Being The Game Master

Brave GM, we salute you.

The GM easily has the most difficult job at the game table, from acting out all the non-player characters, to handling all the checks and damage for the player characters, to setting the scene and making things interesting and engaging, to establishing the story and helping to bring it to a satisfying conclusion; the GM has a dozen things to think about and consider from moment to moment during a game session (and often outside of one, too). This is true of any pen and paper tabletop roleplaying game, and the more complicated a particular game system is, the more difficult it is to GM. S4E is designed to be relatively simple in terms of its systems and mechanics, to allow a GM to focus on what we believe is the most important part of a GM’s job: working with the players to tell a fun, engaging, and meaningful story.

There is a long-standing debate among GMs as to what the role of a GM should be; whether a GM should be more ‘hands-off’ and reactive to what the players do (a more ‘sandbox’ approach) or more ‘hands-on’ and active in directing the players through the experience (a more ‘railroad’ approach). Most GMs find their own balance somewhere between those two ideals, and S4E is designed to work for either style and anywhere in-between. But there is a second debate which often arises in the middle of gameplay about whether the rules take precedence over the story, or the story takes precedence over the rules--and it is here that S4E takes a firm stance: the story takes precedence over the rules.

This all serves to sum up the GM’s role in S4E: The GM is somewhere between a director, a referee, and a supporting actor, guiding the players whenever necessary and letting them have the spotlight whenever possible. The GM’s most important concern is ensuring that the story is engaging, meaningful, and fun--and to that end they are fully empowered (and even expected) to bend or break the rules, if doing so helps to make the story better.

The most important part of playing S4E is to have fun; if your game group (yourself included) is having fun, then whatever you as the GM did to make that happen was the right thing to do.