Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Democracy In Action: Gaming Groups

Like many Americans today, I am going to vote in the midterm elections.  Unlike many other Americans, I realize you probably have precisely zero interest in my political opinions, especially on a gaming blog.

But it does make me think about the democracy of the gaming group. I've made no bones of the fact that my style as DM is more dictatorial than anything. That doesn't mean I don't solicit feedback or anything, it just means that I am the final arbiter/judge of all in-game decisions. There's not a lot of shared narrative in our games, and they're not exactly decentralized in terms of power.

That sounds harsh to some people, but I think when we talk about our GMing styles (and the trend and backlash against softer, group-consensus game mastery), even the most dictatorial GM forgets that without the democracy and populism of group social formation and cohesion, nothing is sustainable. Quite frankly, you can be a tyrant GM directly up to the point that your group says "screw you, pal", and decides that there are a dozen better ways to spend a Saturday than watching you on a power trip.

The realm you create at the table only last as long as people continue to stand for it; the moment it becomes not worthwhile, all the strict GMing in the world won't save you. All someone has to do to break that is to not show up. So long as you're a dictatorial GM, you preside at the consent of the players, and their continued tolerance of the arrangement.

Thank you, and may God Bless America.


Loquacious said...

It's not just the GM that gets the vote- I have quit more than one game because there was a creep, jerk, a**, or other unfortunate excuse for a person involved in the game.

I'm a big proponent of the GM being the last say- even in a shared narrative style game, if the GM doesn't have the guts to say "no", I'm not interested in playing for long.

Daddy Grognard said...

This relates in a way to the social contract that either formally or informally is established between DM and players at the start of a campaign.

When my current pbem is finished, I'll be blogging on aspects of GMing a pbem (and by extrapolation other forms) and the social contract will be one of those subjects.

Tim Shorts said...

GMs need to rule the table. I am a player most of the time and I may throw out my red flag once in a while to call for a review, but if the GM decides that the play on the table stands than I roll with it. *Thought you may appreciate the football analogy after your team's win last night :)*

Joshua L. Lyle said...

Loquacious is on the right track; gaming is never a democracy (or republic, which is the more appropriate term, democracies being characterized by sortition, accountability, and publicity) because players (including the referee) have an easy-to-exercise right of exit, so the majority does not rule, but must instead pursue an organization of mutual benefit and unanimous consent, which is entirely unlike any known government. That is to say, unless you're chaining people to it, the gaming table is a form of anarchy. The consensual context of the social activity makes even a firm-handed referee very different from a dictator. Would that more of the world would be the same.

Zachary Houghton said...

Good thoughts, guys, a bit more cerebral than yours truly. You should have caught on by now I only write things to bait you guys into showing me up. :)

Loquacious said...

Gaming is sort of like a commune; but only for short periods of time rather than having to deal with it all the time. I am glad we do not govern anything but fun this way.