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  • [Ask-a-GM] What's This About?

    I was recently having a conversation with some of my gaming buddies that strayed onto the topic of how Wizards of the Coast could really help build up their player base. While we were talking specifically about the Dungeons & Dragons brand, I think the discussion can really be broadened to the RPG gaming industry as a whole. Cal Moore, an editor over at Wizards, brought up a really excellent point. The single biggest limiting factor to getting into the hobby is the availability of Game Masters. No matter how interested you might be in playing the game, if you can't find someone to run it, you're stuck. And, from my own experience, finding a good GM can be especially difficult. Cal's solution was a logical one -- build up the next generation of DMs. More DMs equals more access for players to get in a game. I think he has it exactly right, and it is with that in mind that I kick off P&PG's Ask-a-GM column.

    Few, if any, of us start out as phenomenal Game Mastering success stories right out of the gate. There is more to it than simply learning the rules of the system you play and plopping down with a prewritten adventure. The craft is filled with its own pitfalls, tricks and techniques that can improve your gaming experience or ruin it. All through my gaming career, I've almost always GM'd. At first this was born of necessity. I wanted to play; no one else was willing to actually run a game, so I donned the GM-hat. I will be one hundred percent honest with you though... In my early years, I really sucked at it.

    Even now, decades later, I won't begin to claim to have mastered the art of GM'ing. I'm still honing my skills and trying to better myself as a GM all the time. There are some things that I am really good at and others that I could frankly improve on. Bottom line -- I don't have all the answers, but I can share what has worked for me and what hasn't from many years of both grand successes and epic failures. Neither is this column intended to be solely my voice. Consider this an open invitation. If you'd like to contribute to the column and share some of your knowledge and experience, we'd love to hear from you. Just fire off an email or a PM my way with a query for the article you'd like to write, and we'll go from there.

    We'll also be fielding questions from you the readers. If you have a difficult situation or need some advice, you can send us your questions to
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. yukonhorror's Avatar
      yukonhorror -

      One thing to bring up if the conversation is raised again is FREE adventure support, or adventure templates. Not full laid out adventure modules, but skeletal frameworks for a new DM to mess with.

      By making it free, you make it accessible and encourage purchase of OTHER products. It is like the coupons you get with a Chik-fil-a calendar. Yeah, they give you a free chicken sandwich, but you are probably going to buy a drink and fries, and maybe bring a friend/relative who also will buy something.

      One example of a step backward with respect to this is making the "save my game" articles part of DDI instead of open to all. Before the switch, anyone could read them, but now you have to pay.

      I know they kind of do this in some of their supplements, but if they want to "grab" new gamers, they need to give them a taste, so they'll buy the fries and drink.

      Just my 2 cents.

      You Farcaster, are DEFINITELY going in the right direction. Look forward to all of your articles. The 1st one on Railroading hopefully is a taste of what is to come.
    1. cplmac's Avatar
      cplmac -
      Ah yes. I would classify myself to be in the same boat as Farcaster when it comes to being a DM. When I first started running games, it was definately rough. As time continued to pass, I gradually got better and was able to more smoothly run a game session without having to keep stopping to look something up. I also would not consider myself to be a Master Authority when it comes to being a DM/GM. I will however try to help answer questions that folks may have.

      I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to first be a player in a game before having to don the DMs hat. I sometimes think that by playing the game first, it helped me to be slightly better at running the game when I did step, or rather sit, in the DMs chair.

      I will also freely admit that thanks to being on P&PG and participating in the forums, I have been able to learn some nice "tricks" or ideas from other members here. As there are too many of them to list separately, I will simply just say, "Thank you for the information that you all shared." I am sure that there will be other ideas that I will borrow from others on the forums as well.
    1. l_c_jackson's Avatar
      l_c_jackson -
      This column is a great idea. Many thanks for starting it.

      I wonder if anyone else has ever written a book, website, blog or other useful resource on how to run RPGs? Is anyone aware of such material, or maybe something broader about role playing games, which might include playing tips and a bit of the history of the subject?


      Lindsay Jackson.
    1. fmitchell's Avatar
      fmitchell -
      On GMing resources:

      Gamemasteering Secrets

      Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering

      GM Gems

      How to Run Roleplaying Games (PDF)

      ... just off the top of my head.
    1. whpsh's Avatar
      whpsh -
      Getting more DMs means getting more players. If you create 100DMs but add 0 new players, you still have 0 new players.

      WotC needs to let go of their ignorant hold on paper. RIAA and school books have the same problem. People just aren't going to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a hardback any more.

      WotC needs to create a facebook/myspace tool with a very small monthly fee, maybe even a cash shop for customizable 3D tokens. It needs an IM client, dice, play by post (like a wall), a grid map with tokens and it needs to be quick to grasp so you don't have to train someone on using the tool before you have to train them on the game.

      I'm a perfect example. We moved recently. I don't trumpet my RPG interest with a d20 shirt. I work nights and some weekends. Finding a group is hard. Finding a group without a DM, harder. Give me the tool I mentioned and I can step out of time and space ... so can my players. We don't have to be playing the adventure at the same time. I could even DM a game for a bunch of players in Europe so our times matched better.
    1. Dwarf44's Avatar
      Dwarf44 -
      Ugh.. Half the fun of a RPG game is sitting around a group of people and visiting.

      I have recently been thrust into the dm role, myself. Couldn't find a GM in need of a team. Or, for that matter, a team looking for players. Sooo... I finally convinced some of my non-playing friends to join me in making a group. And since I'm the only one with experience, the role of GMing fell on me...

      Needless to say, I'll be much appreciated of any advice!
    1. eternallygeek's Avatar
      eternallygeek -
      This is awesome. I will be following this series very closely.
    1. Blond Gamer Girl's Avatar
      Blond Gamer Girl -
      Well, I have played and GM'd and no matter what the system is GMing is much more work. For me, finding a RELIABLE group to GM for is the most difficult. Since I try to weave character backgrounds into subplots, reliability is essential.

      If the game publishers had more stuff online as in places to post adventures that would be great. We RPG in person but most all the players have laptops where I can have maps sent to them electronically, have NPC pictures and such. Very little paper goes into my games. Electronic spreadsheets with equipment lists and the like from gaming publishers would be helpful.