It’s about trust

This post was originally going to be a whinge, and I got well into it before I let it sit on my e-desk for a few days and then changed my mind. While a post that bitches about what happened on Saturday is cathartic for me as well as rather funny, it’s hardly informative and I’m trying to move this blog into more a commentary era as well as a sort of chronicle of my experiences.

So, this is what this post is about, a mix of both and hopefully I won’t get off-topic. This is going to be about trust. The Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook  says this on it:

Players should trust the GM. This trust can be gained over time through conistent use of rules, by not taking sides (that is, not favoring [sic] one player at another’s expense), and by making clear that you’re not vindictive toward the players or their characters. If the players trust the GM-and through you, the game system-they will realise that anything that enters the game has been carefully considered…They also trust that you will do whatever you can to make sure they can enjoy playing their heroes, potentially succeed in the game, and have fun.

Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, page 266

My last post was about how as a GM, I see cooperation between the GM and players as more or less integral to a good gaming experience. Everyone brings something to the gaming table and everyone has different expectations and desires about what will happen. (This is about 50% from Robin’s book, 50% my philosophy and I recommend buying the former). When these things are working together, you can have a very good group.

But that’s not the only thing that has to happen. A GM doesn’t just have to make sure this happens, the players need to be able to trust the GM to do this. If this doesn’t occur, if the GM simply goes along with his story (kinda like with DM of the Rings, actually), then the players are merely the audience to the GM’s story-not the main characters which is what they are meant to be.

And, in a nutshell, this is what happened to us last Satirday. I had the growing feeling that we were stuck in some late 80’s/early 90’s adventure game which was not one of the gems written by Ron Gilbert (famous for the early Monkey Island and Indy games). We were on a set script for a succession of senseless fetch quests that we were expected to follow in a purely straight-forward manner and any sort of deviation from this would eventually lead to the GM’s pre-determined ending.

Which was…practically non-existent.

In fact, the only remotely exciting thing that happenedlast Saturday was because of me. It was a direct result of me refusing to go on yet another standard fetch quest. I dislike them when I play them in computer games, one is boring yet two in a row is tedious. This led to the session’s only encounter which was PvP. So, my character had to leavwe the game, and I rather liked her too.

I opened the post with a quote from the rulebook about trust, I don’t trust this GM. It’s not about the rules or rulings as I hardly think he knows a lot about the rules to make them an issue (which I should have thought have earlier, before we let him GM) and this makes me the unofficial Rules Lawyer which has a lot of temptations. It’s the second sort of trust: I don’t think he is giving us the game that we want to play and I don’t think I am alone in this either, there were a few people complaining about the lack of encounters in the sessions.

And that’s not the only thing, he’s actually not aware that he is doing it or he’d do something about it (he’s not a “my way or the highway” sort of person).  I do realise that this was only his second session, but I have explained to him what railroading is and the many ways it can be avoided. I don’t think he understood. Furthermore, he’s actually not even aware of what we want with plaers, despite the in-game efforts we have made to demonstrate him. So, it’s not just that I don’t trust him it’s that he doesn’t trust us. He really just wants to go on with his story, which, to be honest, isn’t that good.

The fact that he doesn’t trust us would explain a lot. Like when he rishes us when we would rather take our time with roleplaying, or when he forces the plot when we are talking in-character, and there’s also when he expects us to follow his half-arsed quest simply because we must.

Is there any wonder that I am looking forward to the week after next when I get back into the chair?

Unlike him, I have observed the players from behind the screen and I have more or less worked out what a gender-balanced group such as ours wants out of a gaming session. While his style might suit a plotless dungeon crawling (though admittedly encounter poor) favoured by a sexually deprived group of males, it hardly suits us.

Nevertheless,  I have learned a few things this side of the screen. Mostly about how to make my plot a lot less immutable, with several alternatives to problems. I also want to bring in a thing about minor quests which I saw in a recent Chatty DM post. I may be of the storytelling form of roleplaying, but one of the most rewarding parts of my (still admittedly few) gaming experiences is how the players contribute to the story we tell together.

The next session is in a few days, and my new character is rolled up and ready to go. I still favour the Scout class, but I am trying out a Miraluka as I have always liked them.

This time, however, I am not going to backseat GM. Firstly because it gets nowhere (like how that star destroyer went nowhere), and secondly because it is rather unfair. Besides, maybe just for once it will be informative to see where the GM takes us, even it is anywhere at all.

Though that doesn’t mean I am going to be passive. I have spoken to a player during the week and through a collaboration we are going to do something that no GM in their right mind would ever take away from their players: roleplaying.

Hopefully, the Force will be with us.

P.S. Thanks must also go to for the link exchange that happened this week. Gaming bloggers need to stick together.

P.P.S. Interesting to see this topic has been mentioned on the Chatty DM and Newbie DM even though I had a head start on this.


~ by katanageldar on August 6, 2009.

5 Responses to “It’s about trust”

  1. Extremely well said.

    Trust is absolutly one of the most important aspects of the game and should always be a core component of any game session. The GM you discribe engages in what we call “mastabatory GMing”. Where to only goal is for the GM to stimulate himself with his own “brillance”.

    Although it has taken years for me to really understand this concept my philosophy is that the story is the CHARACTER’S story, not my story. The primary purpose of the story I’ve created is simply to help tie all of the PC stories together. As a GM you can’t get so caught up in your own “amazing” tale that you forget where the focus should be.

    One of the reasons I put so much effort into helping the players make great backgrounds, interesting flaws, and exciting motivations for their characters is that those things all become the feul I use to drive the campaign. Not only does this put the characters up front and on center-stage, but it also makes less work for me.

    Once again, great post. And thanks for the plug for RoleplayingPro, we look forward to hearing more from you.

  2. Aahhh!!! Oh, I thought my website was taken over…. It looks familiar! Congrats on the site and welcome to rpgbloggers.

  3. I hear your side of the story and I feel your pain. However, I’ve come to realize that we do not give new DMs a lot of slack. Many new GMs will oversimplify things in order to warp their minds around the mere running of a game. Things like player types and narrative control are just alien concepts that your friends who read blogs talk about.

    But it seems that you have talked it over and that discussion didn’t seem to come into play… possibly your friend is just too daunted to do it any other way… A failed campaign is a good life lesson too… hopefully he’ll observe more and want to try again later.

    My own Star Wars GM has tried to GM a campaign for us 4 times in 10 years and each time it crashed and burned at the 3 session point because his newbie reflexes prevented him from establishing 2-way trust and he ended up giving us games we hated.

    He’s become much much better since. And we have learned to cut him some slack too.

  4. […] get the player who will simply will sit there and not want to participate. Fortunately, I can say this player is no longer a participant in my […]

  5. […] have commented before about the trust that needs to exists between players and GMs, and listening is a big part of it. […]

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