The adversarial GM vs Player Relationship


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Dear Miss Manners,

I have seen many posts on the boards here that complain about the rules allowing the GM “too much power” and a few that complain about players “getting to much control”.
I honestly do not understand this. I have been both a player and a GM since the original hardbound AD&D books and this makes no sense.
As a GM I am going to run the game I want to run. For instance in PF1 when I tell you cant have more than one class per 5 character levels. I am not going to allow your Ninja/Paladin/Assassin/Rogue/Fighter/Monk/Gunslinger/Barbarian/Ranger/Druid /Butcher/Baker/Candlestickmaker into my game. Now you can show me exactly where in the books it says this is a legal character and how wrong I am. Hell, you could have the highlord of Paizo himself come down and tell me in a thunderous voice “Hastur! You are wrong. This character is legal.” Guess what? You still can't play that character in my game. I don't care about your law degree in PF1 rules. If you don't like how I run my game go elsewhere.
Now that being said as a GM I am trying to lay out a world for exciting stories and allow players to help tell those stories and hopefully have a ton of fun playing. And while I may have a certain way I do things I am not at odds with the players. It is a group effort. If you as the player didn't have fun during a session I as the GM probably didn't either. As the GM I have reasons for the things I do. Certainly I have better things to do then just show up to run a game where I f&*$ with you all night.

Tl;dr So my question is? What is happening in games where players feel that a rule in the book is going to help them? Are there really that many petty GMs that are just arbitrary f@#&ing with characters? And if so does a rule written in the book actually help?

In the situation I posted above if I caved into the thunderous voice of the Highlord of Paizo and allowed you to play your character would you really want to play in my game. If I was the player and had a character the GM didnt want to allow I would have no qualms about changing it or trying with a different GM.

-Signed Honestly Confused


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Sign me up as confused by this too. My expectation is that the game is cooperative. Sure, the GM has to provide the conflict and opposition in the story. But that doesn't mean that the GM isn't invested in the success of the story heroes and the progression of the story in general.

The game really shouldn't be player vs player - counting the GM as a player too. That doesn't sound like a fun game to play.


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I'll bite.

The reason I play PFS is to avoid GMs invoking Rule 0. Why?

1. I'm interested in playing Pathfinder. I'm not that fascinated with GM Bob's version of Pathfinder. No offense to GM Bob, but I don't think GM Bob's house rules/modifications are going to be a net improvement over the efforts of professional game designers. Time and time again I've seen GMs make house rules to alter rules/mechanics that they don't fully understand. Like pulling on a loose thread of a knit sweater, GM rule-zeroing creates more problems than it solves.

2. Pathfinder is a cooperative game. As a GM, I don't "own" the game, it belongs to all the people at the table. There is no game without players and GMs, I don't see one as more critical to the game than the other, there just happens to be more players than GMs. Obviously for game play, it makes sense to enable the GM to make adjudications when the rules are ambiguous or players can't agree.. But the GM isn't always the most knowledgable about the rules and as GM, I get to decide because the players agree to it.

3. IMO, the game is most enjoyable when the GM's presence is transparent. When I GM, I don't want to imprint my "style" on the players. I want them to perceive that the outcomes were not at all influenced by my personality. Obviously that is still my style, but by way of analogy, I'm trying to serve unflavored water.

4. A GM refusing to follow the rules engenders a feeling of player vs GM, for me.

YMMV.


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I have been gm and p-layer since 3.5 and have abso9lutely seen the gm vs player mentality. There are a few certain GM's I outright avoid in Society, when I can, at least with specific builds. Their interpretations of the rules (gm's) are quite often shoddy, and at least one in particular, will tell you you cannot do/go/charge/move where you wanted, because X, but you declared it already so you have to change a target or do nothing... I have nearly lost several charge based characters in 3.5 and PFs due to this gm style.

As a GM, I have seen players "modify" a rule, or alter its meaning by a clever trick of language to try and cheat past a feat, or do something undoable. I have seen a rock thrower claim they could throw sling bullets with full ititerative attacks, while dual wielding at level 1, and they didn't even have quick draw....When I informed them they could not, they proceeded to complain about how their home GM said it was fine, and went to ask all the other GM's present, who sided with me.

That being said, with the 80+ some odd people I have interacted with in over 17 years of play, I am pretty sure those issues can be counted on two if not one hand.


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N N 959 wrote:

I'll bite.

The reason I play PFS is to avoid GMs invoking Rule 0. Why?

1. I'm interested in playing Pathfinder. I'm not that fascinated with GM Bob's version of Pathfinder. No offense to GM Bob, but I don't think GM Bob's house rules/modifications are going to be a net improvement over the efforts of professional game designers. Time and time again I've seen GMs make house rules to alter rules/mechanics that they don't fully understand. Like pulling on a loose thread of a knit sweater, GM rule-zeroing creates more problems than it solves.

I agree you need to let your players know your rules/changes. I mean there is an old story floating around about a guy who went to a gen con in the early days of D & D and got into a game where he was attacked by a duck driving a +1 hotdog stand.

However the complaint isn't “I keep getting into f$%^ing games and dying to a f$%^ing duck driving a hotdog stand. It is “this rule allows the GM to much power” let’s be honest here do you really think GM running the duck driving the Hotdog cart going to care about RAW.

N N 959 wrote:


2. Pathfinder is a cooperative game. As a GM, I don't "own" the game, it belongs to all the people at the table. There is no game without players and GMs, I don't see one as more critical to the game than the other, there just happens to be more players than GMs. Obviously for game play, it makes sense to enable the GM to make adjudications when the rules are ambiguous or players can't agree.. But the GM isn't always the most knowledgable about the rules and as GM, I get to decide because the players agree to it.

