Monday, March 15, 2021

Is GM-lite a thing?

 I’ve written about GM-free systems before (and I will again!) And I’ve written about how there is a lot of responsibility placed on a GM, which is one of the reasons I like GM-free systems. 

However, there is a middle ground where players provide a lot of narration and overall story structure. I think of them as GM-Lite. If that’s a real term, grams to liters has kept me from finding it via Google.

The idea of breaking up the GM duties is one that can be found in a lot of games these days. The GM controls the story, the setting and all the NPCs is a paradigm that doesn’t have to be a sacred cow that’s never slaughtered. 

One of the earliest examples I’ve found is Trollbabe from 2002. I don’t know if it’s the earliest example (I’m actually sure it’s not) but I understand it was a very influential one. I haven’t played Trollbabe but it is very high on my stack of games I want to play someday. There are a lot of interesting design choices in the system.

It definitely takes an improvisational approach, with the idea that you sit down at the table to collectively tell a story without hours of prep time. The mechanics are simple so everyone can focus on the narrative.

One touch that really stuck with me from the design is that the game master narrates player successes but the players narrate their own failures. Some of the core elements of the traditional, old guard game master are blatantly passed out to the players.

Man, I really need to reread that rule book.

As I have mentioned in the past, I have had game masters who spent hours upon hours working on the game. It was practically their second job. And, quite frankly, that’s a kind of time commitment that I don’t want to ask for anyone. Yes, GM-free systems are clearly a way to avoid that. However, I forgot that there was a middle ground as well. For some groups, that might be the ideal solution.

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