I'm no expert on the subject but I have participated on numerous boards for our favorite hobby and eventually someone always drops the "Bad GM Bomb"in a thread.
Is this ever really a legitimate criticism? I'm not interested in the subject so much as a polemic on being PC or even kind on bulletin boards -- although those things are desirable in any polite discussion - rather, I'm interested in the intellectual argument itself.
Is there such a thing as a Bad GM -- or a good one for that matter?
Insert witty line here
There are unexperienced GM's, GM's with limited creativity, and GM's with personality quirks (trying too hard to be a player's friend, on power trips, out to kill the characters, etc) but as long as the GM is honestly trying to have fun, there is no "bad GM".
There are GM's that are truly great and when players go from them to a new or limited GM, they can get let down.
So what makes a truely great GM in your opinion?
See, I'm going to have to disagree. I think there are truly Bad GMs out there. A GM can be trying hard to really make sure that everyone is having fun, that the story goes smoothly, and that in the end everything works out. However, some people just do not have the knowledge, charisma, creativity, leadership and thick skin to be a GM. No matter how hard they try, or how much heart they have, being a GM just was not in the cards for them, and they really are a Bad GM.
Now, defining a Good GM is always going to change based on the players. A Good GM, in my opinion, has to be able to, first and foremost, select the right players. I know it is hard to do, but if a GM assembles a player base that just cannot enjoy each-other's company, the game is doomed to failure (failure being another generically undefinable term). However, collecting the right player base sets the entire campaign on a positive path, and makes for future conflicts to be more readily resolved.
From there, I think a Good GM is one who is able to deliver the content that players are asking for in a way that is mutually entertaining for all involved (including the GM). Beyond that generic definition, I feel that defining a Good or Bad GM comes from each specific player base, each specific game, and each specific session. Even having the same players and the same game, a GM needs to be a different person for every session, based on the current moods of the players and the direction of the story.
but that's just my two cents.
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IMO, there are good GM's and bad GM's but to me it seems very subjective. If the group a GM is with is having fun more often than not, then *for that group* that is a good GM. I've gone to groups after being told "this guy is a great GM" and found the GM to be (for me) really poor. So, for me, that particular case wouldn't be a good GM.
I would say that I believe GM'ing is a *trained skill* - in other words, anyone could do it (assuming they were highly motivated to do it - if they are not highly motivated to, forget it - they won't put in the work needed). They just have to have a certain amount of training. For people without a lot of real life experience, story telling gifts, etc that training will be significantly more. It is not something like athletics where - motivated as I am - I am not going to play for the NFL.
Just a loose and fast rant,
A good GM adapts his game to his players. He is willing to ask questions about his game like: "What do you want from the game?" "What do you see your character doing?"
Good GMs, like good players, are adaptive to the group they find themselves in.
Bad GMs, like bad players, are just a pain in the butt.
— Don't stop where the ink does.
I agree that adaptability is a good trait for a GM to have but its easy to go too far. IMO... in the end its all about the group as a whole and establishing a common creative agenda. Too often groups cobble together "just to play" without talking to each other about what the creative agenda will be.
If you have four players and a GM, what the GM does well or poorly pales in comparison to the inevitable conflicts that arise between players who do not agree on what is important to focus on in-game. If two players want to flex their tactical prowess first and yet another wants to "roleplay vs. roll play" and the fourth is concerned about how *real* the illusion is, the GM is just so much road-kill.
If -- in the example above -- the GM panders to the tactical block she is a good GM because the majority of players are enjoying the game and she is a strong leader. If she sides with one of the other two she is a weak leader and a bad GM. If she splits the difference and adjusts to give everyone *some* of what they want she is a "nice person" but a boring GM.
Please don't misunderstand, this is not a polemic on GM vs. Players. The point I'm trying to make is that nothing in-game is more important than a little pre-game introspection to identify what *you* want out of the game and then seek out related players and GMs.
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