Had an interesting thread show up the other day in one of my dark forest spaces: how do you strategize, approach, play your role as GM?
I suspect every GM does it, but most of us aren’t that intentional — just doing the thing is already pretty demanding. When I’m doing all the pre-work that goes into running a long-form game, one thing I’ll think about is how I’m going to approach facilitating the game. I have some defaults but you can get a lot of good juice out of spending some time thinking through your role and how you’re going to play it. We’re all playing roles! And not just the diegetic ones.
Anyway, I think I’ve got like….5 facilitator personae.
- The friendly collaborator. Peer relationship with the table, deferential, excited to hear and incorporate what gets offered up.
- The entertainer. Crowd-pleasing, putting on a show for an audience, spotlight on me and not the players, funny, a rolling stand-up routine with lots of reincorporation.
- The hapless experimenter. I don’t know what I’m doing! Help me figure this out! Let’s all be cool, we’re gonna stumble over stuff, let’s just see what this game does.
- The stern judge. Tough, authoritative relationship with the table, skeptical, fair but firm, firm hand on tempo, scene setting.
- The demo guy. Instructive, uninvested, patient, think of it this way if you’re still confused, etc. Authoritative but in sales mode.
There might be more. And I’ll definitely bounce between these in any given game. If creative agendas are play strategies to get what we need out of our experience moment to moment, these are similarly strategies for getting what you need, as a facilitator.
One “trick” I’ll do is to make it look like one thing when it’s actually another. Take for example my default mode: performatively I’m a friendly collaborator but functionally I’m a stern judge. The opposite is actually more fun: look like a stern judge but really it’s very friendly collaboration.
This decision brings with it a whole mess of adjunct techniques. Stern judge and the demo guy, for example, also mean I’m sitting at the head of the table. When I’m playing 1, 2 and 3, I greatly prefer to sit on the long side, next to the shyest player I’ve clocked.
How do you perform your role as facilitator? Not the funny voices and all that (although to my mind that points at prioritizing an entertainer function), but the deeper approach. What’s your facilitator agenda?