Friday, June 19, 2015

GMing: Everyone Should Game Master A Game Once

Ok.  Time for something different.

This is meant for players of RPGs out there.  Yes, you, the ones who don't usually Game Master games much.  You know who you are.

You need to Game Master a game.

Yes.  I know.  You don't think you need to.  You already know how to do the RP thing.  Why bother doing what Bill or Emily does (or whoever it is that Game Masters your games).  I'm not saying you should take over Game Mastering.  Just ask for the reins for one session.

There is an under realized skill in tabletop RPGs.  This isn't Game Mastering, but it is the skillset of those players who know how to game master, who play RPGs.  Its part of a healthy skillset.  It shows you what Game Masters you love go through to prep a game, and run a game.  It exercises your creative side far more than perhaps if you only been a player- although, a good GM should be using your creative side as much as they can.

In my games, I try to push as much narrative control onto my players as I can.  Often when they hesitate to take it, it's born out of a lack of game mastering experience.

So.  This is the challenge.  Run at least one session of a game for your RPG group.   Some pointers:

  • Don't use a module or pre-written adventure.  Instead, write it yourself.  If you write it yourself, you'll know how to deviate from it.  Because the players will deviate from whatever is planned.  Modules aren't bad, but they won't force you to figure out how to set up a session.  Don't use a crutch, try to learn how the infrastructure works.
  • You know what is in a RPG session's worth of material, but if you don't, write up a dungeon of at least five rooms.  If your setting/rules are something not fantasy, no worries.  Just re-skin dungeon with starship or facility or whatnot.  
  • Three is a good rule of thumb for events.  When in doubt, have things occur three times.  This is a old writer's trope, and it works more often than not.  Look at most movies, they tend to have three big fight sequences.
  • Steal ideas from wherever you can.  Be shameless about it.  Players will go along, or they'll love it.  When you've GM'd long enough, you can even steal from yourself, something your long term players will get a kick out of when they get the reference (yay, the in-joke!)
  • Make Pregenerated Characters ahead of time.  This is the most time consuming part.  You could get lazy and ask players to do this, but making Pregens for them gives you advantages you wouldn't get otherwise.  You can plant story hooks into each Pregen.  For campaigns, let the players give input.  But for One-Shots, you can help your players by making their characters ahead of time.  (Important Rule: DO NOT give your players' characters kryptonite.  You know what I mean.  Don't make their characters so flawed or weak they die instantly.  Be generous about it.)
  • Make the One-Shot AS FUN AS humanly possible.  My best advice for first timing a One-Shot is to GM the game like you always wanted to play in.  You know what you think would be the best possible fun; just try to channel that.  

If you are very lucky, you'll have really good players who'll make your game easier on you.  

Game Mastering is a key part of our hobby.  Doing it then going back to being a player... well, you carry back some instincts with you.  For me, I notice narrative timing.  So, I help a brother/sister out as a player.  If the GM is trying to get a clue by, I pick up on the direction and try to push my character that direction.

I act.  I do things.  In other words, I add activity to the game.  So much that the GM has to do less pushing to get RP and other things going.  And that helps.  Sometimes players need one player to do the dumb thing in order to feel like acting themselves in character.

That's not the only thing.  But it's one of a variety of skills anyone could benefit from.

For GMs: If players ask to run a one-shot, say yes.  Nod your heads, scream to the gods, run around naked and... ok, not the last one.  But do say yes.  You benefit from this sort of thing as well. 

Especially if the player wants to run something from OUTSIDE your experience as a player.  Variety is one of those very healthy things for a gaming group.  It gives you flexibility as a group.  

Plus its how you can get new ideas.  Steal from other GMs.  Making new GMs?  Best way to get more potential idea fodder for writing things up.  That's the key.  You want more Game Masters out of your players because they will up your game.  

More minds on a thing, the better the thing.