GM Judgment, or: Why is Jason Morningstar a Coward?

edited May 2009 in Story Games
Across a few threads lately, Jason has complained about the GM judging the difficulty numbers for rolls:
Posted By: That Coward Jason MorningstarI don't like this game because the GM has to set target numbers, which scares me and makes me cry.
Why is Jason such a coward, I wonder? Weak genes? Liberalism? I want to understand the basis of his fears, so I can better mock them and/or recommend a nerve tonic to relieve the condition.

We all know* that GM judgment calls are non-problematic from a game design and theory point of view, and are totally functional in play for everyone, always. So what gives?

*To violently misquote paraphrase Vx: Your GM's agenda for the game is to make its world seem real and to create and play interesting challenges, without caring whether the opponents win or lose. Given that, choosing difficulty numbers poses no kind of conflict of interest for your GM.
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  • Talking about me, and not for Jason... I think it's because the GM's role, in "traditional" roleplaying, include a lot of different roles. Quoting from a Forge thread from 2006 a quick list posted as an example:
    ----------------------------
    What sorts of leadership and authority are associated with this concept of "the GM"? Here's a quick rattling-off of what I've observed.

    GMing as social organizer
    GMing as host
    GMing as rules-owner and introducer
    GMing as creative leader
    GMing as social/procedural leader
    GMing as player with specific authority

    The interesting thing is that you can remove the illusory-centralizing concept of "GM" from all of these, and in doing so, a number of insights emerge. The first is that many of these can be disconnected from one another, i.e., don't have to be the same person. The second is that within any one of them, the role/function can shift from person to person without causing terrible traumas. The third is that that gaming terminology and traditions have fucked the whole thing up by nesting these functions in precisely backwards order.

    ----------------------
    (the quote and list above was by Ron Edwards)

    Without having to deal with social roles like "organizer", even if we stay on the gaming roles of the GM, we see that in "traditional" roleplaying he/she has to be (1) the referee (2) the adversity, (3) the creative leader, (4) the player of the NPCs (5) the "custodian of verisimilitude" (or "phisic engine of the world") and (6) the one who has to work before to prepare all the game need.

    Seeing my history and my preferences as a GM, I have to say that I hate being (6), I love being (2) and (4), and I am somewhat resigned to be always (1) by default, even when I am not the GM, because I am the one the always study the rules... but I loathe being (3) and (5) when this mean "judge other people's contribution to the game" so much that I actively avoid being the GM in games where the GM has to fulfill that role (and I prefer instead games where that judgment and "realism" is distributed all around, like DiTV, PTA, Spione, etc.)

    Quoting Vx:
    Posted By: John Harper*To paraphrase Vx:Your GM's agenda for the game is to make its world seem real and to create and play interesting challenges, without caring whether the opponents win or lose. Given that, choosing difficulty numbers poses no kind of conflict of interest for your GM.
    This seems like work, responsibility, playing "overseer" over the others instead of playing WITH them: where is the fun in that?
  • Can't speak for Jason but in another post on Vincent's blog Jono wrote:
    …if I'm GMing say Spirit of the Century -- which constantly asks me to decide difficulties for things the players want to do -- then I feel torn between wanting to "challenge" the PCs (by turning up the difficulty), wanting to be fair, wanting them to win so I can see what happens in the next step of their zany plan, etc. I feel like I should be deciding difficulties purely based on established stuff in the fiction, but half the time the conflict involves something I'm making up on the spot (How many gangsters are behind that door, anyway, and what level of Fists skill do they each have?) so the fictional reason is more like post-hoc justification for whatever numbers I choose. It feels like a real slippery slope towards "decide whether I want the player to succeed or fail", which is certainly possible with the amount of power Spirit of the Century gives the GM, but is not how I want to play.
    To which I replied
    One of the main reasons I've shied away from Burning Wheel games is because my experience with "GM sets the difficulty" games is EXACTLY like what you describe with SotC. I was too keen on constantly having to set Obstacle values.

