Learning (or Rembering) How to GM
So, I read Getting Your Sea Legs… and it got me to thinking about my own recent GM life.
Ok my fellow Nerds! I need to express my GM plight and/or woes… or maybe I’m just whining a bit. Either way, I am finding myself getting ready to sit in the GM chair again. I don’t do it very often. About once a year, at PCM. Other then that, I’m a player if I’m doing the whole RPG thing at all. So, I’ve dusted off my Modern d20 books and am diving into it all with the hope of producing something people with enjoy playing.
It’s always a chore for me to get comfortable running a game because I am terrible at memorizing rules and think that they are largely over stressed in RPG sessions. I am a natural story teller and find that a group can tell a great story together without any dice or rules at all. But that isn’t quite what an RPG is all about. It’s about the dice deciding the fate of the characters rather then us “writers” of the story.
Learning (or recalling) to GM a Game
GMing a game is more than just understanding the rules of how the game is played.
I couldn’t agree more! You do need to get a sense of how the game was meant to be played, but you can’t let yourself get stuck in that either. There is nothing wrong with taking a system, a world or a character and making it your own RPG thing. But you need a good sense of what you have before you can turn it into something else.
It’s the mechanics of the game that bog me down. Even as a player. Learning new rules is like pulling teeth. Given the right tools and the proper motivation, I can do it. But I never get excited about it.
For me, the core activities are what ever the players what to do. That’s the point. Making things up as you go is what an RPG is all about. So, I don’t get hung up on this and instead focus on having a good sense of the rules and the place that the characters are visiting. If you have those, you will be able to bend and flex with the weird whims of your players.
Setting and Genre! I am so use to using my own that sometimes it is hard to use some one else’s. For PCM15, I am using Dark Matter (which is part of Modern d20). And I am really loving it. I like the feel of the magic and the tech over lapping. And the conspiracy theme is perfect for PCM15. But the challenge becomes using this material without it being stale or feeling like recycled bits. I want my adventures to feel fresh and different.
Start With the GMing Section
It should be obvious that the first place to look for how to run the game would be in the GMing section.
I have never just flipped right to the GM section of the book. I read the core book and important source books from cover to cover. How useful is the GM section if you know nothing about the game? I’ve always assumed that the writers of the book put the GM section where ever it is in the book because they assumed that you had read everything before that section. But maybe not.
The GM section in Dark Matter is 14 pages. There were some really nice tips in this section, but I found most of it less then helpful. What I found more useful was the page at the very end of the book that lists a ton of books, movies, comics, magazines and TV series that you should visit to get a sense of the conspiracy story telling style. The thing that was important about this list was that there were some (The DaVinci Code) that were very much about conspiracies while others (Species) that have a little splash of it, but you have to look for it. And of course there is everything in between. The upside is that you can pick one to emulate. The down side is that this really isn’t a clear cut genre.
Where does that leave a Pig?
Read Between the Lines
I’m fucked. Don’t leave me with that shit. Why can’t a writer of the rules just make shit clear? All I see between the lines is white paper. Or maybe it’s grey.
otherwise you would think D&D 3.5 is about Grappling.
A set of the most complex rules that is so rarely used. I can only think of a couple times I’ve personally used the grapple rules… but there was a ton of effort there.
Learning it Externally
Convention Play – One of my favorites, is to play a game at a convention before I decide to run it; a test drive of sorts. If you like the session, you may be able to talk to the GM for a few minutes for some advice.
Shit. Don’t. Just Don’t. Why do people assume that us convention GMs have any more of a clue then the rest of you GMs? Really, many of us only GM when we’re at a convention. Which means you are probably playing more then we are… And asking me for advice is likely to result in a polite shoulder shrug and something inarticulately mumbled about fried fish and the weight of hamburgers.
Well, I am currently reading the Illuminati book Trilogy. Consider it home work. And there are a bunch of movies I should be watching. And when people ask me why I don’t have much written for the adventure itself, I will point to this heading right here and say “I was too busy doing my homework!”
Merging it with your Style
Sometimes, I’m not sure that I know what my style is. I do a lot of prep, but I think that is in large part to doing it so infrequently. I have to read through the books again as the first part of the game prep. And I have to make the characters for each session since I am running it at PCM15. That adds to the prep. Beyond that? I think I will focus on the clues, the characters, the NPCs, the random encounters and then who knows?
Investigate and Incorporate!
How do you figure out how you are going to GM a new game?
I usually start by reading the books that I will be using. Yes, I really read them from cover to cover. Then I decide how many characters. Then I sketch out a sense of the story. Once I have that story sketch, I start pulling in things from the book.
What techniques do you use?
Um. I think this feels like the same as the first question. I read the book. I’m not one for going on the internet or the like. Sometimes I ask the Monkey to explain rules to me. He’s way better at picking up and recalling rules then I am.
Do you GM every game the same way, or do you adapt your style to the game you are running?
I have no idea. I just don’t GM often enough to know the answer to this.