First Time GM - WTF?

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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Wolverine » 9:42am on 30 Sep 09

I have three Golden Rules for Game Mastering:

1. The players are the heroes. The adventure should be centred on them and not what's going on around them.

In other words, the players should be the ones fighting the dragon and not going down the sewers to kill rats. Many times I have seen this happen, where the players are sent on some pointless crusade, whilst a major threat looms over the kingdom. Let the players deal with the threat, and let some poor NPC clean out the sewers of rats.

2. Let the players drive the game and avoid rail-roading. The GM should be there to run the world, and not the players.

In other words, don’t spoon feed the adventure to the players. Again I’ve seen this so many times. Games can be ever so boring if the players are following a script written by the GM. Also, as a GM you should never control the players actions. That is simply Power GMing, and just has bad as power gaming. Let the players do what they want to do, and don’t force them to do what you want them to do.

3. The players should only die because of their own mistakes. Don’t kill them needlessly.

This rule is broken the most. I’ve seen GMs revel in the joy of killing or punishing players, or even pitting player against player hoping that one will kill the other. The players are not there for a GM’s amusement. I’ve seen GM’s throw powerful monsters and NPCs against their players, ones their characters certainly cannot handle, and get a thrill out of doing so. The idea of the a role playing game is to allow players build up their characters, not try and kill them. Encounters are obstacles for the characters to overcome, and not an excuse for GMs to toy with their players.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby ElaineM » 10:13am on 30 Sep 09

Wolverine wrote:3. The players should only die because of their own mistakes. Don’t kill them needlessly.


I'd add something else to this - The GM should not be afraid to kill the PCs if their actions DO deserve it.

I'm very guilty of this - I just don't have the heart/evilness to kill a player character. In fact, I think the only PC I have killed was played by Scott at Conpulsion.. and that was only 'sort of' as the char was turned into a zombie. The other PCs finished the job ;)
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Wolverine » 1:35pm on 30 Sep 09

'd add something else to this - The GM should not be afraid to kill the PCs if their actions DO deserve it.


That fits perfectly! :D

Not many players have died in my games over there years, but when they do they tend to go out in style. The most memorable one involved a box being thrown out of a window. It hit the character on the head rendering him unconscious. What killed him was a second character who foolishly jumped out of the window after the box! Landed smack bang on top of the unconscious character doing enough damage to kill him. :(
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Evilgaz » 11:21am on 01 Oct 09

Wolverine wrote:The adventure should be centred on the [the players] and not what's going on around them.

Word. Focus should be on what the players do and how this affects the story / world around them. Consequences of actions should be seen.

Wolverine wrote:In other words, the players should be the ones fighting the dragon and not going down the sewers to kill rats.

As long as we know its okay to go fighting rats, if that's where the plot is taking us. If everyone keeps banging on about the dragons and you're doing unrelated stuff - weak.

Wolverine wrote:Let the players drive the game and avoid rail-roading.

Its important to have clear direction though. Either by having an obvious "path" to take, or by loading them up with personal goals or personalities that can drive them regardless of any "plot".

Wolverine wrote:The players should only die because of their own mistakes. Don’t kill them needlessly.

Its worth noting that often is better to just funk the situation up than outright kill someone. Yeah, you can get the lifesaving potion of the witch, but now she wants you to do this. Sure, you're brought back from the brink, but now have an ugly scar that everyone who's anyone is going to comment on or judge you for, etc. Another thing I think I'm going to try in Pendragon with its high mortality rate is statting up squires, so if the knight dies, the player has another character to jump into at the Con

ElaineM wrote:The GM should not be afraid to kill the PCs if their actions DO deserve it.

Well, as above, be cautious with this when other things might work instead, but yeah, sometime for the sake of the game you've got to get old painless out of the bag.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Wolverine » 1:24pm on 01 Oct 09

Word. Focus should be on what the players do and how this affects the story / world around them. Consequences of actions should be seen.


