So you want to be a GM?
Copyright 2003 WBlackburn
Be sure that this is the right choice for you. Being a GM is lot of work, and you have a critical choice to make:
If you want to suck as a GM, just grab a prewritten adventure in your favorite game system, invite a few friends over, and start gaming. You'll soon find yourself bogged down in rules arguments, character generation, and a storyline that feels forced, at best.... Will anyone want to repeat the experience? Probably not- BUT- this is usually where we all start out- myself included.
Here's what I've learned over the years. I hope it helps you to avoid some of the mistakes I've made along the way. I'll probably need to update this in a few years with things I'm learning today.
How to Succeed as a GM:
Playing the Game
Play for awhile and become comfortable with the rules and at the same time more familiar with your prospective players and with being a player. This means taking notes with an eye towards becoming a GM.
This will give you 3 advantages:
- You'll know the rules and how to "beat the system". Some of your players will try to beat the system, and you'll be better prepared to handle it as a GM.
- Knowing your players is the key to a successful campaign. You can better design stories and settings and adventures based on your players' likes and dislikes. Happy players means returning players.
- The essence of the game is actual play. By playing, you are reminded again of the reason you and others want to play- and how often.
Serving the Players
After some attention to Playing the Game/s, you must repeat the mantra "I GM to Serve" many times over! When it comes right down to it, a GM is a Facilitator of the story that the Players write. This will also make your life so much easier, knowing that you're only partly responsible for a successful game.
You can expect during each and every game session to wear several "hats".
- Writer/Story Teller
- Setting: You create the environments in which your players choose to immerse themselves.
- Background Narrative: An intelligent, intriquing, and evolving world helps maintain suspension of disbelief.
- Interactive Storyline: Your story must retain flexibility if the players are to act with free will.
- Improvise New Horizons: Do not devise instructions.
- Journalist: Keep a log of each session. I use an NPC party-member to do this in character.
- Advertiser: Create pamphlets, posters, and other handouts of related and unrelated details about
your game world. This adds depth.
- Rules Arbiter
- Judge: You decide what the limits of the stated rules are. Remain fair and impartial.
- Legislator: You write additional rules to "fill in the gaps" Reasonability is key.
- All Non-Player Characters: Any character the players interact with must be brought to life.
- Villian: A special NPC, that must be carefully crafted and voiced to be a worthy opponent.
- Deity: You are the Voice of the Heavens/Hells. This will test your ability to see situations from a variety of viewpoints.
- Monster:Playing Animals and Monsters requires skill. Most creatures act on instinct and intuition, not intelligence. Howver, some creatures are more intelligent that the average PC.
- Player Coach
- Motivator: Everyone needs a reason to show up- make it personal and personable.
- Advisor: Assist and enable your players to become better players.
- Create colorful maps.
- Build and/or paint miniatures with your players.
- Regardless of location, you are the host for the sessions. Be on tine, and ready to play. Thank your players for attending.
- Expect to purchase the gaming materials the group will be using. Books, miniatures, paper for sheets and maps, a binder,
and anything else you and your group need or desire for a great session. You can ask for donations!
- Seek feedback and insight from your players, to continue to be a better GM.
That's a great deal of effort on the part of any GM. It is reasonable to expect something in return from your players.
Every group is different. I expect my players to take responsibility for everything on their character sheets, including: all statistics/scores, equipment, skills/feats, spells/powers, animal friends, etc. If a player doesn't know how to use a skill or what the effect of a spell is, then I assume the character has forgotten how to perform the deed. I keep an extra copy of the Players Handbook available for each session.
I provide links, emails, and a variety of handouts to engage my players attention to our shared game world. I ask that my players take the time to read these and to create their own.
I also expect my players to arrive on time, to be engaged and attentive, and to behave decently towards me and each other.
It's nice to hear a "Thank You" every now and then, too!