I have a friend who is running a game. It is an awesome game too. The kind of game where I find myself getting hyped and into character for the game anywhere from 24-72 hours before hand. The kind of game I was looking forward to playing in so much last week that it almost being here got me through a couple of rough days at work. But this friend has a problem. The system he is using is an old homebrew hack built on top of a system that the group plays a lot...only the hack was built atop the previous edition and the new edition changes have since cemented enough that there is confusion. Talking to him about it reminded me of the topic of this post, and today I want to talk about that.
You Have Two Jobs
As the Game Master you have two jobs and two jobs only. Your first job is to run the game. Simple, right? The second job is to make the game fun. Not so simple, but not as complex as some people think.
Now note, those are your only two rules. No where in those two rules does it say you have to follow the rules of the game. Hell, no where does it say you even have to have rules. The "system rules" are basically guidelines in order to handle conflict resolution and track the PCs amassing, or loss, of power as the game goes on. They are, however, just that: guidelines. They are not something you have to be beholden to in times of strife. Now, there are caveats. The rules changing always in your favor is bad. But the rules changing always in the name of fun and awesome? Not bad. Just make sure your aim is fun for the group, and not just one person.
Fast Is Fun
You know what kills fun really fast? When a tense situation breaks because someone has to look up the rules. It's like hitting the pause button right in the middle of a climactic moment in a film and then leaving the room for 10 minutes to get a soda and talk to your roommate who is playing videogames upstairs. It breaks the tension, it breaks immersion, and it gives the rational brain time to kick in and remove all fear/excitement from the moment and replace it with a clear cut objective plan for winning. It's one of the reason I dislike doing cliff hanger session endings, when you pick the scene back up the magic is always gone.
What this means though is that an answer now is better than an answer in thirty seconds. Whenever you run into a hitch where you don't know the rules well enough to answer, just making a ruling on the spot. If someone balks, and they don't know the right rule, tell them you're doing this for now and you can all discuss it after the session for future events. If they keep arguing, ask them to be quiet because they're breaking the flow of the game. Most people will respect this. Those that don't you probably don't want at your table. Just keep the game moving. Keep it mobile. Keep it fun.
Do this as much as you need to, but try to keep the rulings consistent. Inconsistency also kills fun, so when you make a ruling try to stick with it and when it changes (i.e. after session, after discussion, after a rules check) inform people of the proper rule and whether or not that will be the status quo for the future.
Above all, be confident. You are the game MASTER, the dungeon MASTER, the dragon MASTER, the story CONTROLLER. You are in charge of the game, and have a big responsibility on your shoulders. Be confident (and if you're not confident, fake it) and your players will go with you on things because when you are confident,or acting confident, it will carry through and they'll follow the lead. Most people show up to game to have fun, not debate rules in a book. Being confident will help keep the focus on fun, and between sessions you can do all the rules research you need.
It's a game. Have fun with it. Otherwise, what's the point?