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  • The GM Makes it All!

    Posted by Remus on June 10, 2022 at 7:45 am

    The GM makes it all,
    Dungeons and trials that enthrall.
    Worlds of fun and mystery,
    Much more than players see!
    ABBA, playing D&D, probably

    Hey all! I was looking over the previous discussions in the Roleplayer’s Retreat forum, and I realized there isn’t anywhere to discuss strategies and experiences of being a GM (Game Master) for roleplaying games. While it’s always fun to cook up a new character for a new campaign (or just for funsies), most tabletop RPGs require someone to run the game’s world, which often involves very different kinds of engagement with the game.

    In light of that, I wanted to make space for folks to talk about their experiences as GMs and ask any questions or talk through any situations they are dealing with. So whether you’re a Dungeon Master, Game Master, Keeper, or just a player looking to support and gain insight into the work of a GM, welcome!

    Cynical replied 3 months, 4 weeks ago 3 Members · 3 Replies
  • 3 Replies
  • Remus

    Member
    June 10, 2022 at 8:10 am

    I won’t lie; I kind of made this thread because of my own current experiences as a DM in D&D 5e. As a player, I’ve only played in one campaign up to this point, and although it was fairly long-term (just over four years?), it’s been kind of intimidating to have the second campaign I’ve ever been a part of also be one that I DM. While the campaign technically started almost a year ago, we’re only on our fifth session (as of this coming Sunday) due to scheduling issues with people in graduate school, on vacations, etc.

    Perhaps foolishly, I chose to make an original campaign setting rather than using the Forgotten Realms or one of the other D&D settings out there. This means I can tell the larger story that I want – which is great! However, it also means I have to come up with much more content about the world than someone who uses an already existing setting might have to (though there’s a lot of work that happens there, too). It’s given me a lot of anxiety about sessions in the past, and we’ve canceled at least once because I was concerned I didn’t have “enough.”

    However, we’re meeting a lot more this summer, and with no courses over the summer, I have much more time to work on the campaign. It’s been great because I have been able to do research, make designs and maps, etc., but I also don’t want to “overdo” it, if that makes sense? As much as I called this thread “The GM Makes it All,” I think it’s a lot more fun (and easier on me) for the world to be a collaborative effort in which everyone has a hand. Before we started playing D&D, we spent four or so meetings playing The Quiet Year (which is a great game that they used to build the world of Ethersea in the newest season of The Adventure Zone), and instead of using D&D’s default race=language=culture approach, I asked each of them to come up with their own cultural backgrounds. I want to continue giving them opportunities to do this sort of thing, which brings me to the actual questions I wanted to ask:

    • For DMs/GMs/etc., how much preparation do you normally do, per session, per new “area,” or even just in your lore work?
    • For players, how much creative control do you have (or expect to have) over the world in the games you play?
    • Cynical

      Member
      June 10, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      Okay, so, first and foremost, definitely gonna second @tinker here that Ginny Di’s video series on D&D and GMing tips is amazing, absolutely recommend. I’m also going to throw Dael Kingsmill into the mix of suggestions too, when I was starting out on my GMing journey, she was an amazing help and inspiration to me.

      As for my specific answers to your questions, they’re gonna be long and rambly and I’m not sure how actually helpful my answers will be here, buuut:

      For GMs:

      – “How much preparation should I do?” is probably one of the most common questions asked. The difficult thing here is that there’s… not really a correct answer to this? It depends pretty heavily on your GMing style. How comfortable you are with improv, with recalling past information on the fly, or, on the other side of the spectrum, how much time/spoons/organizational capacity you have for spending time ironing out notes and prepping before each session, or how comfortable you are with taking static, baseline notes and interpreting it into a living, breathing world that changes as your players interact with it are all questions that have different answers depending on the GM. It’s honestly kind of the type of thing you only learn by trying it out, trying different styles, and by not being afraid of getting it wrong a few times.

      – That being said, if you wanted examples, I usually have a basic idea of the scope, themes, and stories I want to tell going into session zero that I can share with my players, so that they can tailor their characters to such a setting. I leave a lot of wiggle room within the world for the players to establish their own lore too – if a player wants to play a specific race, they often get a say in what the culture for that race is like, etc. – but I always try to keep in mind that overall theme and story I’m looking to tell, and nudge players back in that direction if they stray too far. My session zeros are a very heavily collaborative process. After the player characters have established their backstory, and feel like they have a handle on their little corners of my world, I’ll go in and fill in the details, connect the dots that the players put down and reground their ideas back into those original themes and concepts I wanted to focus on, with perhaps some side tangents and new ideas inspired by the creativity brought to the table by my players.

      As a Player:

      – As a player, it’s varied from table to table. I definitely love collaboration between players and GM when I can get it, but I’ve also been fully handed a fully filled out character sheet, told who I’m playing & their entire backstory, and been expected to go from there. Both styles have their merits, and honestly, I think it again goes back to what sort of story you’re trying to tell/what sort of themes you’re looking to explore. There are merits to both, and it’s also totally cool to just ask your players what they want, or what level of control they expect.

      I hope literally any of this was useful to you! ? IDK how to be succinct at the best of times, let alone about roleplaying stuff.

  • Tinker

    Member
    June 10, 2022 at 9:27 am

    I can’t super help in the “providing input” realm (except to say, Ginny Di has a bunch of really helpful videos on youtube for both players and GMs)…I’m just about to start in my first D&D campaign so definitely interested to see GM takes on what’s helpful for players to provide…but also I’ve had an idea for a small mini-game (probably more than a one-shot but likely something with a reasonable closure in ~3 sessions) that I’d love to develop and run at some point!