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  1. Marbanya's Avatar
    First of all, I do not get paid to GM, nor do I pay for that service as a player. However, I ask you to consider this: people pay master storytellers to entertain them -- Book Clubs, and other organizations pay for engagements with authors all the time. Should a GOOD storyteller who's medium happens to be Role Playing Games, not be afforded the same privileges?

    As I said above, I have never paid a GM to conduct a game though if they were REALLY good, I might consider it.
  2. deer_buster's Avatar
    If you want paid for your authoring/storytelling ability, package it up and sell it to others, IMHO. Good luck.
  3. skevich's Avatar
    I find your tennis analogy way off point to the point I question if you understand what you are paying a GM for. In my case, people pay because I create the adventures and campaigns from the ground up so they are paying me because they are experiencing a story. I view it as akin to being an author, I create the story and plot lines and the players influence the world I have created. As for your hubris comment, it isn't that we think we are all Mathew Mercer or anything close. It is strickly a matter of this is a story I created so why should I give away all the time it took me to develop it?
  4. dulux-oz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by EthanT
    Is it unfair to want others to pitch in for the seven hundred or so dollars that goes into the modules and subscriptions?
    No, of course not - and I mention that above. But I wasn't talking about that in my initial post.
  5. EthanT's Avatar
    Is it unfair to want others to pitch in for the seven hundred or so dollars that goes into the modules and subscriptions?
  6. Frunobulax's Avatar
    Well, unfortunately your points, while I understand and 3even agree with them, aren't valid if you can't FIND anyone to DM at all, or at least anyone *good*. I live in a rural area where the gaming population isn't high enough to support any kind of community or have any choice in GMs. So basically I am forced to use FG if I want to game at all. Nothing wrong with that, really - though I do miss the in-person social aspect you talk about.

    But I have to say that so far (a couple years) my experience with GMs here has been... ranging from "not bad" to "awful", with most pretty average. I haven't found the "perfect" GM yet, though I've met some nice people. This situation really isn't anyone's fault. A really good GM is a rare and valuable thing. it takes a very specific combination of skills - attention to detail, personality, creativity, acting, and especially willingness to sacrifice a lot of time. The only people I blame are the GMs who are terrible, think they are God's Gift to Gaming, and refuse to take any feedback. Luckily, that type is pretty rare.

    I look at it in a pragmatic way. 1) I really enjoy gaming, and I enjoy it much more with a great GM. 2) I haven't found any really GREAT GMs so far, partly because they are rare and partly because you an;t tell that until you play in their campaign for a while, so you can only "try out" a few of them, slowly. 3) I have limited time for gaming. Like most of you, I'm a grownup with a wife and job etc so I can't just spend as many hours as I want gaming. So I want those hours to *count*. To be *fun*. I want interesting and detailed adventures - either a canned one, or a really good self-made one. But let's face it, most homemade campaigns aren't that great unless you have a great GM who spends a heck of lot of time on it making maps etc. And finally 4) I judge my entertainment budget by dollars-per-hour of entertainment. A computer game is great value because even though it costs $60, I will probably get 100 hours of entertainment out of it, so - less than $1/hour. Totally worth it. Going to see a movie, on the opposite end, is a terrible value - roughly $30 for two hours of entertainment. $10/hour, ten times more expensive than a computer game (and you can just rent them for $5 when they are released). So if I pay a GM, say, $20 for a really good 4-hour session, that's $5/hour for a high quality of something I really enjoy. Good value for me. heck, many people spend $5 on a cup of coffee or a hamburger. It's not hard to spend $50 for 1.5 hours at a nice restaurant, and I do that fairly regularly.

