Monday, July 29, 2013

The Invention of the Gamemaster

I personally feel that the greatest contribution made by Gary Gygax et al is the *idea* of tabletop role-playing, and not specifically the core structure of the D&D ruleset itself. Which, if we're being honest, is pretty awkward and clunky. So was the Model T, but that doesn't mean Henry Ford wasn't a frickin' genius.

And IMO, what makes tabletop role-playing such a brilliant new idea is the concept of having a gamemaster. Chess doesn't have a GM. You don't get to say, "this Rook has decided to set off to see the world - what's in that next square past the edge of the board?" or "what kind of terrain in in this square of the chess board, and can I use it for cover to get the jump on that enemy Knight?". There's nobody to ask, and nobody empowered to make up a binding answer. GMs turn what would otherwise be a (possibly very engaging but) strictly limited strategic exercise into an open-ended, endlessly fascinating *adventure*.


At 11:05 AM, Blogger Kevin Kowalski said...

Hey Jeff, i was watching the Atheist Experience on youtube when found out that you were a game designer. I have been a hardcore gamer since the 80's. I looked up which games you designed. Now that i have seen what you have designed. I thank you for the work you have done for RPG. Both Computer and Table top RPG have brought a lot of fun times me with friend through out the years. Again thanks for all you have done for the gaming community.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Kevin Kowalski said...

Hi Jeff, i was watching the Atheist Experience on youtube when i found out that you are a game designer. Being a hardcore gamer i decide to look at what game designing you have done. After finding out that you design RPG and Computer games. I have to say thank you for your work in game design. My gamer friends and I greatly appreciate the work game designer do.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger The New England Atheist said...


Obviously I heave learned about you due to The Atheist Experience. When I found out that you were a co-creator of Villains and Vigilantes (at age 17?), my jaw dropped!!! I can honestly say that it was BY FAR my favorite RPG as young teen.

You sir, are not a god for creating such a wonderful game, but certainly a demi-god ;)

At 6:48 PM, Blogger Jeff Dee said...

Thanks, guys :)

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Guillaume said...

I just saw your blog, and it talks about RPGs! I know you first from the Atheist Experience, like the others here, but I am also a gamer (although not very often these days). So I hope you do blog more about this topic. I like to read about the technical aspect of the game, especially since as I come from literature and I have a perspective influenced by it, I see RPGs more as interactive, played fiction.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Traksius Egas said...

D&D was such a huge influence in my life and little did I know, your artwork was part of that. I remember around '81 when a new friend told me about this type of game that had a 'moderator' like person called a dungeon master.

That chance meeting led to MANY sleepless, Jolt-cola filled nights, watching as the DM scrambled to adjust his carefully created module as we mere players chose to go around starting tavern fights instead of following the intricately laid out path to the dungeon.

Ahhh, memories. 40 years of D&D, I am getting old.

Now, where is my walker?

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Olde House Rules said...

And yet another wonderful aspect of having a GM is that it creates a whole new way to experience the game. Namely, by creating, running, and moderating adventures. Now you can participate by becoming an adventurer OR by crafting a setting. This further expands the incredible possibilities of the game and makes it a fun experience for all involved...

I grew up an avid gamer in the late 70/early 80s and even cut my teeth on some V&V in high school (I think I was Lord Raven). Anyway, your artwork really left an impression, so when I saw this "Jeff Dee" guy on The Atheist Experience, I had to look you up!

Yep, one in the same! I'm a medically retired (combat injured) military officer who does some small press design as a sort of therapy, so the legacy of gaming carries on. Great post!

At 10:06 PM, Blogger Julian Rosati said...

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