Stuart over at the Strange Magic blog has posted something that I find interesting, as he has designed several GM merit badges. The name may not be the best descriptive term, as 'merit' implies accomplishment or worth, and what Stuart is doing is detailing a way for gamemasters to let prospective players know what style of game they run, and what their preferences are. Which I think is a fine idea, as much of the problems that occur during role-playing sessions is clashing game styles and unspoken assumptions.
I haven't run anything in a while grumble grumble but when I am eventually able to do so (either with the Trollslayers rules or with something else), I will use the merit badges to let the players know just what sort of game I plan on running. In the past, different badges would have been picked, but this is what I have in mind for the eventual Trollslayers game:
Tactics are an important part of my games
My games focuses on Exploration & Mystery
I will Mirror back player ideas I think are interesting in the game
My games use a pre-made Map and pre scripted content (moreso the map than the content being pre-scripted, although rough outlines will be pre-developed)
The GM is In Charge in my games and "rule-zero" is in effect
My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than pre scripted content (within the already mentioned rough outlines)
I roll Dice in the open and don't fudge the results in my games
Players characters Death is a likely event in my games
My games are more of the Social, Fun and "Beer & Pretzels" style
Players in my game should be prepared to Run when the odds are against them
I frequently Tinker with the rules of the game
My game focuses on Player Skill rather than character abilities
Besides the aforementioned map/improv schism, some might also say that beer & pretzels is contradictory with tactics, death, and running. Well, in my mind they fit together, at least. And if not... very well, I contradict myself.