    So the cost is small and a very good value to have a really good time. Very worth it for me. I'd be happy to pay, but I just haven't found anyone so far who is SO good that I would pay. If there were a plethora of really awesome GMs out there for free, that would be great. But there isn't. So when you have a low supply and a high demand, you have a market. I actually wish there were an organized market for professional GMs. It doesn't harm anyone who prefers to play free, but it would help people like me with no local community and high standards. I've been gaming since the eraly 80's and had some really *amazingly* good GMs, so maybe I'm just picky. Maybe I got spoiled. But I know I'd be happy to pay for that experience again.
  7. mervhd's Avatar
    I understand what you are saying but I don't think you represent the gaming community as a whole. Some people don't have a group and want an enjoyable experience. Some GMs are tough others are soft whether they are paid or not. That doesn't mean you cannot have a great game under each type of GM even if they are paid. I gather that most people that pay for a GM just want an enjoyable experience. If someone asked me to run a game and said we will pay you for the experience of an amazing game, I would take it. I wouldn't even play with people that would be tempted to bribe me... But that's me. I think you are looking at the most nefarious of the paid GMs as skulking in the shadows taking bribes as if it's an NFL game. When did RPGers become "Purists" or "Hipsters". You can have an immensely enjoyable game under a paid GM... Why couldn't you? I don't always play the game with friends... I have played the game with people I could not stand to be around but that didn't take away from my game experience.
    I have taken it easy on my players before and have fudged a few rolls. Some DMs think this is something that ruins games. I think having a TPK on a random encounter is just stupid especially when it comes down to a few random 20s being rolled and these random goblins score a few crit hits.
    To each there own, though. I would never say you have to accept paid DMs but I don't think you should knock it either. Just because it doesn't fit your mold of friends, fun, or social outlook.
    When looking for a GM experience isn't always key. I know GMs that have been doing it for decades and I think they are terrible GMs because that is not my play style. Others players may love them. Find what works for you and if you find a GM for sale and want to try his/her game give it a shot and if you enjoy it and want to keep paying him/her then I think that is great. It's about storytelling as far as I am concerned.
  8. dulux-oz's Avatar
    No, it doesn't change my mind.

    I have nothing against Players "chipping in" to help defray the costs, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the inherent "conflict of interest" and increased potential for for corruption ie the referee being paid by one of the team of players (the only one) and the resulting potential fo the GM/referee to "go easy" on the players *because* if he doesn't then the players (ie the money source) may not come back. It's the same problem with paid universities - there is the incentive to pass the student *because* the student has paid a lot of money.

    That's just one reason, there are many others (some of which are outlined in the original Blog Entry).

    But if people want to do it then that's up to them - I've outlined why I don't favour the practice, and its a position I've come to after many long hours of careful consideration over many years.
  9. Flyndad123's Avatar
    Would you feel the same if it were to be treated like the American FAA does with Private Pilots? If you are a private pilot you may "charge" someone that is riding with you but only an amount that would be equal to the passengers share of the COST of that flight. So,.. It costs a Private Pilot with a small plane $200 in fuel and expense to fly from A to B. There is the pilot and 1 passenger on board. That pilot can legally receive $100 from the passenger in order to offset the cost of the flight. Thoughts?

    I see nothing wrong with charging if someone is willing to pay. Being a GM can incur a rather large expenditure. I know I have spent nearly $1000 getting my new group up and running for the new WFRP 4e. With puzzles, metal coins, printer ink, a nice tv and stand for images, new lighting for the game table, etc, etc,.. I would love to be reimbursed at least a portion of these expense as the entire reason for the expense was for everybody to benefit,.. What is wrong with that? I don't get it.
  10. lorenzo110's Avatar
    Good evening Dulux-oz,

