Friday, May 13, 2011

Discussion: What Makes It 'Adversarial' GMing?

I won't lie, this discussion topic was prompted by a comment on reddit about this post here. Yep, I got onto reddit somehow, and in the 5 minutes this was on the front page, it blew my previous daily hits record out of the water.

Anyhow, in the comments someone mentioned that my advice was for more adversarial GMing. Anyone who reads this blog is doubtless sick of me stating that I dislike adversarial GMing, and prefer cooperative story telling; so, needless to say, the comment intrigues me. Clearly there are different perceptions on what makes GMing adversarial, and what makes for cooperative story telling. So, today, I want to discuss just what those qualities might be.

To me, an adversarial GM is one who has a win condition separate from "the game is fun." You know the kind I mean, the one who sets up dungeons and monsters with the express purpose of beating the PCs and showing how much better than the players the GM is. They play for keeps, root for their NPCs, and count all their TPKs as victory notches. In short, they're what the Angry DM claims he is, however far from the mark he actually is.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying this kind of game can not be fun. Some groups love it, some players love it, and if your group has fun with it do not let me stop you. It just isn't my cup of tea.

So, what about you? What do you consider adversarial GMing to include? What marks a GM as adversarial more than just trying to up the tension or realistically portray the enemies?


  1. In general I'd say taking control from the players when they really should have it. As far as if rolling for them is adversarial, I'd say it depends on the player. If you're going to roll for them then you need to agree that it's better for the game. If the player doesn't want to play that way then there has to be some kind of negotiation as to what is acceptable. I've had some players that would be fine with it. Others view their dice rolls as a real skill that they can influence and depriving them of that makes them feel like their abilities to succeed have been invalidated.

    That said, I don't think you can really influence die rolls but on occasion I've felt intuitively that allowing someone else to roll for me isn't right. It's not a logical thought process, just a feeling that I can't easily shake.

  2. True, and that goes into Agency and a bunch of fun stuff about feeling in control which can make a big difference on things. Though, out of curiosity, what do you see as Adversarial Gming than Emmet?

  3. Man, I've been failing to explain myself clearly. Writing fail!

    It's really summed up in my first sentence. My Definition would be: In general I'd say taking control from the players when they really should have it.

    When the players should have control is really up to the social contract of the game. Made up of a combination of the rules and setting, as a openly communicated agreement and the historical record of past games.