As the GM you don't “own” the game but most are trying to tell a story that you can enjoy along with the multiple players. As a GM I am not worried about someone pointing out that spending 3 rounds and heightening the spell to third level gets them 6 magic missiles not 3 like I said. That is fine and I actually like players who are knowledgeable about rules that can catch those types of brain farts.

N N 959 wrote:


3. IMO, the game is most enjoyable when the GM's presence is transparent. When I GM, I don't want to imprint my "style" on the players. I want them to perceive that the outcomes were not at all influenced by my personality. Obviously that is still my style, but by way of analogy, I'm trying to serve unflavored water.

Interesting because as a GM I definitely have a style of GMing. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones both have a severely different flavor of storytelling. One isn't better than the other and certain flavors might suit your tastes better than others but both are tasty. You just need to find one that suits you and hope it isn't D&D the movie flavored (eeeeegads)

I don’t force a predetermined outcome because that is how “I” planned it. I set up situations and let the players handle it how they may. Sometimes I know how it will turn out and sometimes the players do something off the rails that I didn't see coming. In those cases I just adjust and move on. Often times it can make the story more interesting that what I had planned.

N N 959 wrote:


4. A GM refusing to follow the rules engenders a feeling of player vs GM, for me.

YMMV.

This may just be a matter of perspective. To me if I point out a rule to a GM and they acknowledge it but keep the situation the same. I just assume that either:

1) There is something going on that I am not aware of...or
2) The GM forgot about something and now a basic spell is about to ruin his murder mystery or whatever and so he is ignoring the rule. Either way I don't feel combative. I just roll with it.

P.S. If any of this sounds snappy it is not meant to be. I appreciate your perspective on this.A big reason I might not have run into this is I play with players I know in real life. Lately I have been thinking about running a game at a local shop just to allow people without a GM a chance to play. But all this adversarial nonsense has me rethinking it.


Evilserran wrote:

I have been gm and p-layer since 3.5 and have abso9lutely seen the gm vs player mentality. There are a few certain GM's I outright avoid in Society, when I can, at least with specific builds. Their interpretations of the rules (gm's) are quite often shoddy, and at least one in particular, will tell you you cannot do/go/charge/move where you wanted, because X, but you declared it already so you have to change a target or do nothing... I have nearly lost several charge based characters in 3.5 and PFs due to this gm style.

As a GM, I have seen players "modify" a rule, or alter its meaning by a clever trick of language to try and cheat past a feat, or do something undoable. I have seen a rock thrower claim they could throw sling bullets with full ititerative attacks, while dual wielding at level 1, and they didn't even have quick draw....When I informed them they could not, they proceeded to complain about how their home GM said it was fine, and went to ask all the other GM's present, who sided with me.

That being said, with the 80+ some odd people I have interacted with in over 17 years of play, I am pretty sure those issues can be counted on two if not one hand.

Wow, I feel your pain. This is the type of stuff that makes my ears bleed. Certain things I find so nonsensical that even if they were allowed by the rules I might not allow them. However I try and be upfront about it. If an experienced player is coming into my game with a character I like to go over it with them before the game. One question I always ask is "So what is your big gun attack" and it behooves a player to tell me "Oh I dual wield two slings and machine gun baddies to death like a cartoon character" That way I can let them know they should look elsewhere to play or maybe we can find a different way to design the character that would work in my world.

*Edits to correct spelling


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It's funny, I GM'd in PFS only for a few months, but cut back after dealing with adversarial players (I think one of my players even started a thread about me long before I had been active on the forums, which was upsetting). In PFS, I felt really constrained by the rules, so pointing out things like "Well, technically you can't use a wand of enlarge person on your eidoleon," had players telling me that I was a GM to avoid.

In my home games, I'm much more lax with the rules because everyone there has gotten together for the same goal of enjoying the game. We all have this social contract of, "Does the table feel like that's good? Okay. Great." I don't feel bad when I flub a rule and adjust it later or when I handwave a player's 5th natural 1 in a night. In the end, I think GM vs Player is something of a thing that still exists so long as people treat Pathfinder (and TTRPGs in general) as a game you can win. This applies to GMs and players alike.

I'm excited by the new rules that do attempt to shift the balance of power for both home games and Society games. They don't actually affect my experiences (much), but it's nice to know that Paizo has an eye on this sort of mentality.


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Uhhh... inst that all the players got?

The GM is an all powerful, all knowing, all deciding entity as far as the ingame world goes.

The GM per rule 0 can rewrite or change rules, granted per social contract it sometimes isnt something most would do at any random time.

The players, cant change anything, cant decide anything. What they can do is talk to the GM and present their arguments, still, ultimately the GM will make the call. If they disagree to the end, all a player can do is leave the table.

Trying to convince someone of RAW seems easier than making a pitch for your own houserule to covers the GMs idea. Also RAW is something more often know by all players, which might also gather support.

Sure the GM makes the call, but if all players would rather play under the RAW, there is a far higher chance to convince the all powerful GM.

Simply put, being a social game, discussion will end up being the way decisions are made, but I do think the RAW can weight heavily on how those discussions go.


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N N 959 wrote:

I'll bite.

The reason I play PFS is to avoid GMs invoking Rule 0. Why?

1. I'm interested in playing Pathfinder. I'm not that fascinated with GM Bob's version of Pathfinder. No offense to GM Bob, but I don't think GM Bob's house rules/modifications are going to be a net improvement over the efforts of professional game designers. Time and time again I've seen GMs make house rules to alter rules/mechanics that they don't fully understand. Like pulling on a loose thread of a knit sweater, GM rule-zeroing creates more problems than it solves.

