I’ve met a couple of gamers through my tenure in the hobby who avoid stepping behind the screen. For some, they just don’t have the time, and one admitted didn’t have the creativity, for the position. Others see running the game a daunting proposition: there’s a lot to remember, some aren’t as practiced as others with the improvisation that is key to good gamemastering, some don’t have the rules entirely mastered…

And none of that matters. If you’ve got a good story to tell — or just an entertaining one — it doesn’t matter if you’ve only got one in you, or it’s just the start fot eh storytelling dam breaking, if you have entertained the thought, give it a shot.

Here’s some idea for a new GM to maximize their effectiveness, and most importantly enjoyability — not just for the players, but for the GM as well. Because if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

1) KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid! Don’t craft some multitextured, year-long adventure with dozens of NPCs, loads of backstory, or worldbuilding. Do what you need to tell the story. We’ll use a movie example — Pitch Black.

The basic story: A bunch of characters crash land on a moon of a gas giant when the ship malfunctions. Something is lurking underground and get one of the characters, leading to the discovery of the light-sensitive creatures that are soon to make their lives more interesting than they’d like. The moon drifts into the shadow of it’s primary every decade or so and the place is immersed in darkness. Which is when the nasty critters come out. Your mission: get to an outpost nearby and get the shuttle up and running before the sun sets and the nasties come to get you. No slop, just a survive-or-die adventure.

What do we know about the universe? (Ignoring the craptastic Chronicles of Riddick) Not much. There are colonies and interstellar travel, nasty penal systems and bounty hunters, Muslims in space. That’s pretty much it. The setting, this moon, looks an awful lot like Western Australia.

What do we know about the characters other than a thumbnail? There’s the pilot, guilty about crashing. There’s the bounty hunter we barely know other than he’s a drug addict, and his quarry Riddick — an infamous killer with eyes that allow him to see in the dark…but who shows more compassion than we might expect. The bounty hunter doesn’t trust Riddick; it’s mutual. There’s a miner who gets killed early. The imam and his sons praising Allah and not much else. The merchant. A young boy 9actually a girl) that idolizes the killer. All very basic characters.


2) Don’t Panic. You don’t even need a towel for this one. If you have trouble with the rules, have a player look up the specifics while you press on. Or better yet, simply adjudicate the issue with common sense and based on what you do know of the rule. (Crap! How do explosives work in this game? Whatever — they’re area effect and the damage listed is 6d6 with an area effect fo 5’…let’s assume it’s a die drop off/range. Roll 6d6, line ’em up, and knock of one per increment. What, there’s a wall between you and it? Let’s assume the wall soaks a die.)

If you start to feel in over your head, call a bathroom or drink break. Take a moment, regroup, figure out what to do next. What not to do — dig around the rule book for more than a minute or so. You might consider tabbing them with the colored doo-hickies students use in their textbooks, labeled with the appropriate rules you might need.

3) Don’t be afraid to let the characters wander off course a bit, so long as they are enjoying themselves. They might drift off of the story for a bit. Drop a new hint or clue to get them back on course.

4) HAVE FUN! If you’re not, you’re doing it wrong.

5) Afterward, when the session is done, get feedback from the players to see what you did right or wrong. If they don’t even mention your GM’ing but enthuse about what happened, who did what, the cool NPC, congratulations! You succeeded! And if you didn’t, don’t take it personally.