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"Weeding Out Bad GMs?" Topic

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06 Feb 2018 5:10 p.m. PST
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian23 Jun 2017 4:49 a.m. PST

Do conventions need to do a better job of promoting the good gamemasters and removing the bad ones?

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 4:54 a.m. PST


VCarter Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 5:05 a.m. PST

Since in most cases the GM is self appointed and cons need games to be successful a self weeding process seems to work.

Run a few bad game and no one will sign up or the GM will lose interest.

Market forces and all that.

The other side of the coin is good GMs and games. In Denver we have an Aliens game that runs every con for years. They must be doing something right.

Yellow Admiral23 Jun 2017 5:43 a.m. PST

I think any sort of systematic weeding of GMs would create resentment, grudges, unnecessary politics and unfair blacklists.

Meanwhile, good GMs sometimes run bad games, bad GMs can improve, and the players can have a huge influence on whether a game succeeds or fails. The exact same game run by the same GM can be a "great" game at one convention and a total failure at another.

- Ix

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 5:46 a.m. PST

Yes V Carter you are right but sometime you can run a game too much and people get tired of it.

Also Conventions are for showing off the Hobby and shouldn't be for running your clubs month meeting style game.

Too many games either have Beautiful figures and terrible terrain, or vies versa. It can be the most amazing layout with Wonderful terrain & Figures, but
still be a horrible game due to the rules/GM.

GM should be more interested in explaining the game/rules and less on running the game. We need to engage passersby to promote our hobby/Period/Rules set.

It's not the number of figures or the size of a game that matters, but if it's memorable.

Bill D

boy wundyr x23 Jun 2017 6:04 a.m. PST

As tempting as it is to get into the "showing off the hobby" vs. "I want to play games" debate, as a relatively new GM, I'd be turned off if I was getting scored. I have enough to worry about with getting figures and terrain transported and set up, rules and scenario memorized and then herding cats without also having to please the convention police.

I'm better now than I was when I first started, and I expect to continue to fine tune things, but let me worry about that.

And as a player, I've had some hits and misses, mostly hits though, and I still appreciate the effort every GM put out. I'd rather go to a convention and have a full slate of games to choose from than to go to a con and find there's only three games cause the rest of us have been banned from running anything.

However, if we're going to weed out bad GMs, let's also weed out players – there's a nose picker I want to make sure never touches my stuff.

civildisobedience23 Jun 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

Games are subjective, so some people will consider a game bad when other consider it good. And I hate to bang on anyone willing to put on a game.

That said, for myself, I can attest that I began running games mostly because I signed up for some many bad games over the years, I didn't have any desire left to go to the con and play. We've talked about moving the cons around and some other things that have hurt attendance, but I think the quality of games is also important.

Obviously, not everyone if going to have the time or the investment to build a really high quality game, but there are some things that are important. I've played games where people have put masking tape for roads on bare wood tables. Come on…if that's the effort you're going to put in, just play and shop.

Another thing that gets talked about less than terrain and figs…a convention game requires an attentive and at least somewhat tough GM. I've been in games where the GM checks out, or where he is very passive and allows one PITA player to ruin everyone's good time. I've thrown people out of my games before. I'm not going to spend hours and hours putting together a game to have one idiot wreck it for me and for the ten or so players there trying to enjoy their vacation. That's just crap.

Who asked this joker23 Jun 2017 8:10 a.m. PST

It's a hobby. It's supposed to be fun. Sometimes good GMs have bad days. Most of the time, a GM is at least adequate. There is no need to add yet another layer of bureaucracy to a wargames show. I am certain their is plenty of that already.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 9:34 a.m. PST

I am deeply suspicious of the criteria which would have to be used to sort out "good" and "bad" GM's. Mind you, I'm perfectly OK with saying the GM who is always there when he says he will be and always recruits enough players to put on his game should get a better slot than the GM who is a consistent no show or can't fill his table. But is that the standard proposed?

No one will--very often--build armies and terrain, invent a scenario and lug the whole thing hundreds of miles if his fellow wargamers don't think his games are worth fooling with.

