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Author Topic: [D&D/Rifts Style Games] DM burnout- what's a DM get out of it?  (Read 3390 times)
Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« on: March 21, 2011, 08:42:35 PM »

Recently I've been reading "Reality is Broken" and it's pointed out a few things that interest me.

The author defines a game as something with 4 characteristics:

1- A goal
2- Rules as an artificial obstacle between you and the goal
3- Feedback
4- Voluntary participation.

Later in the same book the author discusses intrinsic versus extrinsic rewards- her thesis is that intrinsic rewards are basic to human happiness and that games dish out huge servings of intrinsic rewards.

The intrinsic rewards that she identifies as most important are these:

-Satisfying work- clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts.
-The experience, or at least the hope, of success.
-Social connection.
-Meaning and significance- we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

*********************************************************************************
(I'm only very experienced with of Rifts, Exalted, and D&D- otherwise I'd talk more generally)

Recently, dungeon mastering has slightly burned me out. I've considered giving it up for a while, or trying to blackmail another player into running th game. I'd still like to play, I'm just tired of DMing. I've wondered what a DM is supposed to get out of his game and then I read the chapters I just described.

One of the DM's jobs is to design and plan adventures and campaigns- I love it. It addicts me like heroin.

However, his other job is to "run the game" for his players. From what I can tell-

About the Qualities of a Game:

-The DM has no real goal moment to moment except to make the players enjoy themselves. During an encounter his role is to just run the monsters. While the party's in town, his role's mostly to provide hooks for adventure and facilitate/rule their decisions. By contrast, the players are seeking to survive, to win, to accumulate gold, progress through the story, and to level up. For example, last session I decided it was logical for the orcs to chase the PCs, but during the fight- what exactly is my goal? To remain faithful to what orcs are/do? To kill the PCs? To challenge them without killing them? To create fun for people?
-The DM has no artificial obstacles which prevent him from achieving his goal- if he had one. Take most rule books- most that are related to d&D style games advise the DM to change things in whatever way works best in his campaign.
-The DM gets feedback in real time and DMing is voluntary, so that's fine.

About the Intrinsic Rewards

-The DM's work isn't clearly defined and isn't necessarily demanding by nature unless the DM challenges himself. He's mostly just got to learn the rules. I built an interesting campaign world and various fun adventures- the players love them and they love the campaign. Is that my goal though? Have I "won" the game? What now- or am I not done?
-He gets the rest- especially if he's ambitious and wants to make an important game for multiple groups :)

****************************************
As for DM goals, the only one's I've been able to chase are design goals. Those are fun and rewarding, but they're very short lived. You succeed or you don't- you need a new goal almost every session, or every few sessions. There isn't generally a design goal that you can pursue for an entire campaign (unless I'm missing it).

A simple goal is to make the players enjoy your game. Yesterday one player took the day off work to play our game- it's an alright goal for starters, but it's not the same kind of goal as "Kill Gannondorf" is.

When the DM pursues game-outcomes you get a railroad.

As for DM obstacles and rules, by definition the DM may alter anything he sees fit, so the only rules he has to follow are his own.

In my case I've added a lot of rules for myself. For one, I railroad and interfere with character decisions as little as possible. For another, I attempt to improv as little as possible, so as to "keep the quality up" when I start to run dry. Another is to allow the players to roll for pretty much anything and if a dice is rolled, and I allowed it, it means the outcome is in question. It creates a lot of chaos and player-power in games.

However, these are self-imposed rules.

*************************************************************************

Forgive the long thread, but the short of my post is this: I think d&d style games are games for the players, and aren't games at all for the DM during play and that the DM suffers for it. These games lack the structure to make the game a game for the DM.

I'm sure this extends to many RPGs and games besides those like D&D, but I can't speak generally without more experience.

So: am I right, am I wrong, and if I'm right what can I do about it?
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stefoid
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2011, 09:45:03 PM »

Cool post!

Quote
1- A goal
2- Rules as an artificial obstacle between you and the goal
3- Feedback
4- Voluntary participation.

