Wednesday, May 8, 2019
3 Types of Game Masters
As I mentioned towards the end of last week's Inappropriate Characters episode, I've broken GM differences into 3 basic types...
The first I'll describe is the Dungeon Master from beloved Saturday morning cartoon Dungeons & Dragons.
The Dungeon Master presents the facts, sets things in motion, and then pretty much disappears into the background until his presence is required down the road. The RPG Pundit mentioned the "clock-maker God" as an example of this sort of GM. Once he creates a world, his hands are off the wheel and things take their own course, according to the rules or the scenario or the GM's notes.
He's impartial, objective, and about as neutral as a GM can get. Total free market... no matter what the outcome. Is it discipline or ambivalence that keeps the Dungeon Master type GM from subtly nudging reality here or there?
Zeus is more subjective, the campaign world filters through him, his perspective. His hands aren't always on, but also never far from the wheel. Yet, he still believes in letting go, allowing fate or free will decide which path is taken. Zeus doesn't have a specific outcome in mind, but tries to maintain a fairness or equality of opportunity, according to his personal standards of ethics, morality, and aesthetics.
If you remember, Zeus has a few tricks up his sleeve. While balancing the campaign world and all the characters in it, he feels justified tweaking the chances of a result or two in the name of either fair play or compelling story. Occasionally fudging a die roll for the greater good.
However, Zeus is not a story-gamer. He doesn't know how things will end up. He hopes things will turn out well for those proving themselves worthy, occasionally exerting a bit of influence behind the scenes, but stopping short of pre-determining adventure's conclusion.
The Wizard of Oz is a showman and a conman. He uses slight of hand, misdirection and railroading in order to get the end result he's looking for. His GMing creates the illusion of free will and randomness, when in reality, he pulls all the strings.
The Wizard of Oz is the most likely to be a story-gamer, since that style of GMing is directly opposed to the traditional, old school approach (though many GMs in the 70's and 80's aspired to that standard).
Another aspect of this 3rd type is bluster, pomp, and pageantry. Anything to build himself up, to make the all-powerful GM appear greater, wiser, and stronger than he really is. His will is mighty and players should not test it, or else face his wrath. Also, be prepared to confront several self-important NPCs (stand-ins for the GM himself) who shall not be fucked with. You'd have better luck wrassling an ancient black dragon.
Please feel free to comment with your experiences, your opinion of the 3 types, etc. Where do you fit in all this?