As for Wackmole's proposition--"GM should be more interested in explaining the game/rules and less on running the game. We need to engage passersby to promote our hobby/Period/Rules set"--I think it's a special case. If you're running a demonstration game for schoolkids or some reenactor gathering, he's quite right. But the guys at Cold Wars and Historicon are not outsiders. If I sign away an evening to play a game, and the GM wanders off to "promote the hobby" to passers-by, I will not be at the table should he return, and he won't much care for the recommendation I give him to the other gamers.

The best way to promote a period or rules set is to put on a really good game, not to tell the people who are not playing how good it could have been.

emckinney23 Jun 2017 9:59 a.m. PST

"No one will--very often--build armies and terrain, invent a scenario and lug the whole thing hundreds of miles if his fellow wargamers don't think his games are worth fooling with."

I encountered someone who had an incredible Gettysburg table, beautifully painted armies, etc., but spent all of the available time talking about the battle and how it was portrayed in the rules, how great the rules were, painting the armies, how the terrain was made, etc.!

TodCreasey23 Jun 2017 11:05 a.m. PST

We go down as a group of 4-12 people for the HMGS cons and one of us keeps a list of good and bad Gms for when we peruse the PEL.

PJ ONeill23 Jun 2017 11:27 a.m. PST

I was going to post, but R. Piep beat me to it.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 11:45 a.m. PST

Robert you are able staying focus, That why I never run game "Solo". I have helpers to keep the game move.

What I'am trying to say is you have to answer the questions from passersby and not ignore them.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 1:04 p.m. PST

emkinney, my sympathies. Many of us have been lured in by good-looking tables--but not twice by the same GM, which is my point. We're a small community in convention terms, and he'll have serious trouble filling his seats next time.

And that's my point. Just not signing on for a game is a sanction FAR worse than being told not to set one up, and it doesn't require a committee to set a standard.

It's the standard which worries me. I'm not sure you can altogether eliminate bad GM's, but I bet you could stop innovative ones, and get rid of the new ones before they learned the ropes. Bureaucracies are very good at that sort of thing.

Sundance23 Jun 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

I've played two bad games at cons. One by a couple of unknowns (ahistorical and poor rules, despite their claim to having done research whatever), the other by an unknown using a well-known (not to me, though) system. The system sucked, the game was billed as historical, but wasn't and we were miserable but endured. In both cases, the GMs made bad choices that made the games worse than they could have been, but the GMs didn't seem all that on top of things anyway.

I haven't run into it myself but my friend's son played a couple of games with GMs who could have been good, but the rules they were using had serious flaws that they didn't attempt to modify for the purpose of ensuring gamers had a good time (my friend's son, about 12 or 14 at the time had a unit of SS and NEVER ACTIVATED through the whole game!)

And to add to R Piep's last comment, yes, bureaucracies are very good at ensuring that new blood doesn't enter the field in order to protect the old boy network. HMGS specializes at this sort of BS. One of the reasons I stopped paying to play.

coopman23 Jun 2017 4:57 p.m. PST

The small gaming conventions really don't have the luxury of weeding out poor game masters. They need all the game masters that they can get.

kallman23 Jun 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

I cannot believe we are having this conversation. As a game master I am taking my time, money and not a small bit of my ego into putting on a good game at a convention. We do not need game master policing. Ridiculous to even bring up this as a concept. How to do you define a good game master/game from one not so good. Just take a look at how many different rule systems there are for any one popular or semi popular miniature wargame era or genre. Different strokes and all of that. Yeesh! Next dumb topic please.

Winston Smith23 Jun 2017 5:46 p.m. PST

+1 kallman
I agree 100% with everything you said.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 6:08 p.m. PST

+2 kallman.

TSD10123 Jun 2017 8:38 p.m. PST

Now that I'm more established in the hobby and have my own figures and terrain I can use I've started to run games for Fall In and Cold Wars. I allow kids in my games with playing adults and use established rules systems I know well to prevent having to look in the book every 5 minutes. I play test my scenario to balance it out to ensure both sides have a legitimate shot to win. I try to make sure everyone can have fun.

That said, no amount of money is going to get me to subject myself to the criticism of some random guy with a sheet of items to checkmark for my performance. I have enough to worry about transporting fragile terrain and figures. I'm a new GM, so friendly critique from players or suggestions on any improvements is fine, appreciated even. Feeling like I have to live up to the standards of some guy walking around grading tables is beyond the scope of friendly gaming and I wouldn't participate in any convention that does so.

