Advice for New GMs

30 Days of GMing

It’s my first post in the 30 days of GMing, and I’m excited to get this challenge going. I’ve written a lot of new GM advice, from things I wish I’d known when I started to how to put a party together to the absolute basics. I love the thought of new people sitting around tables and living rooms all over the world and having fun while telling stories and smacking monsters. But I can write more about it. My biggest piece of advice for a new GM is don’t panic.

The reason i hear most often from people on why they don’t GM or start games, it’s because the act is practically panic-inducing. They need a world, they need a story, and it can’t just be any old adventure it has to be the greatest adventure andwhatiftheplayersdon’tgoalongandthen…Breathe. GMing is a lot like eating cereal, in that if you do it poorly it’s unlikely that anyone will hate you forever. Also you get better over time. Here’s a list of simple suggestions on how a first-time GM can minimize panic.

1. Play with supportive people

Your friend who’s a veteran D&D player who sneers at anyone who’s never heard of Elminster? You might not want that guy for your first game. You can start with friends or strangers, just try and start with a group that supports you. They’ll cut you a lot of slack, won’t test your boundaries really hard, They’ll make an effort to pick up your adventure hooks, and if you can get some of them to offer constructive criticism after the game, or even just talk about it with them to get some mutual excitement going, that’s awesome. Things like trust and tension and pushing people can all come later.

2. Own it

Often this applies to mistakes. Whether it’s mixing stuff up, forgetting or misinterpreting rules, or whatever. Just own it and move on. I’ve been at this twenty years and I’m still forgetting things and leaving things behind. But there’s other things too. Maybe you’re at a loss when the players make a choice. Maybe you write your players into a corner. Maybe you’re pushing too hard in one direction. Own up. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” or “I wasn’t expecting that at all.” Take a five minute break to figure things out, and talk with your players about what you might do differently.

3. Remember you’re not alone

Don't Panic and Carry a TowelWhen I started I convinced all my friends to play, and I don’t know that any of them really stuck with it. But I loved it, and eventually found other nerds who did too. That was before the internet, when finding nerds became easy. When you find yourself short on ideas or plans, talk with a community online, talk with your friends, and definitely talk with your players. They’ve got a lot invested in the game too, and the more they think about it outside of the sessions, the more invested they’ll get. More on that tomorrow.


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