I think a GM/DM  definitely has the goal of making the game the funest for the players.   The obstacle to achieving that rule isnt artificial though, its real -- it involves blending imagination, social skills, performance skills and 'GMing skills'.  Its a demanding task.


Quote
The intrinsic rewards that she identifies as most important are these:

-Satisfying work- clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts.
-The experience, or at least the hope, of success.
-Social connection.
-Meaning and significance- we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

GMing also satisfies the last critera - if you run a kick arse game for your players you will get those last three.  The "Satisfying work- clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts" is the bug bear.  Ive run games that were hard, stressful and basically not fun for me as GM.  Struggling with the process and skills required, basically.   That boils down to the "clearly defined"  element.  Vaguely defined, half-arsed demanding activities can be stressful and not fun.


Quote
About the Qualities of a Game:
-The DM has no real goal moment to moment except to make the players enjoy themselves. During an encounter his role is to just run the monsters. While the party's in town, his role's mostly to provide hooks for adventure and facilitate/rule their decisions. By contrast, the players are seeking to survive, to win, to accumulate gold, progress through the story, and to level up. For example, last session I decided it was logical for the orcs to chase the PCs, but during the fight- what exactly is my goal? To remain faithful to what orcs are/do? To kill the PCs? To challenge them without killing them? To create fun for people?

With D&D, you are more a facilitator of the players involved in a game of squad based tactical combat.  Personally I reckon that sort of stuff is better handled by a computer these days.  I played online D&D - a first player slasher - with headphones and microphone and I could chat, crack jokes, plan strategy and execute all the D&D skills and feats in realtime with a bunch of other people.  As far as that D&D experience went, it was superior to tabletop roleplaying -- all the meat of the D&D experience without the gristle.

But there's other types of roleplaying games out there where the GM is required to facilitate more than just "being the enemy".   The aim is to help produce a satisfying series of fictional events that becomes more than the individual sum of its parts.  Which is basically a story of some sort or another.


Quote
Forgive the long thread, but the short of my post is this: I think d&d style games are games for the players, and aren't games at all for the DM during play and that the DM suffers for it. These games lack the structure to make the game a game for the DM.

Agree with you there, although Im not sure that there are many RPGs where the GM is playing a game, as in conforming to arbitrary rules with clearly defined goals.  Its still more like a facilitator for the other players.  I think if done well, the process of helping the group create satisfying fiction is heaps of fun.  (only experienced that in fits and starts myself, still learning)  Improv GMing is probably the best method for that, because you and the players are both discovering the 'emergent story' together as the game progresses, and improv GMs both want and need to leverage player activity to get the job done, whereas with a predefined plot, you are basically trying to get the players 'back on track' at every opportunity so you done want or need too much player impact on the plot/story arc.

Quote
I'm sure this extends to many RPGs and games besides those like D&D, but I can't speak generally without more experience.

So: am I right, am I wrong, and if I'm right what can I do about it?

right.  Good place to start would be "playing unsafe"  on  making improv less work and more fun. 

http://theunstore.com/index.php/unstore/game/49
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2011, 09:51:54 PM »

I'm concerned the DM's role is more one of responsibility than fun, and is primarily one of "entertainer." I think it'd be more interesting if he had well defined goals also. However, any DM vs player action requires the DM to restrict himself, since he can kill at will; and any DM and player collaboration risks railroading or the DM taking over.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2011, 09:58:11 PM »

Hi Nate,

Quote
One of the DM's jobs is to design and plan adventures and campaigns- I love it. It addicts me like heroin.
Quote
These games lack the structure to make the game a game for the DM.
I think if you want to remain fully in control of all aspects, then you can't have a game. A game necessarily takes away control over certain aspects, like when it's done, what your goal is, how much currency you get, etc. You can either have full control or a game. Not both.

I think it is possible to make a game where you design a dungeon or something much like you'd design a character, and so you have a capacity to design an adventure, yet it's still a game.

