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I started playing RPGs last year with the Pathfinder Beginner Box. I have been GMing and writing a campaign, but have also encouraged members of the party that are interested to run a one-off Beginner Box Bash adventure to get an experience of running a game, more familiarity of the rules and the structure of an adventure with individual encounters.

When I was playing in one of these, I was conscious of trying to figure out the seams between encounters, whether encounters were RP or puzzle or combat and the DC of checks.

I now wonder if my experience of GMing before ever playing detracted from my playing, or whether I'm just being a munchkin and metagaming too much.

Does any aspect of GMing and building adventures detract from future experiences as a player?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by SevenSidedDie, KRyan, MadMAxJr, Yosi, Joshua Aslan Smith Sep 18 '14 at 20:06

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 is a tweet inspired by this question: DM:You need a key to open the door. ME:I go back to the room with the dead mimic, move it and get the key. DM: ACK! How? – F. Randall Farmer Apr 12 '13 at 21:42
This question unfortunately is going to have mostly opinion-based answers. Being the GM for a while then going back to being a player will affect everyone differently. – MadMAxJr Sep 18 '14 at 19:01

As someone who has been GMing primarily since 2001, the answer is "Yes, but not disasterously so." The skill sets for being a player and being a GM in a game such as Pathfinder/D&D/White Wolf are entirely different, which means if you spend a lot of time doing one set of those skills (GMing), then the other set will get rusty, like any set of skills you don't use.

The other issue is that you'll bump into frequently, "But I would do it THIS way," or at least I do, because I run the sort of games I want to play in, and I run games frequently because I can't find any other way to scratch the itch. I'm currently in one game, and while I generally love the GM every so often I have to breathe and remind myself that it is his game to run and his decisions regarding plot and pacing.

The upside is, as being a good player is a skill set, it will come back, you just need to hold yourself in check while you (re)learn the skills necessary.

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I wouldn't say GMing detracts from player experience. I will try to use a parallel example.

Do you know TV tropes site? They dissect every piece of fiction into tropes that are like boulders that are used again and again in other works, like "Lonely hero", "Redemption of the bad guy" or "Holy villain" (those aren't the actual names, but they're clearer for this example). Well, when I first read about this site there was a common phrase: TVtropes will ruin your life. How? It will make you not to enjoy any piece of fiction as you will only see tropes.

Well, TV tropes hasn't ruined my life. Actually, I am now able to enjoy fiction on one more level. I now see good and bad uses of tropes. I am happy to be able to enjoy the meta level.

I think a veteran GM plays in the same way. He is not only able to have fun as any other player, he can savour the techniques the other GM uses, if he is a good one. Does knowledge of wine ruin your wine experience? Well, it may make you unable to enjoy bad wine as you used to, but it enhances your experience of good wine.

So, my point is that GMing doesn't detract your experience as a player. But there's something that may: only GMing. GMs that don't play as regular players for years can lose some of the feeling, or become anxious about their lack of control. I have met some GMs that have fear to play with other GMs.

So, the problem is not GMing, the problem is forgetting what it is to be a player.

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TVTropeWillRuinYourLife is more true if you consider the time you spend there rather than the resultant SAN loss. – Nigralbus Apr 11 '13 at 14:34
I have wasted/spent more time on TvTropes than I care to think about. – TimothyAWiseman Apr 11 '13 at 22:16

For years I was primarily a gamemaster. Only within the last three years have I been gaming as a player on a regular basis. It's been great.

GMing makes me a better player because I am continuously exposed to player techniques. How players reveal character motivation, how they approach tactical challenges, how they handle group dynamics - as a GM I get to learn from players. This makes me excited to play, because I wind up with so many ideas I want to explore.

Playing makes me a better GM because I can learn from other GMs. Not only do no two GMs run a game the same way, I can almost always learn at least one or two important techniques from any GM. Even inexperienced GMs who handle the game differently than I do are often skilled at something - NPC characterization, scene description, managing combat, introducing plot points, etc - that I need to improve.