    That to me is different than what Vincent describes as "+2 for the high ground." Either the player does or doesn't have the high ground based on the fiction. Sure there's still an aesthetic call to make but it's grounded in something concrete, unlike the vague descriptions of "easy", "hard", "challenging" etc. You run through all these internal conflicts like you describe.

    Mouse Guard, on the other hand ... has a list of "factors" that are concrete fictional elements exactly like "has the high ground."[ for every skill ] So all you do is add up the factors and bam, Obstacle number. Sure you still have to make the call between "short distance" or "long distance" for the Pathfinder skill but that's a hell of a lot easier to see than the line between "easy" and "hard."
    Figured those thoughts might be relevant.

    Jesse
  • Maybe it's a matter of ability, not permission. I know a lot of DMs that don't have a conflict of interest, but aren't really aware enough to set a good target number. Either the designer needs to provide decent guidance or the GM needs to know enough basic probability to figure out what the target they really want is.
  • Posted By: sageMaybe it's a matter of ability, not permission.
    This is where my compass needle points, as well.
  • I notice now that the opening post is much more specific than I thought at first reading... you are not talking about the GM as the "guardian of verisimilitude", but more specifically, as the one who decide the level of difficulty for rolls in games like Ars Magica, for example, where you have to "beat" a target number...

    Well, there is another, more specific reason because I don't do that anymore... every singe time I played one of these games, in the past, after a while I stopped choosing the number before the roll. I simply let the player roll, and after seeing if the roll was high or low, I decided what happened. Why? Because it's much faster and easier. If the roll is very low or very high you don't have to decide if the difficulty level is 13, 14 or 15: you think about it only if he rolls 13, 14 or 15, and not any other number. If you roll a d20, and decide the target number before rolling, 17 times over 20 you are simply wasting your concentration and mental fatigue on something useless. It's sloppy, wasteful design.

    This cause illusionism, of course. This is state-of-the-art design for illusionism.

    (I am convinced anyway that even the people who wrote these games didn't choose the number before: they simply didn't write the real procedures of play they used on the books)
  • It's also true that a lot of mechanical systems quickly become complex enough that setting difficulties is not exactly a trivial exercise. Sure, X is a "Hard" difficulty under ideal circumstances, but hey, look at all these NON-LINEAR modifiers! Variable-sized dice pools are particularly deadly in this way.

    I'm generally avoidant of target-number systems that have any non-linear elements for exactly that reason. FATE is a bit of an exception, but that's because (a) the curve is really very flat and (b) player currency overwhelms probability effects relatively easily, so the players have an out if I screw it up.
  • I'm with Jesse.

    While I wouldn't, for a moment, dispute Jason's weaknesses as a human being, I think that setting difficulty numbers seems unfair. Setting difficulty numbers seems unfair, one step from GM fiat; placing a squad of guards in the way doesn't seem unfair. Similarly, saying "Someone attacks you unexpectedly! He rolls to hit!" seems fair, but "Someone attacks you unexpectedly! Roll damage!" doesn't. It's hard to articulate why one thing's fair and one thing isn't.

    Hence, this situation seems, to me, due to the Inherent And Unfathomable Unfairness Of Certain Things.

    Graham
  • Fallible, biased human beings are an inherent part of the table-top rpg hobby. Maybe we should stop fighting that fact?
  • Jesse,

    I am fairly certain that BW has obstacle #'s listed with each skill as a kind of baseline example. I don't look them up every time a skill roll comes up, because we find an equilibrium at the table and get a feel for the obstacle #'s. I find that when I look back at what we set as an obstacle and what an obstacle was supposed to be, we ended up as dead-on the money.

    Now, I say, -we- because sometimes we'll talk it over, "That seems like an orienteering roll of 3. That sound right to you? Yeah. Roll." If there is a big problem, I'd look it up but the rules are pretty set and clear, so it hasn't come up when I've played.
  • I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago about the feeling you got in the earliest days of roleplaying. We started roleplaying not knowing what it was and based it off Lucas Arts' games and later JRPGs. One thing we remember strongly is that through inconsitant world building on the GMs part you could sometimes get "bugs" which took the setting in an unexpected direction when the players started to use them. A freeform campaign that had gone on for a while got fucked up when I suddenly started basing the gold value on real life gold value in the medieval time but since -I- as a GM couldn't just change the setting all the old prices for swords and ships and stuff remained the same so two PCs sold all their adventuring gear and bought a war fleet and set off to conquer the demon continent. Also sheep were really fucking cheap so they filled the boat with them and used them to stop leaks/soak up water/food/pillows etc.

