I had a really good roleplaying game session over the weekend. I generally end up “gamemastering” for my friends because I’m generally the person to organize the game and come up with ideas. I’m not a huge fan of doing it because I would prefer to just roll a character up and focus solely on that. Universe building isn’t really my forte.
But the other night, I had a really good time running a game. It’s like my nearly decade-and-a-half of running RPGs coalesced into something that was fun for the players (I think), but also really, really fun for me. It was a nice change of pace. I’m generally concerned with other people having fun.
So, bearing in mind that I ran an awesome game that I’m still really excited about, here are my game master tips.
1.) Be prepared, but don’t over prepare.
Having a basic idea of what you want to do is great! Coming up with some interesting encounters (and I’m not just talking about combat encounters) that you can run is also a really good idea, but don’t prepare to the point that you can’t run off the rails. No one wants to play an on-rails tabletop RPG. People have video games for that. Be flexible. And be prepared for anything because players will go off in directions that you didn’t expect.
2.) Play to the strengths of the medium.
When I started running games, I was very much influenced by the video games (Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, etc.). However, that isn’t really the way to go. I mentioned going of the rails in the previous tip. That might be the true strength of RPGs. You can do ANYTHING. You want your character to invent a flying machine that can shoot magical lightning in order to fight against an evil mayor’s unjust taxation? It’s possible. Even in a game that isn’t exactly about that. Give your players some freedom. It makes things more interesting.
Give your players freedom, but don’t give them freedom from consequence. In real life, your actions have repercussions. If your players rob a store, you’d better have the constable come after them. If they tick off a crime lord, you’d best believe that a bounty will be put on their heads.
4.) Keep your energy up.
If you aren’t excited, your players won’t be. You’re there to have fun. If you need some snacks to keep the energy up, do it! Take a break if you feel your energy flagging.
Those are the things I keep in mind when running a game. Your mileage may vary, but these have served me well in all my years of GMing. If you have some tips, share them in the comments!