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Solanima
2019-06-08, 10:00 PM
Hello everyone, I am a new member here at Giant in the Playground, but have been familiar with the site for at least a couple of years (mostly through the many D&D 5th edition class guides). I thought this would be a great place to get some feedback on a query I have been researching for a local business that involves GMing. If you have the time, please leave a reply here; the more replies I can gather, the better!

Think back to the best GM you ever had in any tabletop RPG gaming experience. What do you think made them such a great GM? Give a specific example of something they did, and explain why you think that makes them great.

Quertus
2019-06-08, 10:10 PM
I'm going to start with something most wouldn't expect of me: the ability and wisdom to say "no".

There is a time to say "no". A great GM knows when that time is.

I'll post more answers later.

Kyutaru
2019-06-08, 10:18 PM
When he doesn't say "No" but says "You may certainly try" and determines the results. Player agency is important and there's no one in reality stopping us from attempting whatever we wish. Only the cold hard truth of the physical plane rules crushing our dreams.

Gluteus_Maximus
2019-06-08, 10:22 PM
An even better DM is one who tells an enthusiastic player who wants to try something really dumb "Go ahead! Do it!" To try to make that player learn that their failure was not one of the dice or of the DM it was of their choice to jump off a cliff to make sure a goblin's dead or steal from a passive perception 36 gold dragon in human form.

Tvtyrant
2019-06-08, 10:22 PM
Talks to the party about expectations before the game and comes to an agreement with them about it. The actual expectations vary by DM and group but the recognition of the game as being inherently a compromise and group activity is paramount.

Potato_Priest
2019-06-08, 10:46 PM
The right mood, the right players, and a hearty dose of nostalgia.

A GM isn’t great when they’re running the game, they’re great years later when the players reminisce about the campaign and laugh.

As far as what you can do to make that happen, talk to your players about what they like and pay attention to what parts of your game make their faces light up. Then do more of that.

Quertus
2019-06-08, 11:19 PM
I think my original reply was misunderstood: a great GM might, for example, say "no" when the players bring a Paladin, an Assassin, an Undead Hunter, and his childhood friend, the Undead Master.

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A great GM is consistent. They know the world well enough to answer questions asked consistently.

A great GM plays by the rules. Thus, they allow any player to adjudicate the rules for known information. And unknown information will be worth being unknown.

A great GM servers as the eyes and ears of the PCs, and is prepared to fix any disconnects in the players'understanding.

A great GM has the correct balance of "adapt to the group" and "a discernable style". This is one of the hardest to explain, and one of the easiest for a GM to **** up in both directions simultaneously.

A great GM can *probably* breathe life into a module (without changing it), or run their own custom content.

A great GM doesn't have to be told the "Rule of Three", because they do not create such fragile stories, and cannot imagine why anyone would.

A great GM does not run into "I cannot handle x", and then get told dozens of ways to handle x, because they already know these things, and automatically vary their content, even before the PCs exist. So, for example, they don't only send mindless brutes, and then complain that Silent Image wrecks every encounter.

A great GM looks at how to let a player utilize his PCs abilities, rather than how to shut a PC down.

A great GM builds a group ethic. One of my favorites is "balance to the table", but it certainly isn't the only or even the optimal table ethic.

-----

More later.

Kyutaru
2019-06-08, 11:23 PM
I think my original reply was misunderstood: a great GM might, for example, say "no" when the players bring a Paladin, an Assassin, an Undead Hunter, and his childhood friend, the Undead Master.

Why do you hate Hunter x Hunter so much?!

Quertus
2019-06-08, 11:47 PM
Why do you hate Hunter x Hunter so much?!

I'm not familiar - did someone make an anime based on my hyper-dysfunctional party or something?

Honestly, it's amazing how well that party worked, given not only the characters, but the fact that at least 4 of the 5 players were almost archetypal "problem players" (I'm a stubborn AF bully with 0% Participationism, who may have still been in "'My Guy' is a path to sainthood" mode at that point).

