The role of the GM

As I said two years ago, I really love this thread because it’s so full of quality discussion and I’m really happy that, after two years of inactivity it called somebody to register here to post their take. So, I’ll try not to be too enthusiastic but I want to let you know that I’m happy to see my favorite thread back in town.

This has been my opinion for nearly a decade as a GM. It informed how I played and what games I wanted to play. It also led me down the road of a bad gaming burnout and thus, everytime I read it I feel compelled to give my advice: don’t end up like me!

As I stated some comments and two years ago, a GM is just another player at the table. While their role, sometimes, requires more work or attention (and while they are, usually, the ones tasked with the more “administrative” tasks, such as making sure that everybody is available for the next game or to order pizza for the table) they shouldn’t feel the pressure to entertain their friends. Everybody is doing their part in order for the table to have fun and that’s what makes TTRPGs so fun.


I am extremely gratified that this thread is still getting replies generally and that you love this thread Kernel! My god, has it been two years?! In the last 18 months or so I have almost never been back to this forum, I have been busier than ever in my life playing TTRPGs as well as thinking about and discussing rule-systems and best practices, including with two fellow and rather hardcore DMs! :slight_smile:

I stand by 90% to 99% of all I wrote in this thread those two years.

The things that have changed are that I use my own very rules light, and more lethal than ever, OSR system, that also has new -and I think far better rules- for death and also far better balance, and that allows making a new character in about 5 minutes. I also require new players to read the few most basic tenets of OSR style play, or if they are keen, the two longer standard texts on OSR principles.
They have taken to all that like fish to water.

Somewhat related to those changes: even more than before I roll every single roll out in the open and almost never, ever fudge, well anything! Not rolls, not HP of monsters, etc. I don’t really own a DM screen anymore. The only rolls I roll hidden are things like “Detect/Disarm” traps or other things where it doesn’t make sense for player to always instantly know if there was success.

I too couldn’t agree more with Cubik’s opinion “Part of the social contract we all share is having fun. As GM, a lot is on my shoulders to ensure a fun experience.” Everything cedes to that principle. Rules, realism, how strict I am in the game, if I am sure that doing it one way, or totally the opposite way will yield way more fun in the moment,… that is what I do! Even if 99 out of 100 times or rolls I would never do that.

If my guests -I always host- and players and myself are not having the biggest amount of possible of fun, I am not doing my DM job quite right.

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I’ve moved the first two messages from Fudging rolls and player agency because I feel like we are moving into a new territory here.