However, maybe that'd water down the heroin aspect? Maybe nothing short of full control will forfill that fix? What say you for yourself?
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2011, 10:07:57 PM »

Quote
I think if you want to remain fully in control of all aspects, then you can't have a game. A game necessarily takes away control over certain aspects, like when it's done, what your goal is, how much currency you get, etc. You can either have full control or a game. Not both.

I don't mind giving up control. If somebody else would DM I'd roll up a character :)

Quote
I think it is possible to make a game where you design a dungeon or something much like you'd design a character, and so you have a capacity to design an adventure, yet it's still a game.

However, maybe that'd water down the heroin aspect? Maybe nothing short of full control will forfill that fix? What say you for yourself?

It's not the full control aspect that's best, it's the challenging design aspect.

Imagine a game where there was points a DM could spend to build as hard as adventure as he could and try to defeat the players with it. He could even make his own monsters. It would be ridiculously hard to design but then it'd be a game for the DM and a ton of fun if it worked out.

I've considered making all my own monsters and itmes, but I frankly don't have time for the project while school looms. I don't have time to completely house rule a competitive DM vs player system either.

I've considered a DM-PC shared goal of "Defeat the level 15 Red Dragon Who Tyrannizes the Land." However, then I'm encouraged to shape a campaign with maximum levelups and minimum danger- sort of lame. So I could add another rule- one PC should die every other session. That's sort of unfair and arbitrary though- poor buggers.

I could also abandon campaign structure and go adventure-by-adventure. That seems best. Perhaps a collaborative effort to get the PCs to share the goal with me- "the PCs slay the mad wizard's pet Dire Gorilla." I would have to add constraints on myself though, and there's the conflict of interest where I have to avoid giving hints and playing the monsters poorly. Also, if I don't help enough I won't vicariously feel their success at slaying said dire gorilla.

I think in that latter paragraph narrativism might work well, but I doubt I could get the players aboard for it. The DM's "goal" could be to present a situation where the players abandon their goals- for example, the gorilla could be really cute or friendly or endangered, etc... doesn't work as a gamist or sim goal though.
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2011, 10:48:04 PM »

Hi Nate,

I generally enjoy both playing and running D&D, but it is a lot of work - which is why I don't run more than a few sessions at a time.

For games that have crunchy combat rules, and rely on challenge, it's a lot of work to:
a) come up with a good challenge
b) that isn't the same as previous ones and repetitive
c) and to do one for each "encounter" in a given session.

(Mind you, a similar problem holds true for non-combat games where the GM is primary producer of interesting events in the story- one person is producing a lot of the major content.)

The things that make it fun, are like being a puzzle creator or a level designer for a videogame- the fun is in making a clever dungeon/encounter/whatever and that it entertains others.

That said, because it is so much work, I very often like to play other games that do not have as much overhead- where either the players generate a lot of the events and content and I don't actually have to do more than 10 minutes of planning, if that, OR where the game system itself sets that up for me.

This is probably the third thread you've started about your dissatisfaction with D&D - why not try a different game?  You don't owe it to anyone to keep doing this if you're not having fun.

Chris
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stefoid
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Posts: 657


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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2011, 11:03:39 PM »

What Chris said, and I think I can distill my previous long and convulted post down to this:

Being creative is intrinsically  fun and a goal in itself.

When you pre-plan a plot, you are being creative away form the table.

When you improvise, you are being creative at the table, just like the other players.

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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2011, 11:17:41 PM »

Quote
This is probably the third thread you've started about your dissatisfaction with D&D - why not try a different game?  You don't owe it to anyone to keep doing this if you're not having fun.

I think it's more the role of DM I'm dissatisfied with than d&d itself. Like I said, the role's cool out-of-game, but while playing it's sort of a downer. I get to make a cool world and scenario but don't even get to play it out.

At best I get to watch others have fun with my scenarios- my only goal is to entertain them? To challenge them? I just want a more interesting experience of DMing during play. Some sort of challenging goal perhaps. Some aspect of "game" during play.

