From Author to Gamer: A Battle of Gods

The main idea of this blog is to compare and contrast my life as an author with my life as a gamer. What’s new, what’s different. What I was prepared for, what I wasn’t. What I could adapt to and what I couldn’t.

So far I’ve talked about the other gamers and the law of randomness that every tabletop game incorporates, but I haven’t really touched on the largest adjustment I’ve dealt with during this whole process. I call this adjustment Tracy. He is my GM.

People debate the GM’s role in RPG’s constantly. Should they railroad? Should they settle arguments? Should they be in control of the game or should the player’s decisions drive the action?

But I never hear people talking much about the other role the GM plays, which is that of god. Or a god of sorts for the world the players are adventuring in…because even if there are actual gods running about, the GM still represents something larger than that.

It is, as far as I’ve been able to tell, the GM’s world. You can not be in charge of that all of the minor characters, all of the NPC’s, all of the setting descriptions, all of the color, how the food tastes and the air smells and the animals sound and not be a god of sorts for the world in question.

Everyone has a flavor, a storytelling DNA, that inhabits the worlds they create. I know I can feel this connection with the worlds I write in my fiction, and I know this feeling did not exist in the worlds that Tracy has run for me. The action might go places he never imagined and the characters might act entirely opposite from how he expects, but that underlying code, things like a bartender’s sense of humor, or what is considered haute decor, or whether violence has a hint of humor or tragedy, these things ground the world entirely in the GM’s mood and tone.

And, coming from writing a book where I own all of that outright, the amount of double takes I had to do when I started gaming to reconcile my story-DNA with Tracy’s was baffling. It was like I was watching a football game and the color commentary was suddenly being given by a Norwegian fishing guide.

I still have trouble with this, I still want to jump up and ask if my party can reenter the room because wouldn’t there be a much larger dramatic punch if the bad guy wasn’t openly armed? Or the lighting was from underneath? Or it smelled like lilacs? I mean I run and rerun scene openings again and again while I’m writing until I feel I have it right.

But I can’t do that in gaming. I can’t do that at all.

Because I’m just another shlub in these worlds and the GM is in control of populating everything else.

It’s been hard giving up the role of god.

I’m Joseph Devon, and this is my game.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Joseph Devon is the author of Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions . Think X-men meets Pulp Fiction meets The Wire meets The Seven Samurai. And some other stuff as well.


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About Joseph Devon

Joseph Devon is the author of Probability Angels and Persistent Illusions . Think X-men meets Pulp Fiction meets The Wire meets The Seven Samurai. And some other stuff as well.

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