316 The Role of the GM

So the GM is a player, but not a Player. Makes sense.


So… The “Big P” is the difference eh? :rofl:


Don’t be a D, B. :wink:


Let’s just say it’s kinda like driving a car. We’re all in the car but there’s only one driver.
[Unless my wife is there, she’d tell you there’s only one driver too “her”, ] but that’s a topic for a different show. Back to the car.
So one driver. He too is a passenger in the car but, it doesn’t really go anywhere with out him/her.
Sure other passengers can work the radio or AC. Open windows for fresh air and stuff like that, but only the driver is truly driving. This is not about power being the driver. Passengers often play the role of navigation.
Side bar - could that mean google is a passenger? See what I put up with? My mind just starts wondering away.
Sorry, maybe this analogy makes sense, anyone can drive the rpg car but, only one can drive. Heck you don’t even need a license or insurance. Wait don’t tell the RPG police I said that, lol!


If this wasn’t the same group where I’ve been having a great time running Star Trek Adventures, I don’t think I would have attempted to run again with the group. It’s also complicated in that one of the players that was actually excited to play in the campaign is the brother of the one complaining, so I couldn’t even do the “hey, let’s all play over here and just not mention it to X” thing. Not that I wouldn’t feel guilty doing that.

I’m cutting some extra slack for everyone being high strung over 2020, but I was really upset about the whole thing. I would have been way less angry if this would have come up even a week before it did. It just kind of reinforced that all of my campaign prep is basically to make me feel more prepared and I’m going to have to teach any house/alternate rules in the moment, because nobody else cares.


How DARE you call out one of your players (unless it’s Jeff) on your show! I log on to listen to my favorite podcast and I’m insulted right off the bat. DISGUSTING! I hereby call for a boycott of the Gaming and BS Podcast and will no longer play with the likes of Sean. Brett, are you looking for an online/Zoom player?

Nah…just fucking with you, but you get -1 Inspiration.

In my defense, I put my character together a couple months ago while we were still running Mothership. Although I included quite a few details, my primary purpose was to develop a background that would fit the criteria set by the DM…plus, I don’t even recall what I did last week, so…

…and I can fix this! Chrisian is a common as Jeff, John or Joe in Cyre. Nathanial’s father disappeared in 984YK, and the suspected location of his disappearance wasn’t remotely close to where we were travelling. Nathanial still doesn’t even know where he is, or how he got here. Why would he automatically assume that the Chrisian that was mentioned was his long ‘dead’ father? If he knew that he was in a demiplane that can show up where ever/whenever…:man_shrugging:

Nathanial will continue to refute the knowledge of a Chrisian. If/when he begins to suspect that his father is the person in question, he will be in a state of denial. “No, that’s impossible! My father is DEAD!” “What kind of game are you playing?!”

Keep rolling out the episodes. I’ll keep listening.


Listened to the episode and it accomplished exactly what I was hoping for: a moment of reflection on what you, as a GM, want as the GM.

I’ve reflected on this personally through my game design. As I started moving away from a more traditional approach and built more narrative than crunchy games, writing how to run these games made me reflect on what I wanted for myself. In doing so, I’ve very much changed how and why I GM any game. For me, it’s the rush of improvisation. I squandered my chances of acting doing something in legitimate improv theatre and competitions but I can get that same high by improvising a story using the mechanics as the shout outs from the crowd. I prefer to GM because there are no turns for the GM; they are always in play. Playing one character and waiting my turn is like asking a race car driver to go slow. It’s the mental challenge and reflexes that got me back on my feet after suffering some serious head trauma years back. Plus my memory is shit anyways and it can difficult for me to recall names of things or people.

My point is, Brian and Steve, that we GMs are doing it for the thrill of doing it. We get something out of this, some level of satisfaction for the deed. For me, it’s the adrenaline rush of creation in its purest, rawest form. It’s tangible and right there to shape like putty. Like how the pilots’ minds merge together to operate them big robots in Pacific Rim. It’s such a joyful experience for me when it works that I rarely stick to my own script or even my own mechanics. That is how I like to play as the GM and it’s why I’m emphatic about the GM as another player and not another person at the same table.

Well done, lads. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face.


I agree with Beholdershorde, the GM is playing the game, but is not a Player. Think of the GM as the referees in sports. They are going to interpret the rules and make judgment calls in the grey areas, but are not playing the game per se. GM’s who want to be “Players” risk ending up using NPC’s as Mary Sue’s to steamroll the other people at the table. I have caught myself doing this over the years, especially when I recycle old PC’s as NPC’s with a new group.


I laughed out loud.


I found it interesting the point at the end was basically “run what you want to run, and ask for feedback, and that’s on them,” (which it is, I’ve left games, and had people leave games, and to the best of my knowledge, no hard feelings)(oh, and being stuck in a group, I guess I’m lucky in that our group has morphed and shifted over 25 years, as four of moved to the same city 100 miles from Smallville and we’ve added and lost over that period, with a number of games going simultaneously and different sub-groups in each).

