Author Topic: Examples of GMless systems?  (Read 3015 times)

Offline RedWarlock

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Examples of GMless systems?
« on: March 30, 2012, 01:55:03 AM »
I'm still working on my own RPG, and it recently came to me that I'm getting kind of tired of being the perpetual GM, and especially in a story-focused group game (in a modern setting) there's a lot of potential to be tapped in drawing out the creative concepts from all the players, not just one person's crafted story. (In part, this is emblematic of the 'My Chicago' concept from the Dresden Files RPG. I'd like to se it taken further, though.)

I was hoping you guys would have examples of various GMless systems, and not just a list (since there are lists to be found easily via searches), but also your opinions about the implementations, including their success and failures. I'd curious to find out what kind of range the concept has, since it seems very much like new territory in gaming.

My own thoughts tend toward dice-based randomized simulationist methods, using rolled tables for effects, and dice-based AI for NPCs. Alternately, my other train of thought is to break the game into competing empires, with each player taking a strategy-game-style control of a portion of the game world, basically turning any one player into a GM based on what topic, faction, or challenge they face. (I've got a few other vague concepts, but I'm curious to see what already exists.)

So, how about it?
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Offline SneeR

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2012, 02:38:43 AM »
It seems to me that there would be a potential problem with verisimilitude.

I've discussed this with a friend, and the idea works. However, rules-intensive systems like the d20, GURPS, and many other RPGs don't mesh well without a GM. If everyone is on the honor code to follow the rules, someone will eventually mess up, purposefully or otherwise.

A game can work well enough without a GM if it is a rules-light game that essentially equates to "story-time with friends."

However, there will always be problems with overarching storylines. How quickly a plot thread resolves is very much dependent on how quickly the person with the least attention span wants it to be, depending on the rules. If you have each player essentially be the GM for their own plot thread which is ultimately shared with others, that works. But when any player can throw in an established bad guy or a new one, things can get get extremely chaotic.

Or so I imagine. I have never encountered a GM-less system, but those are what I think the pitfalls would be.
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Offline Dan2

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2012, 05:29:08 AM »
I have encountered some systems that don't have a GM, and SneeR is pretty much right about how the games play and how many rules they tend to have.
For the record, my experience with them comes from Do and Fiasco.

Games that don't have GMs tend to have very limited scope and a specific goal in design.  They aren't always one-shot type games, but there's usually not a whole lot of carry-over between the games that I've seen.  Also, they tend to be story games by design, rather than being dice-based.
This isn't to say that the games can't or don't have verisimilitude, but it is usually true that there aren't impartial rules for deciding outcomes of things.  If a player attempts to do something, whether or not it succeeds may be up to group approval, or may be determined by another player.

These games manage to avoid the individual-plot problem SneeR pointed out magnificently.  Most of the games require extensive interaction between the players; usually cooperation, sometimes acting as opposition.

I recommend that you try one at least once.
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Offline RobbyPants

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2012, 08:18:16 AM »
The only systems I've played like this are both randomly-generated board games. Both Warhammer Quest and Betrayal at House on the Hill are played without a GM (although WHQ has quite expanded rules for adding one).

Both of these systems work because the game is quite simple and straight forward, meaning that there's really no role-playing. WHQ expands on the basic rules with a crap-ton of tables to generate more random events, which can mimic role-playing, but it's always felt somewhat shallow to me. Effectively, the only way RPing would work in this type of set-up is if it were purely mechanical, and you're pitting your Diplomacy score (or whatever) and a die roll against some random table and another die roll.

In the end result, I think you could generate a story and not have a DM, but the system needs to be much more simple and kept on the rails. As soon as one person thinks of a way to do things outside of the pre-defined rules or tables, you immediately need the group to come to some sort of consensus on how to adjudicate the situation. Personally, that part would bother me because I'd feel like I'm cheating, or at least not playing the game.
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Offline Psyga315

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2013, 07:13:26 PM »
dice-based AI for NPCs

This part actually interests me, and I'm curious to know how that would work.

As for any systems that don't really rely on a GM... The only system I have heard of and tried out is the Mythic GM Emulator, and mainly that's mostly for answering yes or no questions and providing random events that happen. It's more of a "plot twist generator" than a GM Emulator, but if you want an example on GMless systems, I guess Mythic would be one of them.

Offline Nytemare3701

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #5 on: February 04, 2013, 03:34:11 AM »
Universalis is a GM-Less framework for other RPG games. It basically lets players bid on what aspects of the "scene" they want to write, then everyone plays the completed scene together.
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Offline jeffrie

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Re: Examples of GMless systems?
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2014, 01:09:51 PM »
I've thought about this some, too. Of course it seems as if you either get way too big and complex right away, or you limit rules/settings right away. The question might apply to how much limit to how big.

Perhaps a point buy that includes buying a land, stronghold, king, and religion, city, Deity, as well as a character. Then each player plays his territories as well as character. Only the character can increase in strength.
    But it seems that this would need a story limit. Perhaps build-a-map like Settlers of Catan... with Cards for the gods and kings.

nothing. just rambling