    Yes, Dictatorship has always had a negative connotation to it, historically speaking. And probably more so now a days considering the current political climate in the world. I can see how it could be a subjective term to some depending on life experience and location in the world. Unfortunately, I myself would have to admit I have a negative bias toward the word. Have not met, nor ever known a Benevolent Dictator in my life. The Dictators I have known of have always been "Butt Holes". Perhaps in the world there may be some benevolent ones out there, but I have yet to meet one. I guess one would have to ponder if they were slave to a Dictator would they consider their master Benevolent, or Evil. If the Dictator is kind but would kill them if they tried to escape their bonds then how truly benevolent are they? I guess it is all a matter of perspective. What is one mans treasure can be another mans garbage. Maybe using the word God instead of Dictator. It leaves a lot of gray area to work with. To me I would consider a DM an unseen Deity. I know there are probably a lot of semantic points to either or, but as I have said before I have yet to meet or know of a benevolent dictator. A benevolent God, now that is something I can totally see. My apologies again I am going off on a rant. Wish everyone a good day and night. Lore
  11. dulux-oz's Avatar
    An interesting discussion - and there's no need to apologise just because you disagree with someone (me ) @lorenzo.

    However, I seem to be detecting a pattern among all those who have disagreed with my basic premise, and that pattern is that those people are NOT (or at least, seem to me to not be) using the correct definition of "Dictatorship" in their arguments, but instead are using the "popular definition" of the term. Let me explain:

    The most common reaction people have when hearing the term "Dictatorship" is to immediately call to mind the most common examples of Dictators from history - Hitler, Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Starlin, etc. While these individuals were certainly Dictators, they are not the only examples and, I would argue, are certainly not what would be termed "Benevolent Dictators". But because these individuals are the ones most often called to mind the term "Dictator" has taken on a negative connotation. However, "Dictator" does not equate to "Tyrant", even though it is perfectly reasonable to classify the aforementioned individuals as Tyrants.

    In other words, people are seeing the term "Dictator" and are finding it distasteful due to its association with some of recent history's (arguable) most evil men - but are missing the true meaning of the term.

    If you go back and use the term "Dictator" in its original, non-populous definition (as per the reference link I provided in the original post), then you'll discover that, yes, while the term has been labeled with a "negative" tone, it also encompass a more "positive" or "lighter" side. To take other historical figures: the early Roman Republic was run by "Dictators".

    Yes, we are arguing definitions and terms - but this is fundamental to the base argument because unless we all understand the definition of the terms being used then we end up arguing across each other instead of for or against the original proposition - and again, this is why I included reference links in the original post.

    Finally, let me restate something that I've said before on numerous occasions: the "best" type of GM's are Benevolent Dictators.

    Updated April 3rd, 2018 at 04:29 by dulux-oz
  12. lorenzo110's Avatar
    Sorry for the misspelling I was in a rush for a dinner date. Lore
  13. lorenzo110's Avatar
    I apologize if my perspective may be in disagreement to your point. It is simply my own opinion, as I see you having your own as well. I tend to see D&D as a co op story telling role playing game. I think it would be a great disservice to generalize each game because none are ever run the same, nor should they be. The event is defined by what every person brings to it and adds to it as well. I would never consider "Critical Role", "Missclicks" or any highly viewed streamed game that I have observed a dictatorship. All portions of the group rely heavily upon each other to function as a cohesive story telling unit. They set the story on its path, while the GM provides the breathable world their characters live in. Now we must remember that the rules to D&D are malleable and flexible. A DM can use, discard, or add what he views are the rules that best fit his story or Game. He becomes the eyes to which his players view their world. Depending on how the characters choose to see this world and interact with it is dependent upon what traits and personality defines their character. If they chose to role play an aggressive character then their perspective may be skewed as such in how they interpret the way they live and interact in this world.

    A DM on the other hand is more an arbitrator or judge. He gives free reign to his players to explore and flush out the tale these players choose to take. It is the dice that define the progression of a story and its outcome. The times that I have seen "Dictatorships" occur in some games are when either players are a bad fit, or a DM is a bad fit. That's why session Zero is important to have, and I would even encourage contact before this as well. Think of it as a job interview. You want to surround yourself with the best fit of people who are capable of working together to attain a shared goal. Let the group first get to know each other and share a bit of their personality with one another. Allow them to establish a camaraderie and fellowship with one another. That way when and if disagreements occur they do not become personal or abrasive toward one another. This is what a DM should always strive for in his collecting of a group. In the end he simply referees the rules and content of the world.

