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Nobody Wants to GM!


I've come to a realization. Nobody wants to GM. Oh sure, some people want to develop elaborate worlds, cities, dungeons, etc. and others want to create an immense storyline filled with epic conquest and drama. But nobody wants their creations trampled, altered, or in any other ways "ruined" by player characters.

Not to mention the hassles of trying to get (and keep) the group together. And all those players simply want to defeat the GM and anything he might throw at them, it's a Players vs. GM scenario. No wonder nobody wants to GM.

Oh, sure, I'm sure about 50% of the GMs out there are going to write back telling me how, I've just become bitter, and how they love to run.

And some of those GMs are actually very good at GMing! But the truth of the matter is, it's not the actual act of GMing they enjoy. The "power" perhaps, or the development, but not actually playing multiple NPCs, trying to not play favorites, and generally being despised by all the players. Because, not only does nobody want to GM, nobody likes a GM while they're GMing.

Players may like their characters, might like the NPCs, might even like the plot and the setting, but they don't like the GM. This holds true from hack n' slash roll-playing to character role-playing. The GM is an evil manipulative force that puts their beloved characters in potential dangerous (or deadly) situations. Who could like a person like that? Some people have GMed for years and have completely forgotten how much they dislike GMing. They still dislike it, they've just forgotten.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. But I've never met a GM who wouldn't rather be playing. Let's face it, we all want to make a character and play that character. There's less headaches involved and it's all in all more fun, that's why so many people play live action. Of course, we could always just have no GM, but that would be anarchy! And nobody wants anarchy, not even anarchists. The problem with no GMs is the fact that there'll be no neutral (or semi-neutral) force within the game, it'll return us to the days of cowboys and Indians:

"Bang! Gotcha!"

"No ya didn't! No ya didn't!"

Not that there will be anything to argue about, outside of two player characters fighting each other, because nothing will really be going on. Without the GM there is no plot. There can still be a setting, but it will be bland.

The GM is there to offer color to the game. The GM plays every person, however insignificant, outside of the player characters. NPC's alone can make the game, but there's also the matter of plot. Without plot, it's unlikely that characters would put themselves in a dangerous situation. Of course, that's the job of most characters, but if there's no GM there's no monsters, villains, places to go, or treasures to collect. There's no rewards altogether. And since it's the GM that doles out experience points, there's also no chance for characters to advance. The GM sure has a lot of responsibilities. And a lot of power. Or is it the other way around? Maybe because the GM has a lot of power he has a lot of responsibilities. Reminds me of a Stan Lee quote...

A lot of people are out there trying though, if only so they can play in some fashion. Because if nobody wants to GM, it sure makes it hard to have a game. Some of them even do a good job, even though they don't want to GM. It's a frightening thing, because as a GM, you can make or break the game. A popular phrase amongst gamers is "It's not the system it's the GM." Yipe!

I think that statement's just plain cruel. And wrong. Its phrases like that that keep people from wanting to GM. Sure, the GM can definitely enhance the game, or cast a dark shadow of hate over the game, but if a system is horrible, there's not going to be much a GM can do. Yes, the GM can manipulate the rules and the system; the inherent problem in this is loosing that necessary neutrality. Also, if that many rules have to be manipulated, then there must be something wrong with the system, right? The same thoughts apply to setting as well. Most games are furnished with their own worlds, so that GMs won't have to develop their own. Does that make it the GMs fault if the world (or way the magic works, etc.) are designed poorly?

And while it's true that the NPCs and plots are still in the hands of GMs, that's only two out of four important ingredients. In case you weren't paying full attention, those ingredients are System, Setting, NPCs, and Plot. Granted, that's still 50% that the GM can be blamed for, or praised for in a game, but players can make the most of the latter as well.

It's not uncommon for a player to completely ignore the NPCs the GM adds into the game, or ignore the plot as well. And if the players are being rebellious towards the game, simply because it's in their power, and the GM has to continually come up with things on the fly, is it really all his fault if the game doesn't measure up? Wow, I guess players have power too. You know what that means, don't you? They have a responsibility too.

So, while a game does rest in the hands of the GM, people often forget that it rests in the hands of the system, supplements, and players too. Think about that before you berate your next bad game, and maybe people will actually want to start GMing again.

-Roll saving throw versus Bad Gaming!
Erich S. Arendall
Shadow Sprite

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