Monday, September 9, 2019

A Touch of Sweetness

A number of touching things happened to me this past Saturday and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate them, as well as use them to lead in to a kinder, gentler post on how to improve ones GMing skills. 

I ran the third session/second full episode of my new 'Hopeful Dystopian' Science Fiction campaign, FRONTIER. There was a lot of investigating, puzzle and problem solving, a small battle that felt epic, and a HUGE reveal. I can't talk about it all in detail yet but trust me, you're going to want to stay tuned to this blog for some posts about it later in the month. 

Anyhow, one of my players, an old friend of some 25 years or so, got married a while back to a lovely fellow who, unlike my friend, doesn't play RPGs. As a matter of fact, though he doesn't speak ill of them or any such thing, he has upheld a sincere attitude of not wanting to partake in them. The reasons are his own and I completely understand. One needs to watch out for ones own mental health so I hold nothing against him at all.

Now imagine how incredibly surprised I was to learn that he may be up for participating in a game sometime next year.

The couple, my friend and her husband, challenge each other periodically to achieve things like art completion deadlines, getting out of their comfort zones, etc. After a complicated but heartwarming series of anecdotes about recent dares between them, my friend said that her hubby was willing to give RPGs a try. Furthermore she said, and I quote, "There are only two GMs in the world I would trust to do this and you're the only one alive."

That is a reference to our mutual departed friend Allen Halden. It may seem dark humor to some but trust me when I say Allen would have loved it. In addition, it is a statement with momentous weight and impact. In all my years of gaming, nothing has said, 'You are really good at this' quite like this sentence. 

Of course I said I would do it and yes it is a tad daunting. At the same time I am very excited for the opportunity to change a friend's attitude towards something I very much enjoy and make my buddy Allen proud at the same time. 

Later on, another of my friends and players announced to me a desire to run a Traveller campaign. This was extremely exciting for me as this particular fellow has grown so much as a player and GM since we first met and it's the first time any of my friends (many of whom love my Traveller games) have decided to try refereeing Traveller themselves.

He asked only where I had gotten the maps I'd used during our old campaign. He informed me he had purchased the rules and had already begun doing research for the game (see my previous post). I was more than happy to fill him in on a few 'trade secrets' because it was clear that he was interested, excited, and had put in the effort to get himself started. Obviously I told him I would help him in any way he needed going forward to which he seemed relieved. 

These two moments were followed by a great game session. The big reveal I mentioned above hit some slowly, others mentally slapped their foreheads with the realization, and a couple were wide eyed and mouth agape. 

That's when it dawned on me:

I love what I do, I do it well, and I really want to share my know how with others that want to learn how to do it also. Yes, it frustrates me when people are lazy and don't put in the effort to improve but are then surprised players didn't enjoy their GMing. At the same time, some people put a hell of a lot of thought and effort into running a game and it still misfires.

Well the honest truth is, at least in my book, even if it doesn't go over swimmingly, if you did everything you could to make it happen you succeeded. Don't let the frowning faces deter you if you really gave it your all. 

Ask yourself what you missed. What were the players hoping for that you weren't able to deliver? What areas do you need to brush up on or practice? What advice would help you improve and where or whom can you get that knowledge from?

With one friend asking me to GM a once in a lifetime event and another wanting to know how they can add the same pizzazz to a game that I did, I must also remember that I. MESS. UP. TOO. I run games that don't go over well. I screw up. I am not a perfect GM who never runs a bad game. 

What I do is keeping trying to do better. I read, write, re-write, analyze, ask questions, listen, practice, and continually push to improve. 

Do that and you can't go wrong even when you go wrong. 

Remember, nobody's perfect. That doesn't mean you can't aim to be great. 

Barking Alien


  1. "Remember, nobody's perfect. That doesn't mean you can't aim to be great." What a great quote. Another wonderful article, thank you for sharing. Good luck with the whole "introducing a newbie" game - I'll be interested in hearing how that goes.

    1. So will I, lol.

      It's not that I have never done it before but its been a while and I didn't have to overcome a pre-disposition of not being into RPGs.