-----

A great GM can reform "problem players" - and make great games in the process.

A great GM can make anything enjoyable. Not by having zombies attack while you're talking or shopping, but by… I dunno. I think by engaging the players with what they enjoy, breezing through what they don't, yet still giving them the information that they need to make informed choices.

A great GM *for me* understands *thinking*. They not only include "one-step" thought, like puzzles, but also understand complex thought, and provide the PCs with a vast toolkit to utilize in unexpected ways and combinations.

Kaptin Keen
2019-06-09, 03:15 AM
Good story, decent plot, general familiarity with the rules. It's also required to be a decent person.

MoiMagnus
2019-06-09, 03:29 AM
A great DM understand the players (himself included), what they want in a RPG, and what they don't want.

Then, he manages to craft a world, a campaign, and scenes such that everybody ends up satisfied with every session.

(In particular, he knows how to make sure that players who want stupid-absurd-fun manage to have fun without breaking the realism-serious-immersion that other players might want)

It is of course not always possible to satisfy every constraints, so a great DM recognise when a player is just too incompatible with the remaining of the group for everyone to have fun together.

MrStabby
2019-06-09, 03:35 AM
A couple of things come to mind.

World building. Creating a unifying aesthetic, descriptions but also actions, people and things you discover.

The balance of consistency and surprise is important. There is a joy in being able to use what you know of the world to predict how it will unfold - a particular nightly order casting abjuration spells for example. I want to get value out of this, by for example deducing that Sir Alum is not a knight of the order as he casts evocation spells instead.

Speed. Basic skill but important. Keep the game moving for everyone. Knows rules and can make quick decisions. Can improvise without preparation as needed to maintain the pace. Ensures that digressions are worth everyone's time.

Gets right those things that are hard to replicate in another campaign. Particular character backstories become very relevant, rewards are nicely tuned to the campaign rather than being items plucked from a list. It makes things feel special.

Characters you care about. Love or hate, an NPC should not feel disposable but the DM should be happy to kill them anyway as needed. The art of the NPC is as much about how they die as how they live.

noob
2019-06-09, 04:13 AM
A great dm is one 50 meters tall with a thousand mouths and arms making an ominous hum.
A good gm might be a great gm but it is unlikely.

Yora
2019-06-09, 06:02 AM
I say good gamemastering is 90% being able to improvise well.


I'm going to start with something most wouldn't expect of me: the ability and wisdom to say "no".

There is a time to say "no". A great GM knows when that time is.

Maintaining consistency in tone and style and how the world works is a major part of the other 10%.

Though I would also add the skill to set encounters in interactive environments with NPCs and monsters who follow motivations instead of blindly attacking until they are dead.

Quertus
2019-06-09, 06:37 AM
A great DM understand the players (himself included), what they want in a RPG, and what they don't want.

Then, he manages to craft a world, a campaign, and scenes such that everybody ends up satisfied with every session.

(In particular, he knows how to make sure that players who want stupid-absurd-fun manage to have fun without breaking the realism-serious-immersion that other players might want)

It is of course not always possible to satisfy every constraints, so a great DM recognise when a player is just too incompatible with the remaining of the group for everyone to have fun together.

This is a great description!

One thing, though: IME, a great GM prioritizes the group / friendship, encourages and engenders the same in the group, and will get buy-in from the players to strive to be the most group compatible they can be. More than that, they know the players / the group, and can communicate & mentor well, to help players be "their best". Thus, that last paragraph all but never happens under a truly great GM.


I say good gamemastering is 90% being able to improvise well.

Well, sadness. I hate having to improvise.


Maintaining consistency in tone and style and how the world works is a major part of the other 10%.

More sadness. I'm tone deaf.


Though I would also add the skill to set encounters in interactive environments with NPCs and monsters who follow motivations instead of blindly attacking until they are dead.

At least I'm not completely hopeless as a GM… but wow your list is quite discouraging for me :smallfrown:

Cluedrew
2019-06-09, 07:34 AM
Everyone kind of skipped the first and most important point: They run fun games.

