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Author Topic: The RPG Theory of GMing Style?  (Read 4660 times)

Posts: 40

Mitch "Narmical" Morris

« on: March 10, 2011, 07:58:38 AM »

I just started GMing Apocalypse Word. When I was reading through the GMing section I realized something. Apocalypse world isn't "that game about a world after civilization goes to shit" but rather "that game where each character has there own sphere of influence and we find out how they work together or against each other when shit gets bad". In other words there is a particular GMing style built into the rules of the game. This style permeates the game and it's foot print is visible right from character creation.

This led me to thinking, whats this GMing style called? Never before have i seen this topic discussed in a formal way, like is usually done with other game theory topics on the forge (or else where). I know that players and GMs have an intuitive understanding of this concept. If you read or listen to RPG advice media you will hear discussions you can hear terms like "Railroady", "Sandbox", "Tour de Realms" and "Player Driven" used to describe how a certain person GMs. These descriptions are very vague and emotional. I think this is because up until recently GM style was never written explicitly into the rules. No one was expecting it to be a concrete concept.

However, i hypothesize that it is a concrete concept. All lumply games that I have played have a concrete GMing style built into the rules of the game and an extensive GM rules section to help the GM along. Here is a list of games and there written in GMing styles.

Dogs In The Vineyard --> "Travel from fully fleshed out location to fully fleshed out location. Interact with the people in the location, Let the players decide how to solve there own problems"

Poisn'd --> "As you go about your life, bad shit just keeps happing to you. Let the team leader decide how to deal with it, allow the players to challenge the leader"

Apocalypse World --> "each character has there own sphere of influence and we find out how they work together or against each other when shit gets bad"

Mouse Guard --> "Step 1: lead the players around by the nose to the goal, they can never fail until the final confrontation. Step 2: Let the players loose to follow there characters hearts around for a while. Repeat"

This list is not exhaustive or exclusive. The style provided by Dogs is not unique to Dogs, people have GMed like that before. Even the TV show Kung Fu (from the 70s i think) follows a similar structure to Dogs.

My questions are, can we name these? should we name these?

I think it would be useful to name such concepts. The reason being, there is much time and effort spent in the RPG player communality on this topic. There are many advice columns and podcasts which discuss how to set expectations for a campaign. Part of this expectation setting is the GMing style. This seems to be a very difficult piece of the puzzle, judging by time spent on the topic. In contrast, any of the games mentioned above, have this expectation already set by the rules (assuming you GM by the rules)

Any thoughts?


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