Improv is good, but improv to what end?

Just making fun for others isn't enough. I'm not complaining, I just think we can make the role better. We have so many tools for creating engaging PC experiences but I can't think of many that engage the DM- perhaps why everybody else refuses to do it.

If we switch systems I'd have do GM that too :) It's not a solution, and I do enjoy the design aspects of it, just not the actual play parts.

It's as entertaining as a party, or hanging out, which I can get without prep and with anybody else.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 4268


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« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2011, 12:48:35 AM »

Nate, are you trying to make something new, or trying to figure out how D&D is fun? It's kind of like your ricocheting between the two?

Particularly with the latter, you might simply be working under a false hypothesis - ie, the idea that there is a fun way to GM D&D, you just gotta find out how. This hypothesis might be entirely false. I've described it as stone soup before - people, under the thought that there is some fun way to GM/play D&D, invent the very ingrediants that make what is consumed have any taste. But eventually this false conclusion turned self forfilling prophesy catches up with them and...you get what is usually called GM burn out. It's the time you realise all your really getting is plain old water, which you can get without prep just from hanging out or a party, already.

You might be thinking 'But I've run so many games before and the players loved it, so it must work and there must be a way'. But as I said with your system diagram of D&D, there is no link between character creation and monsters. Any such line is your own invention. But you keep inventing, along with thousands of others, and attributing your invention to being inherent in the text.

You have never played D&D. Nor have I. Nor have hundreds of thousands who insist they have. You've only ever played your own invention, drawing on lots of components from the text and drawing your own system lines between them. I know, it sounds too absurd to possibly be true. D&D is the greatest game no one has ever played.

But as long as it sounds absurd, the stone soup will keep you in it's grip. The mercenary side of me really admires the design of that over arcing grip.

Think of it this way, could you (given some money and idle time) write a game which is not playable, which misses crucial links between it's main components, but appears playable. I bet you could. Now the only leap to make is that somebody already did.
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Chris_Chinn
Member

Posts: 280


« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2011, 09:34:29 AM »

Hi Nate,

Quote
Just making fun for others isn't enough. I'm not complaining, I just think we can make the role better. We have so many tools for creating engaging PC experiences but I can't think of many that engage the DM- perhaps why everybody else refuses to do it.

If we switch systems I'd have do GM that too :) It's not a solution, and I do enjoy the design aspects of it, just not the actual play parts.

Here's the thing: DM'ing is engaging.   Imagine if someone came to you and said, "I don't like this particular flavor.  Tell me how to make myself like this flavor."?

This is what I'm seeing across all these threads- you're looking for a way to make this fun for you, but no one can make it fun for you.  You're doing this out of a sense of duty or need to keep the group together, to keep the game going.  (Notice here, you said, "blackmail someone else into GM'ing" even that says it's a hassle to do)

There's a phrase I've used in the past - "It's a game, not a marriage".   Your group can break up- maybe 3 people are into one kind of game and 2 people are into other games - you still are friends even if you don't play together weekly. 

There's no "one right way" to roleplay, so it's ok- it's not a judgment on anyone anymore than one person likes one flavor, another person likes another flavor.

Did you look at the link I gave initially about The Same Page Tool and think about your individual players?

http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/the-same-page-tool/

Those different options aren't on a spectrum of close compatibilities- I listed them as separate options because they simply, don't work together.   They're different games altogether, as much as basketball and rugby are two different games, and having random people thinking they're playing one or the other, and playing together = problems.

A lot of GMs burn out because some methods of play are a lot of work, but some GMs burn out because the work they're doing has nothing to do with playing the game and everything to do with trying to referee the hot mess that is rugby-basketball and getting the different groups to play together nice.

So here's the thing: you asked about D&D, and people gave you advice about D&D.  Then you asked again -so folks have recommended trying other games.  You're asking again, and telling us that different games won't make a difference.

So if the game isn't the issue, guess what is?

