Friday, February 11, 2011

Discussion: Who Should We Make Games For?

This is going to be a quick update - lots of paper to write this week, and it is killing my time - but it came up when discussing yesterday's blog post with one of my housemates. The question came up of "Should we be designing our games with Good GMs in mind, or with bad ones?"

Now, when asked this my gut reaction was to clarify that a GM that I didn't like wasn't necessarily bad, but could just be using a different style. The response to this was "Yes, but a lot of people say that issues with asystem can be worked around by a good GM. So, the point still stands"

Honestly, I'm not sure. I suppose it would depend upon the product itself. What about you? Do you think we should make our RPGs with the good GMs in mind, and perhaps leave some things that could be abused in? Or should we keep those bad GMs in mind and try to help them improve directly with how the game system is used and explained?


  1. I think that a game designer's 'duty' is to provide a solid framework of rules, clearly stated and as 'bug free' as possible. If there are any rules that have (through playtesting) proven to be a potential source of game balance issues (min/maxing), then the rules should, at the very least, point out to the GM the fact he may want to 'test' those particular rules, himself before adopting.

    I'm not sure it is a matter of designing for good or bad GMs. To me it's a base-line MUST HAVE for any game. It is a matter of being CLEAR (and succinct) with the information you're presenting and TESTING rules through actual play instead of just writing something up because it looks good on paper.

    In many of the systems I play, problems begin to crop up when sourcebooks come out- typically written by people other than the game designers. These will often have 'rules expansions'- many of which (in my experience) have not been playtested or even thought out very well. A 'trusting' GM might adopt these things only to discover they're horribly unbalancing- then have to backpedal. Even with understanding players, this is a bit of an annoyance for all involved. I have since learned to view expansions with a wary eye because of this.

    Speaking more specifically to the good GM/bad GM point, that is a subjective term depending on the type of game a person plays. A GM could be great at running a dungeon crawl, but suck at a story-based adventure, and vice versa. Lacking in either area doesn't mean you're a 'bad' gm. Again, I have to go back to a designer being CLEAR in their rules and providing many examples of how they function in play. Apart from that, a system intended for 'new' gamers should certainly have a section on the philosophy behind the game and some personal tips on how to run it. But these area again subjective- and again point to a 'solid' rule system being essential. If the system is solid, a GM can probably work with it to make the type of campaign they want to run.

  2. I believe games should be written for the novice. You have to assume the person reading your rule book has never read your setting/rules before. You have to lay a foundation that will allow them to properly play within your rule set.
    By extension your writing will also help the "bad" GM. As you lay out examples and guidelines to capture the feel of your setting/rules in an effort to help the novice, you will also be showing the "bad" GM the "right" way of doing things.
    However, the nature and beauty of RPGs is that they can be molded by the user, so a bad GM will be a bad GM regardless of the written word.