Grim’s Tales: The Lessening Role of the Games Master

It feels to me as though the role of the Games Master in gaming has been lessening for some years and in two directions. On the one hand there are some games – such as D&D4 – that are so codified and clear-cut in their rulings and systems that the Games Master might as well be a games console, running along a set little track nice and efficiently. On the other hand, the reaction to these kinds of systems has been the ‘soft’, narrative type games where player input plays a much more significant role in the game – directly rather than through play – than it used to. Case in point being the character/team creation rules in Spirit of the Century.

In some ways this is good, the more set and codified games are easier to prepare for, they’re ‘plug and play’ in a way. You can just slot in a gang of goblins, treasure option B2 and some environmental hazards and you have an ‘encounter’. With the softer games the shared burden of coming up with plot hooks and character buy-in relieves the Games Master of a great deal of the weighty burden of coming up with something everyone wants to play and finding reasons for the group to be together. In other ways it’s bad, the GM becomes less of an interpreter and gets to put less of a personal spin on what’s going on, or they succumb to being a wish fulfilment engine with less of their own narrative engagement with the game and the story.

Of course, you can always ignore both and do your own thing, damn the torpedoes, but it’s nice when a game works with you rather than against you, where the system, setting and theme harmonises with the way you want to play. Speaking for myself I’m caught in the middle of the whole ideological ‘gaming battle’. My happy place is somewhere between the two extremes.

2 responses to “Grim’s Tales: The Lessening Role of the Games Master

  1. I like to be a facilitator more than a wish-fulfillment engine myself, if I can split hairs. That’s why I tend to be picky-pick and choose the engines I run and play in. IMO what makes or breaks the game in the end is the meeting of expectations from everyone at the table. And ultimately that’s why I’ll be left out of most games… wah.
    Damn the torpedoes.

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