Crap, back to the first sentence. Interesting that, then back to the random encounter, which is Pure Mongrel’s excellent write in including that if you’re running for money, you have to do what the group wants you to do. That was a great letter BTW, wish I had that dude’s chop. Speaking of things we wish we had… what ever happened to @sean’s accents…?


Same! I had to choke my coffee down so as not to spit it on the monitor :rofl:

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BTW, it looks like PureMongrel isn’t on these boards. But if he is, I just found out about this academic article that might be of interest to him; and others considering using RPGs to work with folks not neuro-typical.



I think he did his thesis on the topic @Chrisshorb


Maybe he recently joined, but I’ll tag him any way @Pure_Mongrel. Would be interested in your perspective on that Japanese paper, if you get a chance to review. If not, no big deal.


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G’day @Chrisshorb!

Thanks for tagging me into that article. The findings of this paper are very similar to what we see here at GAMER. While GAMER has grown to include a large number of hobby based programs, the Applied RPG program is the first I created, and is the core Capacity Building program that all other programs are derived from.

While any hobby can be used to engage people with psychosocial disabilities, ASD or ADHD beneficially, no hobby allows the ability to present, explore, examine, test, or practice social interactions, consequence of actions, and critical/creative thinking like RPGs do.

As the paper presents, the hardest thing for the majority of people with ASD is social interaction due to a difficulty in understanding the myriad ways humans communicate and all the “norms” attached to the rituals of interaction. This has nothing to do with intelligence. Their brains just do not connect social cues, facial expressions, body language, emotions and speech patterns in the same way that most people do.

This is a very generalised statement of course, and the reasons for this are not fully understood, but this is a major reason for why people with ASD struggle with socialising, getting work, forming meaningful relationships, etc. Not because they don’t want to, but (usually) there is a lot of trauma around social experiences. Social faux pars, social awkwardness and just being confounded by what the right thing to do is only the tip of the iceberg. The amount of energy used, and the sheer frustration it creates, causes even more problems and impacts.

If you stop and think about how you learned to interact with society, I doubt you could tell me where and when you learned the specific social skills you use every day. Your go to maybe “from my parents”, but I guarantee they only provided some. I would even argue that the vast majority of them came from interacting with your childhood peers and you continued to refine them as your understanding of the world around you grew (and your peer influences changed).

I am willing to bet, everyone reading this has a list of social encounters they “messed up”, learned from and never repeated, over the course of their lives. Imagine if you couldn’t figure out what you did wrong, why someone responded the way they did, or worse, they had a reaction so out of whack with what you were trying to present that it caused a lessen akin to touching a hot stove for the first time?

Now imagine that, because you could not express what you didn’t understand, you never received or sought guidance. You sure as hell won’t test your theories in “the real world” as it is way to painful … so you continue your life isolated (even when with others), anxious and confused every time you have to have a social interaction.

But in an RPG …

You can be introduced to any type of human interaction possible. You can examine the interaction, play with it, test it, practice it and bounce it off peers as many times as you need to. You can test the same social dynamic in a number of different ways and develop an understanding of consequence for each approach. What’s more, because you do this in a gamified environment designed for fun, with defined boundaries and rules, and you do these interactions via an avatar (your PC), no matter what happens, there are no negative reactions or trauma. After all, your PC did "X’ and has to deal with the fall out, not you.

RPG’s provide a unique environment where you are in control (fully engaged), but you are examining the whole process from a third person perspective. If that wasn’t conducive to learning enough, you can measure success, failure and value of outcome against the people you want to connect with the most; peers and friends.

As I stated in the beginning, this paper mirrors what happens at GAMER. I could fill this forum with examples of self-development and the overcoming of hindrances I have witnessed. I don’t teach through RPG’s, I just give guiding nudges and support. The player teaches themselves through self-discovery, practice, peer feedback and evaluating successes and failures. My role is to generate adventures that bring the concepts the participant needs to work on into play in the game. I then use other techniques to help connect in game learning to real world needs.

It is why our motto is “Using imagined worlds to build better realities!”

GAMER stands for Growth, Achievement, Mindfulness, Engagement and Resilience. RPG’s have proven to be the best tool I have found to assist people instill these concepts into their lives.


How do we feel about games where the GM is purposefully antagonistic to the players. In other words, the GM legitimately wins if the players lose. It is unorthodox, but it is a purposeful aspect of some games. Do most of us not like those games, categorize them totally separately, or just feel indifferent?

Do you mean games like Hero Quest and the like?

Nothin’ wrong with those in my book. Whatever the group finds is worth their time.

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I’m still playing HeroQuest. Still a great game for friends.


Yeah, like that.
I don’t know anyone personally who plays games like that, where the GM is given codified restrictions and objectives, so I have no way to gage how popular they are outside of my social circle. I feel like what I hear about them is that they’re liked more for the nostalgia, like with HeroQuest or with the Conan RPG for fans of the franchise.
I guess I just need to buy a copy and try some of them out.

I consider HQ to be board based elementary D&D. An intro.

Consider picking up any of the D&D board games if you’re looking for a similar experience. HQ is pricey for the old version, and you missed the Hasbro crowdfund for the remake which is to be in peoples hands in one year.