Sunday 6 November 2011

5 tips to make you a better GM {GMs}

It's tough being a GM. You're expected to do a whole bunch of downright scary things each time you play, including adjudicating rules, keeping the flow of the game and building a world and all characters therein. But like any skill, game mastering can be improved with practise. Here are 5 ways to help you become a better GM:

Image source: Marvel Comics
1. Be flexible with your campaign

As a GM, you have a vision as to how you see the campaign progressing and sometimes it can be difficult to stray from that foreseen ending. The thing is, the players usually have no idea where the adventure will eventually take them (unless it's very 'by the numbers') and may have different ideas. You have to remember that players want free will in their games, so you must accommodate. If instead of going straight for the quest they want to explore a nearby town for new leads or perhaps more quest opportunities, let them. You can't be prepared for every eventuality so you can either improvise if you're good at that, or make a list of places in your world and notable NPCs to make a skeleton that you can flesh out if the players choose to go astray.

2. Take a notebook everywhere

GM's have to be creative and sometimes a great idea pops into your head but later, when it comes to actually putting pen to paper, you've completely forgotten what the fantastic idea was. Therefore, always carry a pen and notepad around with you so you can jot down your ideas. Inspiration for adventures, NPCs or events within your game can come from anywhere, so you must be prepared. This way, you will always have a new idea for your campaign.

3. Recognise when you're wrong

 You may play a bunch of different games and so have to learn a hell of a lot of rules. Often we can't remember all the little details and we make a mistake, which is pointed out by the group or a player who does remember the rule. Just because you don't know or don't remember doesn't mean they are wrong. There's nothing worse than a game devolving into an argument when the GM is trying to save face, so recognise when you're wrong or don't know something.

Image source: Merinid-de (Deviant art)
4. Accommodate for different types of players 

Very rarely does every member of a group enjoy the same aspects of an RPG. Some will prefer combat over social interaction, others will relish the thought of trying to get a king onto their side of a war and still others will be in their element with puzzles. It's important that you gauge what each of your players likes and make ample room for their preferences in your game. If you have a group who loves combat, then make a combat-heavy game, but if one person in the group gets bored in a fight, include other things they can do during combat, such as negotiate with a bad guy or research the totem for any source of magic that could sway the tide of battle. This way, nobody will get bored when it comes to combat.

5. Read lots of roleplaying blogs

There is a bazillion blogs out there about roleplaying and most of them offer really good advice on GMing. Read as much as possible, see how others GM their games and find your preferred style. Note GM horror stories and accomplishments so you have avoid the same mistakes and emulate the same successes in your own game. Reading blogs will definitely help you grow as a GM. If you need help finding any, here's a pretty good place to start.


  1. I think 5 is particularly important. It's good to expose yourself to different styles. I'd be hesitant to read an author who doesn't read books in her genre--likewise I'd be hesitant to play with a GM who doesn't keep up on the hobby.

    For your number 2 I'd expand it. Draw inspiration from everything that you see. A weird news story? Start asking questions about it. See an evocative picture? Start asking questions about it. It doesn't take very many questions before you have a full-fledged adventure set up from a small beginning.