Game Master's Rights and Obligations to the Group
The following material is a basic guideline of respect for the Game Master (GM) involved in the gaming group. We do not ask our members of the gaming group to remember everything stated or view what is written as law. The following is for the Game Master to understand that these are their rights and obligations to both the gaming group and to the game itself so that the group may have a fun and enjoyable gaming experience.
As a Game Master…
”I must have a good time.”
-If you’re not, your players won’t, either. If you are starting to perceive your game as an unwelcome chore, or burdensome obligation, then burnout is on your horizon.
”If I’m not having a good time, I must do whatever it takes to change that.”
-The players aren’t as oblivious as you may think. If you are not having a good time, they will sense the disturbance in the Gamer Force, and it will make them feel vaguely guilty and resentful. Players who feel guilty and resentful will leave your game.
”I have the right to take a break from or end the game whenever I feel necessary.”
-As a Game Master, there are moments when you need a break from the game. That’s okay. You have every right to request to put your game on hold or simply end the game for whatever reason. Talk with your players prior to your decision to pause or end the game so that the players may make arrangements for someone else to perhaps take the reigns as Game Master. This will allow you to take time to play as a player within a game or deal with personal matters you may be facing. You are not responsible for being the designated GM to this group. There may be a time when the players may feel that the pause or end of the game will effect the group negatively. You are not accountable for keeping the gaming group together and if players so wish to wait for your return, instead of playing someone else’s campaign, that is their choice. If and when you are ready, you may announce your return and continue from where you left off or begin a new game. But, the choice is yours.
”I will respect all of my Players.”
-Have some manners. Even if you’re in a rush, remember the little things like ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and a pleasant demeanor. The bad karma that can be generated from one snappish comment can ripple throughout a group and poison it very quickly.
Address the players with some manners and pay attention when they speak. Never get into a heated argument with your player. You will almost certainly say something that you will regret later. If your temper starts flaring, step back, take a time out and do not discuss the matter until you can be calm about it. Depending upon the severity of the concern, the player may wish to discuss the issue right-then-and-there or request to discuss it after the game so it won’t hold up valuable game play time.
Most importantly, respect everyone. You may be asked to run a group with people of various diversities and backgrounds. This could range from, but are not limited to: race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, gender identity, sexuality, age, military service, &/or people with physical, social or mental disabilities. You may also be asked to run a group where you personally know a player and have had a history with that player which may cause tension with you joining the group. Personal histories can be a wide range of reasons; ex-lover/ex-spouse, former friend/colleague, or former player of a past group.
We are all here to play a game and if this group is not for you for any of these reasons, you have the right to leave or be asked to leave the game. It’s okay. This group might not be for you and we understand, however; if you decide to leave a game, do the players a favor by stating that you are leaving the group for personal reasons. Equally, if a group asks you to leave, they will respectfully do the same. You do not need to explain any further if your reasons are based on personal views, past experiences, opinions or prejudices. All we ask is take your leave with the minimum of fuss and melodrama. The players will respect you for it.
This can also be extended to personal property. If you wish to borrow items from the player; ask. Explain how long you will be borrowing the item for as well; few minutes, the whole game, a few days. It’s frustrating when people grab and take. Especially when they borrow without asking for a few days or more.
”I will present a game with coherent goals and plot lines, with some kind of regularity.”
-Anything beyond or above that is gravy. Learn to tell the difference between essentials and the rest. Strive to achieve the essentials, gloat like hell when you get gravy.
”I will listen to the players’ needs, and balance them within my chronicle concept. That said, I will not put the desires of an individual player above my group’s vision or goals.”
-Accept that you cannot make every player happy, all of the time lest you become known as the “Pushover GM” – We’ve all been there, and it stinks.
Never, ever let a player make an ultimatum to you, particularly of the “If I don’t get what I want, I’m going to take my ball and go home” variety. No game should hinge on one player, nor should you let yourself be pushed around by one player. Remind an ultimatum-giving player that there are games for everyone, but maybe your game isn’t one of them – that usually takes the wind out of their sails.
”I will keep in touch with my players, by whatever appropriate means.”
-If you set up an e-mail account for the game, check it regularly. If you allow players to call you at home, return their calls.
”My decisions are final.”
-You have to be the grown up. Be prepared to make, and enforce, decisions that your players may not like. See “Doormat GM”, above.
Never get into a heated argument with a player. If that starts, insist on a time-out – for days if necessary – and suggest that the matter be dealt with later. When angry, you will make decisions for the wrong reasons.
You have to be the grown up. Even when you’re tired and cranky, and just don’t wanna, you have to be the grown up, because you are an example to the players, whether you like it or not. Of course, if that makes you unhappy, perhaps it’s time for you take a break.
”I am on the game and the group depends upon me.”
-You have to stay on top of what’s going on. You can delegate some work, sure, but when all is said and done, you are the one that the game depends on. If you drop the ball, then your game will collapse.
The game might take up a large chunk of your free time, but it should not take up all of it. If that is the case, start looking for assistants. You need some things other than your rpg campaign to do with your time, otherwise your obligation to the game will quickly become too much to bare.
”I will be here on time.”
-Remember, people like yourself have lives outside the game, and they may wish to enjoy it every now and then. When the group agrees to a gaming schedule, it is because everyone wants to take that time out of their busy schedule to play your game. It is everyone’s duty and obligation to adhere to that schedule. We’ve all agreed to attend at such-and-such a time, we should all be there from such-and-such a time.