With that out of the way a few concrete skills that help them do that. I think most of it boils down to 3 main skills, although there are tones of little off shoots and ways you have to apply them, this is just a high level view:
Rules understanding: Complete rules knowledge is unnecessary but you should definitively be able to play the game.
Improvisation: Planning is an option and one you should use sometimes. But eventually plans will fail and then you have to make stuff up. It must be good stuff, it must be appropriate stuff and it should not just but everything back the way it was.
Communication: And the above is all useless if you can't figure out what everyone else is going for and communicate everything you make back to them.

Pleh
2019-06-09, 07:55 AM
Everyone kind of skipped the first and most important point: They run fun games.

With that out of the way a few concrete skills that help them do that. I think most of it boils down to 3 main skills, although there are tones of little off shoots and ways you have to apply them, this is just a high level view:

Rules understanding: Complete rules knowledge is unnecessary but you should definitively be able to play the game.
Improvisation: Planning is an option and one you should use sometimes. But eventually plans will fail and then you have to make stuff up. It must be good stuff, it must be appropriate stuff and it should not just but everything back the way it was.
Communication: And the above is all useless if you can't figure out what everyone else is going for and communicate everything you make back to them.


This is the core, I'd say, but we can elaborate on skills that improve the fun of a game. It parallels the three mechanical requirements listed.

Coherent Setting: the DM should understand their world just as proficiently as their rules.
Relates the PCs to Adventure: Improvisation is good, but an easy DM trap is getting out of focus when improvising. If it gets too Player Centric, there can be problems with Setting Cohesion (see above). If it becomes Tone Deaf to the PCs and rigidly protects the setting at Player Agency expense, it becomes a railroad where the DM should probably stick to writing a novel.
The Fog of War: In communicating, understanding what must be communicated and what will genuinely be more fun for the players to discover on their own. An earlier post suggested letting a new player jump off a cliff to discover Falling Damage, but I'd say this is a matter of reading the table. Some players would be frustrated by that sort of gameplay and feel like they were given trap options. For these players, it would be better to tell them that jumping off a cliff would possibly kill them and confirm that this information doesn't change their intended actions. It depends if the player is more or less attached to their character and if the table is looking for a higher or lower degree of challenge from the DM.

JNAProductions
2019-06-09, 09:35 AM
Everyone kind of skipped the first and most important point: They run fun games.

With that out of the way a few concrete skills that help them do that. I think most of it boils down to 3 main skills, although there are tones of little off shoots and ways you have to apply them, this is just a high level view:
Rules understanding: Complete rules knowledge is unnecessary but you should definitively be able to play the game.
Improvisation: Planning is an option and one you should use sometimes. But eventually plans will fail and then you have to make stuff up. It must be good stuff, it must be appropriate stuff and it should not just but everything back the way it was.
Communication: And the above is all useless if you can't figure out what everyone else is going for and communicate everything you make back to them.


Excellent quote. Cluedrew has hit the nail on the head.

Especially since fun will be different for different people. Some people will enjoy a game that barely touches the dice, being more akin to freeform roleplaying. Other people might hate that, and prefer a much crunchier game. Neither group is wrong, they just have different preferences.

comk59
2019-06-09, 09:43 AM
I say good gamemastering is 90% being able to improvise well.



Maintaining consistency in tone and style and how the world works is a major part of the other 10%.

Though I would also add the skill to set encounters in interactive environments with NPCs and monsters who follow motivations instead of blindly attacking until they are dead.

I have to agree with all of these, to be perfectly honest. Plenty of people can write good stories, but not very many people can make a world that feels real and reactive.

Grod_The_Giant
2019-06-09, 10:49 AM
Especially since fun will be different for different people. Some people will enjoy a game that barely touches the dice, being more akin to freeform roleplaying. Other people might hate that, and prefer a much crunchier game. Neither group is wrong, they just have different preferences.
Very much this. Rules knowledge, granting player agency, clear communication-- those are all objective skills that make a skilled GM. The ones you think are truly great are the ones whose game style best matches yours.