You can't help but unconsciously evaluate the performances of other gamers, either as GMs or players. But if you can flip that tendency around and make it about what you can learn from them, what elements of their approach you can benefit from, it becomes a journey full of pleasant surprises.

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No, depending on what you mean by detract.

Yes, depending on what you mean by detract.

This has more to do with why your play RPGs. Is it because you want to build a dramatic story exploring various themes? Is it because you want a bigger, better board game? Would you enjoy playing an adventure that you GMed or that you had read?

Connie Willis said (I cannot find the right interview now... It was a long time ago) that she has lost the ability to be surprised by foreshadowing since she read so much and seen it so often. But now, she gets to make those foreshadowing better. And she gets to enjoy it when they are well crafted. Does it detracts from the books she read or the films she sees? I do not believe so.

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Does directing an orchestra diminish or detract from listening to music? – Adriano Varoli Piazza Apr 19 '13 at 19:42
@AdrianoVaroliPiazza: No, depending on what you mean by diminish or detract. Yes, depending on what you mean by diminish or detract. ^_~ – Sardathrion Apr 21 '13 at 10:43

GMing in general, I'd say no. GMing or even playing in a system where the characters have no real ways to decide the story except by convincing the GM that their ideas are good, I would say yes.

Pathfinder is a GM-intensive game where the GM needs to prepare a lot of things, from a plot to full-fledged statistics. It is a harsh role who's ridden with things to do, while the other players can easily just care about their character sheet and blindly follow your directives.

It might not be your group's playstyle, but it could happen.
In this case you'd be doing all the work by yourself, literally. By the way, that's a good reason for other players not willing to DM the game.
You also need a lot more system mastery than they do if you want things to run smoothly, from creating a challenge that's entertaining for a group of four minds to almost never having to halt the game to look for a rule. It's scary.

But the DM, or any GM in similar games (and I mean games with the same "may I ► y/n/roll" structure) is rewarded with two things: the satisfaction of managing to use such a complex system (good thing if you're into it) and the power of making the story develop as you wish, independently from the player's choices or successes.

This second part is dangerous, not only from the gaming balance point of view (the only way for a player to achieve something becomes putting some social pressure on you) but since you're the GM you might more easily realize that the other players have low to no in-game decisional power.

In my personal experience once I discovered the GM is supposed to only make it seem the players' decision have a weight in the story I've begun being less involved while playing PCs. For I want my decisions to matter, but that depends on how my DM manages the thing and since I don't read his mind I can't know if I survived an encounter because he let me win or because I was good enough (for example).

You also mention being "too" focused on mechanics. Why? It's easy to guess. The fiction has a low impact on the mechanics. You could play an encounter without caring who the PCs are or what their motivations are. You could reduce the swing of a mighty sword to a "I rolled a 24, it's 12 damage".

This is not a problem per se but if your new DM and group expects you to be focused on the roleplay aspect of RP+G (e.g.: "Don't care if it's ineffective, do what your character would do!") this could be a problem.

Remeber: optimizing does not mean being unable to roleplay, but sometimes makes it harder (especially if you need to justify the coexistance of certain divergent things in your sheet)

P.S.: It looks like the forums I wanted to link you with definitions of illusionism, an example of fiction with high impact on the mechanics (called "IIEE with teeth" IIRC) is temporarily down. I'll be back fixing it if I remember to.

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@SevenSidedDie that is an awesome. Really useful for a burgeoning GM. – StuperUser Apr 12 '13 at 15:45

Personally I've been playing for many years and only GMing more recently. Oddly enough coming at it from a players perspective I often found that I meta-gamed or at least analysed the game more initially (even without the GMing experience), so ended up with a similar issue. I think the thing is as a GM you are invested in the world, all of it, how it works and how it is populated. While as a player you have to become invested in the character, how they would think and react and more importantly, what they know and don't.

Puzzles however I believe are always against the player and not the character as such. Thus I would never really classify it as meta gaming to analyse it OOC.

