#GMwisdom, musings of a Game Master!

This past weekend I began tweeting a couple of reflections on RPG gaming on my Twitter account. I tweeted them with the hashtag #GMwisdom. Mind you these are not all original thoughts, maybe I put them in a different way, but most of these ideas have been gathered after years of gaming, from advice in books, other GMs, and my experiences at the table over the last 25 years. If by some unforeseen reason you’ve been following me on Twitter for a while you might wonder what got me so philosophical. It’s a combination of thinking about games from a research point of view, born out of my research in education for my class work; and some situations in my regular gaming group. What can I say, you never stop growing and learning! A couple of people seemed to like, and agree with some of the ideas, so I thought it would be useful to compile them here in the blog to share with a larger audience and hopefully generate some discussion.

While I branded them with the hashtag #GMwisdom I think of them as general advice on gaming, applicable to both players and GMs. Musing about games in 140 characters can be hard, and it forced me to be succinct with my ideas. To me this is an advantage so the tweets are reproduced in their original length (with a couple of typos corrected, hey it’s not easy typing in a phone with my fingers, and with a little editing to try and make them more gender inclusive). I believe they speak for themselves. Hope you like them…

  • A player succeeding in a RPG should never be seen as defeating a GM! Their relationship should be cooperative, not adversarial.
  • Likewise a GM should never see his or her role as the player’s opposition; a GM presents challenges but should never be one his or herself!
  • A player needs to remember this is a group activity where everybody wants to have fun, play well with others!
  • Always remember, as a GM you are there to facilitate the players having fun and telling their story, not tell your story.
  • Players, your GM is there to have fun too, in the game he or she will set the stage, have some input allow him or her grow a story. Patience!
  • Being a good GM is like tending to a garden, everybody at the table brings the seeds, and you help them grow healthy and strong!
  • GMs, don’t get frustrated when a RPG adventure doesn’t go as you planned. Running a game is an art, not science. Make it fun!
  • Often the loudest player gets the most attention. In RPG games make sure you communicate with all your players!
  • Prep smarter! Learn the basics the system requires to run encounters, outline a plot. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Despite religion being such a big part of many games, it is a touchy subject for some players. Be mindful and tolerant!
  • We play RPG games for fun, but fun comes from different aspects of the game. Don’t belittle the gaming styles of others.
  • All persons involved in an RPG game must remember it is a game; we all get passionate about our hobby but no fighting!

Although it didn’t have the hashtag I sent this one at the end of the day today:

  • Despite my tweets that might be seen as judgmental or down on RPG gamers, it’s not so. This community is full of wonderful people!

I often struggle with what to tweet about, not that you’d be able to tell with 7k+ tweets, but I think I’ve found a topic that interests me and a medium that makes me summarize my ideas, which can be an issue for me, so I intend to keep tweeting on this subject. If you are interested in reading future #GMwisdom tweets, and don’t mind occasional tweets on other subjects (pet pictures, musings on life, discussion of household chores, and the politics every now and then) be sure to follow me as Sunglar on Twitter. If you feel you have something to say on the subject, use the hashtag, and include me in the tweet, I’d love to read your thoughts.

I hope you find this useful. Let me know what you think in the comments bellow or send me a message on Twitter!

PS – I also tweeted a more general piece of advice under the #GeekWisdom hashtag, it applies to RPG games fans, but I hope its messages reaches a larger number of geek fans, so here is as a final bonus:

  • Remember the properties you feel passionate about and the ones you think are shit may be reversed for others… Fan tolerance!

3 thoughts on “#GMwisdom, musings of a Game Master!”

  1. Really like these, especially the way you go back on fourth on expectations of both players and GMs. I think there’s more than a few people out there who need to remember that everyone at the table is there to have fun.

  2. I liked most of those, but this one I disagree with:

    Always remember, as a GM you are there to facilitate the players having fun and telling their story, not tell your story.

    There’s two ways I disagree with it: a) every game, and game group, is different, and has a different dynamic. Even within a game group, one campaign from the next might be different. Sometimes it’s a GM driven story, sometimes it’s a player driven story, and sometimes is “our story” (GM + Players). b) some of my more successful games (esp. as seen by the player IN those games) have been ones where I, as the GM, was definitely driving the story. That doesn’t mean I was railroading the story (far from it), but it was definitely a GM driven story. HOWEVER, within that, the players definitely had wide open freedom to put a great big mark in said story, and even made a few major plot twists of their own.

    To me, the GM _SHOULD_ have a definite story in mind. A starting point, a main flow of the campaign plot, and a definite sense of not just “how the world reacts to the players”, but what is going on behind the scenes, and what the world is going to do despite what the players do. AND the GM should also be completely open to collaboration with the players, in telling that story … there will be some players who are “along for the ride”, but for any players who are there to contribute to the story, develop a cooperative dynamic with them. But, in the same way that I don’t railroad the story to the players, I’m not there to purely tell _their_ story either. In the best situation, we are all there to tell _our_ story … not their story, not my story.

    1. johnkzin, thanks for the feedback! I tend to agree with you, and curiously I think that was the one that got a reaction in Twitter as well, for pretty much the same reason. As a GM who enjoys telling a story overall I agree that a GM needs to be part of telling the story, and can often be the motivator behind it. This is an instance where the 140 characters format is limiting. I can tell you as a GM understand the role you play in the interaction between your story and the player’s stories.

      However I have seen instances where the GM merely pays lip service to a character’s story or background and simply take them along for the ride. Where they believe that their story is more important that the collective one.

      Granted there are uninterested players, and I’ve had a couple of those in my lifetime, who show up simply expecting for the story to be delivered, but I am a big believer in trying to include even them. True the results have been mixed. I must say I am lucky to have a great group of players who participate actively, create stories and collaborate in telling the story.

      I’ll concede, it should be OUR story, not their story. Thanks for commenting!!!

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