    So basically, I can understand the fear of making one bad call that will ruin the immersion. I have good experiences with it though!
  • This is exactly why, in my designs, I set out to a) split up the GM role as much as possible among all the players and b) make opposition have a budget, rather than allowing the invention of arbitrary numbers.

    Whether that works on the table remains to be seen, but they seem like worthwhile design goals to me.
  • Posted By: komradebobFallible, biased human beings are an inherent part of the table-top rpg hobby. Maybe we should stop fighting that fact?
    Or, possibly, even design for it because sometimes its part of the fun?

    What I like in a game with target numbers: Lots of specific examples, based on situations in the fiction.
    What I don't like in a game with target numbers: General "make it up on the spot" advice, based on how you want the game to turn out.

    Often games that don't hit the first one well enough feel like they're going towards the second. Even when they aren't. Because my own history of violence tends to make me gun shy about things that don't look discrete enough. So I'll accept making up TNs when there are clear situational guidelines for doing so, but won't like it when it feels like "impose your will on the game by arbitrarily setting the TN."
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsPosted By: komradebobFallible, biased human beings are an inherent part of the table-top rpg hobby. Maybe we should stop fighting that fact?
    Or, possibly, even design for it because sometimes its part of the fun?

    That's where my thinking is these days.
  • Brand,

    Yes. I've always felt that "GM sets the TN" was really an illusionist technique. Need them to fail? Set the TN high. Need them to succeed? Set the TN low. Player feels like he has agency. You get the outcome you wanted all along.

    Jesse
  • OK, people are already pulling up old Forge threads and quoting Vincent Baker. IT IS APPARENTLY ON NOW.

    First of all, John, I grew up in Detroit, and my first bowl was the skull of another infant scraped clean with his father's best spoon, which I stole as he grieved his only child. So don't attribute my manifold failings to any innate weakness, because I have none. Graham: Detroit is the American Stoke-on-Trent.

    I will reiterate for the slow* that I love being the GM. I will GM the hell out of some GMing. I design games where everybody gets to be GM because I love it so much. What I don't love is when the rules encourage the players to all turn to me, dew-eyed, and await my verdict on the range and concealment penalty for their MG-42. Although I am completely capable of setting a sizzling target number (ask anybody), do that yourself and give me time to nail my German accent. You will note a conspicuous absence of these rules from my games, because they are shameful and dumb (the rules, not my games). The fact that, on a social level, we basically do the same thing all the time when handling the fiction is immaterial, because that is actually pretty cool and fun.

    In general I am also not a fan of illusionism, and I consider what I know of standard encounter design for, say, D&D 4e to be just that. I mean, it says right there that you are supposed to scale it up or down "based on the party". What the fuck is that? Hard but not too hard is what that is. Perhaps this is not the issue at hand, but his frothing love for it does not endear John Harper to me either. Guys playing D&D: Your die rolls don't matter. The GM has taken care of everything. Just move your pieces around and shut up.

    *John Harper and possibly Judd
  • I'm uncomfortable with games where I sometimes have the right to decide things.

    The fact that Jason ever owned a bowl is proof enough for me. I've had this long-term theory that his weakness is caused by long-term exposure to himself, and now I might have something I can publish.
  • I generally play games where difficulty seems to be set by committee. The difficulty for all checks is X, and it goes up or down by Y for every positive or negative factor.

