What kind of GM are you?

22 09 2009

As I’m on a roll with the GM theme (do you see what I did there?), I thought I’d ask you consider what type of GM you are.

What’s the point? 

In my other life, I work in HR and Training and to be an effective trainer, you have to know what type of training style you prefer.  In the same way we all have learning styles; trainers tend to favour one of four styles.  By learning which style they favour, they can ensure they compensate when delivering training.  Trainers that favour activist learning will build a training course that activists love (activists are the hands on types).  The down side is that pragmatists, reflectors and theorists will get nothing from the course.

So if you know what sort of GM you are naturally, you can make sure that any campaigns you run are balanced for the players and not simply for the type of adventure that suits you.

  1. The wordsmith GM – Do you say ten words when one will do?  Do your descriptions last pages when a simple couple of lines would suffice?  In other words, do your players ever get a word in edgeways?  Some players love long descriptions and full dialogue.  Others like it pithy.
  2. The terse GM –  Sometimes concise can seem abrupt.  If your character descriptions are two words at best, you’ll not let your players get into any role-playing.  Are all your barmen simply, ‘a barman.’  Doesn’t he even have a name?  Does he always look ‘average-looking.’  Some colour will go a long way.
  3. The soft touch GM – Do you always let the PCs get their own way?  Are the encounters too easy and do they get +99 armour every time they open a chest?  Making it too easy is as bad as…
  4. The killer GM – Have you lost count of TPKs?  Do the rules always take precedent over the game?  Making life too tough is no fun for the players.  Making puzzles impossibly difficult will not encourage the group to make much of an effort in future.
  5. Biased GM – You just can’t help it, but you have a favourite at the table.  This may be because they put the most effort in, or they are the best role-player.  Despite the logic of your bias, the other players are playing their game their way.  They deserve an equal amount of attention.
  6. A leading GM – You just can’t help giving too many clues.  You may as well spell out the answer for the PCs.  Or, your enthusiasm for the campaign gets the better of you and you want to play in it yourself.  You do so by making an NPC a key part of the adventure – and who plays the NPC?  You do of course.  And a fine job you do too! Always remember that it’s their game experience.
  7. Railroading GM – If you give the players a choice of three roads and they all lead to the same place, you’re a railroader.  As much as you have a campaign to follow, the players should have some free will.  Or, at very least they should think they have free will.  Make the middle road so interesting that they can’t help but follow it.  Don’t make the other two roads go nowhere – nobody builds roads to nowhere (except for Talking Heads of course).

I’m not sure I’ve covered every type of GM here, but I suspect I’ve picked out most of the stereotypes in one way or another.  Be honest with yourself. 

If none of these describe your style, read them again.  A great GM will know his weaknesses and work on them.  A poor GM will convince himself he has no weaknesses.

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