Wearing the GM hat

I finally put on my robe and wizard hat — I mean, my robe and GM hat.

I’ve been table-top roleplaying for about a year and half now, and I’m just now starting my first campaign.

WO — who’s run a few games since arriving in Charlotte — found himself desperate to play in a good game. Those are damned hard to find here in Charlotte. They were — to my surprise, in reflection — a dime a dozen at Rose.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself longing for my old Palladium and D & D companions. (My visit to an old GM’s blog prompted this post, in fact.)

I mean, I did post about the “nigga knife” incident, right? Right.

So I said, “Sure! I’ll run you a game!” He already GMs a game with me in which I play the five player characters. I can do the same for him.

I limited him to 4 characters and let him go wild. He made great characters, of course. Very fun.

But being in the GM seat is odd. I don’t quite know what I’m doing yet, but I will say that think I’ll always be very picky about who I have in my games. I’ve played with folks here in Charlotte who go out of their way to fuck up a GM’s plans. Not just doing creative stuff — which is fine and I’d better be prepared for — but doing stuff that’s completely out of character, deliberately playing to the GM’s weaknesses with malicious intent, etc.

I think there’s a time and place for that sort of play, but by and large, to have a fun, long-term campaign, there is a social contract between the GM and the players. It’s probably implicit, but it’s there anyway. I’ve always been mindful of that contract as a player. It might be that you try to trip up the GM, but usually it’s more cooperative.

I’m especially interested in those people who don’t understand or care about that contract. I tend to think that a lack of understanding of that is a demonstration of a weak theory of mind — the person can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes enough to really empathize with other peoples’ annoyance or dislike of his/her behavior. They don’t understand why isn’t not a problem. Or, they can’t put themselves in another person’s shoes enough to role-play consistently, possibly resulting in similar behavior.

For those that don’t care… Well, there may be some reformed assholes — I mean, brave counterculturals who regularly exclaim, “Fuck the man!” — who can chime in here, but I wonder if that sort of mindset (which often seems to extend to other facets of their lives) isn’t indicative in some way of bona fide psychopathy. I don’t mean in-game silliness here, or having cartoonish qualities in a character, or anything so simple or harmless. I mean that deep, ingrained, destructive thinking process that leads people to work very damned hard to destroy the fun — and more importantly, the carefully, group-constructed story — around them.

Some people seem to like to break shit, no matter whose it is or what the consequences.

I want to know what’s going on those folks’ minds. What self-justification/reasoning/unreasoning makes that cool or fun?


  • WO

    Whenever I’ve noticed this kind of behavior (that I can recall right now), it’s been in response to a perceived slight against the player. The player thinks that the GM is being a bad GM, so he retaliates by being a bad player. When the holes in the backdrop show, and the illusion of the game world is broken, some people have the impulse to tug and pull it down the rest of the way.

    I think a lot of it also comes from the player not getting what they want out of a game. Just like how a cat left alone will scratch shit up, a player looking for a certain experience and not getting it will seek out that experience in another way.

    If I want to be an invincible swordsman, but I have a slight weakness against my computer getting hacked, I’m going to magnify that weakness. I want the experience of being invincible, damnit, so I’m going to try and min-max my computer hardware, even if the simpler and probably better solution is just to turn the computer off, since a swordsman doesn’t really need the computer anyway. I’m seeking out that “min-maxing leading to invulnerability” experience outside of the GM’s limits because it feels like I didn’t get it inside of the GM’s limits.

  • Lissa

    To the first scenario: But what self-dialogue allows the player to go ahead and tug? I mean, I sometimes feel mischievous and want to poke at holes, but I know that the end result will be an overall weakening of the game. Why is that a good thing to the player, since they’ll be sticking around to frown at the remnants like everyone else?

    As to the second scenario: *sigh* Fuck Eric’s bullshit. I wasn’t even thinking of our Shadowrun game when I posted this. Again, though, why not just leave if the experience isn’t to your liking? Especially if, like Eric, you think good games are easy to find in Charlotte. Seek out that invincible swordsman in someone else’s game, dammit. Shit, and since the character’s composition matter considerably more than any role-playing that’s happening, why not leave the game and spend your time just making the character? You’ll never get to use it in either scenario, and you can save a lot of people quite a bit of annoyance.

    Is he an example of not understanding, or not caring?