    So the players and GM all point out the positive and negative factors and the difficulty is thus set. I did this in both my "challenge" games (the 24 and 48 hour challenge) and when we played Judgement Night that's how the difficulty levels were adjudicated there too.
  • I don't really mind setting target numbers, but GMing some games involves pulling so much stuff out of my ass that my ass starts to get sore from all the target numbers and NPCs and funny voices coming out of it. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm going to stop looking at RPG forums and watch more Oban Star-Racers.
  • I have to admit, I side with Jason the Coward in disliking improvised difficulties. I was running MG recently and, even though I had the table of Ob Levels right in front of me most of the time, I still found myself torn between setting Obs based on "real-world realism" (what happens in life) versus "fictional realism" (what happens in stories). Setting arbitrarily low difficulty numbers is a braindamaged GM's way of "Saying Yes" traditionally, yeah? I know it was for me. That's what the stunting rules in Exalted et al are based on too, right? If the group (or GM) likes what you're trying to do, the difficulty gets arbitrarily easier. You wanna jump off the bullets and then punch the guy in his face with his own hand? Awesome, roll a 5. Why roll at all? You're Saying Yes, but pretending you're still following the rules.

    And that kind of thing gets all confused any time you have someone arbitrarily setting target numbers unless you're super, picture-perfect clear about how you should set them and why. Even then, people bring their own baggage and set numbers for their own unfathomable reasons. I know playing Mouse Guard that my Ob setting was anything but consistent and varied wildly from week to week. Sometimes I was a hardass. Sometimes I let players get away with murder. And I feel like Luke is relatively clear in MG about how to set Obs.

    What did work for MG (and what I'm planning on doing for whatever I run next, maybe 4E) is setting difficulties beforehand, when planning the game session, and then sticking to them as closely as possible, while still allowing the GM to adapt them on the fly, based on circumstances. This means there's some there there. You already picked a number and that's your default. If you want to change it, you can, but at least you have something to start from that you've spent a few minutes thinking about instead of simply going with whatever whim you have. There's a reason people don't invent D&D monster stats on the fly, right? Oh, let's see, he does 4d6+8 damage and has 135 HP and etc. etc. That would work, sure, but it would probably suck (unless you've got some sorta crazy playstyle that's really digs that, in which case, maybe you should be playing something besides D&D).
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarFirst of all, John, I grew up in Detroit, and my first bowl was the skull of another infant scraped clean with his father's best spoon, which I stole as he grieved his only child. So don't attribute my manifold failings to any innate weakness, because I have none. Graham: Detroit is the American Stoke-on-Trent.
    I also grew up in Detroit, and not only was my first bowl an infant's skull scrape grieving blah blah blah, but when my sister was born we had to share. You might as well be from Graham-land if you're willing to concede to that level of effete refinement. Sheesh.
  • The feeling I get from games where the GM sets the target number is that for every action in the game there is some absolute ideal target number that exists. It's the GM's job to find out what that number is and tell it to the players. He may get it wrong, but I feel like that is the spirit of the situation.
  • edited May 2009

    Unlike other posters in this thread, I do speak for Mr. Morningstar.

    Forthwith, our offices will be contacting you, Mr. Harper, Mr. Walmsley, Mr Wilson, and Mr. Walton. I hope your counter-libel departments are competent, as it would be disappointing to go down to the courthouse for a blow off.

    Mr. Morningstar, rest assured that we have this firmly in hand. Furthermore, I would advise you to ensure that I or one of our other representatives is present at all future smacktalk sessions.

  • Posted By: sageMaybe it's a matter of ability, not permission.
    A matter of GM-ability and system-support.

    And then it is also a matter of accepting that some elements in the games we play are improvised from thin air, with no earth-link at all, and that such a fluffy procedure is quite alright, in most games. ;-)
  • Posted By: Jonathan WaltonSetting arbitrarily low difficulty numbers is a braindamaged GM's way of "Saying Yes" traditionally, yeah? I know it was for me.
    Not necessarily. A roll when there is little or zero chance of failure can contribute to the character appearing awesome/badass, especially when a similar roll made by a different character is a terrific struggle. It demonstrates something to the players. That's got emotional cachet.