Honest Tiefling
2019-06-09, 11:27 AM
A great DM must:

1) Balance the fun of all of the players...Including themselves. Learn to say no if it just won't work with the party or the setting. Learn when you CAN compromise your setting without wrecking the tone or rules of the setting.

2) Balance the spotlight. A good DM can try to steer the game to situations where everyone can shine, be it in combat or not. Also, the DM should strive (But the players should know it isn't always possible) to have everyone who has a backstory have it be relevant to the plot. Learning to make everyone feel engaged and playing a game is very important.

3) Balance their prepared material and their improv. Someone has probably found a DM that can improv an entire campaign, but in my experience, the DM should have some things preppped. However, even the greatest plans rarely survive contact with the players. Players are a fresh set of eyes on the situation and WILL think of something new. Being able to balance and mesh their prepped work and what they need to improv to accommodate whatever kooky plan the players come up with.

4) Balance defeat with victory. This balance is going to vary between groups drastically, but don't run a killer game of Tomb of Annihilation for people who want to explore these particular characters and want to roleplay first and foremost and can't do that with a revolving door of characters. Defeat can also mean things other than TPK (Such as the death of cherished NPCs, loss of resources or the loss of reputation), which might engage players more. On the other hand, if you don't give enough of a challenge to players who want it, the game can also not feel engaging.

5) Get a good group. Some people just won't work well together or have vastly different wants. Know when to say no if a player has proven to be disruptive in that particular environment.

Hypersmith
2019-06-09, 01:55 PM
Very much this. Rules knowledge, granting player agency, clear communication-- those are all objective skills that make a skilled GM. The ones you think are truly great are the ones whose game style best matches yours.

Heavy agreement from me. Groups vary, and so exactly what they want varies. Part of GMing is for the GM to have fun too - and a GM who plays with a group that matches what they like is great.

Quertus
2019-06-09, 02:09 PM
Very much this. Rules knowledge, granting player agency, clear communication-- those are all objective skills that make a skilled GM. The ones you think are truly great are the ones whose game style best matches yours.

I feel people keep missing something. A good GM can run a game for group A or group B, with different wants. But running a game for 6 different people with 6 different styles of play, 6 different requirements for fun? That takes getting buy-in from the players to be the most compatible with the group that they can be, and then running a game that hits all those different routes of fun. Plus being able to divine what the players actually find fun, rather than just listening to what they *say* they find fun? That takes a great GM.

Cluedrew
2019-06-09, 05:44 PM
I'm glad my comment was liked. Thank-you, it is nice to know that I am not just rambling incoherently.

And I will stand by the general idea that the only "objective" measure of how good a player is is the fun everyone had. Which means it really only has meaning given the rest of the group and they type(s) of games they enjoy. Which means figuring out exactly what other skills they need is hard to say.

So take the GM's world building skill. It is one of my better GM-related skills so it would be cool if it was a top skill. But it is not and I say this for two reasons. First because you can use existing settings which takes off a lot of the work, filling in the gaps takes a similar skill but I'm not sure if it is quite the same thing. Also I realized all of my favourite campaigns were run by a GM who might actually be terrible at world building. Because we found out so little about the setting it is actually pretty hard to tell. Maybe it was avoiding a fatal flaw, maybe it was just the type of game. Doesn't really matter because the campaigns of fun.

Put a different way, although being able to make a fun game with some theoretical group does have some value, but it pales in comparison to the value of your ability to work with your actual group. Or groups.

Haldir
2019-06-10, 08:34 AM
As a DM of almost 20 years now, I can say with some certainty that a DM can only truly be great through practice.

1. Writing a great story isn't easy, and most people who think their stories are great are wrong. But a mediocre story with a practiced DM can be a great game.

