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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.

puppet-1406906_1280.jpg

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

aco175

Legend
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. :)
 

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.
 


pming

Hero
Hiya!

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"...do 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
 

MGibster

Legend
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.
 

Ramaster

Explorer
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.
 

SirMoogle

Explorer
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.
 

Ace

Adventurer
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

Engines & Empires
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?"
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I am at least as happy to have inspired two players in one of the campaigns I'm running to start their own campaigns, as I would be to have them offer to GM for me. I think getting new GMs to start new campaigns for other new players probably does more to spread the hobby.

Also, I'm gradually coming to the conclusion I'm in the same boat @Jack Daniel is, and GMing is just more fun for me than playing is.
 


lyle.spade

Adventurer
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.

You need to chill out and have an ice cream cone or something. There was no reason at all to attack the author of the article at all...you could have just scrolled on.
 

Ace

Adventurer
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?"
Basically the same here.

Once and a while though I really enjoy playing a character. Unfortunately even when face to face was default getting more than a few sessions in was difficult as someone was champing at the bit to DM. This means less fum for me in both cases and often as not when this happens I'd rather just stay home and play Skyrim or something.

It got to the point where I wouldn't bother playing any games with levels much above 6 or so since we'd never get there. Happily this worked well with the old 3x/Pathfinder Epic 6 variant and by the time we were done, so were the players. Not so good with Five E though.

As an aside while it may certainly vary from person to person I always got the impression the constant switching it was because the players had become too accustomed to the level of control they have in video games and lack the habit of trusting the DM to do a good job.

This is not good for the hobby since we need to trust each other to do our job as player and DM correctly. Unless you players are into the game too even if Matt Mercer comes to you for DMing lessons, the game will suck. Its a communal hobby not "one dude and his keyboard." and requires working together for the best experience.
 

pming

Hero
Hiya!
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.
Ouch! A bit harsh there...
..
...but not entirely untrue. :(

There is a difference between a "DM" and a "GM". Too many people doing the "GM" thing and not enough doing the "DM" thing.

(Clerification: "DM" = person who thuroughly enjoys every boring little aspect of running an RPG campaign; drawing maps, reading rules, creating rules, inventing monsters, spells, etc. ... "GM" = a person who 'doesnt mind' running the session or two for the other players, and is mostly interested in seeing what the PC's do over what the effect of the actions of the PC's would have on 'the world at large'. ).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 


prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I'm fairly certain that DM is the moniker used when running a D&D game, while GM is the generic term for anyone who runs any game.
That's my thinking, too, but I do see the distinction @pming is making between someone who is running the sessions because that's the part of the game they enjoy (or at least, a part they enjoy) and someone who is running the sessions because someone has to do it, or there's no game. I'm ... less sure that one needs to be into world-building and/or rules-hacking to prefer GMing (though I can believe others might feel that way) and I am inclined to disagree that someone who wants to see what the PCs do is somehow less than someone who wants to see the effects the PCs have on the world; at the least, those aren't anything like exclusive categories.
 

Campbell

Legend
I like both running and playing games, but in my experience the "Give the GM A Break" games almost never go well because in the eyes of the other players and often the GM it's seen as a replacement game. It's extremely hard to let the new game develop its own energy and group dynamic when there's already strong group dynamic in place. When a new game starts you have to let it live and breathe on its own. I think this is especially true when the GM of that new game is not an experienced hand or the game is a different game. Doubly so if both are true. The last thing a new GM or game needs is an environment where players are going to be constantly comparing it and judging it in reference to the game they are used to playing.

My first forays into running games were in these sort of trial by fire "let the GM play" games. It was super stressful. Between the unrealistic expectations from my fellow players and the GM's (I hope) well meaning attempts to provide "guidance" (back seat GMing) it was damn near impossible to develop my own voice as a GM. It almost put me off the endeavor entirely.

I have not only experienced this first hand as a GM, but often seen it play out in groups I have been a part of. Sometimes it's the former GM who has trouble stepping back. Sometimes it's the other players who just want to get back to the game they are used to or "test" the new GM.

I'm more than happy to run a game for the same people, but usually I'll insist on a different hosting arrangement or night with the understanding the game I will be running is not a replacement game.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think that a well established group should be able to have a guest GM without it turning into an abuse the substitute teacher scenario. I mean really, just be a frigging adult and it'll be fine.

Changing the venue is a great idea though, as a preventitive measure, plus it might make it feel more like an event.
 

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