This past week, I have had a number of people comment on how I game master any particular game. Many of them have primarily been interested in hosting a game of their own and wanted to know any number of pointers that could help them out.
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ExpectationsFirst off, for those interested in running their own game, I welcome you to the wonderful world of Story Weaving. As a game master, you will find yourself the soul master of how any particular story goes, how enjoyable (or not so enjoyable) a particular game is, and in some rare instances have to be the one thing that makes or breaks a players character.
When it comes to learning how to Game Master, I feel people need to know something up front. Game Mastering is a very unforgiving, and often times whole selfless "job." Personally I have found Game Mastering is like Managing a group of people (or children depending on how a random group gets together) in any other type of job, the primary difference is that in a Role Play Game you are managing the "spotlight" and interest level of anywhere from 3 to 9+ people. My personal limit is 5, I have done 6 but it is very draining.
When I say unrewarding, it is because one has to put together an adventure, manage all the character sheets for all the NPC's and have enough content for players to enjoy a session or two, weaving them all together so that everyone is happy, only to show up to game and find that the players want to do their own things, going separate ways and throwing a wrench into every masterful plan you the game master has invested so much time into.
Why we do it?So why do it? Well, there are a lot of times when the players get together that they are able to have a very epic and enjoyable experience that they talk about from session to session, creating inside jokes, enjoyable laughs, and wonderful memories to carry on to any and all your players and yourself share them with. Those precious moments are something that many Game Masters hope to achieve.
There are also those who have invested so much time into a story that could arguably be put into a book, but instead we enjoy seeing the reactions on our players faces when they discover some part of your worldly creation and then enjoying the moments as we see how the players react to it all.
Where does one Start?Well, if anybody is already asking where to start then they are already on the right track. To take it a step further, I highly recommend playing in a few games in the system they enjoy most. Get a feel for how that game master hosts the game, and as they do so, take notes on how they handle different situations. Being mindful of other players as the game proceeds helps a lot too, as it allows us as potential GM's to see how players act "on the other side" of the table.
The next step would be to check out the Role Play System of choice. Figuring that out will provide the next step: Finding the official Forum and Blogs that relate to such things. Pull up your search engine of choice and look around for these kinds of resources, and read around. Find out what people like about the system, don't like, things that people abuse and things people think they would change and how.
Then, start looking around for professional adventure paths. These wonderful deals allow for a new game master to do a one-shot, or a game that someone hosts for a short period of time to "test things out." Some of these adventure paths can go on for entire campaigns, providing material, monsters, and None-Player-Characters right out of the box. By running these games, a new game master can see how the game was intended to be ran by people who use the system.
This helps change things substantially for the better, as what most authors intend for a system and how players actually use it vary greatly. By gaining a good understanding of the systems intentions and how it plays out helps significantly towards that fact. Also listening to podcasts, following the authors of the system, and anything that relates to a gaming convention helps in learning how and what to expect from a role playing system.
Taking the LeapAnd then finally, once there has been enough time to run a game, learn how to cope with randomness, it is simply a matter of repetition. Play frequently with a number of different players who are interested in the stories one has to share, and start networking. Explore new groups, keep in touch with those who provide a positive experience with not only the Game Master but also the other players, and very soon the interested new Game Master will be on their way to running an ongoing campaign with a very enjoyable group of players.
This, of course, is for a large view of things, and there are of course steps within the steps. This should keep any interested part at least started with a good idea of what to expect and how to proceed. I hope this has been at least helpful and I look forward to hearing any fun stories as people try out their own games.