This post will not be about RPG-Systems, nor rules, nor dice, but about looking for GM posts, and the reasons I – as someone who GMs a lot – dislike them, even find them disrespectful.
For everyone who does not know what I am talking about: What is a looking for GM (or lfGM for short) posting, from a completely objective standpoint?
Looking for GMs are advertisements, where people who want to play a RPG, but do not have a Game Master (GM) yet, can find each other. Sometimes several friends, who knew each other beforehand start a lfGM-posting, maybe even 4 or 5 friends, so that in the end only the GM is missing, but this is not always the case.
Sometimes the lfGM-advertisements also specify preferences of what, or what particular style should be played in.
So … What, objectively and shallowly looked at, speaks for lfGM?
- People with a common wish find themselves, to play a game together.
- The creator of the lfGM posting gets exactly what they want.
- Someone who wants to be a GM, but does not want to create a looking for players advertisement, can easily enlist themselves.
These are pretty weak, in my opinion:
- This works just as well with a standard "GM looking for players" listing.
- This is a bit egoistic, is it not? RPGs are about everyone having fun. Not one person getting exactly their wish, and the others having to make sacrifices.
- Is it this much effort to create a "looking for players" posting, though?
What happens in reality? Some exaggerated examples:
- We already are a group. The members are a Monk (drunken fighting technique subclass from book bloop), Fighter (Samurai class from book blarp), Cleric of the god zoink (with the bonus from book zank) and a Tiefling Warlock with Cthulu as their Patron. We are looking for a GM to tell our group a good story. Ouch.
- Unearthed Arcana, all Wizards of the Coast rulebooks, and all kinds of homebrew - if the GM gives their okay - are allowed. ARGH!
- I have created a world, the game should take place in. A short description: 10 pages of badly written world-description. SUPER OUCH!
- We will play exclusively at time X. Uuuhm …
- We will play from level 1 to level 20. Uuuh …
Time to rant: What is my opinion?
First of all I will comment each of these points, and say why all of this is complete garbage, in my opinion.
Number 1: The super weird group, that would never exist in any sensible setting. Oh, and please also tell us a good story.
This is obviously missing one of the most important things for a campaign: Session 0. Creating your characters together, talking about your expectations, giving each other advice for cool stuff, and for the GM tune in, and if required say "No, but …". Especially the last thing, "No, but …", is super-missing in this group. As a GM I would want to scream "No, but …" at this party of adventurers.
With a group this weird you just cannot tell a good story. Best case: The group travels together because they are together. It has been like that, and it will stay like that … That is until one of the characters does something another character can not tolerate. Queue in-character going at each others throats. Worst case: In the first 30 minutes you are going to discover that one of the characters is a cool-loner. In a social game about multiple adventurers. Thus the GM (and maybe the other players, too) have to tell the cool-loner-player off, for not playing the game right. Great!
Number 2: All the rules are green! These are official rules; variant, shmariant! Unearthed Arcana/Homebrew you as the GM will have to take a look at, but where is the problem in that!
Well … Great for the player, poop for the GM. This will lead to the GM being annoyed like this, before the game:
Player: "I want to play a flying unicorn with butterfly wings!!"
GM: "No, I will not allow that …"
P: "But why?!??!?1!??"
GM: "Because it just seems unbalanced, breaking the game completely. I am also not willing to spend time to homebrew this myself."
P: "But in book blorp your can play an Oni!! They also have a horn!! This is no homebrew!!1"
Or alternatively players will explain the rules to the GM in-game. But not something like:
Player: "I am casting a powerful L3 spell."
GM: "What does it do?"
P: "10d6 damage!"
GM: "Wow, okay, roll your damage."
But rather something like:
Player: "So I leap 80ft forwards, to the other enemy, use one of my Ki-Points for my drunk fighting, to punch them 4 times, then use my bonus action, to trip them over, and then walk the rest of my 40ft away from them."
GM: "Wait what? How the hell does that work?"
P: "So the jump I can do, because I'm a cat-person, this is from Volo, the drunk fighting Ki-Point is my subclass from Xanathar, and the bonus action tripping I have from the Extra-Feats Unearthed Arcana."
Which is a brilliant segway to talk about the boatloads of books Wizards of the Coast is releasing, going in exactly the same direction as Shadowrun. Splatbooks ahoy, Minmaxing huray, Story whogivesadamn, as long as I can be the greatest, and the story just revolves around me! Who needs tension in fights? It is not like we are playing a fighting game! You too, can be the greatest and own monsters like it was nothing for the low, low price of just 49,99$ per book
(or just download it illegaly)!
Especially great if the GM does not know about anything happening in those Splatbooks.
Let's do that again, in a calmer tone, before the DnD5 fanboys kick in my front door, telling me I'm full of shit. The new WotC books themselves: Maybe overpowered. All across the board, combining several books with each other, so that you can have the weirdest combinations that, even though they do not make any sense from the narrative, are mechanically super-strong, because the books are not mathematically fitted for each other: Unavoidable.
Been there, done that
(Shadowrun 5). Especially with games that have a "narrative" focus with some boardgame elements remaining, like DnD5, this is very unavoidable.
Number 4 (I will talk about number 3 in a bit): We will only play at this exact time!
Yes, this is nitpicking, even I have to say that. But still, the GM (as any other player) should have their fair say on what time to play at. But, okay: If you cannot attend at the required time: Do not apply.
Number 5: We will play from level 1 to level 20. Haha … Hah … Uuuh … Yeah, good luck …
Level 1 to level 20 takes ages! My offline group took 20 sessions to go from level 1 to level 5. Critical role started (I think) at level 5, and took 115 sessions to go to (roughly) level 20. Thus about 135 sessions for level 1 to level 20. Even if you are playing every week for 4 hours, you are still going to take almost 3 years of weekly playing, and a total of 540 hours of working together.
