GM Philosophy

The concept shamelessly stolen from The Angry DM’s Gamemastering Credo, this is my approach to running a campaign. It’s the mindset I try to maintain and the kind of game I try to run. I make no claims to be able to do all these things consistently, but this is what I’m aiming for.

  1. I am a Storyteller.
  2. I am a Worldbuilder.
  3. This is my world.
  4. This is not just my game.
  5. I’m running the game.
  6. My table is a safe space.
  7. I institute time-outs.
  8. My table has open borders.
  9. I am a mediator.
  10. I trust my players.
  11. Roleplaying is a team game.
  12. I protect the immersion in my game.
  13. I provide a causal world.
  14. I use the rules unless I decide there’s a good reason not to.
  15. I fix problems.
  16. Every scene demands choices and produces consequences.
  17. In-Character knowledge is automatically checked.
  18. Death comes from taking an intentional risk.
  19. Everyone present gets to play in every session.
  20. I encourage good metagaming.
  21. I’m running a game, not writing a novel

I am a Storyteller.
I use the term GM out of convenience, but at heart I’m here to make stories happen. If players envision an arc for their characters, I will collaborate to make it happen as close to their vision as possible within the gameworld constraints. Beyond that, I will provide a story with choices for those characters and a world that responds with consequences.

I am a Worldbuilder.
I write my own worlds, or adapt others’. Creating worlds, then seeing what players do with them is a main reason I like running games.

This is my world.
I built the world, so I get final say about what exists and what is happening. I’ll be happy to take input, but I put in the effort to write it, it’s my job to mesh it into the story, so in the end it’s my baby.

This is not just my game.
I’m not alone at the table. Players all have things that excite, bore, interest, and offend them. Before we start a campaign, I will let all players know what kind of games I want and/or am willing to run. If I don’t have a world or story I want to run that can accommodate what my player base is willing to engage with, I’ll gladly let someone else run a campaign that does. I’ll have a chance to GM again.

I’m running the game.
Once we’ve established what we’re playing, I’m running that game. I’ll do my best to take input and accommodate requests, but once we’ve discussed an issue, it’s my call what decision best fits with the game we’re playing and the circumstances of the situation.

My table is a safe space.
I create a space where we build each other up, rather than tear each other down. Players should be free to put as much of themselves into the game as they feel comfortable with and are able to. My table requires a positive, collaborative environment and I will stop the game if the atmosphere among people at the table becomes negative, uncomfortable, or hostile.

I institute time outs.
If I perceive that a player is confused or upset with something that I or another player is doing. I’m calling time-out to resolve that issue before it causes problems. I encourage players to call time out whenever they have an objection or important question regarding my or another player’s action.

My table has open borders.
To the extent whoever’s hosting is comfortable, new players are welcome to join if they’re willing to fit in to the group and accept this philosophy. People are welcome to spectate and visit as long as they aren’t disruptive. Players are free to quit the campaign when they need to without hard feelings and will be welcomed back when they feel able to recommit. If a player is asked to leave (or leaves under similar conditions), those issues need to be resolved first to avoid a repeat.

I am first mediator, then arbitrator.
I try to help players find a win-win solution to any game-related conflicts with each other, and try to approach GM-player disagreements in the same spirit. This requires a mutual willingness to take that approach. I am not a therapist or a relationship counselor, and I’m not willing to spend more time on arguments and disagreements than on positive gaming. So if discussion ends at an impasse, I’m making the call.

I trust my players.
I’m not going to watch players’ rolls or audit character sheets for fudging. I’m going to assume players are familiar and knowledgeable about their character’s abilities and mechanics. If a player’s sheet or actions are incorrect, I will have a starting assumption that it’s unintentional and help fix whatever misunderstandings exist. I will not fudge dice or lie to players OOC. I will decide when to openly overrule the rules and I will use my world and NPCs to deceive characters. Mutual trust is necessary for a game to work, and breaking that is a big deal.

Roleplaying is a team game
Characters might exist in opposition, but the players (and GM) are a team. I will ensure a common understanding of the game and the roles of the players in relation to each other and myself, based on the game we agreed to play. I will veto any proposed character build or IC action that undermines that understanding unless or until a new agreement and understanding is reached OOC. I will not consider “My character is crazy, evil, dangerously stupid, etc.” valid reasons for a player to ignore that understanding.

I protect the immersion in my game.
Immersion’s primary requirement is the suspension of disbelief. This means that PCs, NPCs, encounters, etc. have to stay within the parameters of the game players agreed to play. This also means I will veto character builds and IC actions that break or ignore the theme, genre, setting, or scope of the game we agreed to play. There is a place for humor in my game, but if this philosophy statement is in the game information, we aren’t playing a comedy.

I provide a causal world.
Players’ actions will have effects on the world, and they can rely on things working they way they’ve learned things work. Except when there’s a reason they don’t, and there will be a reason if actions and knowledge don’t lead to the results players have come to expect. The reason might not be immediately apparent, but I’ll be happy to inform players it’s there somewhere.

I use the rules unless I decide there’s a good reason not to
Following the rules gives me a good idea of what characters can and cannot accomplish, and lets me create a world where players are presented with interesting situations and meaningful options. It also lets the players have an idea of what their characters can and cannot affect in the gameworld, which is important to their stories and their build options. But I’m happy to handwave the rules away when necessary. Plot points might feature creatures, NPCs, and objects which don’t follow the normal rules. If the rules overcomplicate an unexciting task that poses no real risk or difficulty, I’ll assume a success or substitute a simpler ad-libbed rule. In the middle of a tense scene,if a rules question arises such that researching it would derail the momentum of the encounter, I’ll consider players’ best guesses and make an on-the spot ruling that gives the benefit of the doubt to the players to keep the game moving.

I fix problems
I will make mistakes. So will players. I’m not afraid to admit being wrong and I’m not afraid to change the game to make things right. If I am aware of a problem, I will discuss the best way to fix it and listen to that conversation. Retcons, rule revisions, and changing behaviors are all tools in my toolkit for those occasions.

Every scene demands choices and produces consequences
I won’t run a scene without a reason. The heart of roleplay is making choices and responding to consequences in character. Every scene will have some level of choice and consequence. The players might create a new scene I hadn’t anticipated, but it will still have choice and consequence. Minutiae, routine mundanities, and complicated if inevitable logistics will be done off-screen unless it involves an interesting characterization moment or by player request.

In-Character knowledge is automatically checked
When a situation arises that hinges on in-character knowledge, I won’t leave the player hanging. Either through a relevant roll or simple disclosure, in character knowledge is automatically checked when relevant. If a character would know an action or situation is impossible, risky, dangerous, or counter-productive, I make sure the player knows. Similarly, if players haven’t noticed an possibility their characters would, I inform them.

Death comes from taking an intentional risk.
If character tries to take an action or enter a situation where there is a risk of death, I will clearly inform the player before the point-of-no-return so they can take it into consideration when deciding what choice their character will make.

Everyone present gets to play in every session.
Every player gets to be included every game session. Time in the spotlight may not be exactly even, but no one gets left out.

I encourage good metagaming
Usually metagaming means characters acting based on motivations and/or information only the player has. That’s generally a bad thing, and I will discourage that. But metagaming where players talk about what they want to happen in the game, and how they should play their characters to realize those goals, is collaborative storytelling. In other words I encourage players to talk to each other.

I’m running a game, not writing a novel
I will make as few pieces of background reading essential as possible. Characters will not be penalized for players not reading optional material. I will provide IC information as normal in any given situation. If the player wants to gain a better understanding of the situation to help in good metagaming, having read the optional information is recommended.

GM Philosophy

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