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Monthly Archives: June 2011


The Trollgod talks about the Way Things Are Meant to Be

Some question has come up about what I might have meant when I say the GM is
God. It’s a common principle in all role-playing, so let’s talk about it a
bit.

Some GMs like a free form game. They set up a situation and let the
players do whatever they can with it. I’m like that most of the time.

Other GMs have a story that needs to be told. The characters become
actors in that one story, and have very little freedom. Certain things have to
be done or the story doesn’t get told.

In the first case you don’t have
to mess with the rules much at all. The only thing that can trip you up is the
unspoken/unwritten rules. If the player misses a saving roll and dies, let him.
If he takes on a monster that’s way too tough for him and dies, too bad. The
players have a responsibility to make good decisions and have a good game.

In the second case the story is paramount. If a player gets himself
killed, and the story needs that character, then the god GM can fudge the
results. What should have been a killing blow to the head turns into a glancing
blow that only knocks the character down. Unconscious and left for dead, the
character lies there and takes no harm while the fight moves on. This is good
storytelling. It can make for a great game. It ignores the fact that the GM
threw the game rules out the window in this one case. A skillful GM would never
even let the players know what he had done. After all, it is the GM who narrates
the action, and if he narrated a knockout instead of a kill, then that’s what
happened. That is what I mean when I say the GM is God.

Another
example–could happen in my kind of game. The party is dying, down to its last
few hit points and surrounded by Uruks. You know that the way the dice are
rolling, they will die on the next combat turn. So, suddenly the GM says, “You
hear a loud whistling noise. The Uruks look startled. They turn and run for
their lives, completely ignoring the party. Some of them even drop their
weapons. The party looks around in astonishment. What the heck was that? They
may never find out, but they are alive, and not dead. The game can continue. Did
I break any rules there? No. But the GM played God and saved everyone. The game
continues, with the players wondering what saved them. It may even turn into a
plot hook for later.

The GM has a responsibility to his players–he’s
not there to either pamper or torture them. He’s there to provide a good, fun,
challenging game. Show off the game world. Display your GM creativity. Make
people laugh! Believe me, it takes godlike powers to do all that, so . . . the
GM is God.

T & T can be played mechanically, obeying every “rule”,
but such a game has no “heart”. I want you all to invest your own creativity in
play and in game/world design. Trollworld is my world. You’re welcome to play
there, but you don’t have to. Other worlds may work a bit differently–voila!
House Rules!

You will forgive me if I spend most of my time and effort
working on my own world. When I go play on Beanworld, or Glorantha, or Middle
Earth, it’s different, and I play by the local rules. You should, too, and if
you don’t care for the local rules, don’t bitch about it. Just don’t go back.
I’m a big believer in voting with your feet. The object is to enjoy your gaming,
not to make others unhappy.

Go forth and do great things!”