Gamemasters don’t always get many opportunities to actually play. Recently, one of my players wanted to take a turn behind the screen and I jumped at the chance for a little break. Of course, the view of the game is different from over here. In this column, we’ll look at a few observations I’ve noticed from the players’ side. Hopefully I can learn a little from the experience to make me a better GM once I cross back over to the dark side.
Remind ‘Em Often
Even though our GM gives great descriptions of scenes and combat, I still found my mind wandering from time to time. It’s usually not a reflection on the GM: it’s just that we all have long days and other concerns. I sometimes found myself missing little bits of the story. When I get back to GMing, I have to remember that it is okay to remind the players of things more than once. It’s good to tell them about the details and purpose of the adventure at the beginning of a session, a little in the middle, and to provide a recap at the end.
Some Folks Are Quiet
I notice this more as a player than I do as a GM. Some folks just naturally hang back and seem to just go along with the group. Perhaps we don’t often notice this when we GM because we are distracted by the bean counting that often comes with that role. I’ve noticed that some players do make the effort to include their comrades in the decision making process, and maybe I need to do a little of that too as a GM.
Variety Is The Spice of Life
Over two sessions we’ve done some roleplaying, avoided some traps, faced some physical challenges and had some combat. I’ve always tried to vary the encounters in my own games, but it is good be reminded of the need for this from the players point of view.
It’s Good To Have A Purpose
Sitting in as a player, I’ve found that I prefer adventures that have a clear purpose. Simply going into a dungeon for its own sake doesn’t appeal to me. Our GM gave use several rumors about evil existing in this current dungeon, and my character grabbed onto one as his purpose. He needs something to fight for (and I guess so do I).
This last point is something of a personal preference. Some groups may love a sandbox crawl, and that’s great. But as GM’s, we have to run the types of sessions that appeal to us, at least a little. When I get back to my own GMing, I’m going to try to stress an overall purpose for the adventures. Hopefully my players can help provide great plot hooks for their characters.
It’s nice to sit on the players’ bench for a while. It gives us a needed break, and provides perspectives that we wouldn’t see otherwise. Hopefully it’ll make me a better GM when I return. And if some orcs get slain along the way, so be it.
How about you? What have you learned as a player that has edified you as a GM? Tell us below.
Here’s one I was recently reminded of: Having the spotlight is awesome, but supporting the spotlight-moment of other characters is usually even more awesome. As a GM, I should provide as many opportunities for spotlight-support as the players can gobble up.
Now I’m curious if that was one of our recent sessions…
Actually no, at that one it was me hogging it iirc. I was thinking about the session I ran this weekend where one self-admitted ‘quiet type’ both wanted to be drawn out and was a little unnerved when it happened. We haven’t been playing in that group long, but I’m getting to know that player and what might encourage him to contribute without feeling like he’s being hounded.
In all honesty, I have to be very careful not to hog the spotlight too when I play. I don’t think it is because I am a scene stealer.
I suspect that since I GM so much, I want to move things as I’d like my own players to do. But deliberation can be fine, and so can sitting quietly to let others have their moment.
Glad you got a chance to play for a while, John. It can be amazing how different the experience feels, particularly when you’re on one side (or the other) of the screen for a long while.
Great comments folks. I like the idea about supporting other too (like an assist in basketball). Have to give it some more though as to how to encourage it from the GM’s side of the screen.
And as Scott said, it is TOTALLY different as a player. I wonder if it is also different because I never really turn off the GM’s side of me.
John — sometimes it can simply be encouraging one of those quieter players to jump in. In my experience, the quiet ones are usually among the most cooperative and helpful, group-wise, if given a chance to do so.
True, great point. I know sometimes when you get in the swing of GMing, it can be easy to forget the quieter folks.