Consider this my manifesto to GMs everywhere.
I am tired of hearing about your games. Do not approach me with your stories about how awesome your past campaigns were. Do not bother to share with me how great your gaming group has been for the last X amount of years. I have no interest in your past accomplishments. They are a part of your past, and I’m focused on my present.
Instead of talking about your games run a game for me. Run it in public. Run it for strangers. Run it without any of your favorite safety nets whatever they may be.
Go for broke. Do not tell me “I need to prep something first.” That is an excuse, and you know it. If you feel your game is good enough to talk about, well then run that particular game again for me instead of talking about it.That game is already prepped, so let’s see how it runs for other people.
Or run it off the top of your head. Improvise like MacGuyver would with nothing but a ham sandwich and a ticking time bomb in a locked room. I guarantee that you will survive the ordeal.
Save the talk for your date nights and family reunions. I want to game with you, not hear you talk about gaming.
Other people want to game with you too. They are not looking to join your group. They are not interested in what you ran for someone else last week. They are at your local game shop, community center, and student lounge waiting for you to show up and GM. They are not waiting for you to show up and share a story about GMing.
Want to try a new RPG out but your current group is not interested in it? Do not talk to me about your situation. Break out the dice and hand me a character sheet. Start the game.
Just had a bad night in the GM’s seat? Do not tell me went wrong. Take your material and run that game for me. Now. No hesitation. At the end of the session you will either have a better understanding of what failed, or you will have solved the problem.
Having trouble finding new players? Show up at a place where people meet with pre-generated characters and a sign that says “Roleplaying Game Open To All!” and get the first person who asks “What is that?” to sit down and play.
You can talk, or you can take action. Talking is easy. Leave easy for the other guy. Take action. Expose yourself to the risk of failure, and then push yourself hard to succeed. In other words – run a game. That is the best advice you will ever get as a GM.
Stop talking. Start gaming.
@philipstephen – That’s an interesting idea, and WordPress has a deep enough library of plugins at this point that I’m sure someone has made one for filtering content by age-appropriateness. Thanks for the suggestion!
@philipstephen – Thank you. That is exactly why I used the word manifesto in the article and used the tone that I did. It is also why I accept the consequences that should accompany any manifesto. If everyone reads your manifesto and agrees with it right off the bat, well then you didn’t write a manifesto at all.
Yet if a manifesto is correct, and I hope that mine is, it will eventually be accepted and embraced by the majority. If my article here has in anyway caused true damage to the RPG community as a whole (I doubt that it has) may it be a mere glitch before bringing us all together under a common goal – to play more games.
You know, I read this article a few times. It took me a few times to reconcile what I felt reading it. To be clear, I was never outraged or upset. I was afraid.
When Gnomestew asked for advice on how to improve their site I said something along the lines of the advice being to ethereal without enough practicality. At least I think I did. Now, here’s an article that couldn’t be more of an extreme in the other direction. I enjoyed it every time I read it. It did everything I would hope an article should. It inspired me, made me pause, and helped me to identify myself as a GM.
To get back to the fear. I have no problem speaking in public. I have no fear of presenting in front of crowds, microphones, or cameras. I’ve been in front of them all. I am, however, afraid of failure as a GM. This article brought those feelings to light. I know its a weakness of mine, and an odd one at that, but now I can move forward.
To everyone who was offended or upset, I can certainly see how Benson’s tone seems’s excessive. How his words seem to be an attack on all of us as GMs. I saw that in the words as well. Though, I saw his words as the advice you only wish you friends gave you when it mattered. Things like, “She’s bad news, stay away from her. Seriously,” or, “You shouldn’t have spent your money on that, let me help you with a budget.” We want these things, but when we finally get down to it, the most important advice we receive is the first we reject. I consider this article in that vein.
As GMs we have to be able to perform consistently and well. Its no good if we only have a handful of story worthy games to talk about. We need, and should desperately want to, perform beyond anyone’s expectations every time. Can all of you tell me that you are all actively doing that? I know I couldn’t. Some games I coast. Some times, I never make it past a few notes on a game that I’ll never play. Sometimes I see disappointment in my player’s faces, and try to reconcile it with some stupid excuse.
I let this article be a call to excellence that I otherwise didn’t have. I hope many of you can see it similarly.
@recursive.faults – When I read a comment like your’s, where there is obviously heartfelt impact being expressed honestly, I am humbled. Thank you.
Challenge accepted, Patrick.
Every week for the rest of the semester I will be running an improvised game played in public (my school’s student union). Hopefully more people will come by and see what this is all about and drop in to game.
@Razjah – Rock on! 🙂
@Everyone – I am floored by how this article has been received so far. I have a lot of online games that I need to get busy organizing now. I even received one email that said nothing more than:
“You are in a room. It is dark, too dark to see. All you can see is a small box ahead of you, lit-up. What do you do?”
Amazing! A PBEM game spontaneously appearing in my inbox! Just awesome!
I look forward to all of the games that I will be participating in thanks to GS readers. Good gaming all!
Provocative. Made me think. Good discussion, too. Thank you, everyone.
I like how this speaks against the tendency in all of us to be armchair GMs.
@Tsenn – I agree. The discussion has been a very good one overall.
@Matthew J. Neagley – Yep, it is better to be on the field than it is to be in the stands IMO.
A proper role-playing game session for my group lasts upwards of six hours. I’d say that most people with day jobs and families don’t have the spare time to commit to starting another game with random strangers on a whim. We do, however, have the free time to discuss our games with other GMs and to absorb advice and theories that can help improve our experience on game nights.
Sure, you want us to stop talking about our games and invite you to play? How about every Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight? Oh, you already have plans? I’m shocked.
I’m very happy for you that you have this surplus of time and can play in lots of games, but I think your attack on hobby discussion is misguided.
@gerald – I understand why you do not want to take my advice. I’m incredibly busy myself, which is one reason why I would rather run a game for you instead of telling you about my game. If I don’t have the time to run a game for you, then I will not talk to you about it either out of respect for your time as well as the conservation of my own. If I feel that I have something worthy to share about my game then I will blog about it, as I believe that is better way to share the details about one’s games instead of talking about it. The you can choose to read about my game at your leisure, but let’s spend our time together gaming instead of talking about gaming. If we can’t game, let’s plan when our next game will be and what it will be about instead of talking about past games. I believe that will help the hobby grow significantly.