You are a Dungeon Master, a Storyteller, a Referee, an Animator, a Marshall, a Director or whatever your favorite role-playing game calls it. You are a Game Master. The GM. It’s hard but rewarding. Most role-playing games have a little section of how to run a game. They discuss setting the mood, crafting stories, reacting to player surprises, and more. Great stuff. But none of them seem to give you concrete suggestions, tips to make your life as a GM easier. Any given game may have a suggestion or two, but certainly not a nice complete list. Here is my collection of tips, appropriate for most role-playing games. Short and sweet. If you’ve got any comments, let me know.
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The Golden Rule Have fun. Maybe you’re breaking a “rule” from a magazine article or web page. If you’re having fun, don’t worry about it. For every bit of advice, guideline, or rule for better GMing, there is at least one game in your city, probably with people you know, that would be ruined by it. All styles of play are valid Hack and slash is fine if everyone involved likes it. Interacting with store keepers is fine. Angsting away in the corner is fine. Backstabbing party members is fine. Using out of game knowledge is fine. Strongly plot driven games are fine. Open ended games with minimal plots are fine. Heavily planned games are fine. Games run entirely improvised on the spur of the moment by the GM are fine. If you’re having fun… it’s fine. Conversely, if a particular element is hurting the groups fun, take it out. Nothing is sacred. Want to run a hack and slash Vampire? White Wolf appears to condone it. Other worldly horror in D&D? Why not? Don’t feel constrained to the style of game you think you should be running. The rule books are just a suggestion and your past experience is past. Do what’s fun. Be aware of what you and your players want. If you want something different from your players, something is going to have to change. Probably you, since you’re the loner. Similarly, if a single player wants a different style of play, if it can’t be easily integrated, don’t force the issue. Sometimes players or game masters don’t fit a particular gaming group. It doesn’t make anyone wrong, it just didn’t work out. Given this, never deride another gamer’s choice of game or style. If he’s enjoying it, it’s right for him. Whatever you play there are gamers who hold it in low regard.