Monday, February 13, 2012

A GM's Game -vs- A Player's Game

On the other hand ...

I've been thinking all weekend about my feelings and passion in my last post. I also wondered about a sniggling little detail I seem to have overlooked. Allow me to elaborate.

I am the GM. I have always been the GM. Since I introduced my friends to the hobby it fell to me to GM, and thus I did, for years. I mean I played occasionally, with emphasis on "occasion".

And this got me to thinking. I have been taking things from my perspective all this time. And that perspective is decidedly GM oriented. What was it even like to be a player? Could I even say I knew? I mean I have never even played as a PC in Pathfinder. The last game I played in was 4e--for two sessions. Before that, it was a 2e game about four years ago for about a month or two. Before that, not since 1991!

And it began to sniggle away at me that I was looking for a game I wanted to GM, not necessarily that my players wanted to play in. When I asked why my plaeyrs like Pathfinder they always talked about the player options. They love options, feats, multiclassing, skills, ability increases, class add-ons, prestige classes, lots of races, new races, classes classes and more classes--with new and nifty stuff preferably.

I always thought this was a bit of a pain. But could I really blame them? I mean I got to play with all of the monsters in the Bestiaries, all of the magic items, make up new and interesting plots, traps, challenges, settings, adventures, etc. etc. I got to play with lots of toys, and it was only natural that they wanted lots of toys too.

If I am in control of making everything up, I still get a lot to play with, but what do they get? 4 classes and 4 races. The same every time, except for player background they might add in. The only new stuff they get is what I choose to create or approve that they create. And that only as it is carefully doled out to them.

So I began to wonder if I was looking for a GM oriented game and my players wanted a player oriented game. Rules lite, flexible and fast systems cater to GM creativity, not player options. Now, one might be tempted to say players can do anything they like in such a syste4m, but we all know that isn't true. Who gets to decide if it happens or not, or how it does happen? The GM of course. Unless the player knows ahead of time what rules and mechanics govern the things he might want to do, and can plan and act accordingly. Then the GM has relegated some of his power and control to the rules, but the rules extend that power and control to the player.

And I can't help but ask if that is a bad thing? Meta-Power-Parity should be good for everyone concerned and certainly involves the player more in the game than in games where the GM controls all of creation and most if not all of the rules.

Hmmmm .... Not sure exactly what to make of this, but it certainly deserves more thought. More later if I can come up with any answers.


Ozreth said...

Man, this is something I've been thinking about nonstop lately and have been meaning to post about it. Im in the exact same boat as far as always DMing goes. I prerfer it and am always thinking about the game I would love to DM. But my players always seem to be happy with options whether they are races, feats, skills whatever. And why shouldn't they?

When running 3e I've found a happy medium. Instead of using skill points I use the level based skill system from Unearthed Arcana:

No skill points
Class Skill Check is d20+level+modifier
Non Class Skill Check is d20+modifier

That way we aren't dealing with silly skill builds and points but they still get feats (which I've always narrowed down).

I also use a slowed down xp progression and a few other small things that give my game an old school vibe while still presenting the players with lots of options and toys :)

Chris said...

Yeah, that's kind of where I was Ozreth. I had started gaming Fourthcore style with Pathfinder--I called it "Pathcore"; but was beginning to find some PF rules that simply didn't quite fit with the way I wanted to GM.

PF/3.5 hits a fairly happy medium for me too actually. I really prefer a highly flexible game, more rules lite in nature, but my players really crave those options. I mean yeah, you shouldn't be required to GM something or in a way you hate--but at the same time players shouldn't be forced to play in a game they hate either.

I'm really thinking about where I can be true to myself and still draw players to my table with the kind of game I'm playing. As the PF core rules state, the rules are all optional really--you custom tailor them to your game. So I've been contemplating various compromises between the players and myself.

And I like your ideas of using the UA skill system--you mean like nonweapon proficiencies, right?

Ozreth said...

It's kind of like Non-Weapon Proficiencies. Level based skill checks are on page 80 of Unearthed Arcana (3.5).

For example, a Fighters Class Skills are: Climb (str), Craft (int), Handle Animal (cha), Intimidate (cha), Jump (str), Ride (dex), and Swim (dex).

SO, if a fighter wants to Jump across a large crevice in a cave he will roll a d20 and add the modifier affiliated with the jump skill (str), and his level.

If he were trying to Decipher Script, a Wizard Skill, he would simply roll a d20 and add the modifier affiliated with Decipher script, which is int. He wouldn't add his level.

So in the end you simply have your classes skills written on your character sheet. If you are attempting one of those you know to add your level to your roll, otherwise you dont.

Also, have you looked into Castles & Crusades? When you add the Castle Keepers Guide to the core book it might just fit exactly the level of complexity you are looking for.

Alexander Osias said...

Maybe, as a peace offering, you should volunteer to occasionally play in the games of these younger gamers.

The hobby has all types, and it may give you more insight into the young GM minds if you play and ask questions while treated their DMs the way you expect to be treated?

Chris said...

@ Ozreth: Oh yeah! UA from 3.5--that's kind of the ida of the C&C seige engine. Good stuff that. It gives PCs access to skill kind of abilities but has a definite mechanic associated with it.

And hello Alexander! Long time no read. Good to know you are still stopping by. Actually you beat me to the punch :) That is exactly what I did--read my latest entry for deets.

D&D 5e Official Alternate Classes

The Classic 4: Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User and Thief This started with one of my players wanting to play the new Blood Hunter class. I...