    As I said I tend to see failure in this aspect when the people involved provide little to no input or if a DM does not put any effort at all into providing a livable environment to the players. It becomes tedious, monotonous, and boring to participate and be in such a setting. Now again this is all dependent upon the type of play one is setting up. If it is simply a hack and slash with no imagination involved then those participating in it should expect no less. If they simply want to game, instead of RPG and it has been established beforehand that is what is expected then go for it. But if they are expecting an immersive world building legendary game then it is incumbent on all involved to work toward that goal. But they must first know each other, know the game they want, and be willing to provide the time and effort to achieve this end. Dictators tend to happen, and again only my opinion, in badly run games, or games that do not first establish their goals and rules beforehand. D&D should never lead to fights or personal disagreements that end a session, or ruin an experience for all involved. No one should ever leave the table pissed off at another player for something that happens in game. There should never be dictators telling other players how to play D&D. It's a co op story telling game that uses one's imagination to bring a world to life, for gods sake. But again this is just my perspective and opinion, and I know others will see it different, and that is totally fine by me.
  14. dulux-oz's Avatar
    An interesting question - I suspect that the VTT scene neither enhances nor diminishes the over-all power dynamics - true, the pool of GMs is much larger for players to "move to", but in counter-point the pool of players that a given player needs to "compete" against for those GMs (ie a slot in a GM's game) is also much larger.

    As for "bastard" GM's, well, as I said, the "best" type of GM's are Benevolent Dictators
  15. Verisimilitude's Avatar
    Delux-Oz - what's your view on the impact of VTTs on the DM/player dynamic? Do VTTs further enhance the power balance in favour of the DM or does the ability of players to seek out another DM on a different VTT (hopefully in a suitable time zone) weaken it? From my cursory glance of the FG forums I would presume the former rather than the latter - "If You Build It Will They Come" seems to reflect the continued DM dominance?

    A related question is the consequence of this imbalance - do some some DMs abuse it? I expect they generally don't (or can't) as most (all?) players will rather not play at all than put up with an over bearing DM. And I guess this observation points to the principal factor (already mentioned) limiting the power of DMs - ultimately they are not able to force players to stick with their campaigns and so this has a moderating influence.

    I agree, RPG-gaming groups are dictatorships, but the power of the dictator is greatly tempered by the need to provide an enjoyable gaming experience for those who have voluntarily agreed to submit to the dictator's regime. Those volunteers can rescind their agreement to submit at any time. Interesting discussion - many thanks.
  16. dulux-oz's Avatar
    Thankyou all for the comments.

    While I tend to agree with the comments, I think that a couple of you have missed a vital point in my original post (which is OK, because it wasn't explicit, but only implied) - not all Dictatorships are "Fascist", and not all Dictatorships are "tyrannical"- I suspect people are making that mistake (if they are actually making that mistake) because the "prime" example(s) we have from history are fascist/tyrannical. BUT if we use the term "Dictator" in its proper, formal sense and not in its "knee-jerk, common, everyday" sense (hence the Wikipedia links/references) then I stand by my original post - ESPECIALLY as I was arguing from a "Benevolent Dictator" point-of-view.

    So, while I agree with the commenters on the ability to apply other "governance"-style systems to RPGing, my considered opinion remains the same - that, fundamentally, RPG-gaming groups are Dictatorships and, hopefully, Benevolent ones.

  17. GavinRuneblade's Avatar
    I think groups are feudalist not fascist and this is relevant because you missed a critical component of the power disparity : the financial power disparity. In most groups the DM owns the books.

    Most players cannot simply cross the line over to becoming a DM because the books are too expensive. I have loaned my stuff to players who wanted to give it a try, and I have rotated a group where players each took turns running a one-off adventure. But at the end of the day not only am I the only reliable DM in our group, if I didn't loan the books the players would have to shell out money to buy them, and several simply cannot afford to buy a whole library. Being a player only costs the price of a player's guide and printing a character sheet. Many groups only have one or two players guides that get shared so one can absolutely play for free. As a DM? players guide, dm's guide, monsters, setting, adventures, maps, miniatures, etc. Even here online in fantasy grounds look at the price difference between a DM's Ultimate license and a player's license.

