Over the years I have often heard players say “I’d like to Gm but I don’t think I can”. This is a statement that is made and a feeling many players have. They want to do it but are afraid or worried that they can’t actually GM a session or an adventure, so let’s discuss this a bit, shall we?
The one thing often overlooked is that the only real difference between playing and GMing is as the GM you know what is truly going on in the game. Is the door trapped, what monster lurks beyond, why is the supervillain glowing? All these things you as the GM know the answer to and the players will have to find out.
Yes, there are other nuances that go along with being in charge of a session, but there are really few other differences. You roll dice to decide hits or misses, success or failure just as the players do. Your NPCs follow the rules of character creation, skill rolls; hit rolls just as the player’s characters do. So mechanically, GMs and players have little differences in a gaming setting. So as silly and simplistic as this may sounds the only difference is you know what is happening and why.
Now as the game progresses your decisions will be based on the action of the players of course. If they don’t stop the villain from kidnapping the heiress then you will have consequences for them. If they don’t check for a trap or wake the dragon then you will know what will be the result. So while you are the one in charge, many thing throughout the adventure will be a result of the players action and interaction with the varies NPCs. So, in charge or no, in many ways even if you’re the GM it is still just a normal gaming situation.
Now, many players believe that a GM is an “expert” when it comes to the rules. This is really not the case, if for no other reason I’m not sure that an “expert” on the rules truly exists. Rules change and the understanding of the rules change as well. I’ve been playing RPGs for a lot of years and I found that how you view the rules and how to create characters or abilities will change even if the rules don’t.
Your level of knowledge of the rules will need to vary based on the group you playing with as well. Yes, if you go to a gaming store and start up a game with players you are not familiar with then you will need a good understanding of the rules an how to apply them. However, if you running an adventure with a group of friends with whom you play with on a regular basis this isn’t necessarily the case.
Your friends know your new at being the GM, if there are other GMs in the group they will help you make a discussion on a rule should it be necessary. Long time GMs will often help new GMs if for no other reason than the opportunity to play. If there is more than one GM for a group then the opportunity to let someone else be the GM is available. So helping new GM along and helping them gain confidence is always a good thing. So if you GM for your normal gaming group you will have help which will make the process of learning to GM easier.
One thing to remember in either of the above scenarios is the fact that you ARE the GM and the final decision is always yours. So when a situation arises that you are not sure how to handle, listen to any opinions that are given to you. However, you are the GM and what you say is the final answer. You will want to be courteous and listen to all suggestions, but the final decision is always yours.
An example: A spell has been put on a chest, if opened they spell will release its harmful magical power. There is no trip wire or other mechanism for a thief to locate. So can a thief discover such a trap simply be examining (Find Trap) the chest.
Some GMs will say yes and other will say no, thief players will always say yes. The final decision and the final say on the topic is you the GM. No matter what others say about it, your opinion is the one that truly matters. You will need to decide and you will need to stick with the decision in the end.
A few other things to remember as a first time GM. First it might be easier if you find or buy an adventure that someone else created as you first attempt at being a GM. This will help you get a feel of how adventures are structured and give you one less thing to worry about during your first attempt. You may need to run more than one adventure before you can decided if GMing is for you. Just like trying a new game, it can take two or three attempts to know if you can successfully GM.
Another thing to remember is no matter how much you plan or how ready you think you are the players will think of something that you don’t. You may devise an elaborate trap that the players bypass without any effort at all. You may have a great monster for them to face and yet they figure a way around it or to defeat it that you didn’t. Don’t let it bother you, different minds think of different things. It just something else that you will face as the GM.
GMing can be extreme fun and extremely aggravating but it is nothing to worry or fret about. Some players make good GMs some don’t and you won’t know till you try and run an adventure. Above all it’s about having a fun time with friends!