You worded it better than I could, Gaz :D

As long as we know its okay to go fighting rats, if that's where the plot is taking us. If everyone keeps banging on about the dragons and you're doing unrelated stuff - weak.


Sure, if the players want to kill rats let them. But they should have the option to go after the dragon if they so choose.

Its important to have clear direction though. Either by having an obvious "path" to take, or by loading them up with personal goals or personalities that can drive them regardless of any "plot".


I concur. there must some sort of direction they can go. I tend to start with a basis of a story and add the odd sign post on the way. I never plan out a scenario in full. You never know what the players might do. I think personal goals are okay to a certain extent, but can also weigh the characters down with unwanted baggage. The solution to that is to allow your characters to create their own objectives.

Its worth noting that often is better to just funk the situation up than outright kill someone. Yeah, you can get the lifesaving potion of the witch, but now she wants you to do this. Sure, you're brought back from the brink, but now have an ugly scar that everyone who's anyone is going to comment on or judge you for, etc. Another thing I think I'm going to try in Pendragon with its high mortality rate is statting up squires, so if the knight dies, the player has another character to jump into at the Con


It does make a great story, much like a TV series, if the player has been left for dead, only to return the following week with a missing eye or a hideous scar. I'm not saying characters shouldn't be killed, I hate it when I see a GM getting a thrill out of toying with the characters for their own pleasure. And if you have to get old painless out of the bag, then do so when a player realises they have made a terrible mistake.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Mythil » 12:02pm on 18 Nov 09

Mmm, I hear and nod at quite a lot of whats going on there.

It might not be a complaining thread, however I have had a splendid time at the con and haven't had a moan in over a week!

I am really not in favor of GM's (or games) that just read off endless lines of plot from pre-written books or scenarios, making you feel like a small rock who can't influence the story what so ever.

We all know it takes time to get good at GM'ing and we all have a game that just flops from time to time and if you don't then I will have to hold you down and question you vigorously until you tell me your secret :D
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Halfbat » 3:36pm on 18 Nov 09

Mythil wrote:We all know it takes time to get good at GM'ing and we all have a game that just flops from time to time ...

Actually, this is sound advice/encouragement too. Games do flop occasionally, or you'll lfind that a game flops for someone at a table but not for others. Rule 42: DON'T BE DISCOURAGED. It might not be you - it could be the system, or the person doesn't gel with the group, or doesn't gel with the system, or it's the scenario. Just see what it is and learn from it and move on.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby kinain » 11:38am on 04 Feb 10

Honestly - I've just finished my third year of GCing at Conception. I was absolutely sick with terror the first time I did it - and I still get a little of that every time I run now. But, in most of my games I think I've enjoyed myself as much as the players and it's getting easier.

The most important thing for me? Preparation. Know the scenario you are running inside and out.

I get an advantage, because I have either written the scenario, or edited the ones that I run.

But going over every section with a fine toothcomb before you run it and not just 'reading' but understanding the story (and the sections where you might need to do some troubleshooting, or where you might need to fly by the seat of your pants) is paramount. It gives you the confidence to concentrate on making the game fun and being able to make decisions without being distracted.

Running a game without preparation? I would be terrified throughout the game and have no confidence about it - and it would be a bad game as a result. I don't think my players would enjoy the game. And I've played in enough games where the GM clearly hasn't read the scenario properly, to know that this is true.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby jonnygray » 3:40pm on 04 Feb 10

I had my first taste in the hot seat, about 3 weeks ago, after a 10 year gap. I enjoyed it, bit I think the players thought I over narrated certain parts and didn't let them describe how they wanted things to go, or they simply didn't have anything to do. Something I aim to rectify on the next session.....If they still want to play that is!
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Sean Varney » 1:53am on 19 Aug 10

10: How to DM at a con when your an old Fart GM
(don't do this at home)

0: Start list with a Ziro and call your self DM not GM cus your an old Fart GM who used to play when PnP RPGs where new things.

