Building a Better GM 1

A post over at Hill Cantons challenged the RPG blogosphere to take up arms and give some advice to GMs across the world. I’ll take that challenge!

He stated that we should focus on three ideas, describe how they “pop” and what are the hows and nut-and-bolts of the ideas in action.

Here goes!

  1. Pay Attention: This is usually what the players have to do, but RPGs are a two-way street. The GM must pay attention to the players. Not just what they say, but how it’s said and their body language as well. If the GM finds the players stacking dice, then they’ve checked out. The game is not engaging, exciting or popping. Something has to change. Sometimes, it means tossing out the entire campaign/system, but most of the time subtle changes can be made to the storyline or adventure as it’s laid out before the players. Make it personal. Don’t kidnap the princess and offer great monetary rewards if she’s returned. Kidnap a PCs little sister or mother or father or favorite pet. This will engage at least one of the players. If the GM can layer together personal threats, then the entire party can be drawn together and the players will eagerly join the GM at the table each week.
  2. Be Involved During Character Creation: The GM should not sit back and watch the party get created while answering the random, “Is it okay if my character has X power for Y reason?” Before party creation even begins, the GM should have a world setup, a background about the immediate area written for the players and a “set the scene” page or two written on why the party is together. Encourage the players to write backgrounds about their characters, tie themselves to the other PCs in the group and the area in which they’ll be starting. Award special items (like silver daggers or something else along those lines) or experience points for performing these types of actions. It will really help the party cohesion in the long run.
  3. Be A Boy Scout: In other words, be prepared. While I pride myself on being a great impromptu GM, I’m still prepared. I know the city/nation/state/area that the PCs are adventuring in. That way, when they say they want to sell a boat that they don’t own to the richest gambling hall owner in town, I know what they’re up to… even if I didn’t until they declared the action. I know the largest/richest gambling hall in town and can easily find the NPC in the book (or make him up on the fly if necessary.) I know where the docks in the city are located. I know where they’re going to go to get the proper paper to use for the forgery. I know all of this because I’ve read the materials in question about the setting in which we’re in. If I’m building my own city/nation or other setting, then I know that I have artistic freedom to do what I will. I’m still prepared with notes about ideas that I’ve already had about the area, though. I’m also prepared to scribble my impromptu decisions about NPCs and locations within the area, so that I can incorporate them into my wiki about my world.

There you go. There’s my list and my nuts-and-bolts that go with it. Hope it helps someone out there!

One comment on “Building a Better GM

  1. Pingback: GM: The Core Principles « Casting Shadows

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