of arguments is cool. If it messes with having fun and enjoying yourself then it's bad. As groups become tighter though and established they find it hard to interact with other non-group players. While what is acceptable in the group RP is not acceptable in the chaos of chat. Groups thusly hardly ever RP in public chat because they know how hard it is to get a good RP there. Occasionally they pop a head in to recruit by just RP’ing then inviting to the game.







Complications


Going back to the mention of territory there does not have to be a single GM in any given session of RP. There in fact can be several GM's if the territory those GM's possess can be defined. Say for instance the group heads to a tavern one of the players own. I as GM would prefer that the player takes the mantle of GM while in that particular location. Yet, as I don't currently have a character, I opt to RP a few non-regular patrons of the tavern while giving the player full rights over descriptions of environment, regular customers, NPC’s on the tavern staff etc. The player is the best to perform those things as it's their place and not mine. With my NPC’s I can still push them towards the games plot and have plenty at my disposal to keep the group entertained if the player cannot. I know the player will likely want to brag to some extent about the place so to keep them happy I'll be sure to assist them in that opportunity.



One of the problems I have not learned to deal with yet is foreign GM's who are interested in having some cross games with each others’ players. You see it's tricky and while GM's learn to subvert their egos for their players it does not mean they have with other GM's. Still it hangs before their eyes like a great gleaming jewel beckoning to be grabbed. It increases the scale of the RP and makes things bigger. There is danger of losing players to the other GM who may be better then you are, likely though if you are a good GM you're players are loyal. Players of either GM during such sessions could be rubbed the wrong way or simply not like the other players. When it comes to rules the standards and unvoiced rules are likely to be different causing confusion, frustration and collapse. While I might one day be able to grab that gem I believe it more likely that it will cost more work.







Finally . . .


A lot of GM’ing when you're starting out is trial and error. Everyone will find different ways in which to keep a group together some of which will be faced with failure or success. If you want to GM you have to work at it and practice your people skills, descriptions and plots. Yet most importantly you have to pay attention to your players and give them what they want... without them you can't GM!


Compiled by Jack.




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