2. Pathfinder is a cooperative game. As a GM, I don't "own" the game, it belongs to all the people at the table. There is no game without players and GMs, I don't see one as more critical to the game than the other, there just happens to be more players than GMs. Obviously for game play, it makes sense to enable the GM to make adjudications when the rules are ambiguous or players can't agree.. But the GM isn't always the most knowledgable about the rules and as GM, I get to decide because the players agree to it.

3. IMO, the game is most enjoyable when the GM's presence is transparent. When I GM, I don't want to imprint my "style" on the players. I want them to perceive that the outcomes were not at all influenced by my personality. Obviously that is still my style, but by way of analogy, I'm trying to serve unflavored water.

4. A GM refusing to follow the rules engenders a feeling of player vs GM, for me.

YMMV.

In response to 1, there are a lot of houserules that have time and again proved to improve the Pathfinder experience. Elephant in the room is highly popular, as is giving a minimum of 4 skill ranks per level to all classes besides int casters. I've also had great experiences running and playing with base defense bonus houserules (basically half BAB to AC for all classes but no more AC rings/amulets). Pathfinder 1e is far from a perfect game, being an update on the highly flawed d&d 3.5 system and keeping most of that system's sacred cows.

Some DMs also run homebrew, third party, or converted WotC settings where some Pathfinder options just don't exist, no matter how rules-legal. A world based on Classical Antiquity won't have firearms or gunslingers, and summoners don't make any sense on a planet cut off from the planes.

So I probably wouldn't look at all DM houserules as unreasonable, especially if it's 1e. 2e meanwhile is way too new for any substantial houseruling to not look suspicious, though.


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Nox Aeterna wrote:


Simply put, being a social game, discussion will end up being the way decisions are made, but I do think the RAW can weight heavily on how those discussions go.

Oh I agree discussions with your GM should be the go to move. I just dont quite understand the "X spell is" is uncommon or rare and now GMs can disallow it and that sucks. I want a rule that forces the GM to allow me to have X spell"

Why? If the GM was against something being in his game and as mentioned above even if you could "force" the GM to allow you to have "X spell" why would you want to do this?

A good GM should be more than happy to help you realize your character design assuming it would not be completely broken or there is another in-story reason for it. The GM should be able to explain why they are restricting the spell.

A bad GM is just a bad GM and you are probably better off not playing with them regardless of what they are restricting or weather you could use RAW to force your way with them.


Frogliacci wrote:


2e meanwhile is way too new for any substantial houseruling to not look suspicious, though.

I agree on this as well it is too soon to make major changes. I have no idea how this system will even work yet. Hopefully RAW is solid enough to reduce the need for any or at least only a small handful of house rules.


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I am very much with Hastur on this. The rules like these exist to help good GMs improve their story-crafting, and to help players as well. They aren't meant to save players from bad GMs,or even save GMs from bad players. That's all the purvey of out-of-game interaction.

Things like Rarity, to use the given example, are excellent for GMs like me who don't really think to do things like make long-distance teleportation something that may need to be specifically sought out in some or even many cases but love the idea once it's brought to our attention. And for things that could interfere with certain stories it serves as a flag to remind us to think for a moment before flippantly granting a thing.

And on that note, if there is something non-common that we need to not grant for some reason it's much easier to say you're not allowing it than to actively forbid it. Plus, Rarity ensures that the player will mention it if they're looking at it, so it doesn't end up in their arsenal without you knowing and when they pull it out you have to either deny it (Le a bitter taste) or pick up the pieces afterwards. None of these things facilitate a better game, really.

Even as a player, Rarity can open roleplaying opportunities. Say I want to play a Wizard who can warp himself and the party around. If I just get Teleport that's cool and all, but if the GM looks at the Rarity and decides I'll need to do a little hunting, maybe go on a quest for it, that puts more emphasis and weight on gaining the ability, rather than just marking it down. Doubly so if it's incorporated into the story, like maybe there's an airborne castle or underground cave or something that can be reached safely only by teleportation.

If the GM doesn't want me to have Teleport, that's their prerogative. The rules saying I can just take it doesn't do anything, either I get something the GM didn't want in his game, promoting adversity, or the GM just says no anyway because Rule 0. Removing Rarity doesn't help things in any way. Same deal with other rules that give the GM similar tools or prompts.


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To be honest, I don't like rules that give so much deference to the GM from either side of the table because it becomes a serious problem when the GM's answer to a question about what the DC is could be "f~+* me man I dunno".

I can't say with any certainty how much of an issue this is in PF2 before I GM it but I already see instances where I might feel like I have to guess what a proper DC should be, and I do not like the feeling of being unsure if my answer is unreasonable or not.

Regarding Uncommon/Rare rules I'm generally okay with the idea but I'm not happy with the implementation. "Long range teleports can make many classic adventuring stories difficult to tell and you shouldn't expect them to be available in every campaign" needs a different marker than "katanas are some weeb s$+$ and probably won't be available if the campaign isn't anywhere near Tian Xia".


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Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:

Oh I agree discussions with your GM should be the go to move. I just dont quite understand the "X spell is" is uncommon or rare and now GMs can disallow it and that sucks. I want a rule that forces the GM to allow me to have X spell"

Why? If the GM was against something being in his game and as mentioned above even if you could "force" the GM to allow you to have "X spell" why would you want to do this?

A good GM should be more than happy to help you realize your character design assuming it would not be completely broken or there is another in-story reason for it. The GM should be able to explain why they are restricting the spell.

A bad GM is just a bad GM and you are probably better off not playing with them regardless of what they are restricting or weather you could use RAW to force your way with them.

You cant really "force" a GM to do anything, outside PFS where there is actually something even higher than the GM, so for most it is more of a convince the GM.

Ultimately, again i think it is about weight of your arguments during said discussion.

By default, rarity is a prohibition rule. You cant have X. That is final, that is RAW.

