Gamemastering

Advice for the New GM

My sister just messaged me to let me know that my tween nephew has ambitions of becoming a Dungeon Master. You know, the kind who runs that other role playing game. While the rule system is different, I think the essential skillset of the gamemaster translates pretty well across to Savage Worlds, so here’s some of the advice I’m planning to dole out:

  1. When in doubt, roll something simple: Sometimes, your players will want to do something and you won’t be able to remember the rule for that (if it even exists). If that happens, call for a simple attribute role or contested attribute roll to decide. Unless your party is full of rules-lawyers (something to avoid if you’re a new GM), the players probably will think that IS the rule.
  2. Expect the unexpected, and plan for it: Players are ornery, unpredictable sorts. They have a tendancy to run off and do stuff you didn’t expect and that isn’t in the module. When that happens, you’ll need to figure out what to do, either to get them back on track or let them run with whatever they’re doing. I recommend having an adventure and a couple of NPCs handy to throw at the players whenever they go off track.
  3. Remember your value: With the possible exception of playing the cleric, GM is the hard job, the one that most people aren’t willing to do. If you are willing, remember that you don’t have to put up with bad players. You’re in demand.
  4. Make sure to have fun: It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and the story and turn your game into work. Have some fun with it. Name NPCs after friends (or enemies). Give the dragon a silly accent. Mess with the players’ heads. Whatever you enjoy, put some of that into the game. You run the whole world – enjoy that!

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