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Author Topic: GM's teach the players how to play in their game  (Read 2044 times)
dugfromthearth
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« on: July 31, 2010, 09:52:26 PM »

There seems to be a natural reaction that this is a terrible thing and should not even be suggested.  But GM's teach players how to play in their game.

One GM in every system has enemies try to surprise us for almost every fight.  You have to make a perception roll or you are surprised.  So in his games perception skill is very valuable.

Another GM describes his campaign in some fanciful and exotic terms (like x-files investigation, swashbuckling, etc) and then shortly after the game begins he switches it to be something different.  He seems to think he is being clever and we should enjoy it.  So I have learned to ignore his description of the campaign and make a combat heavy character as that is what the campaigns always turn into.

Some GM's have lots of locked doors, some have none.  Some expect you to get captured, some don't.  Some have social interactions be vital to the game, others only care about combat.

Every GM teaches the players through their actions and how they run their games how to play in their games. 
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2010, 11:15:00 PM »

I'm going to agree in a roundabout way...

If someone hits you with a cricket bat, does that mean they ARE the cricket bat? No - the cricket bat is a tool - a mechanism they applied to you.

I would say the GM didn't teach you. Instead there was a mechanical consistancy to what mechanics the GM applied to you. And you engaged those mechanics like someone learning chess by engaging it's mechanics.

GM's need to take responsibility and conciously realise the mechanics they are applying to players, rather than just do stuff that then applies a mechanic that enables or rewards one playstyle, but then they try and yet again blame the player for, gasp, actually engaging that playstyle (your bait and switch/make a combat heavy PC comes to mind)

I think it's important to not just say it's the GM and instead say it's the GM applying mechanics. If he doesn't recoginise the mechanics he's applying - well, he just wont be concious of what he's doing to do anything about changing it.
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Moreno R.
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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2010, 01:54:20 AM »

I think it's more correct to say that people learn to play together.  (and this ties nicely with the Bass Playing metaphor).

The players learn to play with a GM, or with each other as GM (in the group where more than one player rotate on the role), or with no GM in the games where there is no GM, and with each other in all there cases, and this include the GMs learning to play with the other players too.

One of the most precious bits of "forge wisdom" forged in the last years is that "GMs are players too".  Everyone play, with different authorities and responsibilities. But everyone play. And so, has to learn to play with the other players.

Saying that "The GM has to teach the player how to play"  irk me a little because it seems like he is above the others, that he is always right and has nothing to learn, and the other players are the one to have to adapt to what he want. Like they are not playing together, but like they are doing something that can't really be called "play", that has more to do with ego stroking that with having fun together.

But it's only a bad impression left by a role-playing subculture built on things like there.  There is really no reason to consider this case "bad" in absolute, it's simply possible that the GM is the only one who has played before or the only one who has read the rules, so he have to teach them playing.

What I would consider "bad" (not in an absolute way, like a sin, but bad for that group) is considering this not a specific case among others (I have played many times games where I was the one teaching the rules and I wasn't the GM) but "the rule", thinking about the situation not as a group of people who are starting to play together and will be naturally better with time, but more like a cult-like relationship with a "guru" who will teach them how to play to please him...
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Ciao,
Moreno.

(Excuse my errors, English is not my native language. I'm Italian.)
oculusverit
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Posts: 27


« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2010, 09:12:53 AM »

It seems to me, and correct me if I'm wrong, that in most traditionally GM-"led" games that, well, let's look at a basketball analogy:

The game involves two teams, rules for the game to make it fair for both teams, a neutral referee to make sure the rules are being followed correctly, and a court to house the goals and obstacles for the game.

In a basketball game, all of these things are separate, discrete things, which makes the game fair from the start. In a roleplaying game, however, we have one team (the PCs, each played by a distinct player), and we have a separate rules set (the game being played). Then we have the GM: in Illusionism, we have to pretend that somehow the GM is at the same time responsible for creating a fair court to play in (the story), as well as being a neutral referee of the rules, AND plays the opposing team (the antagonists). But the objectives of the opposing team (to beat the PCs), of the referee (to be fair and neutral), and of the court/story (to be interesting to the players, as well as to not end too quickly) are sometimes at cross-purposes.

I think Ron has explained this before, from what I've read, in a different way, as the different duties that a GM has. Moreno was right that the GM is another player in the game, and it has to be fun for him/her... but if the GM wants to only play combat oriented games, and then lies to players to get them to play this combat game pretending it's going to be something else instead... well, that's not fair is it? And players who encourage the GM to not only "run the game" but also run THEM that way are just too lazy or comfortable, thinking this is the "only game in town" and putting the GM's enjoyment over their own... they need to either make their needs known or find another game to play in.

