Ah, Shucks…it aint that hard…

This article is about GM comparisons.  I have been complimented on my ref style by many players.  I have complimented other refs on their styles.  I have also had potential refs shy away from assuming this awesome mantle because they felt that they “wouldn’t compare to me!”  This is part of why I am writing this blog…Not so that people can “Compare to me,” but so they can see it is all about having fun.  As I said in a fairly early post, this is about having fun and seeing your ideas come to life!  As many of you are aware, if you’ve been reading these, or if you have sat at my table, I love EPIC 1st person gaming.  It appeals to the world builder in me as well as the thespian (yes, with a T and an H  and a p in the middle) in me.  That makes it the best style for me.  That does not mean it is everybody’s style.  So, we will start with a brief comparison of the main styles of reffing (1st person and narrative) and then go into a few other things meant to show you that ref comparisons are for conventions, not a friendly table!

I have already discussed, briefly,  what they are, so let me get a little more detailed and compare contrast.  Narrative describes game are when players and/or the ref describe what they are doing and saying.  This is usually more comfortable for most people. 1st person is where the players and or ref play act the character, often using silly or put on voices.  Because of this, it tends to be a bit more immersive, but can make people uncomfortable, which detracts from the reason they are gathered at your table.  If this isn’t clear, let me illustrate… In that post I talk about some of the benefits and detriments to using each style.  As far as Epic vs Episodic, we have talked about that as well, but not as in depth.  Even though this is not the place for formal elaboration, lets discuss it.  Epic storylines are built by people like me.  The world exists, and the player characters are part of it.  Depending on the setting, they may be tiny cogs in the machine, or they may be the big rollers, but either way, the world will continue to go on…This usually works best for top down, but can be handled otherwise.   When things happen, they have consequences in the world.  If you are a hugely Top down guy, you might even map out those details even if the players will never see them!  The Episodic game style is becoming much more common, I think, and lots of players prefer it.  This is when the story takes place when and where it needs to, with little regard for the world around it.  This is not to say that the outcome of one adventure won’t have an impact on a later adventure.  The big difference is often in epic, the players need to play through down time to some extent.  In episodic, it can all but be brushed over, because the next adventure will happen when and where it needs to be…and giving the referee the ability to say, “A couple weeks after the last fight, you have all recovered and find yourself joining a friend, down at the starport.  You have been here a while, and he is well into his cups.  Knowing that he is want to do this, you refrain a bit, when suddenly…”

OK.  All that being understood which is the game that will be more fun?  Which one will make you look like a better ref?  Which one takes the most work?  As you are probably bored of hearing, now, It Depends…When you set down to ref you are getting ready to involve your players in your story.  Think for a few moments how you would tell the story if the game was not interactive.  If this was just you telling your friends about the three space mice who went into the horned giants house to steal his moon cheese.  Would you tell it in broad sweeping main points?  Sounds like Narrative Episodic!  What about if you told it from the point of view of the Mendelvian Cricket pet that one of the space mice carried?  That might still be episodic, but since the cricket can imitate voices (Of course you know how good the Mendelvian crickets are at impressions!) this would probably be 1st person.    If you tell about how they snuck into the horned giants cheese cupboard only to find that it was not where he kept his moon cheese, so they had to devise a different plan…then this is going to be Epic.  Once you have figured out how YOU would best run your story, ignore the tags…no one really cares if the story is Epic or Episodic IF they have fun participating in it.  Can you tell the story in first person, and let one of your players play their character in narrative?  Sure, if everyone is happy with it!

Let me make a plea here.  Maybe not to the folks that are reading this and want to be better Ref’s…but to those who are reading this and are afraid to be a ref at all…GIVE IT A TRY!  Don’t be afraid that you won’t be good enough!  GIVE IT A TRY! 


One of the most important things for new refs, and I have probably not mentioned this enough Winking smile, is to TALK to your players!  After a game, it is always a good idea to make sure you have a few moments to talk about what everybody liked or didn’t like.  This includes YOU, ref!  All of these posts, this entire blog may NOT apply to you and your game group.  But the only way you know that is by discussing what does and does not work.   You may not find that you enjoy reffing, and that is not a problem.  Don’t expect to run a perfect game on your first night, even if you have spent two weeks studying the adventure, and another two weeks working on your setting and voices or phrasing…You will have problems!  Big or small, but you get over them if you try.  If you try it and don’t like it, Hey! you have a bit of empathy for your ref, and maybe you will want to buy him an extra slice, or maybe, your players will fall in love with your mushy ruthlessness, and they will buy you your own Pizza!


Until next time…


That’s my story!  Take it or leave it!  My trucker buddies, they believe it!!