Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gygax on the Master GM

Gygax in Futurama 2ACV16

Well, here we are on another Tuesday, and it looks like I have another Tomeful Tuesday on tap!  (Don't hold your breath, though.  I'm still not sure I'll come through every Tuesday.  But we're building confidence together.)  I'm continuing my read-through of Gygax's Role-Playing Mastery, and this week I'm taking a look at chapter 3.

What strikes me about Gygax's vision of game-mastering (or refereeing or judging) is that the morality of the group at play that we explored last week as the key to what Gygax meant by the way to play in the spirit of Advanced D&D is also what is at the heart of his vision of GMing.  Consider his assertions:
  • The GM is not the enemy of the players.  The GM runs the challenges for the entertainment (includes excitement, fun, and challenge) of the players (42-43).
  • The GM maintains the milieu, that is the imaginary world in which the game occurs, not primarily in accord with his own artistic vision, nor primarily as the instantiation of the game's rules, but primarily as the context for the players to imagine and enact their characters (the "testing ground... for their game personas," 51).  That is, even world creation is for player entertainment and participation, as long as it is constructive for the ongoing sustenance of the campaign (48-49).
These are by no means easy to do when players' desires come into conflict with the milieu and goal of the campaign or elements of the rules upon which these depend.

"The wishes of the game group might well be contrary to the goal of the game [in context here Gygax means the particular game's campaign, not the game system], and you must find a way to satisfy the players while not compromising that goal" (50).
The sovereign principle is this: "the campaign serves the singular play group, not the game system, or other play groups outside the campaign" (52).  Neither is it GM self-service.  "The selflessness of the GM" is the enjoyment of the players and the bond between them (52-3) in the ongoing, active, creative sharing of the entire group, GM and players,  in the further development of the campaign.

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