There was an interesting thread the other day on theRPGsite, asking Game Masters to describe their worst campaign as a GM. My thoughts immediately went back to a HARP campaign I ran a few years back, where I wasn’t happy with my effort, the lack of screening I did with the group, or the missed sessions that ultimately doomed the campaign within the first month. Of course, that’s not the only game that I’ve failed at, but it’s probably the most memorable, as everything that could have gone wrong did so.
Whether you’re a Game Master new to the trade, or a more experienced GM frustrated with their results thus far, I think it’s very easy to get discouraged when you hear of all the other amazing campaigns folks are running out there. Of course you’re hearing about them: those are the successful ones. For every amazing campaign with an impressive website, enthused players, and brilliant ideas, there are a half-dozen campaigns that are trying to get some traction, or struggling to continue.
I’ll be honest—I consider myself a good Game Master, but I’ve had some absolute stinkers when it comes to my campaigns. Sometimes, you hit a home run, and sometimes, you strike out. The important thing is that you’re learning, trying, and not getting too down when it doesn’t work out. The most brilliant ideas sometimes just don’t jive with the group, or unforeseen scheduling issues doom everything, or perhaps the timing isn’t right. Sometimes, we act like GMing is something that can be carried out 100% perfectly, each time every time. That’s just not the case.
Your campaigns don’t have to be perfect, and neither does your track record. Whether you’re running your first session or your fortieth, there’s going to be trial and error. If you’re hesitant at trying your hand at Gamemastery because you don’t want to fail, or if you’re hesitant to give it another go because the last campaign didn’t work out so well, don’t be! The best way to become a better Game Master is to get out there and run games. Yes, every year I do a GM’s seminar, and spend some time checking out the ideas of other Game Masters and Referees, but that doesn’t do any good if it all stays theoretical. If you’re paying attention, you learn more from an hour running a game than twenty outside the game reading up on GM tips (although the latter doesn’t hurt!).
I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re reading this, and you want to Game Master, get out there and do it. If you’re worried or intimidated, don’t be. We’ve all been there. Start small if you want, start with something you know, but above all, just start. No one is going to remember the hesitations or the wonky bits. They will remember when everything clicks, the players buy in, and the awesome stuff happens. As a Game Master, that’s the sort of fun you live for, and why you do it. Don’t worry about the bumps in the road getting there—because you most definitely aren’t alone.