When a group of people first get into tabletop gaming together, there’s usually one fateful question: Who is going to be the Game Master? That question can be hard to solve when the group is entirely brand new to the rules and have only a vague understanding of the time and effort it takes to run a game.
If no one in your group is an enthusiastic volunteer, then not all hope is lost (and you don’t have to force someone to step up). Here’s a few alternative paths you can take when your group can’t decide on who will be GM.
Go on a rotation
If no one wants to be the GM, then everyone can be a GM! Each player gets a turn running a oneshot (a game that takes place within one to three sessions) for the entire party on a rotation. Best case scenario, you have one (or more!) people interested in running their own game. Worst case? You keep rotating the GM indefinitely on a cadence that fits right for your group. Some parties prefer it this way – especially if all of the games take place in the same world.
No matter where your group lands after testing this out, there’s an upside; everyone at the table gains a better understanding and appreciation of what it takes to run a game. Getting a taste of the other side of the screen
This strategy won’t work so well unless everyone at the table is fully on board to give it a shot. If you make an exception for one person, then you may need to make an exception for everyone else – and then you’ll be right back where you started!
Play a GM-less game
If your table is open to games other than Dungeons & Dragons, then you can take your pick of GM-less games like Gloomhaven, Fiasco, or Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Similar to other TTRPGs, you have the benefit of playing virtually or in person, either as a physical board game or on Tabletop Simulator.
A game like Gloomhaven mechanically leans towards being combat-forward, but there are plenty of opportunities to customize and role play whatever character you’d like to make – not to mention you can play a cohesive story over dozens and dozens of sessions with the same party.
On the flip-side, Fiasco is a majorly story-driven game about ambitious, ordinary people with poor impulse control. You can play with up to five players with no setup needed.
For a balance of both role play and combat, Arkham Horror: The Card Game blurs the lines between card game and role playing game in a Lovecraftian setting. This one is especially good if you were originally looking to play a horror game such as Call of Cthulhu or Delta Green.
If your group is looking to play a very specific tabletop game, then this route may not make everyone at the table happy. But if you’re willing to give it a shot, these games are very accessible for when no single person wants to step up to the plate.
Look elsewhere for a GM
Nobody at the table has to compromise if they don’t want to – there’s a whole wide world out there of GMs willing to run games for people they haven’t met yet.
For an in-person adventure, check out your friendly local comic book store or game store – some stores host regular games for local DMs. You can also search on places like Meetup, Reddit, Discord, or Facebook to see if there’s a community of gamers in your area.
If you’re looking for an online adventure instead, you’ll generally have a lot more options to choose from (scheduling dependent). Roll20 has a section of their site dedicated to looking for games to join. You can also try your luck on a subreddit on Reddit like /r/lfg.
Keep in mind that GMs are sacrificing their time and energy for you, and so many are looking for a paid GMing opportunity. If your group all just wants to be players, and doesn’t mind chipping in, then this option is probably your best bet. Free GMs exist, but they tend to be harder to find, and you typically have less guarantees for how the games will run. In addition to Roll20 and /r/lfg, you can find DMs for hire online at sites like StartPlaying. If you’re looking for an in-person game, you can reach out to your local game store to see if they can put you in touch with someone interested in being a hired GM!
With these options at your group’s disposal, you can talk together and figure out what works best for you. You may stop at one of these choices and decide that’s the best option – or you may try all three before sticking to your favorite. No matter the outcome, perseverance is key!
What other ways have you tried to solve this age-old conundrum? Let us know in the comments!