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Relax and Have Fun: Notes from a Clueless GM (May 2007)

Treasure – Tables is in reruns [1] from November 1st through December 9th. I’m writing a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month [2], and there’s no way I can write posts here while retaining my (questionable) sanity. In the meantime, enjoy this post from our archives.
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Thinking about GMing in the car (you know you do it too), it hit me just how clueless I was for the first several years. Oh, I figured plenty of stuff out on my own, and I developed aspects of my GMing style that persist today, but by and large I had no idea what I was doing. (There’s still tons of stuff I don’t know, but that’s another post…)

Social contracts [3], player feedback [4], the encounter formula [5], what not to do [6], what makes running solo campaigns different [7], spotting player likes and dislikes [8], the flashlight [9] — I could fill pages with all the stuff I know now and didn’t know back then (and I have [10]).

The funny thing is that even with all of these gaps — shit, gulfs — in my GMing knowledge, we had fun much more often than not, and in some ways that fun seemed easier to achieve. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re less afraid to make mistakes [11], and more likely to just roll with things and see what happens.

What I took away from that little bout of reminiscing was these two points:

  1. Don’t get so bogged down in learning every last thing about being an awesome GM.
  2. Just relax and have fun.

The irony of writing this post on a site dedicated to helping, teaching and inspiring GMs isn’t lost on me, but I also don’t see a conflict between wanting to improve and needing to remember to just go with the flow sometimes. GMing advice, like just about everything else, should be taken in moderation.

That’s easy to forget, at least for me, but now I know what to do when I feel like there’s just too many aspects of GMing I still need to work on: relax, dive in, and just have fun.
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Normally there’d be a discussion going on in the comments below, but due to time constraints I’ve turned off all comments during reruns — sorry about that! You can read the comments on the first-run version of this post [12], and if you need a GMing discussion fix, why not head on over to our GMing forums [13]?