A player literally has no grounds in 2E to have anything that rarity denies. best he can do is request it and the GM can give it or not, that is it.

Now if there was something in RAW that gave the player to power to get it, that would give weight to the players side.

Honestly OP, this is literally the logic behind rarity.

It is all about human psychology and said weight in these discussions.

I will not go deep into this, but to make a simple point, the GM in PF1 could always forbid a spell to begin with, then why rarity?

Rarity is there because now the GM inst forbidding anything, by default it is forbidden, now the GM is in a position of the guy allowing things.

Again, all about the weight and how these discussions go.


When I sign up to play a game, I expect their to be rules for the game. I don't usually play with DMs who ban or house rule a lot of stuff. Most often the DM doesn't understand the system well enough to know what he's banning isn't bad, and in my experience if they ban ok stuff, the moment you spend 10 of 15 hours optimizing something the DM is just going to ban all your hard work. Rarity would have been fine if there was an in game way to get these items like multilingual.


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How about stop thinking that, as th DM, it's your story? (*Insert FFX joke here*)
Tabletop RPG should be a cooperative storytelling experience where players have as much say in the story as the DM.


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GM: "well I'm done with your shenanigans. Rocks fall, everyone dies."
Rogue: "I have improved evasion, I take no damage"
Wizard: "my contingency triggers and I teleport to my lab"
Druid: "I wild shape into an air elemental and fly away"
Fighter: "welp, guess I'm dead"
Summoner: "my flying huge 6-armed eidolon with improved evasion swoops in and saves us both. *yawn* well, that was another trivial hazard. That demilich at least lasted two rounds. GM, what's the next encounter?"
GM: *flips table*


Dekalinder wrote:

How about stop thinking that, as th DM, it's your story? (*Insert FFX joke here*)

Tabletop RPG should be a cooperative storytelling experience where players have as much say in the story as the DM.

I don't think the OP is saying anything different.

Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:


Now that being said as a GM I am trying to lay out a world for exciting stories and allow players to help tell those stories and hopefully have a ton of fun playing. And while I may have a certain way I do things I am not at odds with the players. It is a group effort. If you as the player didn't have fun during a session I as the GM probably didn't either.

Session zero is great for this, because it lets players get an idea of the tone and themes, and quirks of how you want their enviroment to play out, and the GM can tailor the experience to what the players want. Which the rarity system and PF2e don't obstruct IMO.

This entire thread is Hastur, and others, asking if people really have adversarial experiences between players/GMs. Because honestly, why would you waste so much of your personal time in a situation like that? And that adversarial tv law show rules gotcha attitude, [b[seems[/b] to be the underpinning of a lot of threads on the forums at the moment.


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Nox Aeterna wrote:


Honestly OP, this is literally the logic behind rarity.

Another thing to note about rarity is that it sets a baseline for adventure writers. It's easier to write when you understand there's a baseline that's (hopefully) not going to be bloated with tons of options that allow players to bypass your story. Teleportation, for instance.

Rarity isn't just "Players have too much autonomy, time to curb that," it's establishing a baseline and allowing people to build from there. If all of the uncommon options were removed from the game, PF2 still functions exactly as intended (more or less, I mean, we have some racial weapons and Focus powers, opt in choices as it were). With the inclusion of them (at GM discretion) the game changes.


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CyberMephit wrote:

GM: "well I'm done with your shenanigans. Rocks fall, everyone dies."

Rogue: "I have improved evasion, I take no damage"
Wizard: "my contingency triggers and I teleport to my lab"
Druid: "I wild shape into an air elemental and fly away"
Fighter: "welp, guess I'm dead"
Summoner: "my flying huge 6-armed eidolon with improved evasion swoops in and saves us both. *yawn* well, that was another trivial hazard. That demilich at least lasted two rounds. GM, what's the next encounter?"
GM: *flips table*

Bar the table flipping, I have been the fighter in this scenario.


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There are abusive DM. There are abusive players. And there are great players, and great DM. But life is not black and white, there are all kind of grey players and grey DM. Saying "a good DM would not do that" surely is true, but...what about grey DM that is totally against houserules, and have the NO always prepared? That kind of rules would empower that grey DM, approaching it to a bad DM.
This is not my personal experience, I have an stable group with rotating DM. But I find distasteful to give too much power to a single person on a cooperative game. On my mind, on rules discussion the DM should be a sport referee, taking decisions on the best way to apply a rule. But not deciding what the rules are.


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Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:


I agree you need to let your players know your rules/changes. I mean there is an old story floating around about a guy who went to a gen con in the early days of D & D and got into a game where he was attacked by a duck driving a +1 hotdog stand.

Okay, that is funny as hell if true, and funnier if someone just made it up.

Quote:
let’s be honest here do you really think GM running the duck driving the Hotdog cart going to care about RAW.

I wouldn't be at a table with someone who invoked a duck driving a +1 hotdog stand. Everyone knows ducks can't drive, their legs are too short to reach the pedals.

Quote:

This may just be a matter of perspective. To me if I point out a rule to a GM and they acknowledge it but keep the situation the same. I just assume that either:

1) There is something going on that I am not aware of...or
2) The GM forgot about something and now a basic spell is about to ruin his murder mystery or whatever and so he is ignoring the rule. Either way I don't feel combative. I just roll with it.

Sure, #1 happens in PFS and when it does, a competent GM will simply tell the player, "There is additional information that I can't share."

If it's #2. Then too bad. Your murder mystery is ruined and you learn from your mistakes. It's happened to me plenty. I have much more respect and trust for a GM who lets the game play out per the rules, even if it ruins the payoff and the ending is anti-climactic. As a GM, I'll tell players if they totally outwitted the scenario and foiled my plans. I think that gives them a sense of system mastery and is still enjoyable for them.

