The GM’s Handbook

Hello everyone! As Adam is detailing his journey into pen and paper RPGs, I thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of the creator of worlds, the giver of life and the supplier of stationary, the GM!

So the GM (Games Master) is the most important role in an RPG session. Sure, the players are essential but without the GM’s many hours placed in story writing and world crafting, then their would be no adventure for the players to journey through.

While the jump to play a tabletop RPG is a big one, the jump to become a GM is even more daunting! So I thought I’d lay out a few handy tips for any budding GMs. I’d say my RPG career is 95% GMing and 5% as a player. I don’t think it’s a good idea to only every GM as you need to know what players expect and what will keep their attention during play.

So here are my Top 5 tips to GMing your first game:

Know Your System.

This is the golden rule! The last thing you and your players will want to do is stop every 5 minutes to pause the game and check rules. You can help this by choosing a simple system in the first place. I suggest something like Dungeon World. It’s quick to learn and smooth to play. It’s the RPG equivalent to a 15 year old single malt whiskey.

A Theme For Everyone.

For new players, getting into the spirit can be the most difficult thing. As adults we seem to be encouraged more and more to dull our imagination. Imagination is key to this genre. An easy way to do this choose a theme that people already know and love. For instance, FFGs new Star Wars RPG could be the one for you. Everyone knows of Star Wars, even if they aren’t a hardcore fan they have most likely of seen the films and knows the setting which can be the hardest hurdle to jump.

Keep It Light

Sure, we all want to run an epic adventure which has people on the edge of their seats! But this amount of skill takes years to master. If I’m with new players I like to keep the atmosphere light, we joke, make fun out of ourselves a little and sink a few beers before we begin. Just explain that it’s a game and you are all together to have fun. If you make players relax then they are way more likely to have fun, which in turn will make your job a lot easier.

Start With Action!

This might sound odd but it’s great! A get away chase or a quick firefight will soon get people into the spirit.

Expect The Unexpected

This is the biggest tip I’ve got (way-hay!) you may lay subtle hints for characters to follow, but more times than not they will go on a tangent and you will have to be like a leaf on the wind. Have a few story lines ready which can be adapted for any situation. At the same time don’t make it like a plat-former with only one direction. RPGs are meant to be the most open worlds you can every play in, take that away and you might as well all be playing a computer game.

I hope these tips help new GMs along the fun and daunting road you have ahead of you! I will hopefully be writing more of these to help everyone.


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