Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Burning in the New Year
This post was written for the first annual New Year, New Game blog carnival hosted by Gnome Stew as part of the 2012 New Year, New Game challenge.
First off, I would like to reassure all of you that this blog is not about to go Burning Wheel-exclusive. I just happen to be very enthusiastic about the game. I do promise that my next post will be wholly unrelated to the game, as I believe that variety is an essential trait to any good bit of writing. Today, however, I bring it up because of the New Year, New Game blog carnival sponsored by Gnome Stew.
This new year, I am planning to run a short campaign of Burning Wheel Gold, that system I've been raving a bit about on this blog. Like I said before, this game has gotten me incredibly enthused about running a game, which is significant, considering that I'd previously considered myself totally burned out, as far as running a game went. It rather showed me a lot of the joys of being a GM. I'll still really want to play in a game (something I haven't gotten a chance to do for some time), but I no longer consider it a must at this point.
Why I Game-Master
You may note that I almost always use the term "GM", for "Game-Master", instead of the far more common "DM", or "Dungeon-Master". There's a few reasons for that. One of them is simple genericism. "DM", "Storyteller", "Narrator", or whatever term System X uses are all unique to that system, but "GM" is the term that everyone uses. If you're a DM, you're a GM. If you're an ST, you're a GM. They're all Game-Masters.
More importantly, though, I think there's a certain philosophy that goes along with the name. See, while a dungeon-master might be in charge of running the dungeon and its monsters, of giving the players a hard time as they treasure-seek, of setting forth traps and enemies to challenge them, the game-master is an overseer of a far different realm. The game-master is expected to internalize the system to a degree, and to leverage the system so that everyone has an awesome time. The game-master is a master of rules: the rules of the system, the unwritten rules of putting characters through an adventure, the rules of giving your gaming group a great time, even the rules of engaging each particular character.
Burning Wheel helped me to discover that, besides telling a great story, what I really loved about GMing was engaging these rules, making the system run so that awesome stuff keeps happening. Over and over again, Luke Crane would start ranting with enthusiasm, inspiring me with this crazy idea of pushing the characters' buttons, engaging them, seeing how they'll respond. In his world, you take one part juicy characters, another part intense situations, and a final part of conniving GM, mix them all together, and you get great drama.
Why You Should GM
I think that every RPG player should try going behind the GM Screen for once. (At this point, it strikes me as truly ironic that this blog started as "The Player's Side of the Screen".) I can imagine that this is a pretty scary proposition. There's a certain mystique about the individual who runs a roleplaying game. I think that they're assumed to have an uncanny familiarity with the rules, a masterful ability to weave plots together, a wily cunning to outwit even the greatest ploys of the players. Well, okay. Maybe some groups assume that, and I think that a lot of GMs assume that every group expects this of them.
To be perfectly honest, GMs aren't all that. There's actually far less difference between a player and a GM than you might think. I sure never expected to be up and running RPGs of my own in a few years' time, when I started playing in college. But I've done so. I think I'm finally starting to discover what makes a GM: it's when a player has the outright audacity to step up and say "I'm going to run an adventure." That's really 90% of the difference: making that statement, and willing yourself to back it up. All the rest is just paperwork.
So, in association with New Year, New Game, I would like to send a challenge to all of the players out there, the ones who have yet to step behind the screen: be a GM, even if it's just once. You don't have to have mastery of your chosen system, whether that be D&D, World of Darkness, Shadowrun, or something else altogether. Heck, you could run something like Risus or Old School Hack, simple systems that take a lot of the burden of system mastery off your back.
Whatever you do, keep it fun and simple. If things go awry, throw something crazy in there. Doubly so if it's a one-shot. Use this as a chance to stretch your wings a bit, to loosen up and be awesome. Heck, use it to run the game that you've always wanted to play. Maybe the rest of your group is actually pretty interested by the idea.
But there you have it, players. My challenge stands to you.
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