Ok, So *How* Do You Roleplay Without a GM?

Note: You might want to read What’s All This About Roleplaying Without a GM? first!

If you try to play without a GM, who does all the … erm… GM stuff?

An idea: what if we took a (hypothetical) perfect GM, cut them into pieces, and then gave each player one of the pieces?  Mwhaahahah!  Then each player would be able to contribute something, and together, by their powers combined, they would be the perfect GM.  Fiendish!

This is what I call the Distributed GM.

Let’s start by listing the various attributes that make up the perfect GM. Then we can dismember the GM, and distribute the parts.

The truly perfect GM would somehow manage to do all of the following:

  • Bring an awesome adventure, set in a wonderful world just brimming with further adventures.
  • Describe everything with richness and detail.
  • Make memorable, personality-filled NPCs – and play them convincingly and entertainingly.
  • Take extensive notes to remind people what happened last session, and five sessions before, and what that guy’s name was who we met back at the start of the campaign…
  • Know the game rules – and know how to apply them in fair and fun ways.
  • Keep everyone on task, in the service of maximum fun.
  • Keep the story moving forward into fun new territory, without ever letting it drag or stall.

There are probably a lot of other things that the truly Perfect GM would do (pay for everyone’s pizza?), but that’s enough for now.

Now let’s cut this perfect GM into pieces!

We’re going to give the first of these pieces – creating the adventure, and the world it’s set in – to a fairly extensive system of tables.  I explain why here: The Problem of Player-Created Adventures.  If you want to toy around with my adventure-creation system itself, head over to A System for Creating Adventures – or head to A System for Creating Fantasy Worlds, if that’s more your bag.

But even if we’ve got adventure-creation and world-creation covered, we still need to think about what to do with the other pieces of the perfect GM.  Without a GM, who is going to serve all those other usual social functions – like keeping everyone on task, making rule judgments, and so on?  Enter the Distributed GM.

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