Getting GMing Right The First Time

In writing a new version of The Artifact I’m really trying to throw out some of my old ideas and start from scratch and a stream of consciousness. If what I end up with is similar to what I had before, then I know my ideas on a subject haven’t changed. If they are significantly different I have to figure out which one is right. The old version or the new. One place there’s a good bit of divergence is the GM Section of the book.

So what’s really different in my views on GMing? I used to think of being GM as an intuitive act. That if you just took a few simple elements, the GM could develop them into a detailed setting. I always knew that wasn’t the case for everyone but I assumed it was partly the case for almost everyone.

Now I wonder what kind of GM I would have become if someone gave me tools to do it right. Would I simply have advanced more quickly? Would I be a different GM? That was the motivation for last week’s post, as simple as those ideas are, I didn’t have a way of thinking about them when I was starting out. All I could do is use my intuition to feel my way through what I was supposed to be doing. When you consider that being GM is the hardest part of playing RPGs, a game book really should do it’s best to guide a new GM.

There are an increasing number of RPG writers that question if the old introductory boilerplate is needed anymore. They reason that since most people who will pick up a game will have played an RPG before, there is no need for explaining the basics. On that I’d have to disagree. I have introduced a few people to RPGs, some of which I could not be physically present to introduce them.

So that introduces my thinking on the matter. Now what do I have to show for it? I’m working on what I hope to be a universal set of ideas that a starting GM can read and not only get a description of what they should do in this role but also a tool that will help them think concretely about if they are doing a good job. That’s a really tricky goal because there are only a few ways GM’s normally fail. There are any number of ways a GM can deliver a good game. As I said last week though, I don’t want to approach this by saying “Don’t do this and you won’t be an awful GM.” I want to be able to say “This is how to be a good GM.” and I think I’m getting close. I have one major problem, I am so close to my own thoughts on this, I sometimes can’t see things I’m obviously missing.

This is where you, dear reader come in. I have distilled my basic advice to less than three pages. Does it stand up? You tell me. Here is the beginning of the GM Section. Is there something important that I’m missing here? Does it teach what needs to be taught? Please let me know your thoughts on the subject.

This isn’t all of it though I am starting a few pages on game preparation. I’m inspired by a few games that make generating a game as simple as filling out a character sheet. I may attempt something like it if I can figure out how.

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Getting GMing Right The First Time

  1. I’m going to take a look at your own GM section when I’m done with work today, but I have to say that even as an experienced GM, I LOVE reading the sections in RPGs that deal with GMing. I suppose they could get tiresome if you play a handful of similar systems, but since I play a wide range of RPGs–some gamist and some narrativist, some American and some foreign, some gimmicky and some bare-bones–I find that each new description of GMing challenges my basic assumptions and makes me better at the job.

    • Loc

      Cool, hopefully this attempt measures up. I will release my game prep material later. It’s very embryonic at the moment.

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