But if the GM forces the outcome down my throat, then it ceases to be a cooperative game and I've lost my agency as a player. I certainly don't expect the GM to let me set aside rules so that my Ability Y can one-shot the BBEG. IMO, trust between player and GM is critical and GMs doing 2 erodes that trust.

Quote:
In the situation I posted above if I caved into the thunderous voice of the Highlord of Paizo and allowed you to play your character would you really want to play in my game. If I was the player and had a character the GM didnt want to allow I would have no qualms about changing it or trying with a different GM.

I didn't answer this question. If a GM wasn't comfortable with a certain type of character or felt that a specific class ruined the game, then the player would have to decide if that impacted their desire to play. Neither GM nor player should be forced to play a game they are not, for whatever reason, going to enjoy. I can't imagine anyone would say differently. So some times a player and GM simply aren't compatible. That isn't anybody's fault.

Now, if this is a PF Society game, then the GM can't bar classes and should abstain from GMing PFS if they can't enjoy the game as required per PFS guidelines. That's not a judgment on the person.


Frogliacci wrote:
In response to 1, there are a lot of houserules that have time and again proved to improve the Pathfinder experience.

Sure, this can happen. People outside of Paizo can have brilliant insight into game design. But on balance and IME, no. The average house rule hasn't been vetted by the team of people who are in charge of creating and maintain and improving the game. It's usually a rule to address a facet of the game that someone has an emotional reaction to based on some arbitrary perspective.

When I first started GMing, I hated the flat-footed rule that eliminates the Dex bonus. So I changed it. But later, I realized why the rule exists and that there were a host of things that were dependent upon that rule being what it was.

Another example, years ago, I played a 3.5 game. Several weeks into the game, the GM suddenly decided he wanted to consolidate skills in a way similar to what Pathfinder had done. Except, he had no plan for accounting for the difference in how skill points were awarded out during character creation or how to resolve feats that were based on two different Stats.

So yeah, I'd rather not deal with random house rules, but to each his own.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

To the OP, run a search on the forums (even the PF2 ones) with "entitled players" and weep.

It is one of the common topics for adversarial threads along the roleplayers vs powergamers one.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Since the dawn of time (or at least since 1974) there have been good DMs and bad DMs. Just because Paizo has come out with a new, carefully-planned RPG doesn't mean this will change.

PFS is no different. Regardless of the extensive guidelines intended to govern DM behavior, there will be good PFS DMs, average PFS DMs and bad PFS DMs. That's the nature of our shared hobby.

And regarding rarity, I like the system. Some feats and other character options explicitly give access to some uncommon things, that much at least is within the grasp of player agency. Other uncommon things feature prominently in published scenarios, so that sets a precedent.

Just because many rare or uncommon things don't have a RAW path to access them doesn't mean that the player-DM pact has come unhinged. A clever and insightful DM will continue to sprinkle rare and uncommon stuff in his gaming sessions. That's not a reason to flip the table or slam PF2 out of hand.

Liberty's Edge

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I hosted a party once and put Doritos in a glass bowl on a table for my guests and myself to enjoy. I was glad Frito-Lay made the Doritos because I didn’t have time and honestly they were good at it. I worked hard on the table to make a fine presentation. One of the guests also brought a bag of Doritos to share which I really appreciated. I had done so much work to prep the table for the party and that little bit of extra help was appreciated.

However, when I went to pour the guest’s Doritos into a glass bowl to join the others on the table, he shouted at me. Frito-Lay, he demanded, always placed the bag out open to share Doritos. No glass bowls. It wasn’t done. Only a moron would use glass bowls.

To be honest, I was taken aback at the rudeness. I had done so much extra work to make the table nice for the party. While I appreciated the guest bringing extra Doritos to my table to share I was stunned that they thought that both they and Frito-Lay could dictate how my party was run at my table. And the party wasn't about the Doritos anyway. It was about the guests and me enjoying time together. The Doritos helped but the Doritos weren't the actual party.

When my guest realized I wasn’t going to change my table to meet his demands he grabbed his Doritos and stormed off. I was still perplexed but a bit relieved. While I appreciated the fine Doritos Frito-Lay worked so hard to make and the Doritos the guest brought to share, ultimately it was my table and my party and I was doing the work to host not Frito-Lay and not my guest. Maybe the guest could find another host who would do what the guest told them to do since I would not. Then I went back to the table and the party to enjoy my time with my other guests. They enjoyed the Doritos in a glass bowl just fine.

Silver Crusade

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... wow


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Charlie D. wrote:
snip

This post brought to you by your local pizza joint. No one gets mad at pizza.


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I think it comes down to social inertia... that is, what is the starting point for discussion.

It sounds like everyone in thread agrees that session zero is integral to enjoyable play, and that things should be discussed beforehand regarding rules variations that the GM or the players would like to see.

Because the system has rule 0, it slants a *lot* of power over the gameplay toward the GM. That sounds at first like it flies directly in the face of the idea of group narrative but the simple fact is that really, socially, most of the power does lie in the hands of whomever is officiating the game, since finding a GM is usually more difficult than finding players (not always, but it's certainly been my experience).

If, during session zero, a player can therefore make the argument that something is allowed RAW (and especially if they can argue RAI), it lends more strength in any discussion. But if it's just a gray area where both sides are fleshing out something not explicitly stated in the rules, of if it is an optional rule listed in the CRB, it becomes a bit harder to champion in the face of the power of rule 0.

So yeah, for me, I absolutely would prefer to see something codified if it's something I want to advocate for as a player, because at least it gives me that leg to stand on. Not in an adversarial way, just in terms of ebb and flow of ideas.


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Ruzza wrote:
Charlie D. wrote:
snip
This post brought to you by your local pizza joint. No one gets mad at pizza.

Unless there are pineapples in it.

