For today’s article, I’m going to put out a rule I try my best to use, and explain why I GM by it. I feel it’s a very important rule to at least understand for every GM out there.
Rule - Keep out-of-character issues out-of-character, and keep in-character issues in-character
This probably sounds simple, possibly you’ve read or heard it elsewhere before? That’s because it’s a pretty necessary part of tabletop RPGs that we all need to understand. I recall once two of my players wanted some Gorgon horn or somesuch, and I decided the matter with some saves or skill checks. Well, it seemed that the losing party was still unhappy even after the session, so I asked him. He explained why he felt it was unfair, and that’s when I told him…
Losing Party: …and that’s why I don’t agree with what went down. I’m just mad about it.
Me: Mad about it? Do you mean in-character (IC) or out-of-character (OOC)? Because if you mean out of character we need to have a talk. It’s nice that you’re getting invested in our games, but everyone needs to be able to retract themselves from their characters, and let go until they return to playing them.
It’s times like these that players need to take a step back, breath a little, and remember ‘It’s only a game…’ I understand that it can be a game that we all work very hard on, one that connects us and helps us express ourselves, but people need to be able to understand and control those feelings, and realize they should remain IC.
A similar issue is keeping biases out of the game entirely. I feel like a game can work if you don’t like someone as a person, but you need to be able to stop being biased once you start GMing for them, which is easier said than done. My players know that they can bring me gifts and bribe me all they want, but I won’t help them or give them anything in-game because that makes no sense. Granted, I have broken this rule, but only for one game. (Questioning which game it is is TREASON, Citizen! Are you a commie mutant traitor?) And I make that clear to my players, as PARANOIA is a a different experience than most other games in theme, tone, and play-style.
But to continue, I feel like every GM needs to be able to treat all of their players fairly. I don’t care if you dislike Suzy but love Jeff, as long as you’re the GM and they are your players, the world shouldn’t favor either one unless they have earned it with their own actions and cleverness.
On a similar note, this is exactly why having significant others at a gaming table, where the boy/girlfriend is the GM, is usually a bad idea. I’ve heard stories go both ways, but they seem to usually end poorly. I think I could handle it, but I don’t know, and am very wary of trying it anytime soon.
So be on guard, and if you think your GM is purposely helping someone or another - talk to him/her. It’s hopefully a misunderstanding, as many players don’t see things like their GM does, but sometimes a GM does like someone more, and wants to make that person do better, and that needs to stop. As a GM it’s hard sometimes, removing yourself to such a degree, but it’s better that way. Having a GM who helps someone over others can really ruin the fun of the game, and even kill the hobby for those involved.
Don’t be afraid to kill your closest friends and gift your enemies, it’s all a game,