Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lesson: Typhoid Mary

'Typhoid Mary' is a term used to describe a particularly infamous disease vector, anyone who spreads a disease or contamination by failing to take appropriate precautions, and a specific kind of GMing failure.

In RPG theory, a Typhoid Mary is a GM who, in a Narrativist game, uses his position as GM to constrain the players' actions and outcomes so that his personal perspective of the Premise dominates. In a game centered around the question of whether means can justify ends, a GM who arranges circumstances so that ethically questionable means always corrupt the results they're used to achieve is acting as a Typhoid Mary.

The term can also be used as a descriptor for specific examples of behavior that, if consistently demonstrated, would lead to a person's being categorized as a Typhoid Mary.


MikeMc said...

1- Is this really general parlance? Because that's a rather odd use of idiom to support complaint. I've seen 'contagious bad attitudes' go through games, but it's usually players spreading them to other players.

2- How is this distinct from any other form of GM railroading or straight jacketing? This seems to be just the previous comlpaint under a different name.

GM keeps hands too tightly on plot - Railroading
GM keeps hands too tightly on themes - Typhoid Mary (??)

What's next a GM keeps hands too tightly on mood - Buzzkill? Thoughtpolice? Goodthink?

I don't understand why so many of these columns are devoted to the problems of GMs excercising too much manipulation, when in my experience one of the deadlier sins is a GM who excercises too little structure and lets lazy players wind around indefinitely without making any progress.

Players have to take some responsibility for the story telling experience, and in my experience its more often their inaction than gamemasterly action, that sucks all the air out of the room.

Anonymous said...

"I've seen 'contagious bad attitudes' go through games..."

I've noticed this effect too, and wonder about the contagion and where it actually originates. My theory is that the RPG Theorist-Game-Designers themselves are in fact helping to spread the Dissatisfaction Disease in order to pump up the "need" for their alternative "Player Empowered Games". You know, Viral Marketing and all that.

Typhoid Mary GMs? How about Bubonic-RPG-Theorist-Game-Designers-with-a-Marketing-Agenda?

My diagnosis leads me to speculate that it might be worthwhile to try putting the Theorists into quarantine for a while and see if that helps to mitigate the spread of the Dissatisfaction Disease.

It's so crazy it might just work!