I’m not quite ready to GM… but I wanted to dig on this topic as “research” so that when I AM ready, I know what I’m doing. I think one thing we can all agree on, no matter how exciting or thrilling the adventure and setting, if you have a lackluster GM or one that doesn’t care, seems bored or isn’t into it, you are not going to have as good a time as if you have a GM that can’t wait to set up a world for you to play in.
I remember laying around the campfire telling ghost stories and listening to stories, and some were always so good, while others just fell flat… I think the two are very similar and while some personalities are just MEANT for storytelling, almost anyone can be a good GM, you just have to do certain things.
- You have to get to know your players.
You could be starting with a group of friends you’ve known forever and already have the inside scoop, it may have people you’ve never played with before or it could be a mix! You won’t necessarily know everyone’s life story, but you should make sure everyone is comfortable, feels included and that you are paying attention to how they interact. Take the time to get to know a little bit about them and it will give you something fun to throw into the action!
- Know what they want out of the game.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions the first time you talk about what you are going to do. If you had been planning a Smurf adventure and you discover that your entire group is into sci-fi, you may have a problem. I mean, you could branch out into something like a Steampunk Smurf adventure, which in many ways sounds kind of awesome to me, but probably wouldn’t appeal to EVERYONE.
- Which brings up another point. Keep it simple at first. Complicating things will distract from your creative process, sidetrack you and keep you from creating a seamless experience for your players. Don’t try to run a campaign set in a time period you need to constantly think about, with characters that are foreign to you, in a world you have little experience in for your first time out. Just go with something that you allows you to go with the flow while you learn!
- Do your homework. By that, I mean… prep for your games. Don’t expect that you are going to be able to walk in and be awesome 100% of the time without thinking about it in advance. If you are running something set in the 1700’s, make sure your technology isn’t going to be flawed by you tossing something in that wasn’t invented until the 1890’s, it will stand out to at least a player or two, and is an easily preventable mistake. Keep in mind it is also likely in a campaign you’ll have a game session which is literally nothing but prep work/shopping/etc. for the next game session
- Plan for your plan to go out the window (Maybe literally!)! You’ll be going along, following your notes, when something is going to happen that change everything. Campaigns can take on lives of their own. Go with it. Embrace the chaos. Use it as an opportunity to create MORE chaos.
- Speaking of chaos…. Keep them on their toes. Do not be predictable. If you know that the logical thing is for there to be a dragon guarding the castle door, don’t put one there. Put one somewhere else, make it something else or even go with something COMPLETELY different.
- Be sure you KNOW your system and the adventure you are running. If you can’t memorize the system, know where to look things up in it….game books are called reference books for a reason! It is ok to use them, but make sure you’ve read through what you are going to be doing, that you have a feel for it and lots of ideas. (See the homework section!) If you are running something you aren’t familiar with, it helps if you can play in the system before you use it for the game night you are running!
- Have everything you need. Our pencils, character sheets, reference books. Organized GM’s just make it seem effortless and easy, and it isn’t hard to keep things all together in one bag.
- Expect that your game will not start, nor will it end on time. Be flexible. Take that time to make sure that your surroundings are ready to enhance your adventure. (More on this in a future post) While you are waiting you should already be getting your group ready for the fun ahead.
- And that brings me to the last point. Don’t take it so seriously that you forget to have fun with it. I think if you stop and take a moment, you will realize that the best games you’ve ever participated in are those that the GM seemed to be having a blast. Enthusiasm and heart are contagious. Throw yourself into it. Laugh. Do the unexpected and have fun.
So there you go. Tell me how it goes!