Gamer Profile: The Professional GM

Or the Pro as I'll call him here. You probably know the Pro. There's probably a Pro in your home town. And he's not called the Pro because he's actually good or professional at what he does. No, the Pro is just a guy who games a lot, maybe even runs more than one group, or at least lets players come in and out of his campaigns. Maybe he works the night shift, maybe he's unemployed, maybe he's unemployable.

I played with my town's Pro only once to see what the big deal was all about. See, the thing about the Pro is that everybody's heard of him. Everybody's got a friend or an older brother who gamed with him. And I guess that means everybody wants to get in on one of his games. Maybe you shouldn't bother.

First off, the Pro is way too proud of himself for his "accomplishments". He likes his reputation and would like it to be akin to The Monster's. He's lethal. He's challenging. He knows the rules by heart. So I walk in and the first thing he does is size me up (as I am introduced as another guy's DM). "So what's the toughest adventure module you ever read? Cuz nothing beats Throne of Bloodstone." For non-initiates, it's an AD&D module that has you face off against big demon lords and is either epic in scope or requires ridiculous player character levels, depending on your perspective. He then goes on to show off a monster he's designed called "DungeonMaster's Discretion". It can do anything the DM wants it to. Very clever.

So let's get down to playing. An old school dungeon crawl, we come into the middle of things as these things usually go. At some point, everybody dies. Total Party Kill, as they say. We don't care much cuz we just rolled up these characters for this try-out session, but it riles up the regular players. The Pro, for a good thirty seconds basking in the sheer unadulterated power only a pair of percentile dice can give you, sheepishly tells us it was all an illusion--? Dealing with the Pro is like asking a child to decide where the family will go on vacation. He doesn't know what to do with that kind of power.

But if that were all, I'd simply write him off as overrated and move on. However, the Pro GM is surrounded by his Pro Players, and that puts him in a totally different category. I'd say somewhere around 70% of the session was wasted on these two guys arguing over rule points with the Pro. It's like being at the Supreme Court, with obscure precedents and references from across the TSR library. They're digging out the Manual of the Planes to prove a point, they're bringing up past sessions, and the Pro just sits there and tries to amend events to fit the rulings.

It was like walking into the middle of your parents arguing about money. Just step away and go mow the lawn before either of them decides to take their frustration out on your hide.

So we never went there again. And once again counted ourselves lucky we only had to deal with The Jerk.


FoldedSoup said...

I was going to suggest my all-time least favorite catagory: The Rules Lawyer - but you've tangently covered it nicely...

Siskoid said...

Lawyering should be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. It's just not an enjoyable activity except for the lawyer himself.

Dan said...

The Pro really is the Rules-Lawyer-as-DM, ultimately. I find the guys who have every rulebook and every supplement indexed and cross-referenced in their heads to be terrible DMs because they often lack in what is, in my opinion, the most important thing for a DM to have: creativity. They tend to be stumped when they come across something (as invariably happens) that isn't covered in the rules, and have a hard time improvising when the players do things that aren't covered in their modules/notes.

Siskoid said...

Ultimately, the Rules Lawyer is too focused on the rules. I see the rules as guidelines to support the action, the tone and the suspense (success/failure). But just as die rolls can be fudged for dramatic necessity, so can (and should!) the rules.

If a player reminds me of a certain rule (usually to get an advantage), that's fine, and I might apply it right away, with a minimum of fuss. Same thing with facts, such as a player knowing more than I do about mountain climbing or 18th century France. making quick decisions is part of the game, because the story needs to keep rolling along.

I'm reminded of a story a friend of mine told me about the time he tried the old Chivalry & Sorcery. The rules on that thing are extremely detailed. One whole session and his character only managed to shoot an arrow at a guy on a horse. And missed the guy.

That is some slow-moving action!


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