Nick Pasha23 Jun 2017 8:51 p.m. PST

I agree with Kallman. The subject is ridiculous. If I have a good time in a game then I will play in more of that master's games. If I don't have a good time I won't. I think a way to look at this is through popularity. If a games master's games are constantly filled to the point where people are begging for a seat at the table, and gamers are enjoying themselves, then that master is successful. There are so many factors that go into running a game that good or bad is not part of the equation. Success is. If gamers leave the table smiling and thank the master for the game, then that is the only criteria one needs to look at.

Personal logo edmuel2000 Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2017 4:24 a.m. PST

What Kallman said.

Rotundo24 Jun 2017 6:32 a.m. PST

Way too many variables. I know a GM who consistently puts on six to eight hour games. 10 to 12 players. Games are filled every time proving there is a market for that. I would hate that! I cannot stand having no idea what is going on at the opposite flank. One melee has everyone else sitting around waiting. My GM rules of thumb…4 players, 4hrs., contact by turn 3. Twelve combat units per side. Easy to understand objectives. Does not always work out but this is what I strive for.

Mick the Metalsmith24 Jun 2017 6:49 a.m. PST

No such thing as a bad GM. There are good ones and there are great ones but no bad GMs. Even the weakest is better than no GM.

historygamer24 Jun 2017 12:43 p.m. PST

I don't think it unfair for a con to set minimal game standards and hold GMs to them. Ground cloth, terrain, painted figures, etc.

I also don't see a problem with conventions giving a place of honor to consistently good games/GMs either, though few do. Reward the people who consistently put above average effort into their games.

Winston Smith24 Jun 2017 2:33 p.m. PST

Passersby can sit down to play if there is space.
However, the GM SHOULD devote his time to "running" the game, and not chatting with non/participants. I made that mistake once, and the game suffered. Players may be unfamiliar with the rules and need to be kept on the rails.

When I run a game at a convention, I don't see myself as an ambassador to the public. I am running a game that I hope strangers can enjoy as much as my friends in the club. Nothing more.

Captain Gideon25 Jun 2017 7:05 a.m. PST

For myself when I run games at a local convention I have a co-GM to help me out,so if I happen to chat with non/participants I can do that and the game doesn't suffer.

Since my game is fairly easy to understand I don't see any problems.

So do any of you have co-GM's to help you out for your games?

historygamer25 Jun 2017 7:03 p.m. PST

Almost have to, at least in a game with more than four players.

Bowman26 Jun 2017 5:39 a.m. PST

I don't think it unfair for a con to set minimal game standards and hold GMs to them. Ground cloth, terrain, painted figures, etc.

I also don't see a problem with conventions giving a place of honor to consistently good games/GMs either, though few do. Reward the people who consistently put above average effort into their games.

I would agree but I must state I have never seen GM without a ground cloth, terrain or painted figures. And isn't that what the PELA are?

However, this is a far cry from policing GMs in order to "weed out the bad ones". I agree with the rest that think, in practice, this is a terrible idea.

Ceterman26 Jun 2017 6:44 a.m. PST

+20 for kallman. I would kick the Editor outta my game for even suggesting such a stupid question. Agree with Mick the Metalsmith also, and boy wundyr x. I've put on games where I've won awards & others where, some people said "These rules don't let me do what I want!" I said, "Well you are dealing with both Cards & Dice , so whatta you want? I'm sorry you can't do everything that you feel you want to, every turn. I mean, what's the point? Why play the game?" Probably pissed some people off, but… Other games, I've had that one person, who has a problem with EVERYTHING & pisses off the rest of the players & me as well. That has happened way more than once. This is the biggest problem in my opinion. The question is asinine. All you can do is what Kallman said & also what TSD101 said. I have found lately that kids make better players. And seem to have more fun no matter what. I ALMOST put in my Game Description this year, "players over 40 MUST be accompanied by playing child" but I figured that would Bleeped text people off also… But I have found this to be very true as of late. Either way, I'm going to H-Con, putting on a killer WW1 Game, that has been play tested about 12 -15 times, different outcomes pretty much every game, just about EVERYBODY dies, no matter who wins, so Bring it on!!!! I'm all Geeked up!