2. The ability to improvise isn't natural to everyone, and even if it is, being able to adapt to your players ridiculous requests in a way that moves the game forward is something that really only comes by having to do it over and over.

3. Rules mastery is very easy for most DMs, but it takes practice to understand which rules are helping your game succeed and which are getting in the way of the fun. Experiencing the rules in a variety of situations.

I'm a professional writer, natural improviser, and I retain information quite easily. I was a "good" DM from the start, but I don't know if I ever really became a great DM until I did it over and over and over with party after party after party.

Malphegor
2019-06-10, 08:58 AM
I think being helpful is the main thing. I tried to get into an online 4e game once and I was overwhelmed with a new system and everything, and had a DM who refused to communicate with anyone until the day of the game, despite my many questions about 4e which I had never played before (and still haven't.)

As a new player, being able to ask the DM for help and to get it in turn is so crucial, since you're running your character in their world- you can never expect things to run smoothly otherwise.

Plus, it's just not fun to feel like the idiot stumbling along while everyone else has cracked the optimisation puzzle of the game.

(ended up playing a local 3.5 game and the attitudes are more laid back and everyone's helping each other since we're all familiar with different editions and half-remembered rules from different games- I thought GURPs' Extra Effort was a thing in D&D for one, hah)

Wuzza
2019-06-10, 10:15 AM
I think being helpful is the main thing.....

As a new player, being able to ask the DM for help and to get it in turn is so crucial

The ability to be able to adapt to your players. Being a DM means, to my mind, being master of social skills.
Being a great DM means you can take all of the differing playstyles, opinions and personalities, and create an engaging, fun game. This should also allow each player to shine.

Man_Over_Game
2019-06-10, 10:48 AM
1: Modifying the world to match players' expectations.

If the players attempt to socialize out of their problems, make the campaign have more intrigue. If they search for a trap that wasn't there and they rolled high, then they find a trap anyway. Each player has their own expectation of what kind of game they want, and built characters to match. A good DM knows how to make those choices matter, and changes their vision to suit.

2: Players should be punished for their choices, not the lack of them.

Follow this simple formula:
Difficulty = Player Knowledge + Character Capability
Players should only die when they are either careless or when they choose to ignore the risks. They should only be surprised by things that they can deal with, and they should only be challenged beyond their capabilities when they have ample amounts of knowledge on the topic.

Really, it boils down to this: If your Players fail, and you can't blame them, then it was your fault.

So provide an abundance of information for your players about the major threats in the area. Allow them the opportunity to do research in-game and study up on the tasks at hand. Or surprise them with obstacles that they can generally deal with, in order to force more attrition onto the party. But do not surprise them with something that's too big for them. This does mean that, if the players are well aware of a threat and the best way of dealing with it, don't hold your punches.

That being said:

3: Dial the difficulty to 11, then provide backups if it's too hard.

People like overcoming challenges and doing their best. And, unfortunately, balance is pretty hard to get perfect. So if you're worried that something is a little bit too difficult for the players to take on, have a backup plan that helps them succeed. This could be a priest that they saved that revives them using the last of his holy power. Or it could be an earthquake that distracts the enemies into making poor tactical choices. Once you get the feel for the balance for your system, you can rely on this a bit less, but don't feel bad about using it as a crutch for a while. Have a good reward for accomplishing a difficult task on their own, and reduce the rewards when they accomplish the task using whatever help you had planned.

4: Try to ensure every player gets the spotlight.

This one's a bit hard. While many TTRPGs are team-based games, revolving around the success of the team, it's important to recognize intra-team balance as well. Using 5e as an example, the balance of a team dramatically shifts depending on how many Short Rests the team gets, causing most Spellcasters to be better when Short Rests < 2, and causing many martial characters to be better when Short Rests > 2. Few people play a TTRPG to be a sidekick to the superhero, so do what you can to fix that. It might mean that you change mechanics of the campaign, or even of certain classes. As long as you're aware of it, and you're taking steps to bridge those gaps, you're doing the right thing.

noob
2019-06-10, 11:00 AM
1: Modifying the world to match players' expectations.

