Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's in a name?

  I was talking to my Mom the other day and I was sharing how a couple of the players in my gaming group had left the group to do other things. Her comment was "Perhaps they finally grew up" and that struck me as being really unfair to the hobby of RPGing. That comment was interesting because it tells me that she thinks that RPGing is something that only Kids do, that Adults have "Adult" hobbies. Knowing the kind of hobbies my mom has had through the years, I find it funny to think that if I was building Dollhouse miniatures that she would be better with that than my playing RPGs.

  Later, I was reading and posting on the Hero System forums. The thread was an amusing one "DM Says / DM Means"   I expressed my dislike of the term Dungeon Master being used in games outside of Dungeons and Dragons. My preference being the more generic Game Master (or GM). I started to think about it and about how childish both terms sound when said aloud. Also I started to think about how perhaps the language we use in our games influence how we and our players perceive the game.

  With this epiphany I finally stared to understand why many rules lite RPGs change some of the gaming jargon that we have been using for years. Suddenly being a Storyteller didn't sound quite a pretentious, mostly because that is what most GM's do. They tell interactive stories. They setup the Plot, Antagonists, Supporting Characters, the feel of the world, everything but the Protagonists (aka the Player Characters). Sometimes GM's forget that they are presenting an INTERACTIVE story, that the PC's are the Main characters of the game. Perhaps if those GM/DM's saw themselves as a "Storyteller" or "Adventure Host" that there might be less bad GM's.

How different are games that are run by Storytellers and who has a Troupe for players? I really don't know, I imagine that the grass is greener on the otherside of the fence. I have to imagine because I prefer one the of the more rules heavy games out there Hero System AKA Champions. Now Hero is no where near as complex as people assume that it is. Being an old School Universal system, it carries baggage from it's early days as a Super Roleplaying game.

I guess my other contention is that some of those old school terms (ie GM/DM) lead others to perceive this as a childish game. Is it time for our hobby to grow up a bit and try to go beyond those adolescent power fantasies? If so, how do we do this and not change the games we love into something that isn't fun anymore. Perhaps this is something that my generation of gamers can't change. That it's something that the next generation or the one after that will change.


  1. Well, older generations really have their view on things -- and it's unlikely to change. Just like how many folks of our generation view paper books vs. electronic books, and how the kiddies will view it in the future.

    Also, some people view other hobbies (bowling, miniature train sets, map making, etc.) as childish too.

    Then again, a critical comment from your parents is always hard to shrug off.

  2. Yeah, I understand that. People really cling to their old ways of doing things. I am unusual that I am always trying to do things differently. Perhaps that's why I am always one of the first people to try a new version of a game. That even huge changes to the system don't bother me as long as they make sense.