A buddy and I have been chatting about this concept for a while, and so I wanted to take a break from ACKS and Dark War to chat about the catch-22 of GMing. The idea behind what I call the GM’s Dilemma is: We run the games we want to play. At first this seems to be a pretty statement, and one that shouldn’t need explanation. Of course we run the games we want to play, that is why we bought them. We devour the settings and rules that spark our imagination. We pour over them, and learn them and write stories within them.
But here is the dilemma. For most of GMs, what this actually means is that they will always run the games we want to play. I, personally, want to run a Supers game, because what I really want to do is play in a Supers game and no one else will do it. Unless you have one of those mythical gaming groups where everyone is a GM and you are all passionate about the same game (which do exist and I had the pleasure to be a part of one for close to seven years), as the GM role rotates around the table the group ends up playing in the game the GM really wants to.
What is the answer to the GMs Dilemma? I have no good answer. It is tough, because part of being a good GM is being passionate about the game you are running, which a desire to play provides. Here are some thoughts that I have been kicking around to deal with the dilemma.
After a campaign wraps up, my groups hold a pitch session to decide on what game to pick next. After some discussion and a vote, we jump into the new game. What if the GM of the previous game got to toss a game system into the vote for someone else to run? The idea is, if you step up to learn and run system X, then when your campaign ends, someone else will run system Y for you.
It requires a huge amount of trust and by in from the group. Because the first time no one is willing to pick up game Y, then the whole system crashes. You could make it even less restrictive & more appealing to potential GMs by letting the previous GM just pick the genre for game pitches. So the guy who likes Sci-Fi gets to play in a Sci-Fi game, but the new GM gets to pick a system he wants to run.
When you assemble your gaming group/prepare for a new campaign talk with your players about founding the campaign as a Troupe Style game. Let them know that you would like to pick a system that everyone is ok with, and then rotate the GM chair over the course of the campaign. The plan would be for everyone to take the reins of the game for a week or two. While there might be the primary GM, the game group turns into a pool of GMs.
This could encourage faster system mastery as players prepare to run, interesting takes on the campaign setting that one person could not have thought of, and a chance for everyone to enjoy the view from both sides of the screen. If feel this would work best with a kitchen sink setting (Forgotten Realms, Golarian, Numenera, Rifts) where there is something for every GM to gravitate towards.
What are your thoughts on the GM Dilemma and possible solutions?