Friday, January 21, 2011

Discussion: Stage Fright

I don't know about the rest of you, but I get stage fright when I'm GMing. It is the weirdest thing to, in casual conversation with the very same people I have no problems acting like a goofy moron. Seriously, there is like no shame. However, sit me in front of the table with people looking to me to GM, and I get all nervous. Lines of dialogue I have planned out won't come out, and instead I hem, haw, fluster, and give a brief summary of what info is contained. Sometimes I can force my way through, but often I've fallen into my safety net before I even know what is going on.

Frankly, I hate it. I think my players deserve more, and I think the game would be a lot more fun if I gave it to them. Both games I am currently running are different attempts at fixing this, and right now I'm just trying to find anything I can think of to help.

So, with that, I turn to you - the loving internets where only good advice and nice people exist - how do you handle your stage fright at the gaming table? Is it even a factor for you? Any tips or tricks to bust it? Anecdotes about it being especially hillarious, or just ruined a good scene for you?

Personally, in the last session of my L5R game, I think it really hampered my ability to deliver a compelling scene for one of my players. What could have been an awesome meet, ended up being a bit of a gloss due to my uncertainty on things. I don't think the player minded, but looking at what happened in game, and compared to what I had planned for it before hand. totally different scenarios.

Oh, and Monday we'll be back with regular content updates. or at least, should be.


  1. I get the same thing, even gaming with people I've known for almost 20 years now. And I often find myself handling it in the way you described- by 'summarizing'- telling with words instead of SHOWING with more descriptive and meaningful words. I think that its a good sign that a GM even CARES about his 'peformance'- I've met several who don't. That isn't to say they don't run fun games, but its not quite the kind of game I personally want to run. I've never been into acting or anything, but I have fallen in love with drama in RPGs- and I want that kind of an experience in my own.

    So what do I do? Well, when I catch myself going to my 'safety zone', I try to work my way out of it- for the next dialogue, I'll try to be more theatrical- more descriptive. I guess for me, that fright just isn't going to go away (it hasn't yet in about 25 years of gaming), so I'll just have to fight it at every turn.

    Sorry if that isn't great advice, but I don't know if any quick fixes for this particular problem.

  2. Having GMed for 19 years or more, it's second nature to me now. Back when I was starting I didn't know what I didn't know. Thats not real helpful other than maybe saying it will pass.

    Other than that, I know my limits when it comes to storytelling. I can do dark and scary. I can do off the wall and weird. Romance happens off stage or in the subtext when I GM but that's the way I want it to stay. I have a hard time with mystery because my mysteries are either so dense their impenetrable to blatantly obvious with no in between (I'm working on that). I'm learning to inject more average Joe logic into my games (as in not all enemies are fanatical monsters, some have families to go home to).

    The idea is do what you're comfortable with and slowly push into unknown territory.

    As for lines of dialogue, throw them out. Know who and why your NPCs are who they are and then think "What would this NPC really say?" I occasionally write down dialogue and it always comes off wrong. It's a big no no in public speaking. You have and outline and you work from that. You may have in your head what you want to say, but you are able to change it on the fly. You won't be able to pack as much information into your dialog but you will pack more emotion into it.

    I could go on but I think thats the high value stuff there.

  3. Good advice on both counts. There really is nothing to it, but work through it. I think I am with you both on just kind of pushing through, and occasionally take that next step to further broaden your horizons.

  4. Oddly enough I've played on stage in front fairly large crowds without breaking a sweat and have no problem debating infront of an audience. But even after 20+ years of DMing I still get nervous, embarrassed, second guess myself and lose my train of thought, even if with people I game with regularly.

  5. I'm going to second Geek Gazette's comment. I've done theater in front of large crowds, and yet I get nervous GMing. The way I functionally handle it is by adopting the persona of the NPC I'm handling and just going. It's the same sort of thing as putting on a PC, and we don't really have problems with being dramatic with that. I guess the advice is, remember that the NPC isn't you, and you won't be judged for it. The next trick is switching skins quickly.