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Why Do You GM?

Here on TT, we’ve asked how you learned to GM [1], and how GMs should learn the ropes [2].

We’ve discussed how TT readers got started as GMs [3] and what GMs actually do [4].

We’ve even covered GMing by default [5] (one reason to GM) — but we’ve never asked this particular big question: Why do you GM?

“Because it’s fun” is a perfectly valid answer, but it doesn’t make for very interesting reading. (You’re not getting off that easy.)

Why is it fun? Specifically, why is it more fun than playing? Is it more fun than playing?

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Why Do You GM?"

#1 Comment By Einan On June 9, 2006 @ 5:43 am

I DM because the DMs I played with didn’t do the job well enough. This is not to say that I didn’t have fun, or I didn’t enjoy their styles. It was to say that I would leave a game going, “That was cool, but it would have been cooler if…” so I put my money where my mouth is. And I love doing it.

#2 Comment By Carolina aka Troy Taylor On June 9, 2006 @ 5:51 am

I’m really a player at heart. But as DM, I can portray a wider variety of characters (of differing personalities and classes) than I ever could as a player.

Even if a great majority end up being slain or just short acquaintences, it’s been need to manage all those NPCs. Even in my present campaign, which has run since only February, I’ve had the opportunity to portray close to 50 different characters and beasts in that time, compared to the one or two of most players.

#3 Comment By Sean On June 9, 2006 @ 6:12 am

Because there are some things that can only be done as a GM.

I like building worlds and playing with the interaction of governments and other powers. Things that can be difficult to influence as a player. (Though more games are opening up such things, when I started playing, world were the exclusive purview of the GM.)

-Sean aka Knight of Roses on the TT Forum

#4 Comment By Bento On June 9, 2006 @ 6:21 am

I GMed in the 1980s because I had the three core books and no one else wanted to do it. I had a paltry understanding of the rules and made a lot of stuff up.

I GM today because (1) I really like developing a setting and story then watch it unfold; (2) I’m about 20 years older than my players, who are new to pen-and-paper RPGs; and (3) I have a much better grasp of the rules and own most of the books.

I’m taking a short break and letting one of the new players try his hand at GMing. So far its interesting – one of the party was killed and all our gold was stolen from the dungeon crawl they just finished. I can only hope that he has plans for the party to get our stuff back!

#5 Comment By GilaMonster On June 9, 2006 @ 7:34 am

Because at the point I made the decision to GM, it was that or not play at all.

My D&D group had fallen apart in quite a spectacular manner. I found another just-formed group, but that lasted no more than 3 sessions. After a month or so of no gaming, I called up a couple of people from my D&D group and asked if they’d like to play in a Buffy-like modern game.

That was a year ago. I’m now confident enough in the group to start expanding a bit. I’m working up a super-heros game to play from time to time, instead of the modern game, and one of my players is planning to start DMing a fantasy game occationally.

Yay, finally I get to play again.

#6 Comment By Ian On June 9, 2006 @ 7:45 am

Because if I didn’t noone would.

Pretty much.

I’d vastly prefer being a player.

#7 Comment By Pat Ludwig On June 9, 2006 @ 8:26 am

27 years ago I started DMing cause I had the books.

In most of the time since then I DM’d because I was the only one who offered.

In my current group, we have many who want to be DM’s. We alternate weeks with 2 campaigns running at a time. For the first time in a while, I am not DMing.

I miss it horribly, I have soo much less control as a player. Both DM’s are running very linear campaigns and I’m frustrated at my lack of options.

–Pat (DM without a game)

#8 Comment By ScottM On June 9, 2006 @ 8:38 am

Since you already covered “because it’s fun”…

I GM because I have an interesting take on something– sometimes it’s a way of reflecting the world, sometimes it’s a view of a bit of genre. When I GM, I can emphasize the elements that are important to me for a fun game and good characters. I can have the degree of internal consistancy that feels rewarding, and the level of improvisation and response to player activities that makes it truly collaborative.