--Kinch
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Kinch
dugfromthearth
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Posts: 65


« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2010, 07:50:44 PM »

I agree with the comments

the GM is playing as well, and the GM teaches how to play against/with them

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oculusverit
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Posts: 27


« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2010, 09:18:26 PM »

Yeah but... isn't that the whole idea of "system does matter" and all that? That if you create the rules of the game so you acknowledge that the GM is another player from the start and don't pretend they can be a neutral referee, or you only make them responsible for a certain amount of responsibilities, that you can avoid a game where that sort of thing happens in the first place, where the GM isn't "teaching you how to play in their games" because the GM isn't given that power in the first place? I mean, not to just throw out terminology, but isn't that Participationism where you acknowledge that the GM is just another player and then accept the power imbalance and play anyway? I mean if you like that sort of thing...

Then again, am I just being weird to think that shouldn't happen? Or is that an acceptable part of the game, to try to "outsmart" the GM or strategize around it knowing how the GM plays?

--Kinch
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Kinch
dugfromthearth
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2010, 06:38:41 AM »

it really depends on what you want out of the game

some people want cooperative storytelling, some people want a challenge, some want other things

there is no right or wrong
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Callan S.
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2010, 02:46:07 PM »

Well, the physical requirements of one persons want and the physical requirements of another persons want may, through physics itself, not be compatable at all. That's wrong - not a moral wrong - a 1+1=3 wrong. So there is a right or wrong in those terms.

But as to what each person wants on these matters - none of them are right and none seem particularly wrong.

It's usually when people confuse their want for need, and their 'need' for warrant to sanction others, that things go wrong (in the other sense).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2010, 08:30:01 AM »

I think everyone is making this ten times harder than it has to be.

1. The simple observation that people learn how to play a game from a single member of the group (meaning "group of people" in the ordinary physical sense, not "group" in the highly-charged gaming sense) seems obvious to me. This is the case for most social, leisure activities. One person reads the rules, then teaches others how to do it, and anyone who's interested consults the rules in a more piecemeal fashion. Occasionally, one of the receiving group feels like reading the rules as carefully as the first person presumably did, for various reasons.

I am puzzled about why you (dugfromtheearth) begin your post with a strong statement that this observation would receive objections. As I see it, the observation is simply and easily confirmed, at least as a reliable generalization or trend. An apparent exception might be when people who have already and independently learned the game come together to play, but I think that is not an exception so much as a later-stage phenomenon that is outside the scope of the original claim.

Is there some real-world instance of someone objecting to this claim which prompted your post? You speak hypothetically in the post, and without some grounding in some real-world interchange, your post is merely posing a straw man.

2. The use of the term "the GM" in the observation, as stated, is a red herring that is causing trouble in the discussion. Historically, the person playing the lead social role in reading and teaching the game is very often, perhaps overwhelmingly often, also the person who takes on the GM role in the procedures of play. However, I don't think that at its base this phenomenon is any different from the observation that the person who teaches Blackjack to some other people also usually happens to take on the Dealer role when they try it first. Same goes for Banker in Monopoly and any number of similar cases.

In our hobby, however, the term "the GM" is highly charged with implications, particularly when the article "the" is included in a particular way. It often implies a decree of control over the use of the rules which goes far beyond the reasonable implications of merely being the person who happens to have read them more fully and often than the other people. This obviously formalizd (and deceptively veiled) in the stupid abomination called the Golden Rule in many game texts, but that's not the only place, considering how often more explicit "the GM is always right" rule is verbally in place for a given group, with its textual representatives as well.

For this discussion, I suggest we parse these issues carefully.

Furthermore, and here I speak as the moderator, this thread badly needs grounding in Actual Play. In otherwise, if the point at hand arose among actual people, how are those people connected via play, and what goes on, or went on, among those people in a real game? Fictional as well as social content would help greatly.

Best, Ron
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Callan S.
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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2010, 05:15:34 PM »

Ron, I think equally you could be making this ten times more simple than it is until it fits another category entirely - the example isn't about written rules from what I've read?
Quote
Another GM describes his campaign in some fanciful and exotic terms (like x-files investigation, swashbuckling, etc) and then shortly after the game begins he switches it to be something different.  He seems to think he is being clever and we should enjoy it.  So I have learned to ignore his description of the campaign and make a combat heavy character as that is what the campaigns always turn into.
Unless the written rules say to describe the campaign in some fanciful and exotic terms, then shortly after change them, it's not related to written rules.

