December 16, 2013
Whatever You Do, Do Not Call Your Gamemaster “Stupid”
Gamemasters put a lot of work into each session. Many hours of the week go into making each session memorable and fun for everyone, often at the expense of personal levity you might expect each week. I am reluctant to call being a Gamemaster a second job, but in many ways it is much like having one. It is hard. It is time consuming. There are deadlines and high expectations. Oftentimes it can even be thankless, as many players get into the routine of coming to the game, playing, then going home without ever thinking that their few hours of fun was the result of many, many more hours of pouring over books, coming up with various scenarios, and research. While I encourage all players to, at some time, try to put themselves in the position of being a Gamemaster, I also freely admit that it is not a role for everyone. There are some people who simply do not possess the time, dedication, or creativity needed for it, and that is nothing to be ashamed about. Even so, it is always important to recognize how much work your Gamemaster goes through. Appreciate it, be thankful for it, and whatever you do, do not call your Gamemaster “stupid.”
I say this because firstly, I saw it happen, and secondly, because it can be all too easy to let your own interpretation of a scene influence your choices in a game. Tabletop role-playing games are a highly imaginative venture. They have to be. Often, there is no visual representation of what is going on, and even when there is it is a simple one at best. Almost everything that happens, you have to envision in your own mind. This is in part what makes these games so incredible. They are not limited to what modern graphics can achieve. There is no budget for special effects. No restrains on the skill or ability of practical effects. It is all in your mind, your all-powerful, imaginative mind. Unfortunately, this means that the way in which to players or even the players can see a scene can be entirely different, and that can cause problems, especially because the Gamemaster has to have complete final authority of what is going on, otherwise you cannot have a game. In this respect, players must we willing to adapt what they think is happening based on what the Gamemaster tells them, and players are not always willing to do that.
Players, I understand that this might not seem fair. That it might seem like I am taking the Gamemaster’s side by default because I am a Gamemaster. I want to assure you that this is not about picking a side of a topic. This is about discussing what is best for the game overall. This is a reminder to both players and Gamemasters to talk to one another. Set the scene. Describe it in as much detail as you can. Players, do not rush a Gamemaster through this. Do not try to fast forward to the action. Setting the scene is a crucial step in making sure that conflicts of perception do not happen. By setting a scene, the Gamemaster is telling you what you have at your disposal, what some of your possible options are, and what you are able to interact with. If you try to rush through this, then you are likely going to have some inconsistent ideas with what is going on, and that can cause problems. When that happens, you have no one to blame but yourselves and the last thing you want to do is to take it out on your Gamemaster. On the other hand, Gamemasters, remember to set the scene. It can be an easy step to forget, but in doing so you are opening yourself up to these sorts of perceptive conflicts, and you cannot blame your players for them. Take your time. Do not let yourself feel rushed. If you feel like your players are trying to rush you, ask them to be patient with you. Remind them of the importance of setting a scene. It is in their best interest to listen, after all.
Overall, everyone, Gamemasters and players alike, need to be respectful towards one another. These are more than your fellow players or your Gamemaster. These are people. These are your friends. In the heat of the moment, I fully understand that it is easy to let your mouth get away from you. Just be willing to sacrifice a bit of pride and apologize when it does.
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