If the players attempt to socialize out of their problems, make the campaign have more intrigue. If they search for a trap that wasn't there and they rolled high, then they find a trap anyway. Each player has their own expectation of what kind of game they want, and built characters to match. A good DM knows how to make those choices matter, and changes their vision to suit.

2: Players should be punished for their choices, not the lack of them.

Follow this simple formula:
Difficulty = Player Knowledge + Character Capability
Players should only die when they are either careless or when they choose to ignore the risks. They should only be surprised by things that they can deal with, and they should only be challenged beyond their capabilities when they have ample amounts of knowledge on the topic.

Really, it boils down to this: If your Players fail, and you can't blame them, then it was your fault.

So provide an abundance of information for your players about the major threats in the area. Allow them the opportunity to do research in-game and study up on the tasks at hand. Or surprise them with obstacles that they can generally deal with, in order to force more attrition onto the party. But do not surprise them with something that's too big for them. This does mean that, if the players are well aware of a threat and the best way of dealing with it, don't hold your punches.

That being said:

3: Dial the difficulty to 11, then provide backups if it's too hard.

People like overcoming challenges and doing their best. And, unfortunately, balance is pretty hard to get perfect. So if you're worried that something is a little bit too difficult for the players to take on, have a backup plan that helps them succeed. This could be a priest that they saved that revives them using the last of his holy power. Or it could be an earthquake that distracts the enemies into making poor tactical choices. Once you get the feel for the balance for your system, you can rely on this a bit less, but don't feel bad about using it as a crutch for a while. Have a good reward for accomplishing a difficult task on their own, and reduce the rewards when they accomplish the task using whatever help you had planned.

4: Try to ensure every player gets the spotlight.

This one's a bit hard. While many TTRPGs are team-based games, revolving around the success of the team, it's important to recognize intra-team balance as well. Using 5e as an example, the balance of a team dramatically shifts depending on how many Short Rests the team gets, causing most Spellcasters to be better when Short Rests < 2, and causing many martial characters to be better when Short Rests > 2. Few people play a TTRPG to be a sidekick to the superhero, so do what you can to fix that. It might mean that you change mechanics of the campaign, or even of certain classes. As long as you're aware of it, and you're taking steps to bridge those gaps, you're doing the right thing.

one of the possible changes is deciding that you get three times more of the short rest resources on long rest and remove short rest resource recovery(so short rest is now only for spending hit dice to heal).

Koo Rehtorb
2019-06-10, 11:59 AM
I think this thread has spent a lot of time describing what makes a competent GM. And while that has value, it isn't really the question. Thinking on some things that makes a competent GM into a great GM.

1) Being amazing at roleplaying. Being able to portray a wide variety of interesting characters with distinct personalities isn't an easy skill to master. A competent GM can play different people, a great GM can bring them all to life.

2) Reincorporation. A competent GM makes the world react to PC actions and decisions. A great GM remembers all those little things PCs did from thirty sessions ago and continues to make the world react to them even a real life year later. Also works for bringing back minor NPCs and being able to portray them consistently.

3) Attention to player incorporated detail. A competent GM can seize on major factors in player backstories and use them. A great GM can get exactly what sort of person any given NPC described by a player is and faithfully portray them. I think a lot of the friendless orphans from another dimension PCs are an overreaction to GMs mishandling their character's relationships, and so they decide to get rid of all of them in the future. A great GM can play these relationships well, and knows enough to know when he doesn't know enough to play them well and will ask questions until he's satisfied.

4) Variety. A competent GM can play a game in his comfort zone. If you've been playing with the same group for years or decades then this can get old. They're retreading the same narrative beats, the same NPCs with different names. A great GM can almost make you feel like you're being GMed by a different person.

Haldir
2019-06-10, 03:30 PM
1: Modifying the world to match players' expectations.

