It has been quite a few months since i have a made a post to the Blog-o-sphere.
I apologize, its been quite busy in the past few months. We here at Team Leviathan have been working on our own setting, rule set, podcast, and live play show. And, while there are a lot good folks that make this seem pretty easy, the truth is that there is a lot of work that goes into making all these things. And even more into making them into something you would want others to see, read or hear. That, combined with my natural inclination to be a perfectionist, has made it even harder to get out something that I would want to attach my name, or pen name to.
But then I decided that I missed the back and forth conversations between myself and my fellow Gamers. So, I figured it was time to get back to basics and start pumping out the DM Leviathan blog once again. Even when you disagree, a conversation about RPGs and the different styles of play is still time better spent than almost anything else I can think of.
Instead of just picking some random subject, I have decided that I just want to start with the basics, and build out from there.
So, I ask this question: You want to be a GM? Why?
For those of you that are confused with the terminology here, perhaps we should start by explaining what a GM is. According to Wikipedia, a GM is defined as : A Gamemaster is a person who acts as an organizer, officiant for questions regarding rules, arbitrator, and moderator for a multiplayer role-playing game. (They can also be called a GM; as game master, game moderator, referee, DM, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, and about a thousand different titles. All of this depends, mostly , on the rule set you choose to use.)
Got it? Cool.. Lets move on.
Being a GM is a major pain the the butt. You spend quite a bit of time and effort to prepare a game that your friends are, generally, going to effortlessly rip to shreds within the first 30 minutes of play. They will miss all clues you place before them (unless you hit them in the face with it, like a slap fight between the Three Stooges).
They are going to complain when they didn’t get enough fighting. They are going to complain when they didn’t get enough role playing. They are going to complain if things are too easy. They are going to complain if things are too hard. They are going to complain when things are just right, but the dice didn’t land on the right numbers.
You will have to make the final decision on the rules. there will be those Players that want to argue the way the rules are interpreted. There will rarely be full agreement on how they should be ruled (At least in the beginning. This will generally settle down as everyone gets used to the group, as long as you stay consistent)
For the most part its a thankless job. But we do it because we love to tell our stories. No matter what those stories may be. Even if its Hack and Slash, Heavy Role Play, War Gaming, or whatever your style.
Now, what is is that a GM does?
Well, this can change according to the game your playing but, in general they prep the game and story for the Players, describe the places, people, and event as they take place, Role Play as all NPCs (Non-Player Characters) …
But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
First and foremost, you are an Event Coordinator you have to organize the players. What day is going to work for everyone? What time? How long should the session be? What game are you going to play?
Will you be providing snacks? Will the group all pitch in? Will there be alcohol allowed? Is there an age limit or minimum? (You may find that to be a strange question, but that just tells me you’ve never had a 35 year old stranger show up at your house to play D&D with your fifteen year old son and his friends)
These are all decisions that are going to have to be made before you can even settle in for a Session 0.
What’s a Session Zero?
We’ll get to that:.. Quit rushing me, please.
Well, this can change according to the game your playing but, in general they prep the game and story for the Players, describe the places, people, and event as they take place, Roleplay as all NPCs (Non-Player Characters)
As a GM you’re going to have many roles besides the one I pointed out above:
You’re a Referee: You are the final world when it comes to decisions on how the rules will be interpreted and in deciding the resolution to conflicts (having to do with the game itself) between players.You’re also the person who decides which house rules apply and which don’t.
There are many out there who GM by committee. They take a vote on house rules, setting, story. I have respect for those folks, but it simply doesn’t work for me. I prefer to have final say. However, I cannot stress enough that if you want to be the final say, and have authority over what happens in the game and what doesn’t, you are going to have to be very, very balanced and consistent. If you make one player confirm crits, all of them must confirm. If you apply an environmental deficit to one player’s rolls, unless there is extenuating circumstances that make it only apply to them, then you will have to apply it to everyone.
You’re a Player: There are other people in the world besides the Player Characters. These are NPCs. And do you want to take a guess on who gets to play all of them? That’s right. You do. You’re going to be keeping track of names for everyone, everything they ever said to the player characters, what they look like, and what they talk like. If this seems like a overwhelming if not impossible challenge for you, don’t worry. Its not that bad once you get the hang of organizing the information for easy reference. (We’ll be dealing with that in a later article.
You are a World Builder: Now, if I’m going to be honest, this is a collaborative effort between you and the Players. But getting it started and making sure there is enough hook to get the players involved in expanding this world still rests firmly on your shoulders.
This is easily one of my favorite things. To the point that I have to stop myself from filling in every little detail of the world. I have so much fun with world building that it takes effort for me to leave it open enough that the Players can make it their world as well.
You’re a Story Teller: You are responsible for determining a loose plot and how the world will react to the actions of the Characters.You determine the Antagonists of the story, what makes them tick, and come up with plans that the Player characters must thwart. Or vice versa if you’re a brave enough GM to give your Players the room they need to Role Play a party of Villains.
Before you panic too much over this, remember that you can do this with stories from your own imagination, or you can use one of thousands of published adventures, even if its not written for the rule set that your using. (Yeah I know you’re getting tired of me saying this, but we’ll talk more about that in future posts)
Put all these things together, add in a few thousand dashes of complications, arguments, Rules Lawyers, Power Gamers, Min-Maxers, & millions of other things I’m probably not thinking of at the moment, and what are you left with?
A GM. That’s what. And if this doesn’t send you running for the hills. Then you might have the mental fortitude that it takes to begin your journey as a Game Master.
I’m going to be here, every week, with a few tips, to help smooth the road.
Am I the final word on these? Is my way the only way to go about it?
Heck no. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of people out there that would hate the way I GM. There are others who love it. And if you want advice, other than mine, you can go over to Google and find so many different RPG advice columns that it will make your head spin.
(Unless you’re looking for advice specifically on Pathfinder. Those are few and far between. I THINK because of it being so very expansive. But not to worry, I’ll be dipping my toe into the Pathfinder realm as well)
But, before I close up the first part of this series, I want to tell you the one rule that is most important, and the only one you can’t house rule, or flat out ignore:
IF YOU AND YOUR PLAYERS ARE HAVING FUN, YOU’RE DOING IT RIGHT.