What other folks say about running versus playing games

Art from the card "Leave No Trace" for Magic the Gathering by Pat Lee
Leave No Trace – Pat Lee

I recently left my last Adventurers League campaign, in which a player from my Out of the Abyss campaign is now running Waterdeep: Dragon Heist for approximately the same group. A number of reasons led to this choice, including the AL Season 8 ruleset. However, the fact that I really prefer the GM / DM role rather than that of a player had perhaps even a larger effect.

The other day I idly wondered aloud which side of the GM screen people like to sit on, and I got way more answers than I expected!

Some of the answers that really resonated with me:

Like my old buddy Mat (from our EVE Online days), I like managing the setting and weaving a narrative around the players and how the world responds to them.

Like Ben Reichertz, I prefer either knowing what’s going on in the world or, potentially, a game style where I can interact with it and try to puzzle it together. This one gets a little specific to the style of the GM if I’m playing, because not everyone else runs their games in a way where that works.

Related to that:

The “driving with frosted up windows” comparison here seems really apt. Sometimes it has less to do with solving a puzzle and more about getting a good sense of the world we play in. In published settings, that’s more or less a solved problem, but even then sometimes a GM may have (I would argue should have) their own unique vision of what that setting is really about. Still, it can be frustrating for folks like me.

I found it relatively interesting that the majority of responses leaned to the GM/DM role. Upon further reflection, though, it didn’t surprise me that much: the sorts of folks who actively engage in social media discussions about RPGs and consider it a hobby to pursue and research tend to have the level of engagement you’d expect from someone who wants to organize a game and play a world. The sorts of folks who instead look at RPGs as a fun way to spend a few hours a week with friends, maybe just laughing and rolling dice, tend not to think of it as a hobby unto itself and thus might prove less likely to have those conversations online.

Anyway, it’s fine, we’re all friends, and as always I have more ideas about campaigns I want to run than I have time to run them…

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