Roleplaying, as a hobby, does this thing that gets a lot of us into the same predicament you're in now- "Every group can have fun together, regardless of the game!" + "Only long term groups are 'successful' groups" + "If you don't play together, you're not friends.  You OWE it to your friends to make it work."

These aren't true and dislodging them is critical to actually getting to a place where you can consistently have fun without hassle.  A lot of us here, now have something like 80-90% really fun sessions, because we're playing with people who want the same things.  (10 people rowing a boat is easy if they're rowing in time...)

All that said, there's probably a couple of players in your group who are into the same flavor/type of fun as you, and you should try to find games that support that and play with those folks.

Have you ever ran a game that went just right?  Who of your group was there?  Who wasn't?  Was anyone doing something different or not doing something they usually do?

Chris
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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2011, 11:04:30 AM »

Alright.

You all might be right about what I should do.

However: I still think I've raised an interesting point and you're all neglecting it.

You may be absolutely right about ME. The idea is still worth considering though, the idea's what I made the thread for.

The idea is this: in a gamist game, during play the DM's role is more or less that of referee. In most cases the DM is excluded from the gamist aspect of the play that he runs. He doesn't really get to take part in the gamist aspect of a gamist game. What little aspect of "game" that there is for the DM to play out is poorly defined and lacks a lot.

In a sim game I think the GM's role is better related to the sim play- he explores the situation and setting and color right alongside with the players. In a Narr game, I think the GM has a related role where he can actually explore a theme with the players and facilitate it. The role seems coherent.

But in gamist terms, the GM only really gets to be a referee and facilitator- not a gamer himself. He's partially excluded from the creative agenda. His gamist challenge is merely to challenge the players and keep them on their toes- mostly a design aspect, not a gameplay aspect.
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Caldis
Member

Posts: 392


« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 12:43:30 PM »


I think your point is interesting but I think talking Creative Agenda clouds it somewhat.

When you get down to the personal goals that drive an individual you've moved past talking about Creative Agenda.  We cant really tell what motivates people towards any specific agenda but we can see in action a shared understanding of how the game will operate and what are our goals for the game and the fiction we are creating as a group.  So whether a gm is an impartial referee or an active combatant in the game doesnt really matter, it comes down to him understanding and working towards a game where success for the characters is determined by the strength of the players actions and/or whether they get lucky with dice rolls when they gamble at risks.

As for what a gm gets out of running a game like this, in my experience the people who really enjoyed running games in this style and had a real knack for it tended to either be interested in it dramatically or as design testing.  They would either love to perform and reveal their work through play, much like a actor/writer or else they wanted to see what would happen with their creation like a scientist running rats through a maze.  I ran into more of the former than the latter but that may just have been the crowd I ran with.
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Chris_Chinn
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Posts: 280


« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 01:27:43 PM »

Hi Nate,

In most cases the DM is excluded from the gamist aspect of the play that he runs. He doesn't really get to take part in the gamist aspect of a gamist game.

I'm not understanding you here.  If you're playing gamist play, as a GM, you should be taking whatever encounter you've made, and going all out in terms of playing them tactically.  That's pretty much textbook gamism. 

Or are you referring to the fact that, in D&D (4.0 at least) the encounters are designed to be draining on resources and not deadly each and of themselves?

Here's a simple question- if you had a fair encounter and got a Total Party Kill in your game, would the players' reactions be:

1) "Damn that was tough!  We're going to have to play more strategic next time!"
2) "Man that sucked!  This game is bullshit!"

#1 is folks who are there to play a gamist game and #2 is people who came to play something else.  The idea that you don't get to play hard and strategic is only an issue in #2.

Assuming you want #1 (gamist play as a DM), the question is - how is your group playing, or what is their expectations that you're not getting it?  Again, if everyone's on the same page about what they want, this shouldn't be an issue.

And again, can you talk about a time when things worked just right- in D&D or any other rpg so we have some benchmarks about what you're aiming for in play?  This is what the Actual Play forum revolves on.