That is ignoring that, after 30 to 50 sessions at most, with a group of random online people who do not know each other, you will be bored of your campaign anyways, and want to play something different. If you can still stand each other after this time, that is.
And to point Number 3: "I have created a world we will play in".
This is what bugs me the most! To me this is a person who wants the advantages of being a GM, like creating a world, adding plot-twists, knowing what happens where, etc. but does not want to be a GM themselves. They probably tried having a DMPC (a "player character" played by the GM/DM) before, and it backfired (as DMPCs do). Thus now they are going to dump the work they do not want to do on another person.
"Go on! Do the work I don't want to do!"
"Here is my setting! Run it, GM-servant! Entertain us!"
My answer to that is a loud and clear: "Run it yourself?!"
I want to have fun as a GM, too. My GM fun is: Surprising my players, confronting them with unknown things, and subjecting them to hard choices. Maybe making stuff up on the fly, and then, after the session, being told by my players: "That was great!", my answer being "Thanks, I quickly made that up."
But if one player-character is constantly backseat-gaming me: "Well actually, that's not true, even though the NPC who spent his whole life here says something different!", or even worse the player itself saying "No, you have that wrong, GM. On page 93 it says that this is different." I will lose myself - In this instance I can understand GMs doing the rocks-fall-you-die move.
Recently I defended my position in an online chatroom - the natural habitat of the common online-troll, as we all know – getting loads of salt as an answer.
When I complain about salt something has gone wrong, because I like to hand out salt on my own. Hell, this whole rant is me being salty!
This is was one of the reasons for me to write this rant
Counter-Arguments I have read:
Thanks for your opinion, no one asked for
So what?! This does not make lfGMs less disrespectful. The inherent problems are still there, i.e. it still not being as successful as a standard "I am a GM, who wants to play in my game"-listing. Just that some GMs apply to this garbage, because they do not value their time does not make it any better.
In general I find it pretty sad that some GMs apply for these lfGM listings … If they would not apply, lfGM listings would not exist, anyways.
They can only be GMs who do not have experience with lfGMs, searching for players online, or even GMing at all. If they do, they would immediately notice the flaws I talked about, but instead lfGMs are some kind of bait for inexperienced GMs to be exploited of their time for suboptimal games, instead of the GMs doing it properly, from the get go, and creating a listing themselves.
Disclaimer, bit late but whatever: I never signed up for a lfGM as a GM - it could be the best thing there is, and I would not even know it … Unlikely.
Well … Back to the "Counter-Arguments". Just because someone is willing to sign up for your lfGM does not make it less bad. I will not stop telling you, that I think lfGMs suck, and the reasons why!
I have too many other burdens
Which is often just a nicer way of saying:
I don't want to GM, because I don't feel like it
Oh, so you think it is okay to offload your work to another person, so that you can have fun? Do you also think being a player means, that you just have to show up without anything to do outside the game, and then just be entertained?
Go on, entertain me! I am too noble, to run a game myself!
If this is what you want, you should go into a cinema and watch a movie. I find these kinds of players super disrespectful, because they do not want to learn the rules, and do not want to read the 2 pages of background-story essential for the game to work. But the GM, they should do the work to entertain these kinds of players! What?!
But if the GM has fun doing this, entertaining people to their wishes, why do you complain this much!
ARGH! The whole concept is totally upside-down! Who will be totally burned out after 3 months? You, the player, who can feel happy that the GM, out of their own free will, did boatloads of work, or the GM whom you laid all this work upon?!
The whole concept is disrespectful: I do not want to do the thing I do not have fun doing … Someone else do it for me! You do my homework!
Last notable counter-argument:
It's appealing to a GM when you find a group of players who are committed, proactive and already friends.
BS! There might be 2 or 3 guys who knew each other beforehand, but the other people in the listing are still random people applying to the lfGM listing as a player nobody knows anything about. They are the same people you would have gotten in a looking for Players posting. They might not show up, etc. But good thing, that you applied for a lfGM posting, because in a lfGM posting the players are all committed and already friends!! Irony
Distinction: With a paid GM this is a completely different thing. If you pay someone to run a game to your wishes, you are okay to do whatever you want.
Paid GMs are very rare though, because the hobby has to be free (irony), and some "I'm paying the GM with fun! They can't buy food with fun, but they're having a good day!" mentality – Great. Thanks for nothing.
Without payment there is no guaranteed commitment from the players, they might not turn up, or are not properly playing along, thus the GM might become the workhorse, etc. – But paid GMing is a very delicate topic, something for another Rant.
What kind of lfGM do I find okay?
We are 5 guys, who want to play DnD. We have not prepared anything yet. Is there a GM who is up for the task?
Is … barely okay, in my opinion. Barely.
Being a GM is no witchcraft. If you are in a group of five players, and there is no one, who wants to GM, my suggestion is:
JUST DO IT! Run a oneshot! DO IT! Rotate GMs, everyone runs a game once. Maybe someone actually likes it. DOOO IIIIT!
If you really want to play a game, and do not do the disrespectful things, like "I already created A, B and C, and want somebody to GM this for me", you should consider signing up for an existing GM-looking-for-players posting instead.
Yeah, the differences are minor, but especially with more oldschool games like DnD, the GM is still "special" (as much as I hate GMs being special). If the GM is no "digital" host the game somewhat "breaks".
I personally find it is best, if the players go to the GMs to then talk about what should be done in the game, rather than the GM going to the players, and the GM having to give in to the players wishes, because they are just a guest.
Never forget Session 0, and communication between the players and the GM, please. lfGMs forget this so often.