1: Give the players half done pre-gens and say fill in the rest I was to Drunk last night at the opening to do them fully.
(really you have all the main areas done States Skills and rule like C**** so the players can customise them with name sex look and feel stuff like that so they feel they input Honest)

2: Game Prep - Just have a name for the game and the min write up for the sign up sheet.
(OK so you have a few flash cards with bad guys on and notes but your and old fart GM you know the fecking rules inside out and you know your going to brake most of them to give the players a good ride of a game so who needs em)

3: Big Printed maps, (errm they cost right and that's beer money we are talking about here, also the committee room has loads of A4 just doing nothing hummm)

4: Games that say they "need" Fugues and maps because the rules need um, (Games like that, Lie like a cheap Turkish rugs" old fart GMs know you dont need em)

5: Getting a good room/Table/whole in the group, this is an art at a con, Old fart GMs know the best place to DM from is a nice room out of the way but with in range of the Bar, because your players will have to go get your beers, so stake your place with care and well before hand )

6: If the players says some thing that's cooler than your game Idea for a game, Dich yours in a hartbeat and nick theres, who need to think when the players will do that for ya, More Beer over here!

7: You have read all the lists and tips on how to be a good GM as an old Fart GM you may in fact have tried some out wile feeling Benevolent but your old fart DM and you know what each and every player wants is a to be hero protagonist in a setting of danger and suspense with a riveting tale of a ride and other active players to do it with, now THATS a game. the tips can wait best get on with the 1st.

8: Old Fart GMs know when they have done it right as they get asked "cool where did you find that Scenario?"
To which they smile and say "how about you buy me a beer and we can talk all about it at the bar"

9: Old Fart DMs know the The GOLDEN RULE, "Give the players a game you would want to have played in, think of each and every one of your players and would you like to have been them in your game. "

Yours
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Corone » 1:45pm on 19 Oct 10

I'd also add to the growing list...

Pre-generated characters, always (only exception to that which worked was Maid) for so many reasons I can't count. I always try to find a picture of an actor for each character to add to the character sheet. Not only is it quite entertaining to search google images for something appropriate, but it makes the character sheet look nice and gives the player an easy hook on the character.

Don't be afraid to go big. (actually 'don't be afraid' is pretty good advice generally) You may never play this game again and there is little chance you'll be continuing this adventure. So let them conquer the world, bring ultimate darkness, throw the one ring into mount doom etc. You don't have to do something huge, but cons give you a wonderful option to do so if you fancy it.

Try and test the adventure with your usual group, but remember they will take a lot longer. People who know each other will role play with each other more (at least initially) and digress a lot more. It takes my group roughly 3 times as long to do any con adventure I put in front of them.

If you are a first time GM, it is often good to go for a licensed game. This way you don't need to explain the world background to your group (usually). You can mix things up a little and do a cross over too. I had a great time running a Doctor Who/Buffy con adventure one Dragonmeet.

Avoid doing a comedy game (such as Red Dwarf or possibly Paranoia) until you have at least some experience, as you not only have to run a good adventure you will have to keep them laughing too. Plenty of opportunity for fun and comedy in any game.

I also usually make my own sign up sheets and add photos of the characters and a bit of colour. It makes sure people notice your game amidst the identical con created sign up sheets. While some cons insist you use theirs, your own sheet can also double up as a useful 'here are who all the characters are' handout for the group.

Finally, while you should explain the basics of the system (the absolute basics) don't go over everything. They will have forgotten it all by the time they have to roll anyway. Make sure someone has to make a skill check early on (usually perception) so everyone sees how it works, then take the first combat a little slowly so everyone understands and you should be done.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby netski » 9:51am on 07 Nov 10

Wow, I wished I could have read this all 10 months ago when I was sat in the centre of the pompey crew ready to run my first Monsters game.