Or unless you have a vegan in your group.

Silver Crusade

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CyberMephit wrote:
Ruzza wrote:
Charlie D. wrote:
snip
This post brought to you by your local pizza joint. No one gets mad at pizza.

Unless there are pineapples in it.

Or unless you have a vegan in your group.

You don't get mad at the pizza, you get mad at the pineapple for eating your pizza.

Vegan pizza


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N N 959 wrote:


3. IMO, the game is most enjoyable when the GM's presence is transparent. When I GM, I don't want to imprint my "style" on the players. I want them to perceive that the outcomes were not at all influenced by my personality. Obviously that is still my style, but by way of analogy, I'm trying to serve unflavored water.

Wow, I must say I find that an incomprehensibly bizzare answer! I expect every GM to strongly flavour the game - that's what role playing is all about - self expression. Expecting the GM to be some kind of unflavoured neutral non-entity is... both impossible and not what rpg's are about for me.

For example: Matt Mercer is considered the best GM by popular opinion (yes 5e). Would you say he is not imprinting his style on the game? No of course not, his style is strongly shaping the game.

So odd! :)


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It seems to me that most of this can be avoided with session 0. In the Age of Ashes campaign I will be starting soon I will have a session 0 wherein I will share with the players a seven- or eight-page document of house rules. While the document is titled house rules, that is a bit of a misnomer as it contains other things, such as rulebooks allowed, what happens if a character dies, rarity changes, my expectations of the players as well as what they can expect from me, and other things like food breaks during sessions. This way no one is caught by surprise by what the game turns out to be. If any of my players are concerned with something in this document they can let me know, and we'll discuss their concern and if I agree with them I'll make any changes before we play a single session. I doubt there will be any issues because I have played with all of them for over a year now in two other games, but I still want to make sure we are all on the same page.

The key is making sure both players and GM know what to expect in the game and from each other.


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I'm very much with N N 959 on this.

I run transparent GMing where possible. It means I can't fudge when things start going wrong, but even in PF1, the players have plenty of options for salvaging a failing situation.

My experience has been that GMs (even experienced ones) are more likely to fudge in favor of keeping a high-potential NPC around or making a fight more 'interesting'. And quite frankly that's a trap. It cheapens both the hard work the players put into their characters / the fight, and the feelings of victory the players have that encounter (or every encounter, if they feel like their GM is doing this a lot). Worse, it ruins GM - Player trust, and can make the players feel like they're not actually participating in the story, but instead just being dragged along for the ride.

And as with what Quintessentially Me says, having RAW sources can help protect against that. They also give the GM a starting basis, so if the GM has to make a call on something in a hurry (especially something that could mess with overall mechanics), they have a basis to work from. As a GM, there's nothing worse than making a judgement call at the start of the game that ends up breaking the game later.

Rule 0 is a very powerful tool, and can be very dangerous as a result. The more there is codified, the less risk of making a bad call, and the easier it is for the players to ensure their voices are heard and their decisions have impact.

Scarab Sages

Man, so much faith in session 0. I've never had a good session 0, despite multiple attempts, and I don't know anyone else who's had a great one either. I've only had one game where we knew what kind of game we were getting into, and even then we still have issues with group cohesion - like that darned arcane trickster who doesn't have a horse and gets bored when he can't reach the fight in time.


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Yossarian wrote:


Wow, I must say I find that an incomprehensibly bizzare answer! I expect every GM to strongly flavour the game - that's what role playing is all about - self expression. Expecting the GM to be some kind of unflavoured neutral non-entity is... both impossible and not what rpg's are about for me.

For example: Matt Mercer is considered the best GM by popular opinion (yes 5e). Would you say he is not imprinting his style on the game? No of course not, his style is strongly shaping the game.

So odd! :)

I don't think N N 959 is saying that as a GM he has no input on the setting and style of the game. I think he's saying he has little to no impact on the game *rules*.

Mercer is kind of a strange example on that, as he definitely fudges rules in order to get the kind of story that he *wants*. Personally, I see that as kind of a negative; while there are situations where the story of a game can benefit from GM shepherding, that can also take some of the power to influence the game away from the players, and remove some of the amazing potential that the randomness of the dice can provide.

But aside from that, what GMs (including Mercer) can flavor the game with, without affecting the rules themselves, is story, setting, and non-player characters (specifically their behavior and personality, not their stats). And that's more typically what you'll see Mercer expressing himself with.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

While I'm probably leaning more towards Hastur's side of the story, there are still some points where I slightly disagree with and want to comment on.

Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:
As a GM I am going to run the game I want to run.

I'm doing the same, but I'll add that in general, the games I want to run are the games my players want to play. Now in any type of online game, you're probably part of a larger community so most of the time can just suggest a game you want to run and will find enough players willing to give it a shot (let's say, PBP on these boards). For my home group, I'll generally ask for the players' input what to do next because if I'm the only one excited about a game, that will probably not last very long.

I'll certainly run no games I don't want to. Tried it, ended in a catastrophe, so I'll never do it again. This said, I try my best to accomodate my players' wishes and that starts with the decision about what game I'll run next.

Quote:
Now that being said as a GM I am trying to lay out a world for exciting stories and allow players to help tell those stories

again, maybe just a slight difference, but in my games, players don't just "help" telling the stories. They are co-creators of the story and in this function, I'm not primus inter pares, I'm just facilitator and one of the co-creators. As, I am trying to lay out a world for exciting stories, and obviously with me running the world, I have a certain influence on how the story develops, but in the end, without the players, there'll never be a story.

Now I agree with you about anything else and also sometime wonder where all these adversial stances between GM and players come from. My guess would be that if you want to do certain things in a certain way and get stopped from doing so by the veto of the GM (or the other players), the gut reaction often might be to blame the other side for doing things wrong. Maybe that's where a lot of those accusations come from.


