I was discussing over coffee the other day the best way to lose all viability for my Patreon without doing something intentionally harmful or saying things I don't actually believe. I settled on saying things I do believe. Namely that almost all GM advice I see is stupid and almost always bass ackwards to real advice. This probably includes you. It almost certainly includes you.
Most of this bad advice stems from one of two incorrect assumptions. One is the concept that a GM runs a group (they do not), the other is what the medium of roleplaying games is or even more often the even more basic concept that different mediums have different requirements. If you've ever read advice about how players can talk to their GM about a problem playing in the group its a sign of the first one, if you've ever heard someone complain about metagaming its the second, and if the person also has a penchant for complaining that a movie sucked because it missed a bunch of stuff from the book its likely the worse version of the second.
I waffled for awhile on if I should do a series of posts on GMing advice but I have decided to do this for three main reasons: 1.) A lot of NGR's design elements work better with certain GMing styles, 2.) I felt like it , and 3.) a quick google search didn't show anyone else saying this stuff.
So in this first post I'll go a little more into what I mean by "the medium" of roleplaying games and I'll do so in the most obnoxious way I can pull off with a straight face, by analogy. Roleplaying games are to stories in some ways similar to what movies are to plays (I could say a similar thing about Roleplaying games are to war games being similar to movies to plays, but fewer people have that problem). What exactly do I mean by that? Well, when movies first came around they were largely people filming plays and then showing those recordings to audiences in a cinema that was in many ways similar to a playhouse except with a projector and a screen. Good movies were films of good plays, but in some ways were a little worse. There was a certain life in plays that couldn't be captured in film. This was the Dragonlance module era of railroad plots in this analogy.
But then people started monkeying around with what you could do with movies. You could do a close-up.. you can't do a close up in a film. You could do fast cuts back and forth between two scenes to build tension, you could do a montage, you could do PoV scenes, you could have stunt doubles and special effects that weren't possible in a play. A good movie was now full of things a play just couldn't do. This doesn't mean movies were better than plays in fact quite the opposite.
A very smart person (Scrap Princess) once made an off handed remark to me that a technological medium becomes defined by its limitations, and only then after it is surpassed by a new medium. The ability of vinyl for a DJ to scratch them, the sound and visual limits of 8-bit graphics. But limits also bring with them certain benefits when people lean in.
For plays, knowing the limits of what they could do in some areas when they were exceeded by movies, playwrights could lean into the directions of things they can do which movies could not. When you see a movie adaptation of the Phantom of the Opera play, the audience in the cinema don't get the splendour of a giant chandelier crashing into the stage from over their very heads. That is something a play can do that a movie cannot. You can have actors milling through the audience in a play, or moving on catwalks overhead.
You could use a similar analogy for computer games and roleplaying games, and say that a computer is to a roleplaying game what a movie is to play. As computers became masters of heavy math then roleplaying games could see their limits and focus on other areas like the social aspect or the physical play area.
In the coming posts in this series I will talk about such things as social etiquette (the skipped point one), how to encourage metagaming, why its OK for the players to fudge dice but not the GM, and several other topics which I still need to find ways to phrase that generate maximum anger upon (other) opinionated GMs.