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Less is more. A suggestion on better GM’ing

One of the biggest stresses a GM has to put up with is coming up with a game plot that will intrigue their players and be fun to play at the same time. Some GM’s will spend hour upon hour coming up with plot points, enemies, potential twists and etc. It can become even more stressful for these GM’s when they’re players don’t take the path that the GM has planned out for them and has to scramble to get them “back on track.” This sort of thought process can lead very easily to railroading which in turn can annoy and bother players to the point of no longer wanting to play the game, or even going so far as to ruin the GM’s plot line all together. I had these problems for years as a GM and learned eventually that over prepping can kill a game before it even begins. Over time i learned an important lesson, less prep means more fun for everyone.

A key task of a GM is to facilitate their players and give them the freedom to do as they will in the game. Creating a basic plot point for the players to come up with a solution on their own helps create a stronger sense of collaborative storytelling for everyone. GM’s should plan enough for the players be interested to follow the plot point, but not create an entire story that the players must follow. The GM should leave the world and plot open enough that whatever the players do or even suggest should happen, giving the players a sense of control and influence in the world that their characters are inhabiting. The GM should still have encounters, NPC’s, and antagonists ready to drop into the game at points that they deem necessary to help the players along the way and to keep the story moving. It is just fine for the GM to have conceptualized idea of what is going on in their setting, but also to have these ideas to be vague enough to let the players fill in the blanks for the GM, it can even help if the GM is having a case of writer’s block and needs ideas for the game.

This also helps players to be more open and more proactive in the game as well. It will help a normally quiet player to come out of their shell and potentially shine in the game in a way they might not have thought possible. Players who feel they have just as much control over the narrative as the GM will could also become inspired to run their own games in the future. Having less prep storyline-wise is a useful way for GM’s and players to have more fun with their games and helps creates a more dynamic feeling game for everyone. This also helps to relieve some stress on a GM who has to come up with a great setting, and remember the rules, and what the players are playing etc. Overall less prep can lead to a more enjoyable gaming experience for everyone involved.

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Been a gamer for over 10 years nows, and geek all my life.

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2 Responses to "Less is more. A suggestion on better GM’ing"

  1. LughNo Gravatar says:

    I will agree with your general assertion. But, with a couple asides.

    First, the GM should recognize the difference between prepping for this session and prepping for the campaign. The next session should have encounters, locations, NPCs, and even storylines fairly well thought out. That helps it all flow better once the players enter your arena. However, the GM should also keep all prep for anything beyond the next session fairly vague. Don’t plot out grand story arcs in any kind of detail. That detail will inevitably end up getting skewed and/or invalidated almost immediately (as you pointed out).

    Second, it is often better for the GM to create plots that have nothing to do with the PCs. Create three villains and one hero that have little or nothing to do with the party. Spend some time thinking about their issues, priorities, methods, and general attitudes. Create appropriate plans. Create contingency plans. Then, find ways to connect your PCs to these plans. Once the campaign begins, let the PCs swing onto the scene like the giant wrecking ball that they are. Since you already know your villains, put them into reactive mode, and have them try to deal with the PCs. Your sessions will practically write themselves, AND you get to have highly empowered players!

  2. SirGuidoNo Gravatar says:

    I agree heartily Veremond. Sorry it took me so long to read this!

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