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How do you prevent "The GM/Players from Hell?"

Started by Palaskar, November 03, 2002, 05:12:16 PM

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After reading the post "The worst superhero team EVER" on, I was reminded of a game of Stormbringer I played back in high school.

Basically, we suffered from what I think is termed here incoherence. The GM was essentially Gamist, while I was typically Sim.

I should have known better when the GM said "Wouldn't it be cool to have a sword that -moans?-" The session basically started bad and went downhill from there.

So I'm asking, what is the best way to discourage this by game design?

Is it all a matter of Social Contract, or are there specific things that can and should be done?

Matt Wilson

I think part of that is in the group understanding what everyone's style of play is. The trouble with that, unfortunately, is that the G/N/S model, or for that matter most RPG theory terms, are unfamiliar to the gaming public at large.

The job of the designer, then, is to say up front what kind of play the game in hand is meant for. Then maybe a link to some sites for more info on play styles.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

To a very great extent, my thoughts about this issue rely on the points I just made on the Breaking up is hard to do.

As far as I can tell, cries of pain (a) that include "GM/players from hell" verbiage and (b) that we all see very frequently in personal conversations as well as posted accounts, are occurring way at the recent stages of what was a long-term train wreck. In other words, in order to address the issues (and they are real, and common), we have to back up and look at the early stages of the interactions.

Unilaterally, what I see is denial that Social Contract encompasses and permeates everything about the activity. Given that denial, responsibility for the success of the activity is not shared - it has to settle somewhere. Hence, (a) it doesn't work, and (b) it must have been "your" fault.

"The game" may be held responsible for everything - "it sucks." Cue the hunt for the next game, which oddly enough is assumed to be the one with the biggest advertising budget.

Or "the GM," insofar as that person (these days) is held responsible for choosing and "knowing" (a very problematic term) the game. Correlated with this is the myth of the "good GM" who can take "any game" and make the session a perfect, wonderful, transcendent experience "for" the players.

Or it's "the players," because the alternative is to accept the judgment (manifestly insupportable) that it was all one's fault as GM.

Soap operas, including who's sleeping with or scamming on whom, or who's the host and provider of food, and many many other things, all get carried out among this whole tug-of-war of blame. Hell, I know long-standing groups in which that soap opera and that tug-of-war are, pound for pound, what they do regarding role-playing.