Thursday, 20 April 2017
Classic Rant: Pundit-Notes From the Great Forge Reunion Battle of 2015
Wherein Ron Edwards Complained That People Still Remembered "Brain Damage", and Were Still mad at him for it;
and Wherein Ron Edwards Tried to Take Credit for the OSR
The Hobby is a Free Market: Why Constraining GMs Through Rules is Stupid and Useless
There is already a clearly-set limit on the GM: the Player controls his Character. That's it. The GM is GOD in every other respect.
That's how you make it work.
Now, that's it, in terms of rules. Obviously, yes, you have the Social Contract; a GM who just does "rocks fall and everyone dies, bwah hah hah hah!" on his players isn't going to be a GM for long, because people will (in the free market this hobby is) move on to some other, better GM. But you can say the same about the GM who fills his world with monosyllabic totally bland NPCs, or the GM who regularly has his players slogging through hexes or 40' corridors without giving any life to them.
These are Bad GMs. Specifically because they're shitty at being God.
But you don't fix that by creating rules that hamstring the GM, that say "the GM can't oppose a player if/when...". You do that, and you only make the situation worse; first and foremost because suddenly the GM is constrained by the rules and will at times be unable to create an emulative environment BECAUSE of those rules. But furthermore, because you will potentially have Primma Donna Players taking abusive advantage of those rules to ruin the fun for everyone else.
A GM who just cares about his own fun and not the other players is being a BAD GM. A player who just cares about his own fun is not being a bad player (he might be a bad person, but not a bad player) because he's SUPPOSED to only care about his character.
But what this means is that if you turn around and give away the power to the players because of the "tyranny" of Bad GMs, you make the problem much worse. Instead of one Dictator, you now have 4-6 Dictators, and whereas the former had a "noblesse oblige" duty to make the game fun for all, none of those 4-6 Little Stalins actually do.
So the answer is never something that's found in actual Rule Design. It can't be, because the GM has to be able to break any rule any time he wants to, and the constraint to that cannot be in the rules but in the right of the player to walk away from the table.
That's why Amber is a million times better than anything the Forge ever produced. It deals with the problem by dedicating most of the book to the greatest GM advice ever put to paper. It recognizes that the only answer to the problem of 'bad GMs' is to try to help people be better GMs.
(Originally posted January 20, 2015)