Sidebar: I have 100% been the GM who would kill a player because they spit in the mob boss's face.

I'm not anymore, but at the time, it was 100% logical. An NPC is very vibrant in my mind, and responding with lethal force was entirely "what my character would do", just as a GM
Spoiler #1: that's as much or more of a red flag for a GM as it is for the player.

Spoiler #2: There is no way to pretend this wasn't also about the player failing to RESPECT this NPC, and that I WOULD SHOW THEM. No way I'd have admitted it, but that was totally in play.
The thinking behind this is not malicious, or even explicitly anti-player. It's just the narrative logic of the game carrying forward. As long as you buy into this logic, it's easy to be an utterly monstrous GM with neither guilt nor shame.
"They should have known..." is something that you can say with zero sense of irony when you cannot separate yourself from this role as renderer of the universe. You're explicitly NOT in it for the power trip. You're explicitly NOT using your power to alter "how it would go"
Through this lens, your GMing is selfless, nigh-heroic hard work. You are representing the whole of a setting to deliver the most vivid, realistic game possible to people. Why can't they appreciate how much work that is?
I say all this to call out that this is not a matter of "some people are assholes who look to GM in order to be petty tyrants", as satisfying as that narrative is. It is much more commonly a result of good intentions backed up with a lot of hard work, with a dose of imperfection
The "it's what my character would do" comparison is especially apt, because it's so harmful, but that harm is more often *thoughtless* than *malicious*. And I do not frame it that way to excuse it or suggest it lessens the harm, only to help make it more clear.
(And, critical caveat: yes, there ALSO are straight up assholes and predators in the mix too. But I hope/think they are not the norm, and their patterns are more predictable)
Anyway, here's the thing: Having the GM on the pedestal makes it really easy for them to get wrapped around the axle. If the table doesn't have shared accountability, the GM easily ends up in a self-reinforcing cycle of killing the fun for the sake of the game.
Because if the GM is at a total remove from the rest of the game, who is going to *challenge* their decisions? And how?

Yes, this formula results in a lot of terrible GMs, but it's the underlying model of isolation that pushes us towards it with steady inevitability.
To come back to the mob boss example, I am confident that many of you have half a dozen or more ways to handle that which are better, more fun, and more play-driving than "kill the PC, that'll show 'em".
But I point out that many GMs, especially new GMs, don't even know that they *could* have the conversations where they could learn this, much less how to go about it. They don't know what they don't know, so they build on what information is available.
And while there's ABSOLUTELY great information out there, a newb has no particular way to filter the good from the bad. Which puts them at risk of confirmation bias, and now the original problem just gets bigger.
I guess I'm looking to humanize the apparent assholes a bit. A lot of them are trying to make a fun game for their friends as best they know how. This does not mean we need to tolerate or be silent on the *behaviors*, but sometimes we can afford some generosity as to motives.
Being right remains a great way to win, and even when we escape that in our games, it still sometimes finds ways to creep up on us elsewhere.
I confess, I am wracking my brains trying to figure out when I rounded the corner from "Maintaining fictional integrity" to "The fiction serves the game" and there's a non-zero chance it was either 7th Sea or Donjon.
Or PrimeTime Adventures maybe? Probably some mix of all of the above, with a dash of Feng Shui & ADRPG mixed in, creeping up on my over time rather than in one big reveal.
BTW, if you want a less charged example, a great one is trying to jump *anything* in a car.

Suppose a player declares they're going to jump the crick to escape pursuers. There are many ways a GM might respond.
Including "Ok, let's roll to see how badly you get hurt when your car crashes, because physics".

I like this example a lot because I think it makes the mismatch in expectations *much* clearer, because I think we can all see what they player imagined.
Which in turn makes it more obvious is that the breakdown occurred in a conversation which did *not* happen about expectations.
(And also steps us away from the more meta question of character death and how it should be handled)

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Rob Donoghue

Rob Donoghue Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @rdonoghue

23 Nov
So I finished up watching Arcane, and I enjoyed it, but I'm really annoyed that I didn't recognize that Kevin Alejandro was voicing Jace. Having just been delighted by his acting (and directing!) in the final season of Lucifer, that was kind of cool.
Confession: I was a little let down by the super punching. It was fun, no question, but at no point did the fights manage to pass the quality of the bridge fight in ep 3, which was brutal and magnificent.
Also, I am much more forgiving of hoverboards by virtue of being delighted across the board(ha ha) with Echo and his spotlight episode. All in all, the tertiary threads (Viktor, Echo, Heidigger) were where the real story strength came through.
Read 19 tweets
23 Nov
Reading a random Pirates of the Caribbean remark (like I said, random) has me thinking that RPGs would really benefit from language that allows someone to simultaneously be THE BEST and also THE WORST at something simultaneously.
It absolutely won't work in all genres, so obviously not something for all games, but there's a whole slice of play where "Incredibly competent within my domain but you can be confident my every action will end with disaster" is a legitimate space to claim.
This is easy enough to *do* in many games. If the agreed upon fiction in a Blades in the Dark game is that you are the best lockpick in the city, but you only have a small dice pool, those dice are going to go wrong a LOT.
Read 10 tweets
21 Nov
This, I should note, is why it is very weird to follow different rules for building a town and building a dungeon. In classic terms, the dungeon is just a town full of people you're allowed to murder.
Yes, I'm being both tongue in cheek and deadly serious. The dungeon full of murderable intelligent beings *is* a weird, sketchy idea in need of interrogation, but ALSO, if you're going to accept it, then it merits a little bit of thought about logistics. Food, Water & Waste.
(The challenge, of course, is that once you start thinking about WHY they picked this dungeon to live, how they survive, how the community forms, it becomes harder and harder to think of them as murderbags. Weird.)
Read 7 tweets
21 Nov
So, the little dude has - unsurprisingly - a great backpack. It's a Red Oxx kids backpack, and it's both indestructible and very well suited to the "Time to go to locker between classes? HA HA HA" lifestyle he lives. It's main flaw is the laptop compartment offers no protection
Design is intended to be used with a separate laptop sleeve or similar (or with no laptop), but adding one more layer of unpacking to his process is not going to end well for computers, as we have some evidence of.
So I am now considering other backpacks which will hold a crapton of textbooks, but also keep his laptop safe. I have some good contenders on hand, but I figured I'd check what recommendations they have out there for students.

Answer: Only crappy ones.
Read 14 tweets
18 Nov
I've been getting involved more in how we form scrum teams (in the logistics and hiring sense, not the "forming, storming etc) and it's struck me that it is ass backwards that we seek out Scrum Masters & Product Owners the same way.
Getting a Scrum master for a team is like hiring any other specialist. Some overlap of domain knowledge is valuable, but you are bringing them in to do specific work with specific tools and learning what they know is part of the expertise.
Like a facilitator, much of what a good scrum master can contribute is agnostic to what the product is. Expertise and learning add value, but the baseline requires very little. Which is great, because it means you can air drop a scrum master into most situations and see results
Read 32 tweets
18 Nov
Just seeing the snippets from #agiletesting is making me miss live events. Not because of seeing people (though I miss the too) but because actual presentations are so much better than Zoom presos.
Not that Zoom presos are bad - they enable lots of things that would otherwise be impossible - but they impose different constraints on the speaker, and because we’re still immature at this, they are not all terribly fruitful.
Zoom (as a stand in for the category of software) makes the habit of presenting to the slide deck so much worse due to the default nature of screen sharing. It removes the speakers ability to read and respond to the room.
Read 4 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!