Research: What Makes a GM Great? - Page 2
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  1. #11
    A "Drizzit" Type-Thing (Lvl 28)

    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    The Stately Pleasure Dome of Xanadu.
    Quote Originally Posted by Solanima View Post
    Hello everyone, I am a new member here at EN World, but am very familiar with the site from my experience searching for information pertaining to D&D. I thought that this would be a great place to get some help with a project I am working on for a local business. If you have the time, please leave a reply in response to the following query:

    Think back to the best GM you ever had in any tabletop RPG gaming experience. What do you think made them such a great GM? Give a specific example of something they did, and explain why you think that makes them great.

    The most important thing?

    The literary quality....... /ducks

    Seriously, there is no single most important thing for a DM; different DMs bring different skills to different tables, and the DM that is great for one set of players may be terrible for another set.

    Which is why I would only say that the three things the DM needs are, in order:

    1. Communication. Talk to the players.

    2. Enthusiasm. For the game!

    3. Knowledge. Know the rules, know when to break them. But this is a distant, distant third.

  2. #12
    Superhero (Lvl 15)

    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    lets the players collaborate in building the story, rather than simply slotting them into his story.

    Ensures everyone gets screen time
    ensures everyone has a chance to contribute. (which isn't the same as screen time, but the two are related)

    Ensures players have Meaningful Choices (choices with consequences).
    XP TarionzCousin gave XP for this post

  3. #13
    Grandfather of Assassins (Lvl 19)

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Cape Town
    Their literary endeavour.

    Too soon?

  4. #14
    Cutpurse (Lvl 5)

    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Bloomington, IN, USA
    Knowing the setting, genre, and tone well enough to rarely be at a loss for what happens next.
    Being attentive to the needs, desires, and preferences of the players.
    Knowing the rules at least pretty well.

    To elaborate: I've three what I would call "great" GMs, and they all shared these traits. They were good at thinking on their feet, knew the rules, the setting and their plot, and were generally good at maintaining the mood or feel that the players expected from the game. They were good at keeping the players more or less focused.

    I will note that none of them did voices, had cool props, or engaged in other theatrics much. Looking back, this surprises me, because the games they ran were very atmospheric and often genuinely and appropriately tense.
    Last edited by ART!; Monday, 10th June, 2019 at 09:18 PM.
    XP hawkeyefan, Fenris-77 gave XP for this post

  5. #15
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    New York
    Adaptability. Knowing when something isnt working and then doing what can be done to make things better; to pick up on player cues and direct or redirect things toward their interest.

    A GM has to help keep the game fun, even if that means changing or even ditching what hes prepared.
    XP ART! gave XP for this post

  6. #16
    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    I like GMs who are willing to admit that there exists more than just their way of running a game. GMs who are willing to read, and learn, and grow - all in service of a role at the table that needs all three. This doesn't even need to be about accommodating players, which is also sometimes necessary, but more directly about GMs who actively grow their skills. I'm always on the look out for new ideas about how to run X, or how to design X, or whatever. Be a sponge - there's inspiration everywhere.
    XP hawkeyefan, Michele gave XP for this post

  7. #17
    Greater Elemental (Lvl 23)

    Blue's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Cedar Grove, NJ 07009
    I think there's a different set of requirements for a GM for a convention / one-shot vs. a GM for a campaign.

    For a convention/one-shot:
    • Bring everything vividly and concisely to life.
    • Make each of the few scenes you have either memorable or quick. Voice acted NPC, narrow escapes, acts of daring, everything meaningful.
    • Have great pacing. Important to control tension for the climax at the end of the session.
    • If a player doesn't have a chance to shine, manufacture one. There is only a small (4hr?) window for everyone to feel like they were a vital contributor.
    • If inclined, fudge (both dice and #/power of monsters) to make encounters epic.

    For a campaign GM:
    • Much of the one-shot list is still appropriate about running a memorable session, but gone is the idea on short term planning.
    • Find out what interests the players. Do that. Even if that's not the direction you were originally planning.
    • The PCs are the stars. Don't one-up them with your NPCs. Don't one up them with a "GMPC". Don't regularly o Deux-ex-Machina.
    • Don't be afraid to kill your darlings. In other words, be willing to let go of things that don't work for the table as a whole even if you really like them.
    • Give every player a time to shine. It's okay if one session favors one character over another as long as it evens out - you're building for the long haul.
    • Learn to be comfortable improvising.
    • Prep things you don't need that you can pull out when you don't have anything else.
    • Give each character their own arc, their own place to grow.
    • Weave plots together. Have clues for one in the bowels of another as well as hints about a third plus the introduction of an NPC you plan to have reoccur in yet a different plot.
    • Throw challenges at them you aren't sure they can survive - from such comes stories of legend. (And PCs are more durable then you think.)
    • Throw easy challenges against them, especially multiples of foes who were once challenging in low numbers. Nothing like a curbstomp battle to make the PCs feel like heroes.
    • Take the characters out of their comfort zones at times.
    • Remember you only have authority because the players gave it to you. Don't wield it like a dictator.
    • When soeone derails all your plans, reward them for cleverness, don't gripe and grumble about wasted work - and definitely don't disallow it just because it's not what you imagined.
    • Give them different types of challenges.
    • Be consistent.
    • Find out what you need to make good NPCs on the spur of the moment. Do it. Sometimes it's prep. Sometimes it's random pictures. Sometimes it's a catalog of voice accents or a list of quirks.
    • Say "Yes". Often it will be "Yes but", but start with that.
    • Don't let a lack of rules stand in your way of something cool. Don't let a rule hamstring you - but be careful because they are part of your shared social contract.
    • Don't be afraid to give your players some authorial space. Let them tell you about their god, their tribe, their homeland.
    • Paint the world in broad strokes until you need it. Just enough to be able to give a concept and lay some foreshadowing and hooks.
    • Nothing is true until it hits the table. Even the plot you had.
    • Have fun - if you're not having fun, that'll come across. So run things you enjoy for people you want to spend time with.
    • Step #1 in dealing with a problem player is to talk to them honestly and non-confrontationally. These are also rules #2 through #99. Rule #100 is just to toss them out. None of the rules are to make up house rules that really only target that player's character like some HR department trying to appear "fair".
    XP DrunkonDuty, Imaculata gave XP for this post

  8. #18
    Gallant (Lvl 3)

    Join Date
    May 2019
    Balance. In everything.

    It's very easy to be a GM focusing on lovingly detailing your gameworld - and forget about the playing characters. It's also very easy to be a GM who will bend over backwards for the PCs and ignore everything else including key underpinnings of the background.
    It's very easy to be enamored with storytelling, and forget about the rule mechanics, which are what yield consistent outcomes, which make enjoyable encounters. It's very easy to be a stickler for the rules, and forget about the storytelling, which is really makes the adventure worth living.
    It's easy to be firm in following the plot (AKA railroading) and forget that sometimes improvisation is the only thing to do; it's easy to prefer free-wheeling and end up with a plot that seems to have no ryhme or reason.

    I could continue but you get the point. Walk the fine line.

  9. #19
    Novice (Lvl 1)

    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Kansas City, KS
    The most important traits are easily imagination and the ability to improvise well. They are the things that allow a great GM to always keep the game moving and keep the players engaged and having fun. I'd also add enthusiasm for running the game up there as well. Players can tell when you'd much rather be playing than running.

    After that there are plenty of other traits that are nice to have, rules knowledge, a healthy book collection 😉, a collection of outrageous accents, etc...

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