    This whole conversation seems weird to me as a long-time GM. I just don't get it. I set difficulties by how it says to in the game. If it doesn't seem to be working I change it up a little, or maybe a lot. There's a million stupid reasons the designer wrote the game the way they did and a million brilliant reasons I run the game the way I run it.
  • I think the problem is that Jason's Detroit upbringing has made him a romantic. It made him dream of a world where a spoon was something not stolen from the dead baby next door, but made overseas by starving foreign slaves or even magically brought into being by the Unicorn of All Things Happy and Nice.

    All play hangs on someone making a call at some point. It is un-fucking-avoidable. It might be dressed up as rules, but it's still a call. For some reason, a call on paper written by some bloke in Idontknowheristan has more authority than your best buddy who is sitting right there and who bought beer to the game. Go figure.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThis whole conversation seems weird to me as a long-time GM. I just don't get it. I set difficulties by how it says to in the game. If it doesn't seem to be working I change it up a little, or maybe a lot.
    I concur. I can intellectualy understand what people are saying, but it just sounds so strange. Asking yoursef "How difficult would it be for the typical person oin this campaign setting do succeed at that task?" is not the same as "The GM decides what will happen before dice are rolled", unless you're rolling for stuff as trivial as walking down staits, or as monumental as snuffing the sun.

    Get a solid idea of what our benchmarks are, and you're good to go.
  • edited May 2009
    Posted By: simjames"How difficult would it be for the typical person oin this campaign setting do succeed at that task?"
    ...
    Get a solid idea of what our benchmarks are, and you're good to go.
    Here's the thing. I can't do this in the real world. I'm a computer programmer. I get asked "How hard" is something within the scope of my own expertise EVERY DAY, and I'm ALWAYS uncomfortable by my answers. Because I really want to say, "I don't know. I'll let you know after I attempt it."

    Now imagine trying to make the same call about imaginary stuff.

    This is why I love Mouse Guard. Just look at the list and count.

    Jesse
  • I guess I'm in the "this all sounds weird" camp, too. If the game provides at least the barest guideline for setting difficulties (even if it's just the easy/average/difficult rule of thumb), I'll give it a whirl when I'm GMing. If it seems to work okay by my sense of things, meaning that characters typically succeed at things they are awesome at and fail at the things they are bad at, I'll probably keep doing it that way. If it seems to not be working "right" for our game, then I'll mess with it until it does. Frankly, when I'm GMing, setting target numbers seems refreshingly simple in comparison to all the other stuff I have to do.

    I don't think I've ever been afraid of setting a target number, or thought that I should set the target number differently for particular characters, or felt like I was totally winging it when I had to set a target. I suppose there must have been SOME moment when I honestly had no clue whether a task should be easy or difficult and I'm just not remembering it; I probably asked the players involved for more details or maybe even asked them "so...is that a hard thing to do?" and it either worked well enough that it didn't stick in my mind or was such an abominable failure that I've purged all memories of the resulting debacle from my brain. Either way, it didn't turn me off to the whole thing.

    Although I admit that I have at various times either asked people to explain the probability curve for wacky dice mechanics, and also sat around my apartment rolling various dice pools against various difficulties to get a feel for how it all works out in practice. Maybe I actually am nervous about setting target numbers after all, and I compensate for that by burning some of my limited free time studying and practicing the system until I get over it?
  • I notice, also, that the people who have no problem setting difficulty numbers also tend to be tied to "realistic probabilities." That is, if the situation were happening here, in reality, what chance would a given person under the given circumstances have of success? But that's not how I measure difficulty. In the games I like to play a character can be taking the exact same action, under the exact same circumstances and have wildly different chances of success given the broader *emotional* context of the situation as a whole. If I'm setting difficulties then I'm the only one whose emotional investment counts. I much prefer something that either takes into account the collective investment of the group OR externally aids in setting our collective investment.

    A simple example is Dogs in the Vineyard. The a narrated action backed with a Raise of 6 simply doesn't carry the same narrative weight as the *exact same action* narrated with a raise of 17.

    Jesse
  • Posted By: GB SteveFor some reason, a call on paper written by some bloke in Idontknowheristan has more authority than your best buddy who is sitting right there and who bought beer to the game.
    Your best what? When did you become American?

