Monday, November 12, 2012

That Brain/Mouth Problem

One of the things that pisses me off the most when I'm GMing is my inability to express with words what is in my head. A player will ask an NPC a question, and my head will immediately provide a response - actual words most of the time - along with a tone, accompanying actions, and a number of other things. However, when I try to say those things...nothing comes out. I feel awkward, I stutter, I stop, and then I over simplify. The next thing I know a "Why yes, I would be happy to provide those guns for you. Provided of course that you're willing to do something for me" becomes "they agree, but they'd like you to do them a favor in return".

Sure, maybe that's not so horrible - there is a response - but I feel like I'm letting my players down. After all, they're giving me verbatim what they say and how they say it. Some of them even get crazy in character for things - accents, mannerisms, and all. But there I am just kind of phoning it in.

The really weird part about it is that when I'm not GMing - or playing as it happens as a player to - I have like no shame for the things that come out of my mouth. I act like a child, a woman, a man, a grown up, I say crazy and insane things...and none of it phases me. But for some reason that moment when I need to portray my character - be it NPC or PC - and suddenly it is awkward and weird.

It is a problem I've been trying to address, in bits and pieces for years. I think I'm better now than I was a few years ago, but it is still something to go with. Part of that solution is just sucking it up and saying what I think. Preferably before my brain has a chance to edit it to be 'safe' to say.

I suppose my question is, has anyone else had this problem? If so, how'd you get over it? Anyone have anything else about their GMing or Play style that they want to fix? Maybe we have a solution for you.


  1. GMing is a bit like public speaking for me. Right before it's time to step on stage, I feel like I'm going to barf. Unfortunately, GMing is a series of stages, every time I switch to an NPC. But I found that it got easier with time.

    I'm still fairly self-conscious, but when I notice that I drop out of character, I go back and rephrase again as the actual character. It's not elegant, but my players are not complaining and it rescues the flow of the game - especially since players tend to drop OOC when the GM does.

  2. It seems like you're worried about screwing up in a way that you're not as a player. This seems straight forward enough as players have a lot less riding on them than GMs - most of the time - and mistakes don't tend to have so many repercussions.

    I would offer you this advice, and hope it helps in some small way. The players won't know if you've made a mistake 99% of the time. The best way I can put it is what a friend told me when i started playing the drums again after a long break, with a band that was pretty awesome. The worst thing you can do if you cock something up is draw attention to it. If you just carry on as if nothing has happened, and work out later how to fix it, no one will be the none the wiser.

    Just keep this in mind, and hopefully you won't be quite so stressed out when trying to vocalize your thoughts.