September 9, 2012

My Thoughts on a Good GM and Good Player

Little Dave & Bad Monkey Dice
Had to re-use Dave's awesome graphic
My wife blogs a bit also and her most recent post was about a couple of threads from the Kenzer & Company discussion forums.

In those threads folks were asking what do they look for in a GM and what do they look for in a player.  I didn't really participate heavily in those threads even though I do have some strong feelings on the matter.  I moderate over there and sometimes I think that has caused me to pull back a bit on my posting.

This is what I think on the matter:
When it comes to a GM a lot of times you don't get much of a choice.  Fewer people are willing to GM than are willing to play.  It is a simple fact.  The thing is, just because it is harder to get a GM it doesn't mean that you should have to play under a bad one.  Been there, done that.  I do have some things I'd like to see in a GM, but this is a wish list and not a mandate:

  • Genuinely interested in the game.  Running something that he (or she) doesn't like to run for the sake of the group will eventually bite everyone in the ass.
  • Understands the rules.  Nobody can memorize every rule.  Being able to organize your shit so you can get what you need when you need it and being able to memorize the majority of what you need to is fine.  The 80/20 rule works here.
  • Impartiality.  I honestly give a rat's ass about being "fair".  Too many people make a big deal out of having a "fair" GM.  While I think the GM should try to make things appropriate for a group, not everything needs to be "fair".  A group of 2nd level PCs going up against an entrenched goblin lair should probably get the GM a TPK.  The GM shouldn't be railroading the players into that lair, but he shouldn't be pulling any punches if they are stupid enough to go in.
  • Confident.  Every GM is going to make a mistake every game session.  This is the #1 lesson I learned from a good friend of mine.  Accept that, acknowledge your mistakes, learn from them, and carry on.
  • Consistent.  Not every situation is going to be covered in the rules.  Just not going to happen. Figure out what makes sense to you, communicate that if necessary and/or possible, and move on.  Next time the same thing comes up, just did what you did last time unless your understanding or interpretation of the situation changes.
  •  Steadfast.  As a rule, many players are complete dumbasses who will try to argue that A really means B even though only a complete idiot who cannot read English would make that argument.  Players are generally on the smarter end of the spectrum, but I'm sure every group has that one guy.  Either he is just trying to get over or he only scored a 400 on his SAT.  Either way, hold fast....don't let them push you around.
Players get some of the same treatment:
  • Genuinely interested in the game. If you spend any amount of time playing the game, learn the damned rules.  Half of the game should not be spent educating you for the fifth time time what a freaking d12 looks like.  If you have a genuine learning disability, 'fess up.  Your fellow players are there to have a good time and if you have a problem, we can easily work together for a work around.  If you get confused on what a d12 is, we'll color-coordinate your dice for you and just tell you to roll two yellow ones.
  • Buy a copy of the game. You shouldn't be borrowing the handbook every time you need to look something up unless you just forgot your copy at home.  Even the most expensive handbook is affordable when you factor in the amount of time spent playing.  It always surprises me when people don't think twice about dropping $60 for a video game they'll spend 60 hours playing, but a handbook for a a weekly game session of four hours (200+ hours a year)....that is too much.
  • Get your own supplies.  This goes right along with "buy a copy of the game", but the former deserved special mention.  Don't be "that guy" who always needs a pencil, dice, paper, miniature, etc.
  • Don't be a mooch.  Wow, this is almost repetitive.  Look around the table and do what the others do.  If people bring drinks and snacks, bring drinks and snacks.  If people chip into a group pot for drinks and snack, chip in.  Don't be the guy who just shows up to eat and drink everyone else's stuff.
  • Be nice to your fellow players.  This is true in-game and out-of-character (OOC).  Don't hog all of the GM's time and attention.  Play your role in the party and do not bring OOC problems in-game.  The reverse is true too.  Play your role in the gaming group and do not bring in-game issues into the real world.  Just because you want to play a chaotic-neutral PC in a group of Lawful Good PCs, it doesn't give you the right to be a dick at the table.  Look around the table. Everyone else you see is there to get along and have a good time, shouldn't you?
  • Be nice to your GM.  Don't hog your GM's attention.  Don't be a dick and try to argue that just because something isn't in the rules you should get to do it.  As a general rule, just don't argue and just don't be a dick.  If there is something you know more about that the GM you can politely point it out, but after a certain point it doesn't matter how right you are, you are wrong.
  • Nobody cares about your character concept.  If you have a reasoning behind how or why you are doing something, keep that shit to yourself.  If it naturally comes up, like you are asked "why", that is fine.  If you bring it up....just don't.  Instead of telling your fellow players and the GM about your character concept, just play the damned character.  In real life we don't get to see your motivations usually, just your actions.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yeah, I have to agree with you on these. This is pretty much what I think about this issue as well. I love GMing and am very into it, so that is where my focus is and your statements as to what to look for fit well. And as for players, I agree as well.