Day 16: GMs: abusers, control freaks or both? Best story explaining why this is so.

Easy one today. Both.

I’ve learned a lot since I started in 1980. Thirty-six years of make-believe mostly within an asymmetrical social structure? What could possibly go wrong.

Not that it’s been one long Stanford Prison Experiment, but hoo boy when I was younger? Younger as in “into my mid-30s”. Gaslighting individual players (immersion!), capricious and inconsistent rulings (not rules, ptui, those just take away my creative authority!), trying to fix interpersonal problems diegetically (!!!)…it’s a long list.

GMs are both.


I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that I can trust my players more than I used to.

I’ve learned that I can make mistakes at the table, say so, and be forgiven.

I’ve learned that I do my best work when I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy, not the top.

I’ve learned that everything the GM handles can be handled by someone else, at least some of the time, if they want to.

I’ve learned that radical transparency and honesty doesn’t mean the end to discovery and surprises.

I’ve learned that I’ve spent years in codependent relationships with some players, to the detriment of both of us.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to say no, to shut down the game, to do whatever it takes to generate my own enthusiasm to facilitate. Because it sure looks like I’m in it for the long haul.

I’ve learned that there’s still so much to learn.

15 thoughts on “Day 16: GMs: abusers, control freaks or both? Best story explaining why this is so.”

  1. kirin robinson well…It kind of depends on what you mean by misinformation, doesn’t it? Maybe the Reddit thread goes into it, not sure I’m gonna go in there because Reddit.

    I’ve used misinformation and asymmetrical information, and they’re great tools. Sometimes! But I’ve also done it in an unethical way, and not only failed to produce the experience I wanted but undermined trust at the table.

    Everything good in the world can be misused as well.

  2. I’ve really loved your threads this month, and this one most of all. There’s something oddly soothing about this type of open self-reflection, and kind criticism of the many quirks and dogmas of RPGland. All in all, I find your lack of faith refreshing! Thanks.

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