Your group is assembled, rations are piled high, dice have been trained and pencil sharpened. But wait! there's one thing missing...
... of course, no game can start without the Games Master (GM).
I write this because sometimes, as a player, you forget how easy it is to be a player. You turn up and play, there's no pre game preparation, you are pretty much going to react to whatever the GM throws at you.
RPGs are collaborative games which need a ringmaster, a narrator, a director who can make sense of all the different stimuli and pull it together into one cohesive act. Without that focal person it can be hard to get your kicks on game night. They are like the fifth Beatle, the secret sauce that makes the pasta taste like your momma makes. Do you have what it takes? Of course you do.
Being the GM is fun and rewarding
Creating stories for your friends to experience can be a lot of effort, but it is intensely rewarding. Every session you get to weave your story and test their wits. making them laugh and just generally having a great time. I can honestly say that having 4 or 5 smiling happy faces around the table riffing off of your story is one of lifes greatest pleasures.
5 Tips to GMing your First Session
Stepping up to the GMing plate can be daunting at first so here are 5 quick tips to help you on your path to Games Master Glory
Keep it simple. There's nothing like a good old dungeon crawl to kick off your first session. Your first session is going to be a test of your ability to manage the table and less about your story so don't try to drop too many story arcs all at once. Your players are going to take time to gel as a group so the less plot you are juggling gives you time to observe and listen. I've written before about how I use nodal design to help create a compelling story arc and hyper engaging encounters. If you are stuck for a story use the Donjon Random Adventure Generator.
Go around the table. RPGs are inclusive interaction and work best when everyone is joining in. Don't forget any players and let them have an equal opportunity to engage with your story. Encourage them to get involved in the action even when they are unsure so you don't let your players sit on the sidelines and become disengaged.
Prepare. A great game flows naturally even though as the GM you are juggling a lot of balls at once. Pre game preparation can make your life much easier. If you have a big monster encounter planned, make sure that you have your monster stat cards to hand. A picture paints a thousand words, so make a map of any locations which are pivotal to your session as player handouts. Get to know your PCs before the game starts and create some motivational hooks for each of them. Drop these in during play to give your players a reason to care about their PCs and why they need to be the heroes.
Stay Fluid and say Yes. Remember that RPGs are not books. The story evolves as the players encounter it so keep this is in mind when your players do things you weren't expecting. Players crave agency, so if they want to ignore the obvious threat and go shopping instead, let them. You can always bring the threat to them in any case. In fact saying Yes! to your players is a key skill for the GM and is the secret to collaborative world building. These side treks are what bring detail to your towns and villages and populate your world with NPCs which you can then mine at a later date in other stories. Recurring NPCs are like extras in a soap and can sometimes become pivotal characters in their own right.
Make it up as you go along. This is probably one of the most important lessons. Your players won't know what is planned and what is a reaction to something they've done. Just make sure to keep a note of anything which you do create so that you maintain the games internal consistency. Don't be scared to create, after all it is your world and you know it better than anyone. Embrace and encourage your players to join in with any worldbuilding activity, sometimes their ideas are better or more vivid than yours and it's free labour.
Finally, there's no right or wrong way to GM, there's only what works for you, and more importantly, your players. Keep an eye on them and observe what they enjoy and what they struggle with and you will be forearmed and prepared for your next session.
A word about Game Collapse and Group Disbanding
Sometimes real life gets in the way and your regular Games Master might not be able to make your game. This is the number one reason for a game to collapse, particularly if it is a recurrent event. Don't let this get in the way of your, and more importantly your group's gaming fun.
Take charge of your own destiny and step up to the GM's chair. Run a one shot game, try out a no prep indie game, engage in some collaborative world building or just play a boardgame. The party that plays together stays together
This article is an entry in this month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Rising Phoenix Games and is a fantastic way to bring the RPG Blogging community together and share each others tips, tricks and stories. Follow the link above or visit the RPG Blog Carnival homepage to learn and read more