“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
― Ernest Hemingway
GM’s day was just a few days ago, and I was pleased to be thanked on social media by a few people I’d run for in the past. It’s nice to get recognition for the work we put into running games and helping to enable the fun of our players. (You could always go buy your GM something nice from the Drive Thru RPG sale in addition to thanks.) But, for all the work we do as Game Masters, it’s good to understand that we are all learning and improving. There is never a time in our lives where we have reached the peak and made it to the top, the pinnacle of our skill and ability.
Game Mastering isn’t even some art to be mastered, it’s a cog in the machine that is our interaction at the gaming table. It’s a social role. We may shoulder more of the responsibility for keeping the game and social interaction based around the game moving, but we are still one of the people enjoying the fun as well.
Thinking of GMing in this light, I got to thinking, as I often do, about how to improve the games that I run. I’m often looking for some new way to wow the players and make a memorable experience for them, but then I thought about it from the angle of making the game more fun rather than being technically better. Running a better game rather than a better session of Savage Worlds. Sometimes my attempts to make incredible games interfere with the games being as fun as they could be. It’s one of my personal flaws. I watch for it and think about it, but I do so because I acknowledge it as a flaw. So, I sat down and wrote out a list of things I could do to be a better Game Master, not just create better games. This is my five minute list:
I can be a better Game Master by…
- not getting so wrapped up in trying to make an awesome game experience and focusing more on an enjoyable one.
- doing more reading of the source material beforehand. I am very good at winging it, but I would be better with more prep.
- stepping outside of my comfort zone and running games that broaden my horizons. Too often I run games that already fit my niche or to playtest and improve something I’m working on. I don’t make enough time to run games that teach me something new.
- not caring if I have a well balanced game with enough combats, intrigue, traps, or whatever elements I feel I need but I really don’t. If the group wants to spend their time shopping, the combat can wait till the next game.
- cutting things off at natural stopping points rather than trying to get just one more thing in for the session since we have another half an hour.
Rather than looking at what mechanical elements and rules make us better at the technical skills, we improve by looking at the whole situation and allowing ourselves to openly admit areas where we can be better. Even the attitudes that serve us well in some circumstances don’t always serve us well in the long term. They may drain us or make us ignore other areas of enjoyment because we are striving for the brass ring.
So, I want to challenge you to take 5 minutes to write down a list of 2 or 3 things that you could be better at as a Game Master. Do it privately or post it in the comments to encourage others to share. Even briefly thinking about your Game Mastering style and putting it in writing somewhere will yield new understanding about why it is we do what we do and why we deserve thanks on GM’s day.
So, gauntlet thrown.
I can be a better Game Master by…