Gamemaster’s Guidepost: Shut up and Roll!

Player: “Okay, this is a -4 to my roll because of posture, another -2 for attacking a side hex…”
GM: “Shouldn’t I be doing this?”
Player: “Oh, I was just helping…okay, and another -4 to range…”
GM: “No. Stop. Just roll.”
Player: “But…but the modifiers.”
GM: “I know the modifiers – you make the rolls.”

Even in realistic GURPS games (of which I rarely run) there are times when the game can just bog down because a) it’s GURPS and b) the players are likely trying to “help” you. This is good and bad. Good, because your players are invested and having them assist you like this means less look-ups for rules which means more time spent playing. Bad, because you’re giving away some of your autonomy as the GM to your players. You’re no longer solely dictating the die rolls. Your players are bogging down gameplay as much you would looking up rules.

That’s where “Shut up and roll” comes in. Lots of people who play RPGs – but especially us GURPSers – think that you must get the rules right. By not just saying “I think it’s -2 so let’s just go with that for now” you’re somehow violating the Gygaxian Convention of 1974. You’re not. As any seasoned player or GM will tell you, the point of an RPG is to have fun, not get everything absolutely perfectly “book” right. That’s for noobs and people obsessed with the rules (aka rules lawyers). That may sound harsh – but that’s what it is. The first you can train up, the second you should just avoid. So when you come to a situation that you as a GM don’t know just repeat the following to your player: “Go ahead and roll some dice.” Give it an appropriate modifier. Give it an appropriate chance. Go with your gut. Don’t waste time by looking for a half-remembered rule or section in the game book. You’re the GM and that means you are the guy leading your buddies to the fun, not away from it.

So what do you do when you have players who are trying to help, but are really slowing things down? Be nice. Tell them you appreciate the help, but you got this. They need to trust you that you’ll do the right thing. Most of the time they will. Alas, when you’re dealing with a rules lawyer this is likely the point where they will turn nasty. There is no way to fix a rules lawyer’s behavior – just boot them from your game. You’ll thank me later.

Picking Over the Bones
A think a key point here is that you shouldn’t be a jerk when talking to your players. Explain the situation to your player(s) tell them why you feel the way you do. Communication and trust – as with many activities in life such as friendship, love, or war – is key in gaming. The players must trust their GM and their GM must trust his players. Establishing a clear way for players to discuss any problems with the GM (and the other way round) is not just suggested, but required for games that you want to continue for more than a few sessions.

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