I think one of the best peices of advice was to relax and enjoy - the people around the table bring as much of the fun to the table as the GM, and really given some good prep and scenario thought, and a flexible attitude - what can go wrong???? :?

Also - breaks - really good for the first few times! Those few minutes of not having people looking at you for guidance is essential to centre yourself and collect your thoughts to move forward. (I had to do this when it appeared that Al and Oreso had started to burn the school down now.......ARRGGHHHH eeeek! Now where to go???????!!!!)

Great thread....thanks, persuaded me to make a post after a little break away!
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Shaheen » 5:14pm on 01 Mar 11

I thought this PDF was an excellent primer into games mastering, particularly for D&D:

http://www.gamemastering.info/
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby CFarrell » 3:08pm on 15 Aug 11

Well my own experience as a GM has been quite interesting. I GM a lot at our local club here in Stirling (at one point I was the only GM reliably turning up...2 months of GMing 5 to 8 times a week...that was fun). Last April I GMed at the Student National Roleplaying Championships for the first time.

I got asked to GM there roughly two weeks before the event. I had been signed up as a player, but got 2 weeks notice to GM in the True Random category. The rules of the category were "Any system, Any setting, but that game can't fit in any other category". Que frantic prep.

Now, the nationals are quit the same as a normal convention since the entire point of it is that people are there to game, there is basically nothing else during the days. Also the organisers set it all up in advance (usually in a pretty organised fashion, sometimes not) so that every category has 2 or 3 teams of players and 2 or 3 GM's. And they rotate round so each group gets a different GM on the 2nd day. And based on what I've read in this thread, the games are much longer. Starting at between 9 and 10am, and latest finishing time of about 6pm. Makes for a good long game.

Whilst I made sure to do lots of prep, so I knew the system, I knew the setting I was using, I knew what the plot was. I deliberately left ambiguity in my plans, because if you plan or prep to much then you will get bogged down when the players start to do stuff you don't expect (like when one of my players at the Nations decided the best way to tackle the rampaging robotic T-Rex was to punch it in the nose). Be adaptable, and let your players show you what sort of game they want to play! I ran the same game both days of the Nationals...it had the same roughly plot and the same characters. But they were totally different games because the players wanted totally different things out it.

The only other main point I would make for anyone GMing at a convention of any sort is...don't get bogged down in the rules. Yes, I know, I love that system. Its my special baby. Its why I chose to run it. Anyone who GMs at such an event is going to use a system they really like. But...remember that in all probability the players haven't read the rule book, and even if they have almost certainly they haven't to the obsessive detail you have. So...simplify it. A lot! Use the basic mechanics, but beyond that use common sense. Ok, so the rulebook at a 3 page cross referenced table of weapon penetration values and object defensive values. Don't search through and ponder over whether that wall their hiding behind has a hardness of 4 or 5, or whether the gun their using will actually kill the person they've shot, or if the character can actually kick the door open. Get players to describe what they are doing, and so long as it isn't ridiculous let them do it.

The basic rules I used for combat, were if they hit they rolled damage. If it was a good role, I took the bad guy out the equation and said he was dead (usually with gory and graphic description). If it was a bad role I said he was clipped or it was a near miss or somesuch, but he wasn't actually affected. Don't worry about exact hit counts for all 25 mooks. Sure, for the final confrontation keep the boss's damage values closer to mind...but still don't worry about it too much.

There is nothing more off putting than having to spend the first hour of your game having the cheat sheet the GM has produced explained to you, and still not understand the basic mechanics. That happened to me at the Nationals a few years ago. In the end I resorted to rolling the dice and having the GM tell me if I passed or not.
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Re: First Time GM - WTF?

Postby Bone White » 10:36pm on 22 Aug 11

In my limited experience of GMing, I'd always discuss what the players want from a campaign. Theme, plotline, amount of "spoon-feeding", depth of narrative, linear or open storyline.
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