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What Was Your First GMing Session Like?

A simple question that can be answered many ways: What was your first session as a GM like?

Neither of my own answers are terribly satisfying — I hope you can do better!

I say “neither” because I got my start as a GM by running very loose storytelling sessions that had very little connection to actual rules, and those don’t really count.

And when I crossed the line — bought books, read them, asked my best friend to give it a shot — and ran my first real session, other than it being a lot of fun (and having a heavy improv element, which I still enjoy), I don’t remember it at all.

How about you?

Alysia and I are in Florida until the 23rd. There’ll be a new post here every day, as always, but I won’t be able to respond to comments or email. See you soon!

13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "What Was Your First GMing Session Like?"

#1 Comment By Thrawn On January 19, 2007 @ 5:38 am

My first gaming session was shadowrun (don’t remember the edition though)

I did the big mistake not to read the magic part of the rules (I didn’t expect a guy to make a “wizard”).
They all knew I was preparing something and rushed me into DMing.

And so I did, had a nice little scenario, from a magasine, with some special twist.

I discovered how difficult, not only GMing is, but also what happens when you are not enough prepared.
Got “tricked” into accepting crazy things which made the group unbalanced.
Made every mistake in the gm book (I was a real dictator). The player and me didn’t have a good time, stopped after one evening.

So I can’t say it was a good experience but I did learn a couple of good lessons. (Prepare, have fun, too strict is not good, …)

A couple of year later, I’m currently DMing a campaign in ADD and I must say everything goes well.
Thanks for the good advice given by this site and their members. You made me a “not so bad” GM 😀

#2 Comment By Joe Sixpack On January 19, 2007 @ 6:39 am

Before I started GMing I read up online on GM theory, which saved me from some early GM pitfalls.

I made my father a character to try the system out. My dad’s character was a skilled technician who talked his way through scenarios.

I however, wanted to try out the combat system and railroaded him straight into combat. My dad now doesn’t play RPGs because he’s sure I’ll force combat on him again.

I learned railroading sucks for me and the player. I also learned that the combat system sucked and needed to be overhauled.

#3 Comment By Gospog On January 19, 2007 @ 7:08 am

I think I was about 10 years old and had been playing for about 3 years.

I ran a 1st Ed D&D game for my brother, who was controlling four characters (which was standard for us back then).

The part I remember best was my brothers’ group entering a room where the far wall lifted up to reveal skeletal horsemen with lances charging them. They were essentially released from gates like an undead horse race.

Even at that young age, I kicked ass…

#4 Comment By robustyoungsoul On January 19, 2007 @ 7:17 am

I had the good fortune of playing in 2 very different groups when I was getting my D&D chops under 2 very talented DMs. I basically copied their styles when I started to DM for my own group, and I like to think it’s been working out pretty well since we’ve continued to do it for 8 years or so now.

Anyway, in my first game I made sure I had a killer hook at the end to get them to come back. I tried not to plan too much, and focused on making interesting NPCs with clearly defined goals and motivations. I had an idea where I wanted the story to go of course, but I also knew from watching those before me that it would never go exactly how you planned. Having well conceived NPCs solves this problem for me still to this day.

#5 Comment By Gnorb On January 19, 2007 @ 7:27 am

My first GM’ing session was a game of Dark Sun (the second edition of the game, after Tyr became a free city). I planned out *everything*, including just about every possible move they could make. This worked out well from a control standpoint, but wasn’t anywhere nearly as fun as it could have been. Also, at this time, my NPC’s were like old video game RPG characters in that they all fought to the death, all the time, for everything.

Eventually I became better — stories based more on puzzles and politics rather than “kill kill kill”. It wasn’t my worst game, but that first session was one I almost wish I could forget…

#6 Comment By lebkin On January 19, 2007 @ 7:34 am

When I started DMing, I was very inexperienced in RPGs in general. I had played maybe five or six times at most. As expected, I made mistakes, with two major ones. Oddly enough, they didn’t affect the players’ enjoyment much, but they did affect mine.

The first was severely underestimating the player characters’ abilities. There were very few fights that were are real challenge for them. The players didn’t mind; they felt like mighty heroes. But it is depressing to see players just stump through well-thought out encounters without a blink.

The second was trying to script too much of the adventure. I had these great “cut scenes” planned out, but they players would have nothing of it. They blew apart just about every attempt I had to script any part. This actually increased their enjoyment, since it got them more involved in the story. But it frustrated me to no end.

So I learned not to underestimate PCs and not to railroad early on. But out of these two, I learned something else of importance. Don’t worry too much. All the problems behind the screen often don’t bother the players at all. Some players even enjoy messing you up(shocking, I know). The key to surviving DM problems is to simply relax, take a deep breath, enjoy the experience and never forget that its ok to laugh at yourself.

#7 Comment By VV_GM On January 19, 2007 @ 7:43 am

It was 15 years ago. I ran a D&D Basic Edition game. I can’t remember much about the adventure, but it was just a dungeon crawl from a local store and we all thought it was so “AWESOME!”.

I learned two major lessons – the PCs are the stars of the show, and some players flip out when they roll really, really bad, so be ready to defend yourself. Seriously, a player kept failing every roll and he blamed me for some reason and threatened to kick my ass. The reat of us made him leave at that point and then mocked him for the next several years.

