RPG Blog Carnival – How To Be A Better GM

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March 5, 2010 by deadorcs

It’s been awhile since I’ve participated in a Blog Carnival, but I was encouraged by Questing GM’s willingness to step right up to the microphone after a lengthy absence.  Welcome back, Guy!
While I think everyone who GMs a game would like to become better at it, I’m not sure that you can codify a set of “tips” in order to provide a “magic bullet” to your gaming experience.  Why is that?  One reason:  Players.
Every GM, novice and expert, can attend all the seminars in the world to learn how to organize their gaming information, or how to handle difficult social interactions.  However, none of this advice is of much use if your Players don’t like it.
Let me give you an example:  Let’s say that a particular GM isn’t really that great at storytelling.  He covers the basics, but the storylines are used and his dialog is less than inspired.  Knowing he’d like to do better, he attends several writing seminars and gets to be pretty good.  He can now tell a great story, and his characters are rich and complex.  Unfortunately, his Players aren’t happy with the transformation.  Before, the characters could expect a game that was succinct and uncomplicated.  The Players enjoyed killing the monsters and taking their stuff.  The creative storyline?  Well, that’s just more delay before they can get to the dungeon.  The complex characters?  Well, if the Players can’t (or don’t want to) kill them, why are they there?  Before long the Players become restless and bored, and all the effort the GM went to in order to improve his gaming style has come to naught.
That’s a very basic example, but I think the point is there.
Remember, as a GM, you’re sitting down with other people to play a game.  As the GM, your role is slightly different, but you’re still playing a game.  That means the exercise is a cooperative experience.  Everyone at the table should be getting along and abiding by a mutually determined set of rules (encompassing both the game rules and the social rules of your culture).  If these things don’t agree, your GMing experience will be less than satisfactory.
In our example above, the GM would have remained a better GM if he had simply listened to his Players in the first place.  Which is of course, the main point.  It’s easy for GMs to get caught up in the ego of their own creation.  After all, this is your world, and you made it, and the Players better just suck it up.  However, that thought process only takes you so far.  If your Players don’t enjoy your particular GM style, you are not going to have a great gaming experience.
Of course changing your style is possible, but it’s complicated and tiresome.  Avoid all the hassle ahead of time and sit down and speak with your Players.  Tell them what they can expect.  Work out an arrangement that’s agreeable to those that wish to participate.  Not finding a fit?  Well, you might have to resign yourself to finding other players.  Your gaming will be better for it in the end.
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.
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One thought on “RPG Blog Carnival – How To Be A Better GM

  1. Questing GM says:

    Great post! You can't be a better GM if you are not listening to your players. In fact, that's all you need sometimes. 😉

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