Monday, May 13, 2013

Don't Forget The Positive Things

I had a conversation with one of my players yesterday that ended up being a lot more productive than I'd thought possible. The reason wasn't because of some grand insight into my game that was reached, but rather my approach to my games. See, I am constantly looking to improve as both a GM and a player. To do this I need to identify areas where I am lacking. Unfortunately though, I have been so focused on these things that I have completely neglected the areas of my game where I am doing well. This is dangerous for both me and the game. Why? Well, let's go into it after the skip.

Frame of Mind
The biggest thing here is the frame of mind you have when you are playing or running your game. You ever have a boss tell you to smile when you are on the phone? Yeah, it sounds stupid at first glance except for one thing. People can hear a smile in your voice. Something about smiling changes the tone of your voice, makes it more positive and welcoming. Try it. Have someone answer your phone smiling when they say hello and have them do it with a straight face or even frowning. I'll bet that even with your eyes closed you'll be able to hear the difference. How does this impact gaming? Simple: if whenever you look at your game all you see is the negative it becomes very easy to get bogged down in the thoughts that your game isn't good and that you, in turn, are not good. This is a dangerous path to be on and can result in the termination of a game that is otherwise going well long before its time, or even someone leaving the hobby and losing out on that thing they enjoyed so much before.

The Depths
This is where I was to be honest. With my Shadowrun game I thought things were going ok, but I had the fact that some of the brutal and strange things that happened were because of the system and awkwardness I perceived was people sorting things out still. That was fading though, and much like with my Friday game, I was beginning to think that my game was fun for my players in spite of me rather than because of me. Not that I have ever thought that I was the sole reason a game was fun, but you want to at least be contributing to the enjoyment of the game, right?

Doubt Erodes Confidence
Self explanatory, but once you start doubting your abilities you'll find a lot more to be worried about. You'll start questioning things you know are legitimate. You'll start leaving sessions wondering why the hell you couldn't just do things right and sit there wondering when your players are going to tell you that they'd rather swap over to something else as they're tired of carrying the game. Now, the depths of these doubts are not going to be shared by everyone, but I'm sure most people here can relate to them in some way or another. The worst part is that if you start to hate your game it really will get worse and worse because something that is supposed to be fun starts to become a burden. That's not good.

The Solution?
The solution to this is to figure out what you do well. Find out what aspects of your GMing are working and making the game better. Find out what aspects of you Playing are helping the game along. Ask your fellow players. "What do you like about my GMing?" "What do I, as a GM, bring to the table that makes it a game you want to play in?" "What do you like about this character?"

Yes, you can ask for areas you can improve on as well, but if you're already focused on the negative then take the time to really just focus on the positives. Play them up, enjoy them, and let that spark of fun come back in. If nothing else remember this: your group of players is willingly choosing to show up every session and sit down in an imaginary world with you for several hours on a regular basis. You have to be doing something right, right?


  1. I had a moment like this myself not too long ago. The pace of the game just dropped away, and I thought that I was doing such a bad job at engaging the players that they were happier just shopping and tootling around. Turns out, they were really happy to do it, because they knew that I had created a realistic enough world, that even just going shopping would be fun. Chances are that they would get some cool encounters, and maybe even make a contact.

    I really wish I had just spoken to them up front, rather than let myself get all maudlin about it...

  2. One of the L5R games I'm in the GM has done this. The world is so well realized that the party misses half of the potential plot hooks because we're trying to do other things or just interacting with folks. It's a lot of fun.

  3. Great topic. Recently started GM'ing for the first time. Intellectually I know it will take time to get my feet under me, to keep the important "Good GM'ing" concepts in the forefront, be reasonably well-prepared & have fun. Reality is it's very hard not to overthink things. If a session isn't "epic" I tend to think it was "okay" or "not that great" - leaving no room for "not legendary but just solid fun".

    Each session has a natural strong tendency to key off the GM, including mood & tone. First gift a GM can give themself & the other players is to fully let themself just enjoy it.