Chris
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stefoid
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2011, 02:45:28 PM »

Yeah, I see, you can play the monsters by the rules but there isnt anything that tells you what level of opposition to make, its arbitrary.  and your own goals are vague.  You could front up with 1 orc or 1000.

Ill try to come up with a suggestion on your terms:

1) The level of opposition should be pitched so that if the players play well, they win, and if they dont they lose.  Thats still a judgement call, but at least you have a clear guideline.  It means the players fate is in their own hands.
2) Change it up -- look for and challenge the parties weakspots.  Avoid their strengths and hit them where they are vulnerable. 
3) Use their greed to split them up
4) Force them to cooperate or lose individually.
5) Have something cool on the line as stakes for the contest.  If they lose the battle, they dont die, but they dont get the stakes.  the really phat loot!  too bad, so sad.
6) Once you have determined the right amount of opposition, your devious strategies and tactics -- have fun!  play hard but scrupulously fair - try to win.  Narrate the monsters having a victory celebration if they do win!  Let the monsters steal some of THEIR stuff if they do win.
7) Be fair, fair and overly fair to the players.  Youre playing hardball with your goal of winning and your tactics, but if there is a grey situation with the rules, or tactic that the player think should work or give them some advantage, etc... judge in favour of the players, even if you think its a bit dubious.  Show them how fair and generous you are being, to underline the point that if they lose, its not because of some stupid rule or arbitrary judgement on your part, its because they should have chosen better strategy.




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Natespank
Member

Posts: 97

I usually use the male pronoun to mean either sex.


« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2011, 02:49:03 PM »

Thanks for addressing the idea :)

Quote
I'm not understanding you here.  If you're playing gamist play, as a GM, you should be taking whatever encounter you've made, and going all out in terms of playing them tactically.  That's pretty much textbook gamism.

Okay, so as I read you:

1- Design Step - Design an adventure that will run objectively and fairly; attempt to make it challenging. Normal DM-design stuff. The DM "wins" from a design perspective if the game is fun and challenging for everyone. Easy enough. To make it interesting one could attempt to design the adventure, say a dungeon, such that the PCs have about a 50% (or 20% haha) chance of making it to the end without having to retreat.

2- Actual Play Step - Put on your Angry DM hat, dedicate yourself to the PC's failure and try to destroy them every chance you get throughout the game. The DM "wins" from a play perspective if the PC's fail the quest.

With number 2 I feel there's a conflict of interest. Because the DM is the creator, ruler and driving force behind the world, he has omnipotent power. As a being with omnipotent power, he's in an unfair position to "win." To counter this, every aspect of the adventure has to be set into stone or predefined in some "fair" way ahead of time that the DM, during play, has no power to meddle with.

That might mean strict adherence to random encounter rolls, exploration rules, NPC behaviour, loot rules/decisions, experience points, etc. However, players are unpredictable beasts and I've never experienced an adventure without the DM having to heavily improv. When it comes time for the DM to improv the conflict of interest rears it's ugly head- to "win" the DM has to destroy the PCs, and if he consults the players to help with the improv, the players realize that to "win" they have to defeat the adventure and they'll tend to urge the option that benefits them.

A framework like this that's well-defined and WORKS well- that would be cool though. That has potential. It just doesn't play like that very well out of the box, so to speak, so a lot of the mechanics have to be made up.

Quote
#1 is folks who are there to play a gamist game

I've killed a lot of PCs in the last 2 months, they're okay with it these days. I've conditioned them.

Quote
Again, if everyone's on the same page about what they want, this shouldn't be an issue.

The same page tool is handy. I've talked to the group over the last few days about sorting this out specifically.

Quote
And again, can you talk about a time when things worked just right- in D&D or any other rpg so we have some benchmarks about what you're aiming for in play?  This is what the Actual Play forum revolves on.

Keep on Borderlands: I found a copy of the module in a used book store! I ran it with my group using the Swords and Wizardry rules for a couple of sessions. Half the group disliked it and hardly participated- however, half the group loved it. I'll talk about them.

