Lo, there do I see my people…

Title comes from one of my own posts.
DISCLAIMER: There are going to be readers who will simply not get this particular post. Of course, there will be other readers who will be happy to claim this post for their particular geeky country. Because they we have flags. 1


*poses with pinkie to lips à la Doctor Evil*

One TRILLION lumens!

I know that this topic has been hashed out before — *googleGOOGLEgoogle*

…Hm. Maybe not so much. Alrighty, then.




Many GMs feel that in order to run a campaign effectively, they must fall into one of two (very broad) categories:

"Oooh, roll your dice to see what kind of prize you get!"

Nice GM

I’m not going to go very far into describing the Nice GM schema. Suffice it to say that you can get a feel for how they run their games by watching almost any children’s skit-based programing.

Just… No.




"Heh. Roll your dice to see how many lashes of the whip you get. WAIT! Use the hundred-sided die!" 2

Evil GM

LOL Grue - like LOL Cats but more lethal.

Other GMs relish the thought of being EVIL. They cackle while they design a campaign. They giggle softly to themselves when the PCs take the shiny, shiny plot hook. Their dungeons often contain grues. Truly, they are evil.
As such, they often delight in hardships suffered by PCs. This is not to say that they are nasty, mean, awful people.3
No, it isn’t. More, it’s to say that these are people who relish the thought of difficult campaigns, themselves. If they were playing instead of running, they would be having a ball. Five steps forward, eight steps back! Woooohoooo!

However, I feel this is an over-simplification of the role. Plus, it can make for some very pissed off players.
What are GMs there to do?
We are there to guide the PCs through our4 story. We are there to provide a voice into a world that is either totally new or well-loved by the players. In order for this story to be entertaining, the players must be engaged by the action. There has to be some danger, some excitement. That being said – there is no reason to continuously drop sharpened axes embedded in rocks on the players as they run screaming from a horde of creatures intent on killing them for food.5


Additionally, for a story – any story, not just a game – to be good, there has to be an emotional investment by the reader or player. They have to want to reach the summit of Mt. Killemallero6. Otherwise, they’ll just hang about the local village’s tavern, swilling ale until the serving wenches look good.
And nobody wants that.7

Guiding a group of players through a hopelessly booby-trapped plot is a lot like herding schizophrenic cats who are currently off their meds. Especially if you are doing your job right and they are deeply ensconced in the narrative and/or their characters. Hell, if you’re doing your job right, both.
You have to lay out just enough clues and herrings to make them sift but not so many that they throw up their hands and go back to that damn tavern.8  Once you have them hooked, you have to let go and let them wander about the landscape, finding things out on their own. No Most players don’t want a giant neon sign pointing the way to the conclusion. Again, if you are doing your job right the players don’t actually want the story to end. They want the next step, to see what happens when they do this or that.

And that my friends? That “ooh, what’s next, what’s next?” rumbling from your players? That is probably one of the best feelings in the world.


"Yarr. We know of him. Nasty McNasterson he's called 'round these parts."


– As I also have readers who are not role-play gamers of the table-top variety, I will try and link definitions to some of the terms used herein.
2 – Oh, look!  A two-fer on the definition links. First dice. It’s what gamers use to determine what happens in a game. Dice in common usage are: twenty-siders, percentile (10-siders), and six-sided dice. Hundred sided (or Zocchihedron) are rarely, if ever, used.
3 – Yes, it is.
4 – And by “our” I mean either the story that we wrote or one that is provided by a publisher (i.e., Dungeons and Dragons, Talislanta, RIFTS, etc.)
5 – True story.
6—I am an invertebrate punster. Spineless and unable to resist a pun.
7 – Least of all the serving wenches.
8 – Seriously. She is going to thwack you with a frying pan if you keep that up. I’ve seen it happen.

3 thoughts on “Lo, there do I see my people…

  1. Marvelous post, dear Bon. Very funny. The emotional incentive is easy to overlook. There are insights here I hadn’t considered. Guess that’s why they are called “insights.” Apparently I’ve taken the slow bus this morning.

    1. Why, thank you!
      I am glad that you were informed and entertained. Now to find a horde of ravenous bugblatter beasts for my upcoming Sunday game.


      (Guess which category I fall into?)

  2. I’ve never run my own game but Lex runs a few GURPs campaigns and one of his greatest talents as a GM is knowing when to play into character arcs even if it wasn’t what he intended. One of my favorite campaigns we played, I chose promiscuity as a disadvantage and was having a blast playing that up. He let us run with that for quite awhile and then herded us schizophrenic cats back in line when he made me roll for syphilis. All the while making his evil arched eyebrow, smirky face.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s