Friday, March 27, 2009

GM Styles, Part I

I've had a few GMs in my life. Some good, some bad. Today I'd like to start a mini-series and discuss some of the GMs I've had and what I thought made their styles good or bad. I'll mostly use handles or nick names, because i think its better to keep them anonymous, plus i like handles better for the interwebz.

Volgren. One of my longest running game masters. He led us through dungeons hand drawn on 30 sheets 8x11 1/8" graph paper taped together in a monsterous 6sheet x 5sheet map that made our palladium RPG characters cry, sweat, and bleed. His adventures were epic in scale, endless in detail, and fantastic in creativity. He was thoughtful to the rules, using those that worked and ignoring or changing those that didn't, and he was good at making his point. He was an excellent artist, intelligent conversationalist, and a good friend. (Miss you, man. If you're out there and you read this, drop me a line.)

One time after a very long argument between Volgren and his twin brother, Shrine, about the feasability of making a powerful laser out of a leather wrap, a couple magnifying glasses and an eternal ball of light (yes, some GMs would have allowed this to be a flashlight, but Shrine was set on it being a laser, and we were 15, so yeah), he was fed up and ready to make his point that he was the game master. Instead of continuing on our D&D game, he opted for a side of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. So we spent the next couple hours rolling up our mutant animals and outfitting them as completely as possible, writing backgrounds and how they know each other, etc.

Our mutant animals were in a world populated by their kind, so there was no hostility to deal with, no hiding. We were mercenaries for hire, and damn good ones, at 4th level, and ready to rock. Our first mission we meet with the contact and he tells us that an object of his is being held in a secure warehouse on the other side of town. We agree to a price and head out. Volgren gives us the time we need to plan and purchase any additional gear, and we head out.

We reach the warehouse without incident and case around it, looking for trouble. Finding none, we approach the side entrance and jimmy the lock, entering quietly. The warehouse is packed with crates and boxes stacked high overhead. We stealthily move through the shadows of the warehouse in search of our target.

Suddenly, there is a loud metalic clang on the door we entered, and the high windows are shuttered with metal slats. A skylight opens in the roof and no less than twelve grenades are dropped around us. They begin to spew a sickly sweet smoke.

"Do you have gas masks?"

Hurredly we check our inventory sheets, only to discover that we do not.

"Aww, that's too bad. The nerve gas begins to work its sinister magic and you die slowly and painfully, crippled and paralized, until your body is unable to work the muscles that breathe. Suck to be you."

Shrine is pissed. He begins yelling and throwing dice. Volgren leans back and smiles. I laugh. Hours of creating these characters, only to have them killed in the first encounter without ever seeing our enemies. Harsh, yes. Immature, sure. We were only 15. But definately effective for the situation and the stubbornness of his brother.

His point was he is GM and he has the power to play nice or not. He has the power to decide the rules and we must understand and live with that. Shrine wasn't interested in playing nice. He wanted it his way. But after that he was more accepting of Volgren's rule.

Sometimes the only thing that works is an object lesson with nerve gas.

Pic of the Dungeon Master linked from Saga of the Amazing Human Man! posted on 12/06/08 by Shawn

1 comments:

Bharatheeyam March 30, 2009 at 12:07 PM  

Interesting article, it awaken my childhood memories. I wish to go back to that period. All the best for your writings.

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All of Soulie's RPG (paper and dice) related articles that will be published on RPG Blogger's Network.

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