One player was killed crossing a raging river; another 2 died fighting lizardfolk. They later discovered a mound that the lizardfolk were using as a home base. The PCs returned to the keep to spend all their money on burning oil to flood/detonate the mound. They rented wagons to carry it all and took a ferry this time to cross. They also used a forest fire to drive away some goblins once. Awesome resourcefulness and improv gameplay on their part.

The entire few sessions they never found the caves of chaos, but they had a hell of a time. The unhappy players convinced us to go back to 4e rules though :(

It was a hella-fun game for those of us who liked that style of game. Exploration, getting lost, sandbox, in-game improv/strategy, expected character casualties, mystery. Fun stuff. Super simple rules that encourage some role playing too as opposed to diplomacy or streetwise checks.

The kick I got out of that particular mini-campaign was sort of an experimenter's pleasure: I wanted to see what would happen, what the players would do, how the encounters would go, etc. It was like I got to watch a story unfold- this was partially possible because the rule system and module was alien to me.

Skincleaver Dungeon: I dungeon I built for one of my first 4e games. The goblins weren't allowed to sleep inside for the most part so to enter the dungeon the PCs had to fight a huge horde of goblins and a few orcs. After those were killed the rest of the dungeon inhabitants either hid, barricading and defending themselves in parts of the dungeon, or else sneaked around laying traps and trying to ambush the invaders.

I tried my damndest to keep the hiding goblins hidden and alive; while the PCs were busy with this or that I had my trapper teams leave traps all around the PC's area of the dungeon, mostly concealed bear traps. I tried to hurt the group about as much as I could before they found my boss badguy- Skincleaver. They were pretty ragged by then but I'd estimated about correctly that time and they made it through just barely, and cleared the dungeon.

What I enjoyed about this also a curiosity thing: I was pleased that my prediction of PC power was about right so that they were worn down about as much as I expected. I enjoyed seeing how they'd react to the goblin trappers and how they would react to the hiding goblins. It was a "lets see what happens" moment- I also liked being able to go all out with my tactics because I wasn't worried about killing the PCs in a skirmish. It was nice forcing the players to use advanced tactics to survive too- it was like I was training them.

It helped that 4e was new at the time- I didn't know how things would go. Seeing how my players react in situations has sort of lost it's appeal to me- they're pretty predictable in many ways these days. Also, for combat, they've grown to excellent tacticians so there's no kick out of forcing them to play well anymore- they usually do. The only reliable ways to challenge them anymore is unfair encounters with much higher level groups (which levels them up like crazy!)

Sissy Elf: I had a friend DM once and he ran a ship mutiny adventure where 3+ factions fought over the fate of a cruise ship. The DM limited our abilities so that we were weaker than level 1 characters. He tried to run the factions objectively, so we had to keep switching allegiances and I ended up in the brig twice. When outright combat broke out the PCs ended up surviving a big fight where nobody really survived, and came into conflict with an insane paladin. Our characters were boned- I had like 3hp at the time. However, he was adjacent to the edge of the ship so I bull rushed him. I rolled a 20- basically, the only way I could have hit him. It would have been a TPK otherwise since the other PCs were basically out for the count.

It was good because we were in such constant, legitimate danger of death that we've celebrated our survival of that ship for years since. That player doesn't DM for us often. Loved that game.

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As for what a gm gets out of running a game like this, in my experience the people who really enjoyed running games in this style and had a real knack for it tended to either be interested in it dramatically or as design testing.  They would either love to perform and reveal their work through play, much like a actor/writer or else they wanted to see what would happen with their creation like a scientist running rats through a maze.  I ran into more of the former than the latter but that may just have been the crowd I ran with.

I think I like both things you mentioned; however, with a more-gamist style campaign there's less opportunity for drama so it's been mostly a design testing experience for me. In my current campaign the players are growing into munchkins! So it's been an experiment in creating emergent behaviors in munchkins for a few games now, but the kick isn't so strong lately. I'd rather participate in a gamist way against/with the PCs.
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