Clarification on Yesterday’s Post

I really raised the hackles of some people in yesterday’s post. I should probably clarify what I was saying yesterday.

What some (including myself) would construe as hyperbole, some took as “I’m an asshole DM. What I say goes, and the heroes can go f*** themselves.”

This is not the case.

I really, highly doubt that anyone, especially one of my commenters, bothered to read the article past my first line. If they (read: one in particular) had, they would have seen this line:

Remember: As a GM, your job is to see the larger picture, to run an entire world. As a player, your job is your character. But allow a little bleed-through and care about what the other side is paying attention to.”

See? I’m not all bad.

The point of the article, which may have been overlooked, is this: Players look at their characters, GMs look at things on a larger scale. We need to have more bleed-through. Was the article fraught with statements that, if read out of context could be seen as me being a tyrannical or “arrogant” as I was called.

I think any of my players can vouch for me that I don’t even believe all that I said in the first quarter of my post yesterday. The first quarter. If you read the rest of it, it makes a pretty good point. That first half is hyperbole to get a point across.

Most of the commenters were very well reasoned, explaining their side of things, and I appreciate it. Others… well, others sounded like they’ve been in some pretty terrible game groups with some terrible GMs. I can’t blame them for saying some pretty terrible and harsh things.

4 thoughts on “Clarification on Yesterday’s Post

  1. Woah, some of those comments were less than complimentary. I hope you don’t think I made it personal. I thought my comment was relatively balanced.

    I read the whole article and saw how the post mellowed at that line quoted above, however I still think there should be more care than ‘bleed-through’.

    I have you in my Google Reader and visit the site as often as you post. So keep up the good work dude. Thought provoking articles are precisely the reason I wanted to comment.

  2. Part of the problem is that there is no sarcasm mark in English. On both your side and some of the commenters. I did read all of your post and, sarcasm aside, I still hold that you should talk with your players.

    As for your specific situation, it’s hard to comment without knowing the details. I can see a spectrum of cases. One, you hand people half a page talking about important things like the names of the country they are in and the players don’t care. On the other end, you’ve written a set of books describing every aspect of the world in a detached scientific matter and somebody didn’t recognize the name of the ancient pig farmer clearly mentioned in the footnote of page 3,487 of volume 47.

    I’m a big fan of settings that can be played from a cliff’s notes version. Eberron is a good example. A person can deal with it if they’ve read the intro and you can summarize most of the information into a couple sentences as it comes up. Or somebody can delve deeply into all the books and the novels and so forth.

    It’s sort of like the real world. Most people in the US know the president, but don’t know all their senators and representatives. Other people are into politics and know all sorts of details. Likewise a lot of people know a little bit about the culture their ancestors came from and others are steeped in traditions.

    I’d say that whatever the length of your setting information, break it into lots of sections – nations, races, history, etc. Each section should have a paragraph on the important things that everybody knows. Set that off in the page somehow – borders, shading, special icons – and say that people have to read that. Then you go into the information that’s more detailed below, getting more and more detailed. At the beginning of each part, say who needs to know this. For a race, the mandatory paragraph will be the steroeotypes of that race, then further expasion would be for people who’ve interacted with them, then members of that race, and finally people that are deeply meshed in their culture. This way, people don’t need to know everything about your world, but they don’t miss the important stuff.

    A wiki is a good way to organize this, if you’re so inclined.

  3. I have read through the entirity of both posts and all the comments up until my post (I can’t read future comments not made yet). With that said, I still have to disagree with Mark’s overall argument that the GM needs to focus a lot more on the bigger picture and the players focus a lot more only on their PCs. In my opinion, it really depends on your gaming group, the individuals that comprise that group and their respective game mentalities and priorities. I am of the firm belief that the GM should only need to focus on building the world within the PC’s immediate proximity. As one commenter stated; a game isn’t a game without its players. For example, if the GM spends countless hours creating and developing Setting A before the game session all of the GM’s efforts would have been a waste if the PCs never go to Setting A and instead the game focuses solely on Setting B. It doesn’t matter how wonderful Setting A is if Setting B is the only thing that players and PCs inhabit.

    I am currently running a D&D 4th edition game that is very heavy on story development and character development. While I am a big fan of tactical combat encounters that provide plenty of opportunities for the PCs to do loads of hack-n-slash, the action must occur for a good reason within a specific story context and environment. As the DM, I focus all my efforts on preparing for that story context and environment and I let the players decide what reasons they wish to use to justify their actions. I also require all my players to put at least a little bit of effort into creating and developing their respective PC backstory. As the DM, I take their backstories and actively intertwine their respective backgrounds into my campaign. This gives the players the strong impression that (1) the world the PCs inhabit is alive and breathing and (2) what the PCs did and do makes a big impact on the campaign world. By this logic, I am essentially indirectly and unconsciously forcing my players to constantly think about the bigger picture and help me create the campaign world around them. I should also point out that my D&D game is taking place in a completely custom game world. Even I only have a vague idea of what is around the PCs, because it all depends on what the PCs do and where they go. This brings up my next point.

    I read on another GM help website (probably from Chris Perkins) that the GM should focus the majority of his/her efforts, time and resources on preparing for the next game session rather than constantly worrying about what is going to happen five sessions later in the distant future. Yes, it is the GM’s job to pay attention to the bigger picture and make sure that all the pieces of the puzzle fit at the end of the day. However, I think it is more important to focus on the most imminent pieces of the puzzle that the players will observe and play within the present or very near future. The players will not appreciate a GM who spent all his/her time preparing for the last game session when the campaign just began and the GM is severely underprepared for the first or current game session.

    Anyways, I agree with your point that players tend to hyper-focus solely on their characters. As the GM, you need to devise methods to resolve this narrowed vision of the players and help the players appreciate the game world you have created for their enjoyment. Good posts and keep them coming!

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