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By Alex Loke
God has a hard job. Whether or not you believe in His existence or not, you must admit that whoever or whatever ensures our cyclical continuation probably deserves a short round of applause. That there are those that don't admit His existence only makes the job that much more unpleasant and difficult. That punishing the wicked with irony is no longer in style means there's less to take the edge off His displeasure.
I begin this month with a sermon. I hate to preach, unless of course it's in a blasphemous Kevin Smith kind of way (a Canadian as God? What's that all aboot, eh?). I just thought I'd get that out of the way before your natural role-player/comic store geek cynicism kicks in. I do have a point here.
It's often said that a fantastic world needs to be more real than the real world to soften the blow of the inevitable absurdity. Despite the whispered platitudes of players post-game, the GM knows that nothing less than perfect is enough. I assure you, even now I can hear the cries of protest that this statement will inexorably bring, but like any good despot, I can ignore them.
By extension, GM's, who assume the God role in their universe, also have a hard job. Firstly, the job requires an overweening hubris, underdeveloped social life, overactive imagination and an understated sense of style. Just like God. Hands up all the people who are going to Hell for typing one short paragraph.
Even He isn't perfect, and unlike Him, we don't have the original disclaimer that we 'work in mysterious ways'. He also isn't hounded by the Rules Lawyer (the idea of a Reality Lawyer is absurd, set it aside), subject to constant criticism or hallucinating due to lack of sleep. He took seven days to create the world, and I have trouble designing an edited scenario in less than twelve. God is infinite, but I'm continually reminded of my finiteness every time I wake up from an all night bender. We can't be perfect. So, how do we make for these shortcomings?
Lie. Cheat. Steal.
All the things He told us not to do (though I'm not sure coveting someone else's wife can possibly be helpful in a gaming situation but careless experimentation never hurt anybody). Clearly, showing your imperfection as a human will tenfold improve your perfection as a GM (unless you're one of those fools who believes perfection, like justice, is an absolute). Use all the things at your disposal! Roll the dice behind a screen to hide the result that would have killed off the main villain in the first encounter. Smile mysteriously at every inconsistency as if it were part of the plot. Hire someone to hobble the Rules Lawyer (more a cathartic measure I'm sure you'll agree). Cover contradictions with more contradictions to make you sound complex. Be generous with the Rohypnol in the pizza when the players get too canny.
In these modern times, where the world's authorship derives inspiration nasally (so callously called the 'Robert Downey Jr Effect'), the muse has been known to withhold the precious gift from the GM. Don't fight it, simply pay a visit to the muse's black market alter ego - plagiarism.
The key to successful theft is to follow the lead of corporate America. Steal a little from many! Players will usually recognise the newest Robert Jordan 'periodical'. However, mix in a little Niven, some Eddings and a touch of Ellison and you have a masterpiece. Do so carefully, or you may inadvertently create a clouded bouillabaisse of ideas (bringing us back to Jordan).
Also remember that all written notes are not immutable! When a player does something completely unexpected, don't reward them. Punish imagination severely. It has become recently politic in the gaming industry to add that all scenarios and rules are flexible to the needs of the consumer. Push this one for all it's worth I say! I bent Keep on the Borderlands like cheap copper wire and my players still don't understand why TSR would put a red dragon in a 1st to 3rd level adventure.
But what does one do when caught in a lie, defeated despite treachery or arrested for something that was clearly only borderline illegal? I'm sure you might have at one time been counselled to confess all. Ha! Consider this - Clinton stayed President, Rob Lowe is on the West Wing, and OJ is playing through on the 15th. The GM sits in a seat of inscrutable power, maintained only by deception. To submit this power, through the admission of guilt, is pain akin to excreting a d30 on a razorblade toilet seat, while editing the flaws in Mage 2nd Edition. Even dishonesty has its own morality so stick to your guns. Two wrongs don't make a right - they make an acceptable.
"No, I said 'Cthulho-hui'. Are you making fun of my inconsistent ethnical speech impediment?"
"It's a special vampire. It's immune to sunlight. Lose 3000xp. Jerk."
"What human rights?"
"I swear officer, I though she was 19."
Clever wordplay and deception can usually revive any situation, unless of course one is George 'Dubya' Bush or Michael Richards in anything post-Seinfeld. Dig up, stupid! Besides, one can always give a girlish scream and run like Homer.
Despite how clever you think you've been, usually there is one who thinks they're better. Rules Lawyers. One can use them to a distinct advantage. Turn the other players against them. Don't just penalise one player for their infractions - make sure all are punished. This puts you in an enviable position above the chaos. It also puts you in a similarly God-like position, ostensibly inciting a holy war between your followers. If that all fails, remember that violence is often quicker than reason. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a Rules Lawyer squirm, then die of a horrible rectal wasting disease.
Finally, it is with certain delight that I realise the disclaimer I intended to include for any controversial statements or mistakes in grammar and spelling serves to drive part of my point home - I'm not perfect. Of course, when the lawyers and police come round, I'll scream 'parody'.
So, congratulations. If you were irrational enough to follow any of the above instructions, you've assumed the virtual power of God with none of the moral responsibility. Have a cookie. Publicly, I'd advise you to use your powers with caution, lest you fall to the Dark Side, but who else agrees that Vader was cooler than his little farm boy whelp? Personally, it's evil all the way baby!
I'm on fire. Someone get me an electorate.
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