It Takes Two to Tango.


Player and Game Master Responsibilities

Preface, of Sorts
I wrote this in 1998 as a thinly-disguised rant. I was burning out as both a player and GM and I'll admit that the tone of this essay is a bit snippy. That said, I still think there's a lot of valid information here. I've done a bit of LARPing in my time, both as GM and player. Not as much as some others, I'll grant you, but I've done enough to feel qualified to offer my opinion on certain matters. Then, in 2003, I decided to add some more material. What can I say? Learning about LARPs is an ongoing process.

Generally, GMs run games - be it LARP or tabletop - out of a sense of fun. They have a story to tell, an adventure to share, and such things are much more enjoyable when shared with a group, right? Similarly, a player creates and plays a character to take part in an adventure, to create a story and to have fun. Let's keep that in mind as we go on.

For Everyone
The first rule is: Always have fun.

If you are not having fun, find out what is stopping you and change it. Even if that means changing your character, or quitting the game entirely, do what makes you happy. Just do it tactfully and with the minimum of melodrama - your fellow-gamers will appreciate that.

Have respect for one another
Have some manners. Even if you're in a rush, remember the little things like 'please', 'thank you' and a pleasant demeanor. The bad karma that can be generated from one snappish comment can ripple throughout a group and poison it very quickly.

Listen to each other
That means the GM needs to focus when a player asks for a moment of their time - be it at the game, on the phone or via e-mail. It means the players need to pay attention when the GM speaks, and heed their words when given. Neither side is speaking because they like the sound of their own voice.

Communication is a two-way event
Communication requires an exchange of information and opinions. If that's not happening, then somebody is just giving a monologue. Once you get the hang of listening to each other, try the possibly novel concept of giving considered feedback.

This matter is particularly true when it comes to player-unhappiness. Every ongoing larp that I have been a part of - and I mean every single one - has suffered communications problems when it comes time for the players to bring up an issue they have with the game-master. What happens, instead, is that the players vent their spleen with each other. This is a useless activity and by the time it gets back to the game-master - and it will, I assure you - the truth will be distorted beyond all recognition, and the GM will want to bang his head on wall with frustration, wondering why the players can't just talk to him.

I'll let the cat out of the bag, here. GMs do not eat players for breakfast. Even if the player has something critical to say. As long as it is said politely, and in a timely manner, the GM will most likely be glad to hear an honest opinion, and will give it the consideration it deserves.

No-one can read anyone's mind - which means you must speak up!
As I have often lamented myself, game-masters are not telepathic. GMs cannot read players' minds and vice versa.

For a game to evolve and grow, information and opinions must be exchanged. Hoping that "someone else" will share your opinion with the other side never, ever work.

Players, if you're having a good time, or enjoyed a particular plot event, tell the GM.

Game-masters, if you want to learn what the players are enjoying, or if those grumbled-rumors are really true, talk to the players. I know this sounds like common-sense stuff, but you might be surprised at how often even simple communications fail to happen.

No-One Likes A Martyr
I have heard the following phrases uttered by Game Masters, to their players:

Yes, Game Masters will actually say things like that to their players. In fact, I've said some of those terrible things. I know now that they were fucked up, manipulative and indicative of the fact that I had broken the First Rule (which is: Always have fun). It's a damn shame I couldn't have noticed that before I started laying guilt-trips on my players.

No one likes a hypocrite
I've seen both players and GMs guilty of this one, but mostly players...

Being a hypocrite is a stupid, petty, mean-spirited thing, and makes the other side feel horrible.

Wait, I think that needs special emphasis.

Being a hypocrite or a martyr makes the other side feel like shit,
it makes you look like shit, and you're not fooling anyone!

Game Masters


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email: jo(at)