In my early roleplaying we had a GM who would have a NPC character joing the party - shortly afterward, the NPC would betray the party in some fashion. We all became aware of this repeating pattern over time, from session to session, and more importantly, from game to game. Warhammer. Shadowrun. Rifts. Same thing repeated. We'd start a session, he'd describe some NPC character joining the party and we'd all sort of know and we'd joke about it sometimes. We weren't learning the rules, we were learning the GM. Or to be more exact, learning the mechanism he repeatedly placed into play, that was his own invention (none of the game texts had rules on this, IIRC).

I think I totally agree with many games the person who knows the written rules for it teaches those written rules for others. What's making you think this is about teaching written rules? I mean even in card games you can start to build up an understanding of how the other person will play - like in the card game 'lunch money' I could start to figure what moves the other person would make. But these aren't written rules of the game?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2010, 07:09:21 PM »

That's a fair point, and I'm happy to include it in my argument. In fact, I think it already has a nice niche waiting for it, as a subset of my second point.

I did mentioning reading the rules, but I did not say, nor did I mean to imply, that the person who read the rules teaches only those things to the others. For our hobby in particular, and here again, I'm agreeing with you, that would be a very inaccurate claim.

Best, Ron
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JEY
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« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2010, 01:07:37 PM »

Well, what i've understand was that the players learn the "style" of game (I don't know if there is an term for it exactly) that the GM plays

so, I think 2 things about it:

First: this wouldn't happen, the GM should make clear what kind of game he intent to play, and don't let the players dicover it during the game. I Played last month an D&D adventure, which the GM awarned: "this scenario isn't designed for play, it's super-hyper-very-ultra hard, and You probably will loose a couple of characters during play". I Played and I didn't liked, but wasn't his fault, couse he warned us.

Second: this wouldn't happen, couse, if the stories are always the same, between systems and games, maybe the GM should see some different movies or play a little, unless the players DO WANT to have the certainty that the cute girl in the dungeon is going to be to Great demon.

by the way, hi, its my first post o/
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oculusverit
Member

Posts: 27


« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2010, 06:17:04 PM »

That was a really great summing up of the matter, in my opinion!

So to go with both what JEY's second point was, and Ron's point that the GM is of course another player in every game, then the way I see it, if the traditional idea is in play where the players are playing "against" the GM then if the GM wants to be a better player, he needs to switch up his strategies and cultivate some versatility (i.e., what JEY said about going to see different movies or playing in someone else's game). Otherwise, once I've "learned" that GM's game, I'm going to be bored. Others, though, might just feel some comfort about the whole thing and remain for the sake of familiarity.
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Kinch
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2010, 05:21:34 AM »

Hello,

It's now time to turn this into a real Actual Play thread. So far, we have been batting claims and abstractions back and forth, and this thread is not up to the standards of the site.

To "dugfromthe earth" (please consider providing your first name; handles are no good for actual discussions), check out the sticky thread at the top of the Actual Play forum. You need to provide some account of play or interaction about play which grounds your post. My point #1, addressed directly to you, sought this information. I am now upgrading it to a moderator statement. Without an account of real-world play or real-world interaction about real-world play which informs us as to why this question matters, then the thread must be closed.

Best, Ron
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dugfromthearth
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Posts: 65


« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2010, 06:53:14 PM »

my first name is Doug

I've had this come up twice in the past year in different groups.  Three of us play together in two games, with different others filling out those groups. 

In one we were playing Dark Heresy.  It was in theory an investigation, but it turned out that talking to people did no good.  Reporting to our bosses did not good.  We had to complete the adventure by us fighting the really tough bad guys.  That wasn't supposed to be our role, but the GM ends every adventure that way.  I mentioned to the other players that the GM teaches you how to play in their game.  We'd played with him before, so I knew that trying to solve the adventure with non-combat skills was pointless.  And I knew to make a character who was focused on combat, not on investigating.  The other players got very upset that I would say that the GM teaches you how to play the game.  I may have worded it badly - but they got so upset they wouldn't even let me explain.

We were just recently playing a Shadowrun game with another GM.  As we are thinking of what to do and discussing it, the GM kept making comments.  He was basically telling us our ideas would not work.  And he was suggesting we try certain things.  It was very annoying because he was basically telling us what to do.  We were trying to roleplay but it was hard to ignore the GM (who was speaking through an NPC) telling us what would and wouldn't work.  When I suggested to the other players that we should pay attention to the GM they got upset.  So what was supposed to be wrapped up in one session has dragged on for 4 with no end in sight.

Both games are supposed to be player driven investigations/capers.  Lots of room to try different things.  But in both cases the GM determined what would work.  You didn't have to figure out what would work within the rules, you had to figure out what the GM would let work.
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