Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quick Fix: Origins of the Evil GM

So, there was an interesting moment last night. Despite the fact that I am, despite claims, a pretty nice guy normally I realized that I put on the mean 'tough guy' act when I GM. "Yeah, I'm not that nice" I said to a player when he asked why the proverbial shit was hitting the proverbial fan over the course of the session. Someone else, a friend who was watching then chimed in that I'm only nice to people right before I rip them a new one (he was talking about in games I run, and only that I hope). It all got me thinking.

Where did the idea of the Evil GM come from? What is it that started it off? Did it sprout from the days of old where GMs mockingly put notches in their GM screen for every player they killed? Or is that an off shoot of the evil GM as GMs played into the role, joking around with friends while pretending to be that quack of an adversarial GM who wanted nothing more than the players to feel utter despair at what their characters faced this time?

If that is an Evil GM, then what is a Good GM? Surely the concept of Good (the alignment, not skill level) GMing must exist if we have one for Evil GMing. But we never hear about the "Angelic GM" who runs awesome games, just the one that wishes you'd made a deal with the devil instead. So, where do you think it comes from? What do you think it means? Do you have any interesting stories to tell about being a truly diabolic GM? Or even of being an Angelic GM? What do the terms mean to you?

Please, discuss below.

1 comment:

  1. I feel that there is a perception (especially in the "Old School" gaming community) that an 'Angelic' GM equates to a poor GM. That if you AREN'T hard on the players, you're 'doing it wrong'. I know this is a generalization, and that there are many takes on the subject, but it is a feeling I get nonetheless.

    I've never experienced an evil GM, but I would consider myself an Angelic one. But again, I think a lot of that has to do with my game of choice, Star Wars. I mean, if you use the movies (especially the original trilogy) as a model for your campaign, then characters dieing off every other week just doesn't fit the mold or the feel of the game. Afterall, how many of the main 'Heroes' in the original trilogy died? None. And I've said this a million times before, so I won't go into it. Death isn't the only type of 'failure' that can 'teach the players a lesson'.

    I think people are equating what works for one game system- or even one type of campaign within that system- with the way it should be done across the board.

    I recall talking to a young GM who runs a d20 Star Wars campaign. He was talking about player characters getting gacked regularly and I was just kind of dumbfounded. It sounded so (for lack of a better term) 'grindy'. If you're playing a dungeon-crawl type campaign, then MAYBE, a high turnover rate is something to be expected. But in a heroic setting like Star Wars it seems (to me) to feel wrong. But again, that's just my subjective view on that particular setting.