Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What a Good Teacher can show you about Good GMing

So, I had an interesting experience today in class. One of the students was asking questions, as they are want to do, but the questions were rather annoying to me. See, for one, the teacher had already gone over the information and rather clearly, and two, it was clear the student just hadn't been paying attention. However, the teacher never missed a beat, he kept on going with answering the questions, until at one point the student went "Can you explain..." and then stalled as they tried to think of how to word it. The teacher's response? "Oh, I can explain anything you want here. What is it?" Just like that, happy, involved, and not a no. I realized at that moment that that teacher would probably make a great GM. How so?

A good GM, like a good teacher, should be (IMHO) enthusiastic about the game they're running. Sure, it is just a game and acknowledge that, but if you approach the game like it is work than your players are going to pick up on it being work. This will kill everyone's fun in the long run, so try to avoid it. Instead, be enthusiastic about the game, encourage discussion, ask about things outside of the game, be happy to help and answer questions. Sure, it may get frustrating at times, but if you stay enthusiastic that energy will convey and the players will get wound up in it. It is the same thing with teaching, think to your time as a student (either in the past, or now) in what classroom do you have more fun? The one where the teacher is just going on in monotone, or the one where the teacher is enthusiastic about what they are teaching, going off to point out the interesting things as they come up?

Involve the Audience
One of the things this teacher is absolutely great at is that when he explains points he involves the class. You're no longer listening to what is going on, but being involved in the subject matter. Granted, it helps the subject matter is interesting, but the examples are even more entertaining, and attention grabbing, when it is the people in the class in the roles needed. This is something I think good GMs do as well. Don't just go off and explain what is going on, give your players a chance to interact with it. If need be, throw a player into the shoes of another NPC and let them go at it. It gives the NPCs a much wider breadth of emotion, makes your job easier, and keeps more people in the table involved in everything that is going on.

This can be especially helpful when the party breaks up. Give the other players minor NPC roles in each players scene. It keeps them involved in the action, and gives you a lot more to play with. Besides, you'll never see a player get raked over the coals by an NPC quite like how it happens when the NPC has another player at the helm.

Don't Say No
Now this is an old stand by for GM advice, but it is something that needs to be mentioned. DOn't say no to questions, if something can't be done explain why, but better than that, try and find a way to make it all work out, or at least be possible. The classic advice here is say Yes to any question a character asks. Say "Yes, but", "Yes, and", "Yes, if" but say "yes". It keeps things moving, keeps people involved, and shows that you aren't trying to stifle people's creativity. If you're the GM that rolls with things, people will have more fun. If it is possible, but has to be earned, it will hook the players as they realize their dreams are possible to achieve in game, provided they work for it.

Be Willing To Re-Explain Things
This is the last point I'm going over, but don't be afraid to re-explain things. Yes, it can get annoying after the second or third time, and at that point most people will say "I've already explained that" but don't go after people the first time they ask. I'm guilty of that myself, and always regret it. See, a lot can happen at game. Players are there to relax and have fun, jsut like you. Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, the brain will wander and details will be missed. I know that personally I have a stimulus based attention, meaning that whatever the newest stimulus is will get my attention. So if the GM is talking to me, and then someone opens a door, my full attention goes to the door to see what is going on. In that split second where my attention is, well, split, I can miss some details and need to ask for them again.

This can happen to anyone though, so when you finish explaining something only to have someone ask for it again, don't just shut them down. Smile, remember to be enthusiastic, and give them a summary of what you just said. If it comes up again, and again, well then you can say "I already explained this" but at least give people a chance to catch it a couple times.

I'm sure there is more, but these were the big 4 ones I got from the teacher today. What else can you think of that could go up there? Anyone else have an experience where they saw someone and almost immediately went, "Man, he'd be an awesome GM I bet"?

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