    Graham
  • I have no problem playing these kinds of games as a player, but as a GM, I just don't want to be that guy. When I set a target number, it feels like I'm judging the player's contribution to the fiction, even when I'm not.

    Also, I too want the target number to come from the events rather than the imaginary "reality".
  • American? He clearly said your best mate. That's not a particularly American phrase.

    You should read again.

  • Posted By: GrahamYour bestwhat? When did you become American?
    I was writing for the audience. It's a trick some of us writers learn.

    In English it reads, 'written by some foreign chappy' and 'than your top chum (...) who has kindly brought some cheese and biscuits'.
  • All bluster aside, I'm really glad a bunch of people have responded. I see three positions, basically:

    1. Setting target numbers is just the GM exercising a type of authority. It's part of the game and totally cool.
    2. Setting target numbers is fucking weak, because (choose a reason)
    3. Setting target numbers is not difficult, just follow the guidelines and do it. I'm perplexed.

    We're all correct, of course, and this is ultimately no big deal. People in the second category will gravitate toward certain styles of play that make them happy. People in the third category might end up in the first or second if they stopped to consider what they were doing, but that's entirely optional and possibly a bad idea.

    This is a pretty focused point and not synonymous with straight-up GM fiat, as people in category one will capably demonstrate. The thing that bothers me about it isn't judgment (I will judge you, trust me - I am judging you right now) as much as the way authority is distributed. As GM I don't need to be the guy who decides that. There are other things I do need to decide and I'd rather deal with those.
  • Jason, would you have been less yellow-bellied if you were given some definite guidance? "The difficulty number for climbing normal walls is 5; for graphite-lined walls, it's 6; and if it's raining, add +1".

    Or "The difficulty number is usually 5, but, three times during the adventure, the GM can use a difficulty number of 7"?

    Graham
  • Posted By: Simon_PetterssonAlso, I too want the target number to come from the events rather than the imaginary "reality".
    A bit of a googly, wot! Would you mind expounding on this a tad, old bean? I'm afraid I'm a bit of a duffer and this caught me right off guard and I just can't get on top of it. Thanks awfully.
  • Well, if we're talking about Traveller, it is quite detailed in assigning die roll modifiers. Of the two options you propose the latter appeals to me more, because I could see myself structuring the session to highlight those moments rather than model reality.

    Perhaps tellingly, I don't mind this stuff at all when it doesn't matter. In The Shadow of Yesterday, there's no internal economy and I could throw endless hordes of Grand Master level threats at the players, but it wouldn't make a bit of difference in their ability to enjoy the game and do cool stuff. They'd just get beaten up a lot on their way to becoming Grand Masters themselves. Then they'd finally whip my Grand Masters, throw the devil horns and transcend.
  • Here's the various scenarios I'm hearing here:

    Text tells me (or strongly benchmarks) what numbers to assign, and I find those numbers a good fit with my own aesthetic judgements: Good

    I can reliably identify where to set the difficulty based on my own aesthetic judgments: Good.

    I have to assign the difficulty, but I don't feel like I know what it should be - neither the text nor my own judgment seem sufficient: Bad

    The text tells me what numbers to assign, but the embedded aesthetic judgments don't match mine: Bad

    I have to assign the difficulty, but I know (or suspect) that my judgment will clash with that of others at the table: Bad

    Text gives me a standard, but doesn't tell me how to adjust it based on judgment: Bad

    I don't want to make any aesthetic judgments, and I don't think that the ones embedded in the text hold up to actual play: Really Bad. Also pretty much normal in the majority of gaming, historically.

    There are other configurations, but they all basically involve broken social contracts, so I'll neglect them.
  • Mark, that's a great breakdown.

    In addition, there's often advice in games that conflicts with simple aesthetical judgments, as people already mentioned. It leaves the GM torn between different aesthetics, making difficulties challenging but not too much, adjusting difficulties to guide the story, adjusting for party composition, etc. So when all things line up: no problem. But when there's tension, yeah, I don't like that at all. Which is one reason I prefer focused designs these days.
  • You know, I can't help but think this is about the GM not wanting to be judged, and be found wanting, and nothing else.

