Friday, 6 April 2012

Shiny GMing Badges for Shiny GMs!

Perhaps because we earned gold stars when I was in nursery school, there's little I won't do for a reasonable shot at a shiny medal I can show off. (Assume competitive physical activity is unreasonable.) So imagine my joy at finding some guy's selection of merit badges for roleplaying game-masters. Seems official enough for my needs. The only thing that really bugs me about it is that it's self-awarded, which feels like cheating to me. I guess it's more meant to convey intended style than be an actual reward for achievement. Perhaps I should get my regular players to review my choices for me.

Still, here's what I reckon represents my GMing style:

What's oddest to me is the combination of the pre-scripted, improv and mirror story-creation style badges, but I do genuinely use all three roughly equally. I think it's because they're all subservient, in my mind, to the story-telling badge: It doesn't matter so much where a story element comes from, so long as it fits and makes things more interesting and immersive. If a pre-written adventure or a random player idea is better than my own, I'm not going to be arrogant enough to pretend otherwise. And if there isn't anything better for me to steal, I'm happy to wing it. The end product is all that matters.

The PC death and PvP badges are also intrinsically linked. As the non-combat badge indicates, I don't go out of my way to kill player characters (though it's a valid option to me, should that make the story more interesting; see also the 'run away' badge), but I also don't like forcing them to cooperate, which means they'll occasionally knock each other off. I'd say about half the PC deaths in my games are from PvP. The only time I'll step in and intervene is when I can see that one player is out to get another for out-of-game reasons, which happens surprisingly often. I've played with some vindictive bastards.

This merit badge system is also useful for highlighting what I neglect. I clearly don't worship the formal rules very much. In fact, my choice of game system is most often decided by simplicity and ease of play (WFRP, Call of Cthulhu) or nostalgia (AD&D 2nd Ed.). I also struggle to express a clear mood or style in my games, and neither the serious scary badges nor silly fun badges are within my grasp. Similarly, I'm still not very good at making distinctive, memorable NPCs on purpose. Maybe now that there're medals on the line, I'll work on improving that a bit.

I forgot that there are other roleplaying-related badges I have, albeit ones that mean slightly less. Since I use Obsidian Portal (an excellent service) to record my campaigns, I get their little participant badges. Specifically, I qualify there as an official GM (just for having created my own campaign with them) and if you're reading this on or after 17 April, I should also have the Yearling badge for having stuck around a while. The other medals you can get from them are mostly junk rewards for having thrown cash at them. The only thing they have to offer me from that selection that I'd actually appreciate is the Master's Master badge, awarded to those who've run a 'featured campaign', so it's essentially a real merit award. However, I suspect they only consider paid-up members for that, so it won't be me any time soon. In the mean time, I'm adequately rewarded by the random other GMs who've 'favourited' my Warhammer campaign, especially the guy who sent me written praise.

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