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wizzardman wrote:


I don't think N N 959 is saying that as a GM he has no input on the setting and style of the game. I think he's saying he has little to no impact on the game *rules*.

Ok, that makes sense, but that's not how his post reads at all. He seems to be making a much stronger statement than that, at least that's how it reads to me.

wizzardman wrote:


What GMs (including Mercer) can flavor the game with, without affecting the rules themselves, is story, setting, and non-player characters (specifically their behavior and personality, not their stats). And that's more typically what you'll see Mercer expressing himself with.

Sure. But let's be honest: almost every GM has at least a couple of house rules, or leans towards certain interpretations of RAW.

It's just a rather absurd thing to say imho that a GM is 'transparent' and should leave no imprint on the game. TTRPGs are hugely flexible, subjective and complex beasts that have the GM's fingerprints all over every session. In a literal sense the point of the game is for it to reflect and extend the personalities of the GM and players. Otherwise you may as well play a video game.


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Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:
Are there really that many petty GMs that are just arbitrary f@#&ing with characters?

For example, by saying, "you can't have more than one class per 5 character levels"? ;)

Pathfinder is a game that encourages theorycrafting, creative builds, etc. It's fun to plan a character. It's less fun if you have no idea if your future GM is going to allow it or not due to house rules, or if too many options are disallowed by default via the rarity system.


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So I was going to write a reply to the people who keep basically saying players should be able to hold the rulebook over their GM's head because it's a cooperative game, but CharlieD pretty much said it as well as I could.

Seriously though, if you want as much authority as the GM (and yes, that is basically what some people here are calling for) then how about you put in as much time and work planning, crafting, and otherwise making the session work as the GM does? So many people here just sound completely disrespectful of the GM's time and effort.

And I say this as a GM who has had his players make many major shifts in his campaigns. Heck, I've had players literally change the final boss of more than one campaign by changing the course of the story and/or the arc of a villain! And how did they do this? Not by holding the RAW over my head like a bunch of entitled brats, but by engaging in the story earnestly and applying themselves to the scenarios put before them and finding ways to effect the story by their involvement.

(As a random note, one of those final boss changes was technically a 0.75 Henderson, for anyone familiar with the scale. The only difference being I had a feeling they'd go for what they did, not sure if that disqualifies it. I still wasn't entirely planned out on the fallout. XD)


Yossarian wrote:


Sure. But let's be honest: almost every GM has at least a couple of house rules, or leans towards certain interpretations of RAW.

Oh, certainly. But most of those houserules and interpretations are minor -- designed to remove an OP build, or clarify a complicated rules question. I wouldn't say they provide much GM flavor, and I also wouldn't say they should.

Yossarian wrote:


It's just a rather absurd thing to say imho that a GM is 'transparent' and should leave no imprint on the game. TTRPGs are hugely flexible, subjective and complex beasts that have the GM's fingerprints all over every session. In a literal sense the point of the game is for it to reflect and extend the personalities of the GM and players. Otherwise you may as well play a video game.

I'll agree with that when it comes to setting and story. But rules-wise? I see no reason why the GM and the players shouldn't try to be as transparent with the rules as possible.

Sure, the GM is going to leave his interpretation and views on everything he touches. And so should the players.

Transparent rule management leaves more room for the players to place their own fingerprints on the game. It means both 'sides' are working from the same baseline, so neither can bend or change the story independently from the context of the rules, and thereby overrun the others' contribution.

And that's really where TTRPGs are advantageous, compared to playing a video game, or cooperative novel writing, or whathaveyou -- the ability to provide a level playing field where all members can leave their mark without stomping over each other.


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in my current campaign that i'm playing as a player in, the GM is the newest out of everyone there, all having been GMs or is currently GMing. he's GMing because he's decided to host a game.(like i'm GMing a separate game)

one of the character's is throwing a bunch of stuff together from the SRD to basically make a kineticist that can throw basically anyone anywhere they want.

It was enough of a situation that I basically asked to make a new character.

with the uncommon mechanic, there might have been a rule written in the book that this new inexperienced GM could have said his character wasn't otherwise legal. limiting the options to things he might be able to more quickly get a grip on all the rules.

sure he could have limited books or whatever, but to a new GM these aren't things readily apparent to do, etc.

as it is, we the player's currently have more control over things as our own interpretations are taken with more merit than our current GMs, and pf2e's spells and various rules on rarity might make this less of an issue potentially for abuse.

at least he's become more assertive with things like disallowing leadership feat and a few other crazy options, but well, he might not have to be assertive if it were just written into the rules.


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In agreeance with Bandw2.

It also feels a heck of a lot better to write a list of allowed items and more exciting for a player to read vs a list of disallowed spells/items. (not that material creation spells like creat food/water aren't prime targets for becoming uncommon in my games)

Ultimately if a GM isn't happy the game will suck, if a player isn't happy the game may take a hit but it is one of many. It sounds arrogant but understand I apply this to games I play in as well, just because I disagree with an ability combo being overpowered doesn't mean I am going to ruin the game and screw with the GM by using it against their wishes just because they didn't have the foresight to ban it before hand.

Other players I know, have actually laughed gleefully to me saying how "heh dumb new GM let us get away with way too much and doesn't know how to progress" (paraphrasing, the person is far more eloquent than that) or being proud of derailing the first campaign someone made from scratch and causing them to quit GMing after just three sessions.

Thing is, with an experienced GM and restrictions that same player just moves on and has fun. Anything that helps keep GMs in the game while learning is a good thing, there are a dearth of GMs compared to prospective players.


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The Gleeful Grognard wrote:

In agreeance with Bandw2.

