Lately I’ve been asking myself am I a good game master? I’ve been thinking about this because I run two games and I’d like to think my players are having fun. There’s always laughter and joking in my games, but does that really mean anything? When thinking about this I realized the core question was, “What makes a good game master?”

We all know the stereotypical domineering gm that does what he wants. First of all chuck that out the window and crush it with Steel’s sledgehammer. It doesn’t work. You lose players that way unless they’re really desperate then in that case you’ll have then for about three months tops until they can’t stand your abuse any longer.

Listen to me kiddo and your campaign will reach the stars…Or to your closest dining room.

You must be a

  • Listener
  • Communicator
  • Judge
  • Improv-er (Is that a word?)
  • Be flexible (and no I don’t mean bendy)
  • Be creative

Hey listen! Hey listen!

That is what a game master obviously must do. No, do not be pestering little blue fairy but be a listening ear. A game master who doesn’t listen is a waste of space. If you don’t listen to your players to feedback both good and bad then you are a piece of ****. I am serious. Listening to people can make or break a game. This applies both to long term campaigns or one-shots. How else can you improve you refuse to listen other people’s opinions?

A gamemaster must be articulate must got be able to describe stuff decently. S/he doesn’t have to be a writer using overly flowery language, but just enough so you have some idea of where or what situations your characters are in. If you suck at communicating that’s actually okay as long as you try. Running a tabletop game will teach you quickly how to communicate. Hell it worked with me…

“Your honor, I call to the witness stand the fighter, who claims he physically, can vault over that cliff.” As gamemaster you are the judge. Long term campaign verus one-shot I think in a one-shot communication is almost crucial. You have only a short amount of time to get your players hooked as opposed to a long term campaign you have more time. When rules aren’t clear in the book it is the gamemaster’s job to make a call. Also no b****** rule calls! Everything is about being fair. Though most tabletop games are not the vision of logic try to use it, use you imagination and apply logic to it.

Don’t play favorites! Don’t you dare play favorites! A gamemaster should be fair to everyone in the group even if it’s to that nagging guy that questions every single thing you do. If you play favorites and do it often you can kiss your players bye bye. Remember how you hated the teacher’s pet? Yeah that’s how your players will feel if you play favorites.

Improv my good man! There is going to be a time when your players do something so unexpected that it changes your story or prewritten. It’s times like these that you will have to improvise. Improvisation is usually a talent that is learned. I know I had to very quickly. My first long term campaign had a group of players that constantly thought outside the box and bless their creative hearts they did, but it always rendered what I had planned for the day useless. Eventually what I have improvised was just as good as or better than what I had planned. Just be aware of it and try your best, because even the worst impov is better than nothing and the hope if you master this in time.

Flexibility and I don’t mean can you touch your toes? So you have a story and a plan…**** that plan. Your players are not you, the path won’t always be straight and narrow. This is their story and you make it mold to them. There can be a generally plan, but plans can flexible. If your players want something give it to them, but to a reasonable degree…They want action give them action. If they want role-play give it to them. They want a super weapon give it to them and later in the game have it explode in their face.

Be creative, never be afraid of what you think of no matter how stupid or silly it may seem. Though creativity is less important if you’re following a prewritten module there are still instances where you will have to. Actually practicing with few prewrittens is encouraged for the first few times you gm. But I consider creativity ranked lower on this totem pole, because again creativity I think can be learned or punched into someone’s cranium repeatedly.

That’s I think! Is there anything else you think I should’ve included and why?