If the players attempt to socialize out of their problems, make the campaign have more intrigue. If they search for a trap that wasn't there and they rolled high, then they find a trap anyway. Each player has their own expectation of what kind of game they want, and built characters to match. A good DM knows how to make those choices matter, and changes their vision to suit.

I think this pretty well fits under the umbrella of adaptability, but I will make a specific objection- simply because you raised a specific circumstance-

You can't conform too much to player wishes, because an important part of growth for any character is getting outside of their comfort zone. If you get into the habit of tailoring your game too much toward your players, you risk never meeting important narrative challenges for a character.

Quertus
2019-06-10, 04:59 PM
3) Attention to player incorporated detail. A competent GM can seize on major factors in player backstories and use them. A great GM can get exactly what sort of person any given NPC described by a player is and faithfully portray them. I think a lot of the friendless orphans from another dimension PCs are an overreaction to GMs mishandling their character's relationships, and so they decide to get rid of all of them in the future. A great GM can play these relationships well, and knows enough to know when he doesn't know enough to play them well and will ask questions until he's satisfied.

Hi. As the self-reported paragon of this virtue, whose characters are always "not from around here", I would like to point out that this is in no way an overreaction. Oh, sure, *in theory* there exist GMs whom one could just *ask* not to incorporate one's backstory elements in their game, but I've encountered too many incompetent GMs who thought it would be OK "just this once" (it wasn't), God-complex GMs who believed that they couldn't possibly **** it up (they did), senile GMs who "just forgot", and insensitive GMs who couldn't care less about my preferences and included them anyway, for me to willingly make my fun dependant on the Mythic Rare "reasonable GM". So my characters are… "friendless orphans from another dimension" (:smallamused:), at least until session 0.

It really would take a great GM to roleplay a character of my creation, or someone I know (which pretty well covers what my backstory characters consist of) to my satisfaction. If I ever met a GM who could roleplay out a complex scene involving several of my former PCs to my satisfaction, I'd consider letting him run my backstory characters in a game.

Until then, my characters are friendless orphans from another dimension, with standing orders to Power Word Kill on sight anyone they know from backstory. :smallwink:

But, yes, I think you've nailed the cause and effect of how I came to optimize my behavior to minimize the GM's ability to **** my enjoyment of the game.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-06-10, 05:27 PM
Hi. As the self-reported paragon of this virtue, whose characters are always "not from around here", I would like to point out that this is in no way an overreaction. Oh, sure, *in theory* there exist GMs whom one could just *ask* not to incorporate one's backstory elements in their game, but I've encountered too many incompetent GMs who thought it would be OK "just this once" (it wasn't), God-complex GMs who believed that they couldn't possibly **** it up (they did), senile GMs who "just forgot", and insensitive GMs who couldn't care less about my preferences and included them anyway, for me to willingly make my fun dependant on the Mythic Rare "reasonable GM". So my characters are… "friendless orphans from another dimension" (:smallamused:), at least until session 0.

It really would take a great GM to roleplay a character of my creation, or someone I know (which pretty well covers what my backstory characters consist of) to my satisfaction. If I ever met a GM who could roleplay out a complex scene involving several of my former PCs to my satisfaction, I'd consider letting him run my backstory characters in a game.

Until then, my characters are friendless orphans from another dimension, with standing orders to Power Word Kill on sight anyone they know from backstory. :smallwink:

But, yes, I think you've nailed the cause and effect of how I came to optimize my behavior to minimize the GM's ability to **** my enjoyment of the game.

Honestly from everything you've posted I've just sort of come to think that you've developed your preferences based on a lot of interactions with bad to mediocre GMs. It's certainly a tricky talent to portray someone else's NPC to their satisfaction, which is why I put it on my list of things that makes for a great GM, but it's not unachievable either. And like I said, part of that skill comes with knowing enough to know that you don't know enough, and continuing to ask the player questions until you've filled that gap in your knowledge.

