Blog Comments

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. LindseyFan's Avatar
    Interesting premise and well researched!
  9. amdawursk's Avatar
    I argue that paying a GM is just the natural progression of any service. Rpgs are becgoming more popular but people like to play, they don't like the pressure of having to build the world, build the npc's, build the adventure and plan out the time. In rough estimate one hour for a players game time is about 4 to 5 hours of just prep for the GM. On top of that, the GM has to work a regular job to survive in general, pay bills, get food, etc. So they have to actively set aside time to plan this out, sometimes on a biweekly basis or more. Gms are in incredible high demand I could post on one of these forums and get 7 players in a few days at most. But if you're a player finding a GM is very difficult.
    Further, a lot of gms are lazy (not the majority). Everyone has some sort of bad GM story where the GM railroads players cause they gate them "going off script", or refuse to adjust encounters to the party's skill level, either up or down, to keep it a fair challenge. Or just lose interest. Paid games would allow gms with the passion to focus all their attention on improving their craft to make it worth the time. And the market will keep quality in check, as more gms start to build businesses around gaming, the market will become competitive. I can understand why many people are against paid gms, but I do not agree that it is the same prostitution. If we wanted to stick to our principles, all services sold for entertainment is the same as prostitution. It is no more prostitution than play actors, than authors than game designers. The world operates on trade. You want me to do something for you, you need to do something for me. You want someone to type out spreadsheets, I'll do it if you pay me. You want read the book I spent 3 years working on, you can if you pay me. You want me to spend 20 hours building an adventure for you to derail for your entertainment, I'll do it if you pay me.
    No, just getting paid doesn't make you good at your hobby, but it is an incentive to improve your craft. I'm currently working on my drawing hobby so I can draw out my npc's and characters for my games, and if I get good enough, I'm going to offer to do commissions for other gamers who want them.
    The one biggest benefit of paid GMs verses unpaid, is control over players who join. The pay wall creates a filter and the gms price determines the guard of the filter. A GM who charges a 20 dollar game per player will have a higher amount of players interested over the GM who charges 50 dollars. I know people who would pay 50 dollars for a 6 hour session with a reputable GM. I know people who would pay 20 bucks just have someone run a game, I've been offered money to GM.
    The ultimate fact is, as long as rpgs become more and more popular, paid gms will be unavoidable. Not everyone can run a game, not everyone wants to run a game, so to help control supply and demand, pay walls will become more and more common. If your not willing to pay, it's going to be harder to find a GM than if you are willing to pay. It's not going to be a super well paying career path like any subjective based service, but it will be like YouTube, some people will do it for fun, some will be able to make a small amount of money, some people will make a reasonable living, and some people will thrive and make a fortune.
    My last point of contention is your advice on, "if you can't find a game, run one yourself..." If you apply the prostitution analogy to it, it breaks that analogy, if you can't find a prostitute for free, become one yourself. GMing most of the time now a days isn't just amongst friends, it's with random people, I get 3 new players every month on average for adventures league and after a while other players drop off. I've made friends yes, but most of the time it's closer to a "one night stand" relationship than "normal" relationship. I know you mean well so this isn't meant to seem over aggressive, but I feel it's kinda insulting to equate paid GMs to prostitution cause the further extension from that is we're a bunch of dumb prostitutes cause we offer our services for free when we could be getting paid for it.
  10. BobTheMercenary's Avatar
    I need to find one of these paid games. Im tired of not having a game to play in. At least if the GM is paid he'll be there.
  11. Saladin's Avatar
    Of course ó thatís why I pirate modules and software, and sneak in to concerts. Who do these greedy Capitalists think they are? Their time and creative abilities arenít worth anything.
  12. wmsmitty's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails
    Interesting article I just ran across; https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/...-games-w479506

    It's from April 2017, so not new, but new to me.
    I saw this a while back. I even checked out their channels. They're knowledgeable guys and know the game quite well; but nothing out of the ordinary. In my mind anyway. Their approach and content isn't anything that I haven't already done as a GM. ****, I've been GMing since 1988.

    But again, I don't fault them for making money on what they love to do and I don't fault the players that pay them. Basically, Youtube enabled them to do this. If there was no Youtube, these guys wouldn't be getting paid. They took advantage of an online medium early on and are now profiting from it.
  13. mervhd's Avatar
    A lot of good thoughts here. I for one am not apposed to pay to play games but I can see how people would feel like it cheapens the experience. With that said I can see how it can bring some stability to flaky games. Nothing more annoying than a player or DM flake out at the last minute... online or in person.
  14. dulux-oz's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by mlesnews
    As I'm just getting back into RPG after 40 years, I found that your advice is spot on to what is normally referred 'Need before Greed' in most modern MMORPGs. Breaking this down further with dice rolls, buy-in and buy-back is geniusly simple way to resolve looting rights. Sage advice sir, thanks!