    Where, in physical gaming groups, do the games meet? Sometimes at a game shop but usually in the DM's house. Players come to the DM the DM doesn't often travel to the players. The exception is when someone has a really nice house or more privacy or whatever.

    Dictators control but don't own. Monarchs both control and own. Thus I posit that gaming is a feudal power structure. Indeed, using my earlier example, how is my allowing some players to be temporary DMs any different from naming a baron or count?

    The other way that I think feudalism fits better than fascism is that dictators often rule by force, but there was the concept in feudalism of the relationship between the ruler and the lands/people where the health of one was intimately linked to the other. The Arthurian legend of Camelot falling to plague and destruction as Arthur got sick, hence the quest for the grail, is the prime example. But it came up in the Song of Roland and in philosophy and in the use of the royal "we", etc. In this way monarchs throughout history have felt responsibility towards their people and their lands but dictators usually just feel entitled to benefit at their people's expense. Benevolent dictators less so, I do agree, however there is the term "enlightened monarch" that I still think is a better fit than benevolent dictator.
  18. LordEntrails's Avatar
    As always, well thought out and written. The only aspect that I you didn't address is the social pressure that can influence the dynamics. Such pressures don't alter the underlying power dynamics, but it does influence them.
  19. Xydonus's Avatar
    Interesting topic for a blog, and this is something that I discussed before in a podcast. I would concur somewhat although I wouldn't call it a dictatorship, not sure that's a label that should be applied to an rpg gaming group but it is somewhat accurate.

    I think any GM who runs his group in a tyrannical negative fashion is just on course for a self-destructive path and it won't be long before the group just falls apart. And then it's a matter of time, resources and energy spent in building up a new group, but if a GM can't get out of bad habits then the cycle repeats. Because of this, and because of the risk of losing players, the GM has more to lose. Sure, the GM has more power at the end of the day, but they have the most to lose because they have invested the most in a game/group.

    In my case, I'm running and still running a linked campaign (over 5 books) that is in its fourth year. I cannot imagine all that time, investment and work going down the toilet. The players are invested as well, but not on the same level as the GM. So ultimately, the GM has the most to lose by running what you might call a non-benevolent dictatorship. If it happened to me, sure I could go and build up a new group and so on, but by god would I be absolutely disheartened if I had to do that. So the GM could find themselves held hostage at that notion, and having it dictate how they GM.

    The same goes for players as well. Any disruptive players in a group are essentially inviting a good kick from the GM. A disruptive player for whatever reason can potentially destroy a group if not dealt with. Usually its good to try and hash it out first, but sometimes the only way to solve a problem is to remove the disruption. That in itself is where the power dynamics come into play, in that a GM can essentially do that without destroying the group in most cases.

    And for a player, finding a new group, a new gm is much easier than the GM having to work in new replacements or build up a new group. I do believe such a term (dictatorship) being benevolent or not, is probably born out of frustration from the player side. And what I mean by that is that players who have left or been forced to leave groups by a GM will probably look back on the GM with a negative label applied - hence, the idea that the GM is a dictator of sorts. But the old saying... if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Sure, GM's call the final shots. Always have. It is the nature of the game. But I do think it might be an error to apply that label to one and all.

    I would argue in long-term settled groups with players who are regulars, the power dynamic can shift into the players hands simply for the fact that the GM would not want to lose a long-term investment and may even placate in some places. In these cases the GM is somewhat submissive to the players.

    So personally, I'd imagine the power dynamic shifting in some cases. It really depends on the group at the end of the day.

    And I like to think of the GM as the final arbitrator rather than a 'dictator' because player input is valuable and nearly always necessary to a good working group.
  20. LindseyFan's Avatar
    Interesting premise and well researched!
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