    Which is kind of an interesting thought starter, actually...
  • I've found myself feeling cowardly about setting difficulties in the past, in some games. A couple thoughts:

    * Under the theory of "rules are there to introduce unexpected results," the GM isn't really setting the difficulty of a roll, is he? He's actually setting the likelihood of an unexpected outcome. Given the thesis is true (and I think it's got merit, at least sometimes), there's been very VERY little active discussion of best at-the-table practices from that perspective.

    * The old task versus intent thing: In some games, the GM isn't really determining how hard something is, but rather how important something is. If you look at a game like Dogs or BW, the whole procedure starts with a decision gate regarding the very worthiness of the roll. So the decision isn't about fairness or referring to real-world probabilities, but about the GM's aesthetics.

    So in both those cases, my thinking is that the scariness of GM judgment relates to the fact that event resolution within the game isn't what it looks like it is. It may be introducing the unknown (scary, even in a prenegotiated setup), or it may be the GM putting his aesthetics on display for the players (emotionally scary). And those are just the first couple that popped into my head.

    I know I feel far less trepidation as a GM when I've been handed clear guidelines (like in MG) or when all resolution is the same (like in Dust Devils). That is, unless I'm running the game with a clear aesthetic vision and my hands are firmly on the controls, in which those kinds of games feel restrictive.

    p.
  • Posted By: Paul B...or it may be the GM putting his aesthetics on display for the players (emotionally scary).
    And now, roll that into the context of an open-ended ( or merely long-term) campaign.

    Heh. GM Shell-shock.
  • Posted By: Paul BHe's actually setting the likelihood of an unexpected outcome.
    That's definitely another piece of the puzzle - add in that it's also the likelihood that the GM themself is surprised, see where that gets you.

    GMing is emotionally scary, definitely - all time in the spotlight is. It's no more scary than being a player, surely, and exposing your funny voice/attempts at humor/dramatic sense/background-writing ability/whatever to the rest of the group. Right? I mean, how many times have you inwardly groaned as a fellow player did something that was just really horrible? They knew you were inwardly groaning, you're not that good at hiding it, and it killed them a bit inside.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyGMing is emotionally scary, definitely - all time in the spotlight is. It's no more scary than being a player, surely, and exposing your funny voice/attempts at humor/dramatic sense/background-writing ability/whatever to the rest of the group. Right?
    Actually, I suspect it is harder for many, many people.
  • I think that's because the GM's in the spotlight a lot more, not because what they're doing there makes them so much more vulnerable. I mean, it might, but it's not THAT much more.
  • Well, yeah, exactly. Lots of folks really don't like that kind of constant spotlight on them. Shit, I don't like that kind of spotlight on me, which is why I favor more dispersed GM-duties type games.
  • Man, I'm all about GM control. Sometimes I want to play in someone else's world. Sometimes I want to share my story with other players. Railroad the hell out of them, I say. You didn't buy the ticket to steer the train, you bought the ticket so you could ride the train and see what happens along the way.

    I like to have guidelines when setting difficulty numbers, but I don't have a real issue with setting them. There are games that let everyone tell their story, and that is cool, but I also enjoy games where I'm setting up the hurdles you have to vault if you want to win the race.

    ME
  • So I'm wandering around lumpley and I run across this post from four years ago, and hey, there's a diagram which I think helps us out:

    image

    Just speaking for myself, it looks like:

    1. Setting target numbers in the "game text" area is fine.
    2. Setting target numbers in the "principled" area is fine.
    3. Setting target numbers in the "ad hoc" area kinda sucks.


    Which is pretty much what Mark W has above, I think. But I have a diagram, so there.
  • Posted By: merb101Man, I'm all about GM control. Sometimes I want to play in someone else's world.
    That's totally how I feel. As GM, you're inviting someone into your world. Love that.

    Graham
  • edited May 2009
    I don't think that making ad-hoc decisions is the problem, so much as one particular person is called upon to make those ad-hoc decisions constantly.

    And I don't even think that is totally problematic until it starts to occur over the long-term, when it encourages other behaviors.
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