Are you running the game you wish you were playing?

One of the more interesting gaming assumptions I’ve run into is that many GMs run the games that they wish they were playing. For example, if you want to play in a politics-heavy space opera, you’re probably running or trying to run a politics-heavy space opera.

Or are you? I had accepted and internalized this assumption, until I realized that it directly conflicted with another gaming assumption: Every GM wants to run a grim and gritty campaign, but nobody ever wants to play in one.

So, which is it – Killer GM or Selfish GM? Do you try to run a grim and gritty campaign chock full of TPKs and traitorous NPCs, or do you try to run the campaign that you’d love to play in? Both? (What are you, some kind of sick sadomasochist who likes to play in short-lived campaigns?) Or maybe both, but not necessarily at the same time? Or does the fact that you can’t run a game without players keep you from realizing your GMing dreams? Or perhaps in your old age and wisdom, you have mastered your desires?

Obviously, I’m kidding here. Of course there are gamers foolish enough to play in a grim and gritty campaign, just as there are GMs sensitive enough to actually run the campaigns that their players want.

But we GMs should be aware of the tendency to find our own reasons to run our games. Sometimes those reasons keep us enthusiastic about the game, but sometimes they lead us to run the game entirely for our own enjoyment.