Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Which The Warlock Mulls a Manifesto...

Once again, my compadre at The JourneymanGM has stumbled upon something of particular interest.  This time, it's a Reddit page, entitled "My Gamemaster Manifesto".  Essentially, each manifesto is a series of pledges or promises each makes to their players, as part of the game's fundamental social contract.

A fair amount of these elements are very similar to one another, or are the sort of things that simply go without saying for me.  In other cases, the statements are simply impossible to guarantee, making a guarantee less than worthless.  Saying "I will provide a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end" or "I pledge to create a game that is fun for both myself and all players at the table".

So, given those caveats, here's my own list...with a few items that deviate a bit from the norm.

1.  I pledge to challenge you as a player and as a character while at the game-table. 
When I run a game, I intend to challenge the interests, the desires, the strengths and the weaknesses of your character, but also those of you as a player.  Whether that means taking advantage of character flaws on your character sheet or pushing your own tendencies as a player, I will not be complacent in challenging you during the course of the game.

2.  I will help you play the character you want to play.
Your character is your purview and, barring certain occasions befitting the plot, you are the final arbiter of what goes on your character sheet.  If I am running a game, it's because I feel that I have a degree of system-mastery over that game.  Further, your character is a primary player in the grander plot.  If you are having difficulty with either portion, I will offer unbiased, honest feedback on how to approach your character.  However, the final decision as to any character changes belongs to you as a player.

3.  I will make the game as interesting and accessible to all members of the table as possible.
Fun is subjective.  I can't make you have fun.  What I can do is make the game accessible and active, which makes it more likely that you will have fun.  What we do at the table may not be to your taste.  If that's the case, you're welcome to bow out.  However, I intend to make our shared storyline interesting to you and accessible to someone not necessarily a fan of the given genre conventions.

4.  I pledge to be true to the given genre.
If I'm running a horror game, you should expect cults, creeping monstrosities, and ancient terrors.  If I'm running a steampunk game, you should expect airships and mad science.  This is true for both my own creations and for those brought to the table by others.  I will be vigilant in maintaining a truth-in-genre for all of my games.

5.  I will bring something new to the table each session.
I will not be complacent as a GameMaster, and will challenge myself with each session that we have.  I will not rely on 'old tricks' or previously-used techniques simply because they worked once, but rather will refine and hone my technique with each game, each plotline, and each session that we share.  Gaming evolves, and so shall I.

6.  I will call attention to the positive and the negative.
When you (as both a character and as a player) do something cool, you will receive the attention and adulation deserved.  You deserve the opportunity to shine.  If the inverse is true, I will speak up, so that the offending behavior/tactic/what-have-you is not repeated.  I will not be content to sit back or be passive-agressive in my dealings with you, simply to have another player at the table.

7.  I will be open to feedback and will be easily accessible.
Gamemastery is a form of writing--a specialized and shared form of writing, but writing nevertheless.  Writing cannot take place without revision.  I will listen openly and share honestly about my design and development process and take thoughtful feedback under deep consideration. 

Thoughts?  Additions?  Subtractions?  What do you think?


  1. Anonymous9:33 PM

    It's interesting to see how your list is different from my list, which is different from the Reddit list. I definitely thought the Reddit one was a bit redundant at points and made pledges I didn't want to make (like pledging to provide a sandbox environment).

    Considering your second paragraph, I think that we are using the term "pledge" differently. To me, it had a looser meaning which meant something I fully intend to do, but because I am not perfect may not be able to do all the time. I think that largely changes the meaning of the manifesto and how much of a guarantee it actually is.

    It seems that a lot of our promises reflect our exposure to games in the past. For instance, I pledged to "have an end in mind when starting any campaign so that it will be an engaging story with a suitable beginning, middle, and end." This is no doubt influenced by my exposure to semester-length campaigns at Wittenberg and my own observations that those that had a planned story arc tended to turn out much better than ones with indefinite ends. But you didn't make that promise, perhaps because you have gamed in very different environments and had great success with them.

    And there is one that you're definitely missing: that you pledge never to run a game as ridiculous as Mazes & Monsters!

  2. I pledge not to play at the 9th level! :D