Ottoathome26 Jun 2017 10:31 a.m. PST

As someone who has put on highly successful small conventions for more than 12 years, and having been a GM at the HMGS cons for almost 30 years, I was tempted to go on and detail what a terribly bad idea this is, as I am well qualified and have expertise in this matter. However Kallman has pretty much said it all. Besides, who's going to do the rating and how do you know he won't just pass as acceptable the games he likes or those that are his friends games?

Ceterman26 Jun 2017 10:50 a.m. PST

Otto, I know we don't agree on a lot but WELL SAID, my sentiments EXACTLY!

Double G Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2017 11:00 a.m. PST

I agree with Mick the Metalsmith; no such thing as a bad GM; they put on games, bring their figures and terrain to the conventions and allow attendees to use their collections to play a game.

Without them, there are no conventions.

So thanks to all of you for what you do.

Ottoathome26 Jun 2017 12:00 p.m. PST

Thanks Ceterman. One point I missed was how do you know that a GM who puts out a real Turkey one year won't put out a masterpiece the next.

Nick Pasha26 Jun 2017 12:57 p.m. PST

You don't. If the person is consistent it shouldn't happen. Convention games that involve more than 4 to 6 players should have the following:
- a rules set that everyone knows or is easy to pick up.
- a co-gm to help.
- a scenario that gets everyone involved from the get go
with little delay during the game.
- a stated end game or victory condition that can be
achieve in the time limit of the game slot.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Jun 2017 1:40 p.m. PST

To put things another way, there is a con that I go to and there are people there who run a game that I have tried a few times, but really hated. And it was really just the way they ran the game … I have the rules now and don't have a problem playing them elsewhere. However, they consistently fill their table with players. So why should my opinion on how they GM somehow limit them? I should just go somewhere else and make room at their table for someone who likes the way they run the game.

Ceterman26 Jun 2017 2:17 p.m. PST

Again, Otto, good, no EXCELLENT point.
Nick, to your point, and NOT saying you are wrong, NOT at all, you are correct, but…
1. You never know who has played what. Sometimes I've
looked for games/rules to play that I haven't played
before. Just for that reason. To play those rules.
2. I have always had help.
3. Sometimes players don't play as you/we might. I've
had/seen people avoid contact before, hoping to "rush in
at the end" and win. Those were his own words.
4. Again, you/well I, have always had clear victory
conditions at conventions. Usually, survive, shoot down
the guys other plane, kill all the Brits or kill/chase
away the Zulus you know, that sorta thing. This year
will be get in the German Trenches +1, take the German
Bunkers +2! Or kill/stop the Allied Forces.
We will see. But anyone who does play, I'll do my damnedest to see they have a good time! I try, it's all we can do. And thanks Double G for the kind words for all the GM's out there. Yours too etotheipi! See ya at H-Con!

Retiarius926 Jun 2017 3:31 p.m. PST

if wondering away from your own game your running for 20 minute clips is a bad GM, then Pat Condray was Horrible

Ottoathome26 Jun 2017 5:37 p.m. PST

I wander away from my game all the time. However the game, "Oh God! Anything but a six!" is written that way. I tell persons when teaching them the rules that I will talk for about 15 minutes explaining the rules, and go through two turns slowly step by step, at which time they all will be experts and I can do just that, and every time that is the result. I can sit for thirty minutes on the side of the table while the battle is raging, and if I interrupt to make a point or explain something I will usually get "shushed" by one of the players who says "We understand, we understand, just sit there quietly and let us get on with the game."

I have been pondering as to what is a bad Game Master, and the only thing I can come up with is transgressing the bounds. A GM's role is to let the players play, and to be a facilitator to make sure the game doesn't run off the tracks. Forcing players to play a certain option or in a certain way, that is take one choice he has in his mind among a range of other legal choices, that is running the game the way he wants it to go is bad GM'ing. So if you have five legal choices A, B, C, D, and E, and the player chooses B, but you abrogate his choice and say that he has to chose E is bad GM'ing. Completely reversing a game regardless of what actually transpired is another. Assume you're playing Ligny and as the French you totally clobber the Prussians, the GM saying that it was a Prussian Victory and the French are routed which they clearly were not by the action on the table top is another would be bad GMing.

