Not that long ago I allowed myself to be talked into doing something I had never done before. In fairness it didn’t really take all that much convincing. Mostly a lighthearted conversation and a little bit of gentle flattery and I was hooked. It was something I’d been looking into for a while, and everything just fell into place. I am referring of course to my first attempts as a Game Master.
As I just mentioned, being part of a roleplaying group was something that I had been interesting in for quite some time. It just seems like the next logical step, to jump into one of my fandoms and be a part of the story instead of a passive observer. I had initially planned to be just a participant and not actually the one running the game, but as I have frequently learned, things rarely go according to plan. This is also not the first time I’ve attempted to get a gaming group going. Unfortunately, previous attempts were foiled by massive scheduling issues across the board.
If I’m being 100% honest though, I’m kind of glad those previous attempts didn’t work out. Not that I don’t want to game with those people or anything like that. In fact, if we can ever get our schedules to mesh, I might start a second group, time permitting of course. The group I have now though seems to be special. We have just the right balance of everything to make the game run really smoothly, especially for a brand new GM. Among the group we are all brand new to the game system, the D20 Star Wars Saga Edition. Three of us are brand new to roleplaying and two are experienced on at least some level. The games have a great, laid back feel and we’re good at keeping on topic, with the occasional outside element making its way in. The experienced players help keep the game moving forward, while the new players have jumped in with both feet and have embraced the game. I couldn’t ask for a better group to get started with.
It’s not all fun and games, though. I don’t think I realized how much actual work goes into making and running a game. While I like to think of myself as a creative person, actually being creative is a fairly involved process. There are GMs that can make up plots and campaigns on the fly as the party moves along. I am not one of those people. I need some form of structure and guidance for myself and for the players. I have to take some time to sit down, think out, and then write the outline for each week’s plot. So far we have completed two sessions and already I’m thinking of not only what the next session will consist of, but also the session after that. I need to be playing the long game here. The fact that we are playing Star Wars is also no accident. As much work as I have been putting in to this campaign, I’m also relying on my existing fountain of useless Star Wars trivia to help me build a better world for the characters to live in.
In order to prep for my role as GM, I’ve spent considerable amounts of time listening to Fear the Boot, which is a podcast that offers advice mostly to GMs, though there is a fair amount of player opinion added to the mix for balance. I would absolutely recommend them for anyone who is considering being a GM. They have some amazing advice that has already saved me a couple times. The best thing they have to recommend is the Group Template, which is a method that helps get the group off on a solid footing. It gives the group a reason for existing, which is usually a good thing. Beyond that, they have over 350 episodes of great group discussions on nearly every topic one can think of. If I don’t like one person’s idea, it is very likely that one of the other hosts will have a different idea that will play more into my style of GMing, such that it is.
One of the things that I have been most interested by is the various way in which the characters and players think differently than I do. And not only do the players think differently than I do, but their characters are different than they are. For starters, that’s really cool. My players aren’t just walking around in Star Wars clones of themselves. The character has a personality and life all their own. The second thing that does is that they do things I don’t expect them to. This is both good and bad. It’s great that the players are coming up with things they want to do and then going and doing them. But if it’s not what I had planned, I have to come up with plot filler on the fly until they wander close enough to the path that I can guide them forward again. I’m not the greatest at this, but I’ve been having a great time with it. I’m sure the players can tell when I’m winging it, but it’s a an awesome opportunity for me to working on my quick thinking skills. And far be it from me to try and limit the players’ ideas, at least within reason.
But of course it’s not just about the world they live in, but the rules that govern that world. Admittedly, this is probably where I am weakest as a GM. In fact, just last night one of my players and I were discussing some of the rules that we hadn’t been doing quite right. To be clear, this was in no way, shape, or form “rules lawyering.” While there are certain rules I choose to ignore, I’m generally upfront about those. In this case, they were rules that should be followed for the benefit of the party and the game as a whole, especially since my party is particularly “squishy.” If I’m wrong about a rule, especially ones as big as the ones in question, I’m all for fixing the problem. Before our next session we are going to have a few minute discussion about the issues that came up and what the actual rules are. Another reason I like my group: they’re understanding enough to let me be wrong, so long as I’m willing to admit my mistake and fix it.
Only two sessions in and I’m super stoked to see where the adventure takes us. I mean sure, I’m writing the plots, but the party is driving the bus. In the end, they’re the ones who are giving the story its direction. I’m just taking what they give me and running with it.