As GM’s, we often brainstorm and conceptualize our story arcs in private. It is one of the solitary aspects of being a GM, and for years I have been content to work on my ideas alone. I have a close group of local gamer friends, but for the most part they have been or are players in my games, and I cannot share with them ideas for upcoming sessions. So I wind up brainstorming in my car, out on walks, etc, and then come home to write up my notes. But what if that was not the only way to do prep? What if there was someone, someone who could listen to your ideas, provide suggestions, and help to collaborate to make your plots better? What if you had a GM Confidant?
Quick Note – The original name GM Confidant was from an old articleÂ Scott wrote in 2008, which was originally inspired by an article from Dice Monkey.Â What I am going to talk about is a bit different, but I wanted to acknowledge its origins.
An Offer You Can’t Refuse
This whole thing started a few years ago. I was looking for a cartographer to draw the continent for my Elhal (Iron Heroes) campaign. I met someone online who offered to draw it for me, in return for some GMing advice some time in the future. It was a great arrangement, and I have a great map of Elhal. Years later this person emailed me and asked for the advice as part of our arrangement.
We began an email thread, where this person told me about their initial idea for an upcoming campaign. I then asked some questions, gave some ideas on directions it could take, as well as provided some advice on some specific GMing techniques to help run the sessions. He then replied with a more refined idea and I replied. We went back and forth in email, each one building off the other’s previous message. It was a lot of fun, and it made for a very interesting campaign.
The Confidant vs. The Muse
There are a lot of people who have GM Muses; people who are not GM’s who you can talk about your game with and get advice. My wife is my Muse. I can always talk to her about a game I am working on, and she will either give me advice or ask a question that will get me thinking in the right direction.
The Confidant, for the sake of this article, is different. They are a GM as well, but not related to your game in the least. Unlike a Muse who inspires you to develop ideas, the Confidant provides their own ideas, building off of your initial idea and taking it in places that you might not have gone on your own.
In The Trenches
Muses are great, and I have gotten great advice and inspiration from chatting with my wife about my games, but its not the same as talking with a Confidant. Because of who they are and the skills they have, Confidants have advantages over Muses:
- They are GM’s – They know what its like behind the screen, what it takes to prep a session, and manage a campaign.
- They have experience – They know what is going to work in a session and what won’t work based on their own experiences.
- They have their own material – Having written their own material, they are able to share things from their games that have worked, that you can use in your own games.
Where a Muse is more about inspiration, the Confidant is about collaboration. I am a firm believer that collaboration always yields stronger products then any solo efforts. So, collaborate when you can.
Wonder Twin Powers Activate…
If you have a Confidant there are a number of ways you can collaborate with them to enhance your game. Here are just a few ideas:
- Design A Campaign – When starting up a campaign, work with your Confidant to detail out the world, the goal of the campaign, etc.
- Build A Story – In a brainstorming session, collaborate with your Confidant to come up with a story for a future session.
- Find Plot Holes – During your conceptualization or review, have your Confidant look for any inconsistencies or holes in your story.
- Enhance a story – Ask your confidant to suggest that one addition or twist to take a solid scene up a notch.
- Create an NPC – Have your Confidant develop an NPC to drop into your game.
You might find that you work best communicating via email or you might prefer a face-to-face discussion in person or via hangout. Most of that will depend on your style, amount of free time, geographic locations, etc.
…Form of an Ice GM
Every GM should have a GM Confidant. In the age of social media and virtual communities we likely know a number of other Game Masters who are not tied to our gaming groups; people who would make great Confidants. Having a Confidant gives you the option of creation as well as collaboration to build your sessions and campaigns, bringing diversity and strength to you game.
Do you have a GM Confidant? How did you meet them? What kinds of things do you work on with your Confidant? How have your games been enhanced by your collaborations?