So you want to be a Game Master…
Well now you’ve done it. You friends said that they want to play a role-playing game and you foolishly volunteered yourself to be the Game Master. What were you thinking? You were thinking that the Game master has the most fun weren’t you? Well your right. Being a Game Master means that you get to have days and weeks of fun instead of just a few hours like your friends. You have almost complete control over the entire game. You create the settings and the people the players interact with. You get to come up with sneaky conniving ways to make them lean back in their seats and do their best Keanu impressions. (Whoa!) And best of all, they will never see it coming.
Being a Game Master means being a jack-of-all-trades. Its part rules lawyer, part referee, and part story teller. All of these parts are important and can be learned with time. No one expects you to know all of the rules to the game the first time you sit down to play, or to even know which dice is needed for every single type of roll, but they do expect a story. A great story can make people forget all the rules and draw them into your game faster than a pig to slop. But even great story telling takes practice and time. Your first time up to the screen will not be your best and you may not even feel comfortable until you’ve been there many times. I still get nervous every time I sit behind the screen and I’ve been doing this for years.
By now your probably wondering where do you begin? The answer is simple, begin with your game. What game are you going to play? It probably has a Game master section or book with it. Start there and read what they have to tell you. This is often a great place to start for basic information as to the setting and even advice on how to run your first game. So games will even give you an adventure that you can run for your group as a “practice” session. (Your players don’t have to know its practice.) This will often give you a good idea of how a game should be laid out and ran. And can even give you a good starting point for your next session.
Same basic advice that I will give you for your first session is know what your group expects. Ask the players what they want to do: How much fighting do they want to do? Do they want to solve puzzles? Do they want to interact with lots of interesting NPCs (Non-player characters)? What kind of action would they like to see? Take this information and decide what will work for you. Remember when your writing out an adventure most times you will get an hour of play out of a page (or less) of notes, sometimes a page will give you less time depending upon your notes. And learn how to wing your way through situations. I suggest reading The GMF Notebook (D&D centric but can be converted to any game with a little work) and The art of winging it articles found in the sidebar. Both of these articles were written by our members and contain some great information for a first time Game Master.
I wish you luck in your en devours as a GM and encourage you to stick with it despite how frustrating things can seem at times. and always have a backup plan because inevitably the players will do something that you did not think of ahead of time and you will have to be prepared for it.