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HowTo: Be a Game Master (GM)

Started by Kokoro, Monday, July 25, 2022, 06:16

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Kokoro

This topic will be broken up into three parts:
  • What is a Game Master?
  • How do I add my own Game to the Site?
  • Advice for being a better Game Master.

What is a Game Master?
Part of participating in a Role Playing Game, usually means that there are two types of people playing.  One, are the Players.  The second is the Game Master or GM.  (For the Dungeons & Dragons crew, the correct term is Dungeon Master or DM.)  It's the GM's job to facilitate the game and to keep the players from getting too distracted with other things.  Also, it's very, very important to keep the game moving forward.  In most games, you, the GM, is the final authority for the rules.  It's your world, or campaign that you've designed (in most cases).

How do I add my Game to the Site?
So you want to run your own game?  That's awesome!!  There are a few things that have to be done first.  First you should fill out the form located in the topic Game Submissions.  Although there is a form to be filled out, you don't necessarily need to have it all filled out completely just yet.  Note, that only completed forms will be result in a new game being added to the Site.  Here are the things you'll need to know:
  • What is the name of my Campaign / Game?
  • What is a brief description of my game -- what's the basic plot?
  • Will this be based on an Anime, or will this game be my own imagined world?
  • Will these be Cannon or Original characters in the game?
  • What is the setting of the game?
  • How many Players do I want in my game?
  • What game system am I going to be using?
  • Do I want to use dice mechanics with that game system?
  • Do I want the game to be Open, Closed, or Restricted?
  • What maturity level / Movie Rating would I give this game?
  • What time commitment do I want to require for players to participate?
  • Are there any specific rules not already listed in the Site's rules that I would like to enforce?  What are the consequences for breaking these rules?

As you can see, there are many things to consider in running  your own game.  But the more questions you can answer, the easier it will be to have people join your game!  If you happen to think up of some other items you want to add to your game, you are allowed to go back and edit your game application at any time.

After you've submitted your application, the next thing you'll notice (usually within 24 hours, will be a new Game Board with your newly created game campaign in it.  There will also be some additional boards created inside of that game board, such as a place specifically for characters to be posted, and another area specifically for out of character chit-chat that relates to your game.  It is  highly recommended that you provide your players with either a character sheet from the game system book that you're using (and editable PDF for example), or that you create a plain text Character Template for your players to fill out, for the sake of consistency.  These templates guide your players through creating their character(s) and to help answer questions that they may not think up of.  It's also nice for you as the GM to be able to quickly compare character statistics in a uniform layout.  (In time, if I manage to have an abundance of free time, I may create an actual web form application specifically for the site that can be used to store character information for all games on the Site.)

Let's talk about the three boards that you'll have.  You can always request additional ones, if you need a separate place for various grouped topics.  The first board, will be your gaming table.  This is where all the action of your game happens.  It's where you'll have your game sessions, where you're players will describe all their character actions (hopefully in-character), all probably most of the dice rolling.  You can define your topics in whichever way is most logical to you.  For example, some of my games, I'll have a separate topic for each Chapter, or Episode -- each major plot point that the characters achieve.  Sometimes, you'll just want to split up the very long pages upon pages of replies into something smaller, using whatever definition you wish to for breaking up the topics.  Another idea, is maybe you are running a Round Robin style game, and each topic would be a new Game Master administering the game, or perhaps, each topic could be with a specific character's perspective or just being the star.  There are many possibilities.

The second Board you'll have is where all the character sheets are kept.  This creates a neat little area that you can just browse through all the characters of a game without having any distractions of other topics.  Typically, these topics will be locked so that only the Player and You can add replies.  However, you may request that this board be unlocked so that anybody can reply to a specific character idea.

The third Board you'll have is the Out of Character discussion board.  You may use this, you may not.  It's a place to have rules debates, and to discuss plot ideas the players may want to include in the game.  This is a pretty much anything-goes type of place.  You may also hash out any cooperative character interactions here, if you'd prefer a more refined look for your actual game-play board.

Advice for being a better Game Master.
There are probably hundreds of books that you can read on this topic.  Each role playing book that I've read, has at least a couple of paragraphs dedicated to this topic.  But here's some of the things that I have found through experience:

1.  Actually read and understand the game system book that you want to play.  Don't half-ass it.  There are tons of resources out there, from other online communities, YouTube, TikTok and the official game system's / game creator's websites, just to name a few places where you can watch people play these games or to ask questions from experience players.  Remember, there are no stupid questions!

2.  Understand that your players are all humans, like you are, and sometimes have busy schedules, or other drama happening in their life.  Be patient and be wiling to compromise -- so long as the fun of playing isn't tarnished!

3.  Don't be wishy-washy with the rules you create.  If you make a House Rule then stick to it.  If while playing you and your players find that the rule doesn't work as well as it was supposed to, re-write it or take it out.

4.  Keep the game going!  Sometimes, you're going to have to use some creative writing skills to post your way out of a stalled game.  This usually happens when you have a player that needs to do something with their character that everybody is waiting on and that player vanishes for one reason or another.  It's best if the Player contacts you about whatever real-life situation is preventing them from participating, but sometimes, the game just gets ghosted.  My advice to you here, is to think of a way around the character.  Perhaps the character faints or gets captured by the enemies -- you'll have to write out the character, whether it's temporarily or permanently.  You may have to back-out of a Scene you've created, or that the characters led you into.

5.  This goes with the last one, but try to post on a consistent basis.  Maybe once a day, or twice a week.  Playing by Post is a slower process than playing at an actual table, or playing in live chat.  This is both a blessing and a curse, for it allows you time to creatively write your next character's actions, but also it has the danger of stalling out the game, or having the unpleasant impatience result from players, or yourself.  Also, try to make a posting schedule post.  Allow the players to reply to this post indicating when the best time for them to post will be.  This will help to alleviate some of the impatience from just waiting around for somebody to post.  If everybody knows that nobody will be posting between noon and six because everybody has a day-job and is busy on Wednesdays, then everybody will be looking forward for those posts to start coming in after seven!

6.  Take your time creating your Campaign.  Although sometimes it's fun to just wing it having some carefully thought out NPC's (Non-Playing Characters) and a few plot points will really help the game progress and not get stuck on a quest-less journey.

7.  This goes with six.  Make sure you allot some time to plan ahead in your game.  Does a player-character do something unexpected?  Make sure you have some contingency plans if you want THEM to go THIS way, and they decide to go THAT way instead when adding plot points to your game.

8.  Include your Players in the creation of your Campaign.  The game doesn't have to be full of surprises for your players all the time.  Remember, a good game isn't about Me versus Them, it's about collectively having fun and telling a story.  You most likely will end up with a better, more inclusive game if you allow your players to contribute to the campaign-building process.

9.  Since most of the games on this site will probably be about Anime, it's suggested in just about every role playing book I have to:  Watch a crap-ton of Anime!  Anime is weird.  That's what attracts us to creating these role playing games in the first place.  To escape real-life for a while.  Weird is funny -- sometime, quite hilarious, and will always be memorable.

10.  Probably the most important piece of advice I can give, is to listen to your players.  If somebody isn't having fun, find out why.  Talk to them, have regular out of character discussions about the progress of the game, in fact, have a scheduled time, maybe once a month to get a progress report from all the players.  Maybe work on some character goals WITH them.  Role playing is a social function and communications is required for it to be successful.

Finally, I will say this:  Being a Game Master can be a lot of work, planning, and have some stressful moments, but, the time spent doing it will be remembered for years to come.  Remember the Prime Directive of this Site:  Have Fun!