The perils of being a GM (or what’s the point)

GMing. A specialist part of a specialist hobby. If you’ve got to be ‘different’ to role-play, you’ve got to be especially so to want to actually run a game. On first thought, it can sound great. You are god, you control everything. Everyone who isn’t a player is run by you, from the cheeky street urchin to the hard-as-nails bad guy. And you get to cheat on your die rolls, which players can’t. You can be nice to your group, or you can be a real sod.
And then the enormousness of it kicks in. You run everything. You have to be able to answer every single question the group put to you, no matter how inane (I wonder if schoolteachers make good GMs – I’ve never known one to role play, let alone GM).Your NPCs (Non player characters, everyone in your world who isn’t played by one of the group) have to populate the world. Pretty much everyone a character deals with is run by you, flavoured by you. I remember playing a Wild West RPG, and every single bloody shopkeeper was like Arkwright in ‘Open All Hours’. You’d go in for some revolver bullets and come out with some snowshoes and a new hat.
Then, depending on your style, you may well have to chivy the group along, so they reach their objectives. You are responsible for the clues in a mystery, the sub-plots in a drama. And most of all, you are responsible for making sure the little sods (the group) have a good time. To be honest, I find making sure the group have a good time quite easy. The catch is making sure you do too. You have to pitch a game at the group that they can handle, as it’s pretty frustrating spending hours writing, and then realising you could have just stuck them in a pub, with no prep needed.
So what are your group like? Do they want a murder(s) mystery? A straightforward dungeon bash? Should they be allowed responsibility, or not? And you must watch over their character choice – it must be something that a) they can play, b) that will get along with the others, and c) that will contribute to the group. A decent gaming group should be able to cope with practically anything.
So, in summary, as a GM, you have to write and populate a world, then allow a group into this world, oversee how they react to it, and how the world reacts to them, whilst making sure everyone has a good time. And no one throws an EMP grenade into a Special Care Baby Unit.

One thought on “The perils of being a GM (or what’s the point)

  1. I have no idea why we bother, let’s face it being a GM is a thankless task, you do indeed spend a lot of time getting the adventure ready, the players arrive and it all goes to shite …


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