In Part 1, we discussed why leadership skills matter to a Game Master and his gaming group. In this article, we’ll take a look at some different styles of leadership and how they pertain to game mastering.
Mind Tools, a site written for business productivity and quoted liberally by me in these posts, has an article on several styles of leadership that I’m going to adapt here to show them in light of game mastering styles. That link goes directly to the article in question if you’re interested in the original material. My personal notes and ideas are in italics after each entry.
Country Club Leadership – This style of writing is most concerned about the needs and feelings of players. These GMs operate under the assumption that as long as players are happy, the game will be fun and the campaign continue. The result is a game environment that is very relaxed and fun but where story suffers due to lack of direction.
Players can have alot of fun and really enjoy these types of games but my experience says that the campaign often dies a slow death due to lack of interest after a time. When the character goals are the story goals, this game runs longer and better but often suffers from inconsistency .
Produce or Perish Leadership – Known as authoritarians, GMs in this category believe that players are simply a means to an end. Player needs are always secondary to the need for an epic and engaging campaign. This GM is very autocratic, has strict gaming rules and procedures, and often views character death as the most effective means to motivate players.
This type of game dies very quickly if players have any options for other games whatsoever. There have been myriad numbers of articles written about how to avoid this trap. The GM who lets his power go to his head quickly ruins the enjoyment of everyone, including himself.
Impoverished Leadership – This GM is mostly ineffective. He has neither an interest for creating story or for helping the players achieve their character goals. He arbitrarily decides which rules to use with little regard for logic or fun. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.
These GMs seem to be second type players avoid like the plague. The anti-thesis of the GM-Is-God attitude, this game master realy just doesn’t care and seems to only get the job because no one else in the gaming group wants it. If he isn’t too disorganized about house rules, this person is best at running one-shot adventures with no future.
Middle-of-the-Road Leadership – This style at first glance seems to be a balance of the two idealogies in game mastering. It appears to be an ideal compromise. But when you compromise, you necessarily give away a bit of each concern so that neither the concerns of the story goals or the player goals are actually fulfilled. GMs who use this style settle for average performance and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect.
I think this is the most common type of GM. They try but the game often takes a very big backseat to other hobbies and alot of prep work is lost due to lack of concern on his part. I also think this is the category of GM who’s game necessarily has to take a secondary role to that of job and family. Lack of preparation time is most likely to produce this result.
Team Leadership – According to the Blake Mouton model, this is the pinnacle. These people care about story and player goals in equal amounts. The idea is that players care about the story, the GM has successfully engaged them in it on an emotional level. When players have a stake in the campaign story, their goals and the campaign’s goals are very similar if not the same. This creates an environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, the best campaign a player has ever particpated in.
This does not mean that characters do not have goals of their own unrelated to the story but that those goals are also involved in the campaign. As I said in Real Villains and Goal Setting: Part 4, “…if they’re just not interested in saving the world, make their personal goals tie in with your story. If the mage wants that Staff of Cool +4, well – give it to Bad Guy #3 who’s collecting the wood for the Mining Pick handle right now.”
In further installments of this series, we’re going to look at how a GM can improve and become a Team Leader, both for his enjoyment and that of his players.