I was reading an article the other day. It was a listicle about teaching. I am a teacher (middle school FTW) and I am swamped right now, so I wanted to know what advice was being pushed by a colleague. I was also willing to read it because I knew I had enough time to read through it between marking exams. As I read it, I was struck by the fact that these “things to know” also fit with GMing a role-playing game. So I stole borrowed the title and the list (Thank you Janelle Cox) to create this list for GMs.
1. It Takes Commitment.
Putting together an adventure takes time, even with the all-in-one adventures. Think: homework for adults. Maps, back stories, NPCs, and encounters don’t magically happen on their own. Can you just ‘wing it’? Maybe, but likely it won’t work long term. A good adventure has a solid backbone, which takes time. Not only that, but you cannot play your adventure without the GM. Whether your group meets weekly or monthly, you need to be there. You are setting up before everyone and usually there after everyone leaves. GMing is a labour of love time.
2. Role-players Can be Difficult.
You would think that something like this goes without saying, but people are complex. Dealing with people out-of-character and in-character are people management nightmares. My advice is to keep out the drama. If there are issues, deal with them. Don’t let them fester. Being proactive, saves so many headaches.
3. You Probably Won’t Get to Play in the Game You Want.
You will create the game that you would love to play in. The unfortunate thing is that you will have fanciful ideas and grandiose plans full of whimsy and they will leave you excited for ‘the show.’ Your players will probably mess this up. They will take another path, they will miss the cues, and you will be saddened for what could have been. There is a certain longing that you could be in it with them and show them the way it should and could be. That game may never happen for you.
4. If You Don’t Have Patience Before Becoming a GM, You Will Need it.
I would put that this is a necessary skill for anyone working with a multitude of people over a long period of time. Be patient with yourself and with your group. Google how to be patient.
5. Technology is Here to Stay.
Whether this is a noted candy crush distraction from the game, awesome quick look up of rules, electronic character sheets, online role-playing platforms, Facebook groups, twitter, or High Level games blogs, the places that players can frequent during a game are massive. Set some realistic ground rules that your group can agree upon. Cutting it all out could be a bit harsh, but a free-for-all could leave your group staring at phones and missing your great and grandiose story that you created for them.
6. You Must Earn Respect.
Even as a new GM, people are looking to you to create something awesome. They want a memorable experience that they can tell tales about for years. Also, they can be a little harsh in their expectations. They may be silently judging you. My advice is to get their feedback often and use it. Let them know that you are no people-pleaser, but that you want this to be an enjoyable experience for all.
7. You Need to Always be Prepared.
Have all your materials, you books, your maps, your NPCs, and your plan ready. This doesn’t mean everything is completely detailed, but the story should not be put on hold because of the storyteller. If there is a 10 minute delay because of your lack of preparation, things will go awry.
8. Be Prepared to Spend Your Own Money.
Role-playing can get expensive if you want all the bells and whistles. I am cheap so I make due with what I have (core rule books that I steal from my partner-in-crime/husband). But extra books, custom miniatures, 3-d maps, and many other things can add to experience, but those costs can add up quickly. You can really set the mood with a few props or other additions to the pencil-paper world of role-playing. I guess I should heed my own advice on this one and spend some money.
9. Time Management is Essential for Survival.
I would posit that the biggest killer of campaigns is time. Either, not regularly meeting and so the story fades away from people’s memories, or the little time-wasters within the game. Things that unnecessarily slow play will diminish your story. People don’t forgive or forget a slow story. Find a way to bring up the pace. Find interesting ways to break up monotony (if the monotony is necessary.)
10. The Internet will Be Your New Best Friend.
Don’t go at it alone. It is not heroic; it is bad strategy. This is a great era for role-playing. There are so many games and experienced GMs and groups and threads and blogs to peruse. Suck in all the good information and spit out the bones. Then, write about your experience so others can benefit. Sharing is caring, people, sharing is caring.
This is where Vanessa writes. Who is Vanessa? Well, she is a sarcastic, 30-something wife and mother. She likes things and stuff, but not simultaneously. When she isn’t involved in things and stuff, she teaches middle school math and art. She loves new teenagers in action. They make her laugh and shake her head and her world is much better with laughter. She thinks everyone should be roleplaying. She sometimes bothers her friends to help with her blog articles and other times it all comes from her head… scary. . She is also trying out this new twitter handle at @sarasma_nessa
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.