It's Your Turn to GM

Isn’t it about time you stepped up and took on the load sometime to give your usual GM a break? Short answer, yes it is.

Isn’t it about time you stepped up and took on the load sometime to give your usual GM a break? Short answer, yes it is.


Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

In most surveys I’ve seen, the one thing pretty much every GM agrees on is that they’d like to play now and again. It’s good for any GM to experience what it’s like as a player, just as every player should know what it’s like to be behind the screen. Both will be better gamers for it. Now, some groups are lucky that there are enough GMs to swap around constantly. But I’ve known of plenty of groups where one person is always assumed to be the GM and never gets a chance to play, a responsibility that often leads to burn out. So let’s go through some of the usual excuses that get offered when the GM says they need a break.

“I Don’t Know What to Do.”

So, you’re new to GMing, that’s okay, everyone has to start somewhere! But you are not alone. Your usual GM will be in the group and they can help you with the rules. They can probably even help you figure out an adventure. But there are plenty of published adventures out there and most walk you through it.

Being a GM can be intimidating, but it’s usually not as hard as it might look and with a little hand holding you’ll be fine. You group will support you (or at least they should!) and you never know, you might actually enjoy it. One new GM I know was excited to realise that when you GM, it’s ‘always your turn’ and she loved that.

“I’m a Useless GM.”

There is only one answer to this - you need practice. But more often than not what this really means is "GMing is too hard." So maybe it’s time you did. Someone else has been making that effort for you week after week so why not step up?

If you’ve GM’ed before and not enjoyed it very much, that’s understandable. But even so, why not try game mastering a one off? You may have just had a bad experience and with the right game and group it might be completely different.

“I’m Too Busy.”

Your GM might be busy too! Now there are times when we have busy weeks. Work or kids can get crazy and you might genuinely not have any time. But for most weeks it’s not a question of time but priority. Your usual GM is expected to make time for prepping and running the game, so there is no reason you can’t put some time into gaming.

Running a game need not take that much time either. There are plenty of published adventures you can run as written for most games. Can you really not read ten pages of adventure in a whole week? Even if you can’t, read it as soon as you can and then run it that week.

“But You’re So Good!”

This sound complementary but it’s actually a lot more insidious. You are basically saying "you’re really good at this, so you have to do it forever," to say nothing of "you have to keep providing the usual high standard or everyone will be disappointed." If you don’t feel you are up to the standard of your usual GM there is only one answer: practice and get good. How do you think they did? They put the hours in and so can you. You don’t need to be Matt Mercer to run a good game anyway.

I should say in closing that if you really hate running a game or dread the idea no one can (or should!) force you. Not everyone takes to it and these games are meant to be fun for everyone. But it might just as easily be your turn to step up.

At the very least, you can be a better player and make effort that way. Support your GM with your attention and focus, and show the same dedication to the game they do, because that will make the game easier for them to run. Very few things are as disheartening for a GM as looking at a table full of players looking at their phones. The more effort everyone puts in, the better the game will be for everyone.

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Andrew Peregrine

Andrew Peregrine


Good article. I wonder how many players want to DM and think that their DM now does not want step down or feels like it would hurt feelings if they said they would like to DM. Players may not know that some/most DMs would like to play for a while. I'm not sure what would happen if I even said to a player that I want them to DM the Cave of Peril coming up in a few weeks. Part of me thinks that if would help if the player knows it is only for a week or two and they have some framework to build in. I would also wonder if some players would rather just show up and play and not take on the additional responsibilities. I would think that it needs to be optional.

Bob Ross would be happy with the picture. :)


Follower of the Way
Just as not every person should get a STEM degree, even though they are critically needed in our society and pay very well etc., not every person should DM. There are plenty of people who would be good at it if they tried, but it is disingenuous to say that 100% of players should do it and will definitely become good at it with lots of practice.

I am not, at all, saying people shouldn't try it. I'm one of the very people who needed a swift kick in the rear to do it, and now I'm loving it--and so are my players. But I know several people who would hate "needing" to DM, and that dislike would color every part of their efforts. People should go into it knowing that it's possible DMing might not be for them, or that they might love it way more than playing, or anything in between; that they may struggle with essential DM skills, or might instead be amazing at them, or anything in between; that it might be a lot more work for them than it is for other DMs, or a lot less, or anywhere in between; etc.

It's a skill. Skills can be learned. But certain skills will not jive well with some people, while others happen to fit perfectly. We should neither sugar-coat it, nor make it scarier than it is; we should present it as it is, with resources to help when things (inevitably) don't turn out exactly as intended or feel too daunting to address.



I'm not sure I totally agree.

I DO believe that anyone who wants to play RPG's should at least GM one or two sessions in whatever game they play. But, that said, it has been my experience that most people just, to be blunt, aren't cut out to be GM's. Either they are just outright horrible (kind of rare; one of my Players fits this bill and he knows it and accepts it), or the person just doesn't really enjoy it (all but one of my 'current' players...and that player is currently living about 2600km away, so...yeah...).

It's nice for a Player to have an idea of what a GM 'does' on the other side of the screen, but, as @EzekielRaiden pointed out... not everyone is cut out to be a GM. As I said above, I've found that MOST people aren't cut out for it (skill, desire, or combination thereof).

So, to all you Players out there: give it a shot for a session or two. If you like it...GREAT! If you are at the "take it or leave it" everyone a favour and 'leave it'. If you think your GM is getting burned out... suggest an on-line get together in an MMO or other co-op video game. Or maybe play a miniature war game, or board game, or CCG, etc. Anything that gets the GM's mind away from the details of GM'ing and lets their brains "unwind" will do, and that doesn't have to be as a Player in an RPG. :)


Paul L. Ming


I'm sure that some people have neither the inclination or the desire to run a game and that's okay. But I encourage everyone to try running a game from time-to-time even for just one session. It'll give you a greater understanding of how games are run, allow you to stretch your role playing muscles playing several NPCs, and you might really like running the game and decide you want to do it again.


These articles are useless. They are a dime a dozen and this problem is not getting better at all. If anything, it's getting worse.

These are all just a bunch of words that sound pretty and look like they should work. But they don't. They have no effect on the problem whatsoever.

What about making the role of the DM more appealing? What about writing better DM-facing books? What about a cool youtube series that gives good advice? None of these things will ever happen in the current paradigm because non-player facing content doesn't sell.

Stop pretending like you care about this issue by paying lip service to DMs by writting these kinds of articles every couple of months. They have no effect on anything.


I'm in the "I Don't Know What To Do" camp. I'm hoping that the next campaign I'll be in will allow me to stretch my roleplaying skills before I propose the idea.


Typically I've been seeing the opposite problem, everybody wants to run the system they like, in the world they like and has no patience for actually playing a character more than a few sessions.

People tend to find something else to do and combined with real life is destructive to building anything lasting.

The fix for both problems is roughly the same, a fixed rotation.

The prime GM goes for X amount of time and the second GM Y amount if time. Every fourth session something else not RPG related (board games or card games or some random RPG one shot)

This tends to lead to good stability.

Jack Daniel
In most surveys I’ve seen, the one thing pretty much every GM agrees on is that they’d like to play now and again.

Speaking as a longstanding forever!DM, I would have agreed with this until very recently. But, looking back, I don't think I've ever enjoyed just playing.

For me, Dungeon Mastering is where I find my fun in this hobby. It's the answer to the proverbial question, "Conan, what is best in life?"

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