One issue you may have at the moment, which I've realised in GMing myself and in other new/newish GMs is that they have yet to learn the skill of correctly and smoothly tying scenes and events together. As such the observing on your part, may partly be picking up the GMs being less experienced. Saying that its likely that it will stick with you to some part regardless of the GM, as you pick up tips and tricks from other peoples play styles. ^^ I have noted personally as I GM more, while I still can get into the game part of my mind is looking for ways to improve my own presentation. I think the way out of this however, is concentrate on the challenges of being a player and as you said occasionally taking a break from GMing ^^.

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Welcome to the site! This is a good answer. Note that the underscores are a format character - hence why the part of your answer between the two emoticons was italicized. I'm a fan of that emote too, just thought you might like to know about the use of it here. – LitheOhm Apr 11 '13 at 23:07

Does sitting in the GM Chair ruin you as a player? No.

All of the symptoms you describe I have done at one point or another. Generally before I took up the DM chair myself. To some degree metagaming happens whether it is acknowledged or not. Roll a 15 to hit and miss, but a 16 hits? You now know this guy's armor class. My game group tends to not munchkin/powergamer much, but by the end of combat we've paid enough attention to know what does/does not hit, while the beginning of a fight is "I hit Armor Class X?" and wait for the DM to acknowledge it as a hit before telling/rolling damage, by the end of combat we generally say "I hit Armor Class X for Y damage". In another group, we knew the rules so well that we would roll and while organizing the pile of dice (it was old shadowrun where rolling 12 dice to shoot a gun is not unheard of), we would tick off known target numbers and modifiers (by the players). We would then ask the GM for any other modifiers we needed to factor in. First round of combat took longer, every other round took much less time. It was great.

System Mastery is at its first level a great sign that you are a committed player. While no one likes the munchkin (who pairs broken things together to make super-broken things) or the rules lawyer (who argues that the Target Number should be X instead of Y because of arcane rule Z on what seems to be every action), the flip-side caricature of the clueless player who needs you to tell them (months in to a game) what to roll to hit in combat is just as annoying. System Mastery takes you from the clueless player to someone who can immerse themselves in the story/system enough to not be intrusive. This is good. Wondering whether the person you meet on the road represents a RP opportunity, a puzzle, or a fight is part of the fun and somewhat expected. Let's face it, this person is a stranger. You don't know if they are the reincarnation of Florence Nightingale, or Jack the Ripper. That's the fun part!

The only detrimental thing about playing after GMing for me was that the first game after giving up the power was tough to keep my mind in the game since my workload was so much lower (and similarly, when going from player to GM, the first few sessions are stressful because of the workload increase). After a session or two, I calmed down and was back to my usual obnoxious self.

Whether your experience has "poisoned" you as a player or not I do not and can not know. I do, however know a few folks who strongly prefer DMing to playing, a few more who prefer playing to DMing, and most fall somewhere in between (will do both, but not too much of either).

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From personal experience it does not diminish or detract, it simply changes your overall perspective. Some people may dislike this shift and for them it is diminished, but I feel the same way about GMing vs playing as I do about film writing/production vs. being a movie goer. I can still totally enjoy movies (and in fact my first time seeing a film is always very passive as a traditional movie viewer would be) but I also get to examine them and look at the story, sets, lighting, editing, and other factors and see where they succeeded, where they failed, and what I would have changed if I could. Its intellectually stimulating in both settings, but you are one step further removed.

I like being a player in multiple games with multiple other DMs because it lets me observer what works and what doesn't and decide what I like about their GM implementation and take the best bits (in my opinion) and try to incorporate them into my own GMing style and approach.

TLDR: No, it does not make it worse, rather it makes being a player different.

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I now wonder if my experience of GMing before ever playing detracted from my playing, or whether I'm just being a munchkin and metagaming too much.

You are metagaming too much :) I think you are playing under inexperienced GMs and its easy for you to pick apart their adventure plan because they are still "cookbooking" their adventures. Some GMs will also assemble adventures like a story, making it easier to pick them apart.

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