Asking your players to give GMing a try is a good idea, but I’ve found that a lot of players are nervous about the prospect.
But when the end result is a player who gets to see another side of gaming, and has a good time in the process, it’s well worth taking some steps to give them the boost of confidence that they need.
And let’s be honest here: We can always use more GMs!
Plenty of players also have no interest in GMing, and while I still think it’s a good idea for them to give it a shot at least once, that’s not really the group I’m considering here.
Assuming you game with someone who is interested in GMing but also nervous, worried or otherwise concerned about seeing what it’s like — most often because they’re afraid they’ll screw it up, and disappoint the rest of the group — how can you help them get over that hump?
Here are a few suggestions, in the order that I’d approach them.
Six Steps to a Great First Session
Remind them that no friendships are on the line. If they do screw something up, is your group really going to care? Nope — so make sure they know that.
All GMs make mistakes. Talk about some of yours (mine that naughty list) — and make sure to talk about your triumphs, too.
Find out what interests them most about GMing. Is it crafting intricate stories? Putting characters in high-pressure situations? Running a party through the dungeon they’ve been doodling for five years? Whatever it is, getting them to talk about it will get them excited about the game — and give you ideas about how else you can help.
No long-term commitment. Encourage them to try one session — run a one-shot, see how it goes, and then decide whether it’s something they want to try again.
Suggest running a published adventure. There are pros and cons to this one, but I see a lot more pros: the structure is there, it’s probably been playtested, advice about how to handle things should be included and there’s a lot less prep involved.
Offer your support. You’ve already been supportive, but close the deal by making an open-ended offer: if they need anything — advice, help with rules, whatever — let them know that you, as well as the rest of your group, are happy to help.
What other steps would you take? How can you make the actual session go smoothly, once they’ve taken this first step?
My immediate reaction is to give them room to make mistakes.
When a new player comes into a group, there’s always “that guy” who wants to tell the noob everything about how they should play their character. (Sometimes the entire table is composed of “those guys”. *shudder*) This is a terrible experience for the new gamer, and the GM should cut this BS off ASAP.
Beginning GMs should be treated the same. If we innundate them with advice and suggestions, we limit their ability to create and contribute and (maybe) surprise us with their own style.
So my advice is to cajole the ones on the fence into GMing, offer a few tidbits of advice, and then be there for the questions without taking their game over.
In my regular group, there are two players who freeze when we so much as mention the prospect of them GMing. Their cited reason is most often a lack of familiarity with the rules, as if being a good GM had anything to do with following the rules. 😛
Seriously, though, I’ve come to conclude that their real hold-up is simply that they’d be GMing for players who knew the rules better than they do. As the resident rules lawyer, I’ve always offered my best judgments no matter what side of the fence I was sitting on (the term “Detriment To Party” comes up a lot against me), and all of my GMs have found it more of a help than a hindrance. Still, I’ve had difficulty trying to convince these two players to give GMing a try. I have to wonder if my encyclopedic knowledge of the game might be getting in the way.
If the prospective GM will be running for the same group of people, and if the group considers you a pretty good GM, then give serious consideration to following up on the one shot by running a different game system, genre, or both.
It’s hard for a newbie to measure up, in their minds and in the minds of the other players. If everyone sitting at the table is a newbie in this system, it doesn’t matter so much. A lot of experienced GMs had the luxury of learning in an environment where the players didn’t know any better. It was still fun even when people made mistakes all over the place.
I’ve never had a problem getting someone to GM for their first time. My approach is not nearly as elegant though. I ask if someone would be interested in GMing and if they give me the song and dance about how they are scared and/or intimidated I just look at them and say “You are kidding, right?”
Seriously, I believe you just have to take the position of GM off of whatever pedestal that they put it on. Once that is accomplished then it is just a matter of setting a date and choosing a system.
I’d second the comments about
(a) running a published adventure
(b) running a new system
Perhaps because I didn’t do either of these things when I first started GMing. Running a new system takes the rules element right out of it. Also, remember that there’s lots you can do as a player to help him as a GM – and it’s probably time to put your enjoyment as a player to one side to help him develop as a GM.
Another suggestion is to wait behind after the first session and give him some positive (and only positive at first, if he’s reluctant to GM in the first place) feedback. Focus on one scene that worked, or one ruling that went well, or how the change of pace worked. GMing is such a difficult, and let’s face it thankless, task at times that we all need a bit of a confidence boost.
Hey, you can’t forget…
Step 7: Bribe with Snacks
Good tips all around — thank you!