#8 Comment By BluJai On January 19, 2007 @ 8:02 am

Oh man… Boy do I remember my first time GMing…

I had played RPGs with friends. Now, I specify merely RPGs because the game we played bore little resemblance to any actual cohesive system. We had a Vampire: The Masquerade character, a Battletech character, two Shadowrun characters and an AD&D character. No cohesive rules… abstract “did you make it?/did you hit him?” kind of dice rolling resolutions…
That was my RPG experience at the point.

I went to my FLGS (The Game Keep in Hermitage, TN — little plug for Karl) and bought the Dungeons & Dragons box set — this was the 2nd Ed box set with some basic rules, a set of dice, an adventure book and even rules for making a random dungeon.

I convinced my brother to play.

At this point I had never actually played an RPG that had rules, much less GMed. He had done neither. We sat down at the table, and started to play… He had played Diablo, so was familiar with dungeon-crawling on a PC, but he was also about 10 years old.

We ended up being completely bewildered by THAC0, he was killed over and over again by the same monsters (we just gave him a new character and he started again each time he died), and he ended up crawling inside a large container with a rat he finally killed and just sat there licking it.

I can’t say it was incredibly enjoyable… but we do have a funny gaming in-joke …

#9 Comment By ScottM On January 19, 2007 @ 9:32 am

I think I was in 5th grade, and had only played in a very random dungeon before. The room was too full of players, so the GM talked me into running a parallel table with 5 or 6 players. It wasn’t as cool as the game I’d played, but I think we all had fun. (This is ~23 years ago, so specifics are hazy…)

#10 Comment By Telas On January 19, 2007 @ 9:48 am

It was 1978, and I had come back from gaming at a summer camp. I ran my little brother through a dungeon, and he (of course) won tons of treasure.

That’s about all I remember… it was almost 30 years ago.

#11 Comment By Frank Filz On January 19, 2007 @ 11:00 am

My first time GMing was in fall of 1977. My friend had just received the original edition of Basic D&D (light blue mono-tone cover). I was initially not interested in playing so Friday evening I just watched them play. Then when they quit, I took the book, and stayed up all night reading and absorbing it. In the morning, I had them make characters and we started playing. Play soon migrated to the back of my friend’s dad’s station wagon as we headed off to the major birthday event – a visit to Battleship Cove in Massachusetts. Through the course of the day, we went through like 3 sets of PCs with them reaching 3rd level, and then starting over.

Since this was pre-module days, all we had was the tiny dungeon in the back of the book (I think I mostly ignored it), and the dungeon geomorphs and the monster and treasure assortment (the 2nd edition of the box would eventually be packed with module B1 Into the Unknown).

I know I struggled a lot with the rules. We didn’t figure out hit points and hit dice quite correctly. I also didn’t think that all weapons should do the same damage, and proposed that weapon damage should be based on the cost (at which point, one player declared he would use a boat as a weapon since it was the most expensive piece of equipment…). I forget how I actually did weapon damage, but there I was, hadn’t even started playing and was already concocting house rules (it should be pointed out that I had been playing WWII miniatures war games for quite some time, in fact, earlier that year, I had chosen to buy Tractics instead of D&D because I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to play this paper and pencil game over a miniatures game, and many years before this, I had started working out my own board wargames, having cut my teeth on Tactics II at something like 10 years of age).


#12 Comment By Crazy Jerome On January 19, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

My first GM was red box D&D, just after I turned 14. My only experience was reading the rules that I got for Christmas the month before, playing around with some sample characters, and an hour and a half session whipped up by a slightly older cousin at Christmas, just to show me how it worked.

That January, I ran a game for five friends, all my age. They invaded the sample, partial dungeon in the red box–the one with the pit trap in the main entrance passage. The whole party got wiped out quickly, because we misread several rules (and played it straight, which back then was abilities of 3d6, record them straight down the sheet as you roll). We went through several parties that weekend–which wasn’t a problem, since it only took us 15 minutes to throw a character together.

One of the quirky things that happened, which set the tone for us, was a direct outgrowth of how deadly we played it. The first or second party got tangled up with a green slime. Richard was playing the wizard, and got hit for 1 point of damage. About then the party determined that torches were the only thing they had which could hurt the slime. Jeff, the halfling player handed Richard his torch, and said, “Well, you’ve already used your spell. So we are moving on. If you get lucky and win, we are turning left at the next passage. Catch up, and we’ll let you carry the treasure.” And then the rest of the party ran. Even funnier, the wizard did survive, through an amazing series of rolls, and he did catch up to the party.

After that, no one wanted to play the wizard. So we decided that we would roll stats first. Whoever had the highest Int had to play the wizard. That’s how we ended up with a wizard with an 18 Str. And no wizard would ever cast a spell until he had made 2nd level, because every wizard always saved at least one spell in reserve so that he would always be “useful”. 🙂

I wouldn’t play that way now, of course, but it was a lot of fun when a bunch of 14 year olds did it.

#13 Comment By Frost On January 20, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

I can’t really remember my first DM session very clearly, though I too remember having a blast. I certainly didn’t know what I was doing, nor did the friend I was playing with. We had seen a couple people at school playing, but had no idea what they were doing. We had been fascinated by the action these guys were describing.

Shortly after, my friend received the Basic D&D White Box set as a gift. We both spent a couple hours pouring through the rules, and and not understanding a great deal of it. (I think we were about 9 or 10). We were able to get the basics of combat, sort of, and we took turns improvising scenarios and dungeons populated with with creatures from the monster pamphlet.