It’s like writers say– the only thing you bring to writing that no one else does is you. In RPGs, there’s someone out there who can provide more meticulous attention to the rules, captivating character voices, quirky NPCs– but no one who can provide more you.

#9 Comment By Tezrak On June 9, 2006 @ 9:14 am

For the longest time I preferred being a player to a GM; I wasn’t ever very good at the GMing gig, at least as far as D&D was concerned. I GMed the West End Games’ Star Wars RPG for a small group in college, which is probably where I got my strongest GM legs, but I still faltered when it came to D&D–even up to and through when 3rd Edition came out.

I felt I had a strong story, however, and although it took me a couple of tries, I managed to run a complete campaign. And then I got hooked–I got hooked on being the final arbiter of the rules, on being the leader of the collaborative story. I’m more than willing to throw out a rule (or change it) if it doesn’t make sense or impedes the flow of the story, and I can’t do that when I’m a player.

More recently though, I GM for a couple of more specific reasons–I am the moderator of Heroes and Rogues NJ, the premiere 🙂 gaming group in northern NJ (primarily Bergen County), and thus the responsibility of GMing has been borne on my (and a few others’) shoulders. Second, I am in the process of compiling and publishing an original fantasy setting, and so my fellow developers and I are playtesting by running campaigns.

#10 Comment By Abulia On June 9, 2006 @ 10:04 am

Cue Carly Simon:

“Nobody does it better…” 😉

Well, most of the time, that is. We’ve already covered “because it’s fun,” and “if I didn’t no one else will,” but for me, I’d rather have the “work” and having fun running a game rather than playing in a game that isn’t fun.

Also, partly, I like to be in control. Some GMs are very good giving you control as a player, even though your sphere of control is very limited, while others make you feel like you’re just along for the ride.

This is one reason I tend to not like canned adventures, in general.

I have ideas and themes that need a canvas to be explored. GMing lets me do that.

#11 Comment By Rick The Wonder Algae On June 9, 2006 @ 6:52 pm

1: I’m so incredibly anal retentive it isn’t funny, so when I’m playing and someone else is DMing I frustrate one of us. Which one of us depends on whether I open my mouth or not.

2: I enjoy the “big picture” interplay. If I decide there’s a tribe of barbarians living in area X for example, I’m challenged with all of hows, whys, and what ifs of them being there. All of a sudden by one little decision I’m playing with economics, diplomacy, ecology, etc… and it’s a really satisfying rush when I finally push all the pieces together and have a finished bit of the world. Especially when difficult problems create elegant or interesting solutions.

3: I enjoy “wow”ing players. Sometimes it’s a cool baddy, a neat backdrop, or a novel concept but whenever I can make someone go “oooooooh!” my time was well spent.

#12 Comment By John Arcadian On June 10, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

From the first time I played DND (the gateway drug) I knew I was going to be running games. I’d always been that kid who had a notebook full of half story ideas, and so as I started playing (with a relatively asshole GM) I knew I wanted to do better and give my friends a better experience.

I’m still the only one in my group who GM’s regularly, but I try to get someone to run a short game or campaign inbetween whatever games I run so I can get a little player action in too.

Of course now for me, GMing is mostly about getting playtests done and tweaking rules.

#13 Comment By Crazy Jerome On June 10, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

Because I’m good at it, and because I can. 😀

It didn’t start that way, but somehow that’s where it ended.

#14 Comment By Martin On June 10, 2006 @ 3:23 pm

I’m surprised how many of you said you GM by default — because no one else will, or wants to.

I got started in a very similar way. I was introduced to (and loved red box D&D), and wanted to play it. I didn’t know anyone who played, though, so I bought the stuff I’d need to start running it. After that, it stuck. 😉

I like doing both (playing and GMing), but when I GM it’s nearly always because I’m excited about it.

#15 Comment By John Fiala On June 14, 2006 @ 11:42 am

Well, because it’s fun, and because I seem to be good at it. I like coming up with odd an interesting stories, and figuring out what happens when the players intract with them. I like knowing what’s going on, and how to move things to make the players have more fun…