    You're welcome
  15. mlesnews's Avatar
    As I'm just getting back into RPG after 40 years, I found that your advice is spot on to what is normally referred 'Need before Greed' in most modern MMORPGs. Breaking this down further with dice rolls, buy-in and buy-back is geniusly simple way to resolve looting rights. Sage advice sir, thanks!
  16. LordEntrails's Avatar
    Interesting article I just ran across; https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/...-games-w479506

    It's from April 2017, so not new, but new to me.
  17. Felix4099's Avatar
    People spend entirely too much time talking about why they don't like this or that. It's not illegal. If you don't believe in paying for a DM, then don't. Go do something you enjoy.
  18. mbabbs's Avatar
    Doesn't bother me - if someone wants to make some money out of professional GM'ing and others want to pay for it then great. Got no problem with that.
  19. wmsmitty's Avatar
    Free market enterprise. If players are willing to pay a GM money to run a game; kudos to the GM. Live and let live...what's the harm? If you don't believe in paying for the service of a GM, don't. If you are a player who is open to paying a GM to run a game, then who are we to judge? If the players are finding value for the experience of paying a GM for a game, then good for them. Personally, I would never pay a GM to play an RPG; but let's flip the coin. How many of us have paid to play RPG's at GenCon? You're paying to play a game there. So what is the difference? The experience of attending a convention?

    DM's spend a lot of time prepping their worlds, adventures, buying modules, miniatures and spending money on all sorts of gaming accessories to provide a great gaming experience. All players do, is show up with their character, PHB and maybe a miniature to represent their character and play. The opinion of the poster is a valid one and one I partially share; but it is an opinion and I myself am not one to judge the success or failure of players paying a GM to render a gaming experience. If money can be had as a paid GM, then good for that person. I wish them continued success; it just won't be me that will be contributing to their success.
  20. Lunalight's Avatar
    I think I understand the points you are making. Please correct me if these are unfair reductions.

    1. Roleplaying games are an activity to be conducted amongst friends. Paying people to be a friend is problematic. Therefore, paying for your roleplaying games is problematic.
    2. Paying for someone to operate your game misaligns their incentives, giving you an inferior experience.
    3. You are getting ripped off because the money you spend does not result in a better experience.
    4. You are better off searching longer for a free game/making a game yourself than paying for a readily available game.

    If I have this correct, then I have a few counterpoints.

    Addressing point 1, I don't think that roleplaying games are conducted with friends in the traditional sense of the term. Especially online, people who play games with each other have very little if any commitments to each other, and can often be flakey. I think we are united by a common hobby, but that doesn't make me friends any more than going to a convention makes me friends with everyone who attends. Roleplaying games are an opportunity for friendships to foster for sure, but there is something inherently attractive about people being committed to the game for reasons that you can control.

    As for point 2, I agree that definitely can be the case. When paying for games, the expectations should be made very clear what sort of experience will be delivered. If a player actively seeks out an easy mode and is willing to pay for that experience, I don't mind them cheapening their own experience, but the problems stem from the group nature of games. If some players seek a challenge and others want easy mode, then the GM cannot deliver one experience without compromising the other.

    For point 3, you are half right. You are correct in saying that there are amazing GMs who do not charge the players for the experience and that having to pay for an experience doesn't mean that it is worth money. However, I think it is weird to say that GMs need to be good at being GMs to justify charging for their games. It doesn't have anything to do with quality, but instead availability. Maybe I want to spend a few extra hours working on making my campaign a more enjoyable and compelling experience, but I could also spend that time relaxing or working more hours. Undoubtedly the most dedicated to the game will accept the sacrifice of their relaxation or opportunities for additional income, but if you just wanted more people to expend such effort, paying them is an efficient way to create that result. More people are willing to create quality experiences for money than those who are eager to do so for free. There is excellent and unique value in a GM who is willing to spend their time and resources towards creating a fantastic experience for their players, but there are just not enough of them to sustain all the players looking for a high-quality game.

    Lastly, on point 4, I think that while that is a valid subjective opinion, I can't say it will exist as commonly as you might want it to. For many people, roleplaying games are about having fun, and not having to deal with real-world problems. If I can pay money to make GMs and players adjust their schedules to fit mine, that is an enticing proposition. GMing, while able to be done by a 12-year-old, is something which involves a lot of management. If you don't find the act of GMing entertaining, then you will probably try to find someone who does. Failing that, it is usually easy to find people who enjoy being paid money in exchange for services.

    As an afterthought, I wanted to address your comparison of love-making to paying a prostitute. I admit, when you pay someone to GM for you, that makes it hard for them ever to become your friend. The power that you hold over them makes that prospect challenging. It could be the case that the pinnacle of the roleplaying experience could be lost through paying for your GM. But, the accessibility of the pinnacle of the roleplaying experience and that of finding a loving partner are significantly different. Most people have an intrinsic desire to be loved and to love. Few have the desire to be a quality GM for the sake of it. If it means that more people can play games of good quality, then the existence of paid games seems to be a positive force towards achieving that goal.
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