Haldir
2019-06-11, 12:22 PM
It really would take a great GM to roleplay a character of my creation, or someone I know (which pretty well covers what my backstory characters consist of) to my satisfaction. If I ever met a GM who could roleplay out a complex scene involving several of my former PCs to my satisfaction, I'd consider letting him run my backstory characters in a game.

This post has inspired me to add another trait to the list- managing player expectations.

At a certain point you have to be flexible about story and characters. Limitin yourself because of some poor experiences and your excessively high bar is only denying yourself enjoyment.

A Great DM can come into a game and help players understand what theyre gonna get out of a game, and that by necessity there will be different interpretations of elements.

Quertus
2019-06-11, 09:53 PM
This post has inspired me to add another trait to the list- managing player expectations.

At a certain point you have to be flexible about story and characters. Limitin yourself because of some poor experiences and your excessively high bar is only denying yourself enjoyment.

A Great DM can come into a game and help players understand what theyre gonna get out of a game, and that by necessity there will be different interpretations of elements.

Excessively? No. Abnormally? Sure. Inconveniently? Absolutely. But not excessively.

Some people enjoy (insert long list of niche pleasure, some of which are illegal). I have decades of experience testing just how high that particular bar needs to be in order to not utterly ruin my experience. You don't get to tell me what I enjoy.

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That said, I'll run with your word "manage", and parallel sentiment of great GMs having social skills, in saying that a great GM is like a great manager. Sure, it doesn't have to be you, but *someone* needs to get the group to work together in the way that's best for the group, and that's not done through inflexible adherence to cookie-cutter imbecility, but through starting with understanding the group in the first place.

Or, at least, that's what my experience with managers (and, to a lesser extent, GMs) tells me.

EDIT: in case it came off the wrong way / wasn't clear, I actually rather strongly agree with the notion that a great GM should "manage" the players. I may have different opinions of what that means for optimal management, though.

antiochcow
2019-06-14, 06:17 PM
I'm going to start with something most wouldn't expect of me: the ability and wisdom to say "no".

There is a time to say "no". A great GM knows when that time is.

I'll post more answers later.

Agreed.

Another good trait is to not fudge things when the players do something that unexpectedly, utterly wrecks or circumvents an encounter or obstacle you setup.

KineticDiplomat
2019-06-15, 02:24 PM
I have found that an ability to manage real-world logistics, and how to handle "down time" is pretty useful. The best GMs I've seen have made sure that you could do your down-time stuff away from the table, and maintained a small reality off table as well. You might not be playing, but you can catch up on what the world looks like, dramatis personae, etc.

Man_Over_Game
2019-06-17, 05:08 PM
Agreed.

Another good trait is to not fudge things when the players do something that unexpectedly, utterly wrecks or circumvents an encounter or obstacle you setup.

Or basically, "Don't plan more than 1 session ahead". If you don't do that, then there's nothing to preserve. You're constantly adapting the plot and your game to what has recently happened, which ensures that your players' actions always stay relevant.

Pleh
2019-06-17, 08:42 PM
Or basically, "Don't plan more than 1 session ahead". If you don't do that, then there's nothing to preserve. You're constantly adapting the plot and your game to what has recently happened, which ensures that your players' actions always stay relevant.

Probably slightly better is to have a very general campaign destination to work towards, loose plans for 3 sessions, and only detailed plans for 1 session.

This way you can avoid the sessions from becoming disjointed. They retain a better theme and consistency, which helps the players plan and know what to expect. As long as you keep long term plans loose and flexible, they won't make player actions irrelevant.

Basically, Quantum Ogres should never change states in the active session, but it's fair for them to shift their position in the story if they aren't due for another session or two.

zinycor
2019-06-17, 08:53 PM
I believe it would be possibl to write a book on the things that could make a Gm great, but for the most part isAbout

1 Knowing how to entertain your players
2 Being good at communicating
3 Interesting and consistent Worldbuilding
4 Knowing when to use the rules, enforce them and disregard them.

RNightstalker
2019-06-17, 09:16 PM
Everyone kind of skipped the first and most important point: They run fun games.
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Thread closed!