On the other hand insensitivity to the feelings of others or when something egregiously caddish is being perpetrated might be another instance. A clearly experienced player who is using sharp practices on a rank newbie or a timorous youth is another example. It's bullying and unsportsmanlike. To not intervene where such things are flagrant might be bad Gm'ing as well.

The GM is there to keep the game on the tracks and if he can, let all the players have fun.

historygamer26 Jun 2017 6:29 p.m. PST

Bowman: shockingly I have seen this at some HMGS cons. Sad to say they were fantasy games where such things seem more readily accepted. I have seen the same at numerous hobby stores as well.

historygamer26 Jun 2017 6:31 p.m. PST

There are bad GMs just as there are bad players. My experience from both sides of the dice.

Bowman27 Jun 2017 8:06 a.m. PST

Bowman: shockingly I have seen this at some HMGS cons. Sad to say they were fantasy games where such things seem more readily accepted.

Hmm that rings a bell now. I know friends who bought a bunch of fantasy stuff (I think some AQOTMF stuff). They hurriedly glued things together and began a game. That was on a Saturday night in the Lampeter Room. Maybe that is what you meant.

But that wasn't actual GMs running games in the PEL was it? I have played in a few fantasy games at the HMGS conventions (by Bob Charrette in one case and by the HAWKS in other cases) and they looked and played beautifully.

historygamer27 Jun 2017 3:53 p.m. PST

It was not the HAWKS.

No ground cloth, unpainted GW robots,tanks, buildings, etc. Showed up next time with a ground cloth. I see unpainted fantasy stuff all the time in hobby shops, so perhaps more acceptable in such games. I'm not sure.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP28 Jun 2017 2:35 p.m. PST

Yes. But some of the bad ones just need some help. If it is a personality issue then there is little that can be done. The market will eventually weed them out.

45thdiv Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2017 9:48 a.m. PST

I have run a fair number of games at Fall In, and Historicon over the past 17 years. I like to think I run a good game, but I have had my share of bad days. I have also had my share of all tickets being gone for the game and no one shows up to play. I'm not sure what can be done about that though.

I think players can either help or hinder a game. Also, there are a lot of distractions in a large convention setting. Not only the people stopping to ask questions, but the guys who make snide comments about the game.

It's a lot of work for a GM to put on a game at a convention and I like to thank them. Heck, I don't get to game, let alone attend a convention much anymore, so I am stoked to be going to historicon in a week.


Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

GMs who disappear to eat lunch, go visiting at another table. I even had a GM say "Hey you guys know the rules, I am going to play in this other game." I was shocked, we all left.

Virginia Tory06 Jul 2017 8:23 a.m. PST

One of my friends in an ancients game said the GM spent most of the time on the phone talking about real estate or something.

historygamer07 Jul 2017 4:21 a.m. PST

"One of my friends in an ancients game said the GM spent most of the time on the phone talking about real estate or something."

I'm assuming this was not at the Host since the building is virtually cellphone signal-proof. :-)

It just amazes me how games are the core product of such conventions and yet the organizers exercise virtually no oversight of their main product offering (both from a GM and gamer perspective).

Bowman07 Jul 2017 9:05 a.m. PST

It just amazes me how games are the core product of such conventions and yet the organizers exercise virtually no oversight of their main product offering

How do you suppose this oversight watchdog enforces this?

historygamer07 Jul 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

I have advocated for years that in HMGS's case they need a fully staffed game floor management table in the heart of the gaming area. Note they have a full time coordinator for the flea market – and the table is right up front. Same for the dealer area. I am pretty sure the tournaments have central management tables as well. In fact, every aspect of an HMGS convention seems to have a management table except the gaming areas. Yet, surprisingly, for the gaming area there is nothing. Hundreds of games and no local management or oversight. None. Does that seem like a reasonable management plan to you?

Obviously smaller cons are easier for the organizers to oversee since all is likely in one room.

Enforcement, and levels of enforcement are a different question.

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