It also feels a heck of a lot better to write a list of allowed items and more exciting for a player to read vs a list of disallowed spells/items. (not that material creation spells like creat food/water aren't prime targets for becoming uncommon in my games)

Ultimately if a GM isn't happy the game will suck, if a player isn't happy the game may take a hit but it is one of many. It sounds arrogant but understand I apply this to games I play in as well, just because I disagree with an ability combo being overpowered doesn't mean I am going to ruin the game and screw with the GM by using it against their wishes just because they didn't have the foresight to ban it before hand.

Other players I know, have actually laughed gleefully to me saying how "heh dumb new GM let us get away with way too much and doesn't know how to progress" (paraphrasing, the person is far more eloquent than that) or being proud of derailing the first campaign someone made from scratch and causing them to quit GMing after just three sessions.

Thing is, with an experienced GM and restrictions that same player just moves on and has fun. Anything that helps keep GMs in the game while learning is a good thing, there are a dearth of GMs compared to prospective players.

Not really, a player being unhappy and leaving the game is almost as likely to end it as a DM being unhappy. Sure this is less of a concern for society games and the like, but people generally don't want their friends to be unhappy or have them leave/be kicked out of the group.

Having less rules be set in stone and up for DM arbitration on a case by case basis definitely creates problems. Player A might very well receive a less fair ruling than Player B. And without hard RAW, has less of a case to argue their point. With less RAW to argue, this gives incentive to players to actually argue more, not less. Then you have situations where Player B could certainly take issue with their uncommon request being denied, but Player A got their uncommon request fulfilled.

None of these problems are new with the edition of course, but I do think they are made worse.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Matthew Downie wrote:
Hastur! Hastur! Hastur! wrote:
Are there really that many petty GMs that are just arbitrary f@#&ing with characters?
For example, by saying, "you can't have more than one class per 5 character levels"? ;)

Well that's only messing with the characters if you weren't clear about it before that.

I would never have allowed such things in my games and I never will. And to be honest, this kind of theorycrafting pretty much announces a player I probably don't want to have in any of my games anyway. Can be the greatest guy on earth, but we're probably better off not playing roleplaying games together (if they can't accept that limitation I set up for character creation, that is).

To me it's the same as disallowing evil-aligned groups of characters because both will inevitably lead to a game that I won't enjoy running.

That's not being petty. It's just me accepting that I'm not enjoying theorycrafting and planned characters and that I actually dislike it so much that allowing it would destroy any fun I would have running that game.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
CyberMephit wrote:


Unless there are pineapples in it.
Or unless you have a vegan in your group.

Who could have ever guessed that pineapple would replace anchovies as the most polarizing pizza topping?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Corrik wrote:


Not really, a player being unhappy and leaving the game is almost as likely to end it as a DM being unhappy. Sure this is less of a concern for society games and the like, but people generally don't want their friends to be unhappy or have them leave/be kicked out of the group.

That might be a problem for groups without a lot of options or a small player pool. But it hasn't been my experience in general. GMs are far harder to find/recruit. Even for the groups I play in - both of which have been together over 15 years - it's still mainly the same few people running games in each one. And if they are gone, the group isn't going to be playing, while they probably will if it's just one player being the hold-out.

As a result, I definitely come down on the side of the GM being the final backstop on campaign theme, tone, and approved/banned content. If a GM isn't happy with the game, that affects everyone. If one player isn't happy but the others, including the GM, are, that affects the one player.


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I strongly agree with the King in Yellow, in general.

As far as GMs having a style vs being transparent... That's an interesting subject for me because I've shifted over time. I used to be a pretty simulationist GM where I would run everything exactly RAW and saw my job as being the arbiter of the rules and nothing else.

Ironically, my players broke me of this habit. The few times I would run something more custom, they greatly enjoyed it and encouraged me to do more. By now, I'm firmly on the narrativist side of things. I'm here to help my players create a story and for everyone to have fun, and I won't hesitate to axe any rule that impedes that for even a second. Or fudge dice, if it comes down to it. Although I usually only fudge in my player's favor; typically when they've come up with some insane plan and it would anticlimactic if it didn't work.

I think it's silly, though, to suggest that there is a One True Way of GMing. For example, DM_aka_Dudemeister would hate my games; he doesn't like secret rolls or fudging dice, and I'd be a horrible GM for him. But that doesn't mean I'm a bad GM or he's a bad player; it just means we have different styles and don't fit each other.


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Edge93 wrote:

So I was going to write a reply to the people who keep basically saying players should be able to hold the rulebook over their GM's head because it's a cooperative game, but CharlieD pretty much said it as well as I could.

Seriously though, if you want as much authority as the GM (and yes, that is basically what some people here are calling for) then how about you put in as much time and work planning, crafting, and otherwise making the session work as the GM does? So many people here just sound completely disrespectful of the GM's time and effort.

And I say this as a GM who has had his players make many major shifts in his campaigns. Heck, I've had players literally change the final boss of more than one campaign by changing the course of the story and/or the arc of a villain! And how did they do this? Not by holding the RAW over my head like a bunch of entitled brats, but by engaging in the story earnestly and applying themselves to the scenarios put before them and finding ways to effect the story by their involvement.

(As a random note, one of those final boss changes was technically a 0.75 Henderson, for anyone familiar with the scale. The only difference being I had a feeling they'd go for what they did, not sure if that disqualifies it. I still wasn't entirely planned out on the fallout. XD)

I tend to agree, Edge93.

As I thought more about this topic, one additional point I want to emphasize, is that by and large very few players take on the responsibility of ensuring the game plays well for the entire group.

Most players only worry about whether or not they, themselves, personally get everything they want, without much care for the other players, or for the overall game feel. Note, often this is not for any malicious reasons, but it is often the case.

The responsibility falls on the DM's shoulders. The ruleset does not simply do this for a group.

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