5 Tips To Be a Better GM
By Jameson McDaniel
So, you’ve gone and done it. You’ve messaged some buddies, watched some videos on YouTube, and now you’re ready to GM your first game…or maybe your tenth! Either way, you’ve signed up to be a Dungeon Master; storyteller; master of ceremonies. Regardless of what you call it, you are a Game Master! And Game Masters – even the most experienced ones – could use a tip now and then, so here are 5 tips for GM-ing from a professional Game Master!
1. Be A Fan of Your PCs
So, you’re a GM and have a Kenku Bard, a Half Orc Cleric, a Firbolg Barbarian, and a Bear Fighter (because, of course, one player found a way to play something weird.) Great! Here’s the first thing you should do: fall in love and get invested. The more you’re a fan of your PCs, the more likely you will be to put them in cool and difficult situations, and be excited see what they do! You’re a fan of strangers’ characters, why not be a fan of your friends’ characters? Plus, if someone’s playing a bear, that means you get bear puns! Bear with me, but that’s a win-win!
2. Plan, But Don’t
Never come to a game with nothing planned, but don’t come with EVERYTHING planned, either. Your players will surprise you and take you to places you probably didn’t initially plan. Maybe they want to befriend the bad guy! Or perhaps, they’re more invested in the tavern owner looking for her missing son than the corrupt mayor you’ve set up as a big bad. That’s okay! Never view it like your players have ruined something, because they haven’t: they’ve given you an awesome opportunity to explore your world in fun, different ways. Plus now you have an excuse to sick a Vampire T-Rex on them!
3. Be Transparent
Sometimes…you’re just going to blank, and you’re gonna need a minute to grab a soda and a giant pretzel to figure out how exactly a Bahamut would respond to a Tiefling Bard asking for her hand (hooves?) in marriage. It’s okay. Deep breaths. The best thing to do is say something like: “Y’know, I want to respect the game, so we’ll take five, okay?”
4. Always Choose Cool
Alright, this one’s a bit fuzzy and sometimes people seem to think it’s cheating. It’s not cheating to bend the rules, it’s cheating to break them. Okay, you have a Rogue in the party who wants to break their poison arrows and leave them in the drinks of the big bad guy. You can either say, “No, that’s not how poison works,” or, decide that they CAN do that as long as they make a Stealth roll first. See the difference? Approaching the game with a “Yes, and” or even a “No, but…” mentality keeps the game rolling AND keeps things way more entertaining than a straight “No.”
5. One Cool Moment Per Character. Minimum.
The worst feeling is when a players spends four hours with your friends rolling dice and at the end, they’re left going “Uh, wait, I didn’t actually do anything.” Yeah, see, that’s the problem with being a GM because that’s a LITTLE on you. It’s not your responsibility for them to be engaged, but it is your responsibility to set them up for glory or epic failure!