Experience tends to be the defining metric when discussing whether someone is a good or great GM. That precious commodity that’s measured in years, campaigns, or game systems. It’s also something that gamers new to being behind the screen tend to focus on too much. The reality being that within every to-be GM is a great game trying to get out.
I’m a proponent of the gamer lifecycle, a philosophy that gamers — and their tastes — evolve over time and with experience. Now it’s the “gamer lifecycle,” not the “player” or “GM lifecycle,” which is a way of inherently saying that as we mature as gamers, we tend to become GMs as that experience drives us to stretch ourselves and tell our own stories. We all reach that tipping point and take our turn.
If you’re gamer that’s ready to take your first stab at running a game then this article is for you.
Get Over It
A funny comment was made in our own weekly tabletop group regarding a new GM considering running a game: the pressure of running a game with Martin and Don. Okay, sure, we’re awesome (really, we’re not), but at the end of the day it’s all just bullshit. Get over it! Imagine us naked or something (okay, maybe not that), but what’s really going to happen? We’re going to ridicule or mock the GM? No, clearly not.
This is a self-inflicted wound and the only person that can get over it is the new GM. They’re just voices in your head.
Desire Trumps Experience
We’re all familiar with the saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Or, in other words, a good idea backed with psychotic desire for excellence will trump dull experience any day of the week. Now, all things being equal experience can be the difference-maker. But that’s entirely the point: desire is the element that *doesn’t* make all things equal. It’s the wildcard. I’d rather be in a game with a GM who has a strong vision of their game and desire than one playing by the numbers.
So new GM, if you’ve an idea that you love, are passionate about, then run with it!
You’re not going to bat 1.000. So with that out of the way, let’s focus on the ones we can win. Take the successes and look to duplicate them but equally important is to take your failures and learn from them as well. The basic litmus test that I advocate is approaching your game in a postmortem with your own players hat on. Would you have enjoyed your game? Solicit feedback from your players; they’ll probably take it easy on you so don’t sweat it. Ultimately what we’re striving for here is to highlight the strengths to repeat and the lows to remediate.
Rinse and repeat for your next game and in a few years you’ll be a graybeard passing along your own advice.
You’re Not Alone
Roleplaying is a team sport. The players at your table are just as invested in your success as you are. Lean on that experience and help. Don’t pretend that you know it all. Be open and explain that you’re new and you’ll need their help. Players want a great game, they’ll help. GMs want to expand and welcome new members into their brotherhood. There’s help at your gaming table and be willing to reach out and take it.
Plus, the advent of the interwebs opens entire new venues to help raise you’re game. I’m not just talking about Gnome Stew or our products, Eureka or Masks, but the blog sphere and forums in general. Whatever problem you’re wrestling with, I guarantee you that someone else has been down that road and can give you advise.
Finally, take all of the above and shred it. I’m paid by the word, so don’t sweat it. While there are some good bits there that may resonate you — and on Gnome Stew in general — the reality is that all GMs need to find their own way. As individuals we make our own way in life and learn our own lessons. Here at Gnome Stew we can provide you with the best advice we can but the reality is that not all of it is pertinent to you or your GMing style. Find the bits that speak to you and your developing style.
The reality is that if we all ran games the same way it’d be pretty darn boring. Part of the awesomeness of RPGs are not only different game systems, stories, and players, but also that no two GMs run the same game. That’s our strength, not our weakness. In my mind blogs like Gnome Stew exist not to dispense sage wisdom, but instead to help motivate GMs, young and old alike. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.
Find your style and embrace it, then take that style and forge your own path.
Heck, in no time you’ll be writing on a GM’s blog like you know what the hell you’re talking about!
Fearless readers, have any tips of your own to share? Shout out below! Also, new GMs stand up and be recognized!