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The Seer Vitz

GM Purpose Series: Player Foiler

What is the purpose of the GM? I don’t think all of the responsibilities of the GM could ever be fully described. Also, there are many different styles that one GM may have that another may find preposterous. Yet, there are a few major purposes that a GM could have in mind while running a campaign, and this series will look at the major ones that I have had.

To start off, I think I will go with the basic "player foiler" attitude, that is always a blast to have. This is the idea that the GM is set against the players. However, this style does not work in every system, for some times, it is almost required that the GM assists the players. Yet, in some systems, they can almost be seen as having been set up for the possibility of GM/player conflict.

One such system happens to be good old AD&D. In many games that I have run in this system, I have designed the game to be me verse them: the GM verses the players. I would make some tough memorable NPCs that the players would be forced to try to defeat. Yet, I wouldn’t hold back, I would play the NPCs, as if I were that character, and the characters of the players were some evil monsters. This can be fun, but you must be warned, the players will get very frustrated if they always lose.

The problem with this purpose as a GM is that the players will almost definitely expect that you are cheating. They will probably claim that you keep changing the die rolls behind your impenetrable screen. Maybe you are? But, if your purpose is to foil the players and their characters, then you should definitely not cheat. It would defeat the purpose of this style! You want to beat them as you would a normal foe, not by using your omnipotent GM powers.

And I don’t suggest that you use this style too often, unless your players enjoy a good challenge. This style is best used when your players have found some amazingly powerful weapons and think that they are unbeatable. I also like to call this style the "ego whip" (in honor of the psionic power of the same name). When the players believe that nothing can stop them, you better prove to them that something can! Otherwise the game will definitely lose its appeal when nothing can beat them. (It works the other way, if you over do this technique, and they feel that they cannot beat anything!)

That is the basics to this style of GMing. It can often be quite fun to change to this style, especially to throw the players for a loop. If you have been overly generous to them lately, deciding to switch to this attitude will shock them and make them nervous. But, if they are able to beat you in the end (as they should, inevitably) then they will appreciate the sweet taste of victory even more. There is nothing like working hard to achieve something like that. And of all the purposes I will detail, this is one of the ones that I definitely suggest you try once in a while! Not only will it make the game more enjoyable for the players, but chances are, it will also make the game much more enjoyable for you!

Till next time, beware the GM with the evil grin on his face.

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist