Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why I'm Afraid of Game Masters


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“You are not entering this world in the usual manner, for you are setting forth to be a Dungeon Master. Certainly there are stout fighters, mighty magic-users, wily thieves, and courageous clerics who will make their mark in the magical lands of D&D adventure. You however, are above even the greatest of these, for as DM you are to become the Shaper of the Cosmos. It is you who will give form and content to the all the universe. You will breathe life into the stillness, giving meaning and purpose to all the actions which are to follow.” 
― Gary Gygax, Creator of Dungeons & Dragons

I wrote a pretty detailed account of my GM-phobia awhile back over at RuleoftheDice.com, but at the risk of repeating myself I'll give you the short version:


For those of you who are not gamers, the Game Master (called the Dungeon Master in Dungeons & Dragons) is the player who runs the game: they create the setting and world in which the other players adventure. They control the monsters, villains and background characters the players interact with. It's a lot of work and responsibility but it's also a lot of power. Addictive, seductive power. In many ways the GM is much like a film or stage director, and we all know how screwed up they can be.

Because none of my friends ever wanted to do it, I have GMed at least 95% of every game I've ever played in. That power and control goes to your head. I got used to it. Now when I give it up to play in someone else's game I feel naked and helpless. It's like being a cop for years, being able to hide behind your gun and badge, and then one day being thrust into a hold-up unarmed.

I am constantly afraid that my character is going to die at any moment, and spend so much time wondering what's important and what's not, what the GM meant by this or that, it just drives me mad. I think about what I would do in that situation to fuck with the players, and expect the other guy to do the same thing.  Game Masters love to come up with creative ways to confuse players and murder their characters, like horrible deadly traps and no-win situations where your only choice is whether you want to be eaten by a dragon or slowly dissolved into a pit of acid.

So yeah, I'm afraid of Game Masters because they're dicks. Including me.

“The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own.” 
― Gary Gygax
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