That said, there is a time when scheduling conflicts with life. It happens. Life happens. If the group- let’s say- agrees to meet once a week on a Thursday between 6 pm to 11 pm for example, and you are aware of a scheduling conflict with another personal obligation such as wedding, party, or what have you, the best thing to do is let the group know in advance that you cannot make it and it might have to be rescheduled or canceled for that week. Sadly they may miss that scheduled game, but at least they are prepared in advance. There may also be times when a group can reschedule to suit a GM’s schedule. Informing the group in advance may also allow the group to discuss rescheduling together.
Being late is also considered disrespectful. I mean, think about it. Everyone, including you, had discussed and agreed to the time & date that is best for everyone to play. So, when we all finally agree to a set time and day, the worst thing anyone can do is be an hour or more late for gaming. If you’re scheduling too much stuff to do in your day that it makes you late, it might be a good idea to think about better ways to handle your time management. Obviously things come up and life happens, but when life always seems to be happening and making you late, its disrespectful to everyone who has taken the time to show up upon the agreed time.
”I will listen as much as possible.”
-This means a GM needs to focus when another player asks for a moment of his/her time concerning gaming matters – be it at the game or gaming e-mails/calls/texts outside of the game. It means the GM need to pay attention when a player speaks as much as the player must heed the words of a GM when given. Neither side is speaking because they like the sound of their own voice.
This also means all non-essential rpg equipment & devices from distracting yourself & other players. Come on, we’ve all been there. You have a new phone and you are excited to show and try out all the new stuff you can do on it. Or, you figure you’ll play a portable electronic gaming system when it’s not your turn. Right?
Well, consider this. Many of your group members have put a lot of time and effort into playing this game. Having you fiddle with a cell phone or playing a hand-held game makes everyone think that you’re not interested in playing. Either that or what the player is doing on his/her turn isn’t fully supported by the GM. Believe it or not, it sucks the life out of a game & makes a player feel less of a value to the group. Be respectful and turn off or avoid using devices which may distract the game. If you’re bored, remember you do have the right to make it fun. Just be considerate.
”I will communicate my opinion and advice.”
- Communication requires an exchange of information and opinions. If that’s not happening, then somebody is just giving a monologue. Once you get the hang of listening to each other, try the possibly novel concept of giving considered feedback.
This matter is particularly true when it comes to player-unhappiness. Every ongoing rpg that I have been a part of – and I mean every single one – has suffered communications problems when it comes time for the players to bring up an issue they have with the Game Master. What happens, instead, is that the players vent their spleen with each other. This is a useless activity and by the time it gets back to you, the GM - and it will, I assure you – the truth will be distorted beyond all recognition, and the GM will want to bang his/her head on wall with frustration, wondering why the players can’t just talk to the GM.
I’ll let the cat out of the bag, here. GMs- do not eat your players for breakfast. Even if the player has something critical to say. As long as it is said politely, and in a timely manner, you will most likely be glad to hear an honest opinion, and will give it the consideration it deserves.
As I have often lamented myself, game-masters are not telepathic. GMs cannot read players’ minds and vice versa.
For a game to evolve and grow, information and opinions must be exchanged. Hoping that “someone else” will share your opinion with the other side never, ever work.
Game-masters, if you want to learn what the players are enjoying, or if those grumbled-rumors are really true, talk to the players. I know this sounds like common-sense stuff, but you might be surprised at how often even simple communications fail to happen.
”I will respect other people’s health.”
-Remember, people do get ill outside the game, and you may want to take time to recuperate. If this happens, bring it up to your GM’s attention if you cannot make it. Try to notify the group at least 24 hours if you decide you are cancelling due to illness.
As well, do not attempt to come to play if you are sick. Making other’s ill is not fun. We have to be considerate of other’s health as well.
”I will respect the Shared Food & Drink Policy.”
-We understand that people get the munchies or need a nourishing meal. Especially if you’re playing for several hours. Unless told otherwise, please bring something to share and be prepared if the group requests money towards a group meal (i.e. pizza).
Being generous is also welcomed. Some people enjoy cooking a full meal for the group, while others enjoy buying the meal for everyone. This is not mandatory, but highly appreciated if a player or GM wishes to be so kind. As well, if a person wishes to show off their baking talents to share as snacks, the group will equally and pleasantly enjoy the gesture.
Obviously there are times when a person cannot afford such luxuries on a regular bases. We understand. Some players have purchased more snacks or beverages to save for other days. Example, buying two bags of chips one week, having one bag saved for the following week. Other players can only afford to contribute only once every two weeks or even once a month. It’s okay. The point is that all we ask is that you contribute. Obviously if you’re simply being frugal and cheap because you want to be, not because you have to be, then you’re not respecting the group’s Shared Food & Drink Policy either. Please contribute.
There are some cases where the gaming group may gather at a hobby/gaming store and it is deemed best for the group to have the players fend for themselves. If this is the case and the group has already established this during the group’s formation or prior to a gaming session, then the Shared Food & Drink Policy does not apply. But once again, this must be established by the group and not assumed. If you any any questions about the Shared Food & Drink Policy, ask. Your fellow GM and players will respect you for doing so.