This idea isn’t fully formed yet, but lately I’ve been doing some thinking about GMing milestones. The thing that’s most interesting to me is that I see quite a few that cross genre, system and stylistic boundaries, and therefore apply to all GMs.

So what’s a GMing milestone? Parts of one of‘s definitions fit perfectly: An important event, the advancement of knowledge in a field and a turning point.

Game Mastering Milestones

In no particular order, here are all of the milestones I can think of right now — some good, some bad. I’m sure I missed some, and I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

  • Running your first game.
  • Having a TPK in your game.
  • GMing for a large group.
  • Running a convention event.
  • Learning a new system.
  • Your first major shift in GMing style.
  • Kicking out a player.
  • Getting burned out on GMing.
  • Explicitly discussing a social contract with your group.
  • Making your first huge game-related mistake.
  • Finishing a campaign.
  • Writing a complete adventure.
  • GMing for your second group.
  • First PC death in one of your games.
  • Winging an entire session.
  • Running a session in a completely different format (PbEM, PbP, etc.)

Reader-Submitted Milestones

  • Getting applause from your players at the end of a gaming session. (Gospog)
  • When one of your players becomes a GM. (Gospog)
  • The first time one of your players quits the game. (Ishmayl)
  • Winging part of an adventure so well that your players don’t notice that you’re improvising. (Telas)
  • The first time that all of your players are 100% focused on the game. (Telas)
  • Diverging from the rules to make the game more fun. (Telas)
  • Having an article or adventure published. (Jonas)
  • Creating your first house rule. (Walt C and longcoat000)
  • Designing your first homebrewed system. (Walt C)
  • Drifting a mechanic from one RPG to another. (Walt C)
  • Realizing that you enjoy GMing more than playing. (Walt C)
  • Moving a campaign from one set of rules to another. (Walt C)
  • Starting a new campaign in a non-standard way (at a higher-than-normal power level, for example). (Walt C)
  • Recognizing your limitations as a GM. (Walt C)
  • Creating a setting bible. (Kerry)
  • Making your first player handout. (Kerry)
  • Sketching out the basic framework of an upcoming campaign. (Kerry)
  • First marathon GMing session. (froidhiver)
  • Running the same scenario for a different group. (froidhiver)
  • Helping one of your players learn to GM. (froidhiver)
  • First time your group asks you to run a campaign. (froidhiver)
  • First recurring villain. (froidhiver)
  • Fudging your first die roll. (Walt C)
  • When a player outside your group asks to join your game. (longcoat000)
  • First homebrewed world or setting. (longcoat000)
  • Making one of your players cry (whether for a good reason or a bad one). (longcoat000)
  • Running a game in an unusual setting (outdoors, etc.). (longcoat000)

I’ve hit 11 out of the 16 on my original list, but I’ve missed some big ones. For example, I’ve never written what I would consider to be a complete adventure (I tend to sketch them out, and improv the details) — that’s huge, and it’s a gap in my experience I need to fill at some point.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that the number of milestones you’ve passed as a GM necessarily correlates with how many years you’ve been running games, and vice versa. You could probably knock out my whole list in a couple of months if you set out to do just that — but you wouldn’t really have all that much GMing experience.

What do you think of this list so far? How about of the concept of GMing milestones in general? Which milestones have been important to you — and which ones have you missed?