I agree with the overall conclusion of the first article; the GM is a player too, and that falling into a mindset that the referee is a meat automaton which pushes the bits around for the " real" players is not fun. But I think they are approaching the task from an ignorant point of view (ignorant in the most literal sense; lack of knowledge).
There are tons of RPGs with distributed “GM” responsibilities or complete lack of a GM; because RPGs are asymmetrical games and as long as all the actions required to play the game are being performed, the game will function regardless of how those actions are distributed among players
why is the whole rpg industry constantly producing books for just one of the players?
The self-serious answer is because an asynchronous game should have complete rules for every role, and it’s easier to everyone playing role A to have their own reference book not clogged up with rules for role B (and vice versa)
The pragmatic answer is RPGs are not super proftiable, and selling twice the books for the same game is twice the income.
I like the direction being followed in the second article, although I wish they kept going. Breaking down “GMing” into discrete tasks means it is now possible to distribute those tasks among all the players or identify tasks which can be performed collaboratively.
My huff shows up here
the basic form of the interaction between the players is the dialogue
This strikes me as a very Forge-esque sentence, and my soul lets out a big sigh when I see it.
Rant about my personal interpretation of RPGs
RPGs are, by and large, abstract. Unlike a typical board game, almost all of the interactions and rules are enacted without any physical anchor. In Monopoly; the shoe landing on Park Place with two hotels on it has very mechanical results because of what’s printed on the board. In Burning Wheel; when I say “my character sneaks behind the guard and attempts to knock them out with a swift strike to the head”, dice are invoked to determine the outcome, but my sneaking behind the guard and striking their head is not mechanically defined. Maybe the GM envisioned the guard with their back firmly against a stone wall. Maybe the other players assumed the guard had a perfect view of the scenery such that they couldn’t be approached stealthily. In my declaration and rolling of the dice I am proposing a pre and post state of the collaborative game world and collapsing the theoretical into an actual.
And it’s not the dialogue doing that, it’s the rules.
I’m irked by the statement that “dialogue” is the main mechanical interaction in an RPG. Dialogue is the medium and rules are the interaction. Me and another player having an in character conversation to roleplay does not invoke any rules. Me and another player having a psuedo in character conversation where we plan a heist does not invoke any rules. Me and another player sharing a joke out of character during downtime does not invoke any rules. We use dialogue at the table because that is mainly how humans communicate. We decide on which rules, when, and how those rules are invoked, but the dialogue itself is not an “interaction” within the game itself. My character can’t stab your character for 3 damage through dialogue, only by stating I want to do it and then invoking rules that determine if I stab your character and if so by how much.
to me, RPGs are collaborative storytelling. The game exists as a way to mediate the storytelling so that it does not devolve into “yeah huhs” and “nuh uhs”. The game is not some mimic that eats language and then wears its skin.
TLDR; we invoke rules through dialogue, but the rule are independent entities from the dialogue. To conflate the two leads to the navel gazing where we’re drawing arcane diagrams and philosophizing about the power dynamics of arguing over if you had your sword drawn or not when the goblins ambushed you.