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Preparing to GM

Game Objective & System

How to organize thoughts about a game before getting started.​

The World

How the heck do you world?​

Playing to Lose

The art of being a GM when you know the players are going to destroy everything you love.​


So, we're meeting at... my place?​​


   When you are the GM, you are often also the host. It's generally easier to run the game when you have all of your books and supplies on hand. It's also better to host if you have players who are inconsistent - as the GM, you will definitely be there if the game is going to happen. So how does one host a game? Well, there is no "right" way, but there are pros and cons to various setups.

Bullet Journal
Interview with a Rock Band


   When you think of a D&D game, you probably picture a bunch of nerds clustered around a folding table in a basement. In many ways this model is a successful one, and still the go to for many a gaming group. A table allows for seated players to see maps, etc, placed in the center, and have their own space for character sheets and dice. The table also allows players to make eye contact when RPing.

Basement is good because it's general separated from sleeping areas by a floor, and games often go late into the night. But really, a table anywhere is good. Most games I've played in happen at a table in a dining room.


   Young poor people don't generally have a dining room, let alone a big dining room table. This may be why lots of games I've played in were run in the living room. Players sit on sofas, chairs, even the floor, and there is a coffee table or something for battles. This is nice for comfort, and simulates the table, but in many ways the personal space issue makes it hard for players to juggle their character sheets and dice. If you're thinking of the couch method, make sure folks have little folding tables or lap desks for paper and dice.


   Running a game online is as seductive an idea as it is difficult to execute. I've run two online games. One lasted for a year. We played weekly for two - three hours. Then two players dropped and it was never picked up again. Most recently I tried to run a game every other week lasting three-ish hours, and it was less successful. There is a level of commitment necessary to run/play in any game, but when it's online sometimes the commitment is less... tangible. And there are tech issues to compete with as well. Google Hangouts is a pretty okay video chat program, as is Discord, but unless everyone has nice, consistent, reliable internet, things can grind to a halt. Also, you have to deal with dice rolls. Can you trust your players? Do you need a virtual die roller? Sharing documents is a good way to deal with the map issue, but usually the GM has to compensate for not having a clearly visible map with minis on it. There are also programs like Roll 20, but they require a bit of investment from the GM in setting up.


   People love to eat. Snacks are a long time tradition among gamers, and form a centerpiece of most game sessions. There are some considerations that go into the food part, though. If you're running the game during a meal time, like noon, or six pm, people will need to eat. Either this can be accomplished by everyone chipping in on pizza, or doing a rotation of cooking duties, etc. Regardless, it needs to be handled. Gamers are not well known for social aptitude, and it can be really stressful to try and figure out what is supposed to be done about food if it is never discussed. It's also hard on the host if they are providing space and a meal every time. Everyone needs to be participating in the prep in some way. If the game isn't being held across a meal time, say you're playing from 1pm to 5pm, you don't have to worry too much. Let players know to bring snacks. Discuss if you are going to be every-person-for-themselves or if you want to put together a communal snack collection. However you want to handle it, just make sure you handle it!


   Picking when you want to run can be more influential than picking what you want to run when it comes to getting people to show up. For years I played in a weekly Tuesday night game that went from 7 till 11. It was perfect for all of us. However, things change, and often weekly games can be too much of a commitment. When it comes to monthly or bi-monthly games, finding the right day and time can be hard. Since people are already dealing with busy schedules, getting a whole group available at the same time can be difficult. The nice thing about a weekly game is the consistency, but it requires people to factor that time in as a part of their weekly routine. For some groups, gaming is important, and it is just what they do. For other groups, games are just fun things to work in when possible. Those groups are the most difficult.

   The only solution is to communicate with your group, and figure out what kind of commitment they are willing to make to the game. Sometimes things don’t match up between players. For example, I’d drive an hour each way every week to play in a really good game, but that game would have to be long enough to justify the drive, and would have to take place on the one day a week I could commit to that chunk of time. But I’d happily play in a twice a month game for a couple hours on an inconvenient day if it was fun and close. What people value varies from person to person, and meshing differing values across a whole gaming group requires communication.


   As the host, you might have to deal with devices. Nothing is more distracting than a cell phone. But some people use their tablets, phones, or laptops as resources for their game. Many people don’t keep physical books, but rather have digital copies, or use online die rollers, etc. So how do you know when someone is looking up a spell versus reading Buzzfeed? It’s hard. If devices become a problem, you might have to step in, as the host, and lay some ground rules. This is not always easy, but if the goal is for everyone to have a good time playing the game, then everyone needs to be willing to pitch in and make the game fun.

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