A few weeks ago I wrote up a blog about Player F.A.C.T.S. It was an inspired acronym to help players new and old. These were 5 simple rules that I found essential to having an enjoyable time at the table as a player. So I am proud to present here my F.A.C.T.S for Gamemasters. I hope they will be received as well as the Players F.A.C.T.S
So why would Gamemasters have any use for F.A.C.T.S like I came up with for players? Where player F.A.C.T.S are intended to be used as a primer to help understand playing in RPG and your role in it. I would like to think that for a Gamemaster these F.A.C.T.S might serve as a mantra if you will, that we can use to remind yourself to stay on course. Or part of your mental checklist before a game begins.
If your not having fun at the table no one is.
You set the tempo of your story
Always allow your players choices.
As a Gamemaster, you must be Tactful and considerate to the desires of your players.
At least, have a passing knowledge of the system you intend to run… Commit to being prepared. Do your homework and learn it or as much as you can before game time!
Taking a deeper look…
Simply put you have to have fun at your game. If you’re not enjoying it you players will know. When the Gamemaster lacks enthusiasm he might be able to conceal it for a few sessions, but it makes every aspect of running the game that much harder. You may think that you can convince everyone that you’re having a good time when you’re not. Inevitably it will seep into the game in one way or another. When it does it will likely sour your players overall experience.
Don’t force yourself run something week after week if you don’t have any enthusiasm about what you’re going to be running. With everything else in life that we have to do that is no fun, there is no reason to run a game you do not want too.Run what you want and your enthusiasm will be infectious to your players at the table. If your players are using the F.A.C.T.S of my other blog they know what you are going to be running and they should be as equally as eager to play as you are to run. So sit back relax and have a good time !
Activity is immensely important at the table. As a GM you have to be the conductor of the orchestra, you are in charge of your games tempo. In an age where distractions are at our fingertips, you have to have your finger pulse of the group more so than ever. Your level of activity in the story can have a direct impact on your players enthusiasm. If you let the tempo slow to a crawl you will quickly see smartphone open and other distractions begin to take over your table further pulling your players interest from the game.
Knowing when to step in as a game master and keep things moving is something you also have to be keenly aware of. Sometimes the players will have roleplay moments amongst themselves. It is times like this that you have to remember just because you’re not taking an active part of the discussion there is still activity going on at the table. Take this time and use it wisely. There are still several things you should be doing as a Gamemaster. Take a few minutes and think about what’s going to be happening next in your story. Pay attention to what is being discussed in the group but at the same time don’t get overly caught up in what’s going on or insert yourself into the conversation where you are not needed. As a GM, you must judge when the talking dies down or the players begin to talk in circles if it is now time to step in and move the story along once more.
Be ready to improvise, If your players are growing frustrated because they can not find a clue or solve a puzzle. Have an alternative solution become available. Do not be afraid to take actions to get the story moving again. With a subtle push in the right direction or a random encounter you often can save your game from dragging and keep the tempo and interest levels high at the table.
Choices to the DM is the only differences compared to the Players F.A.C.T.S list. My reason for that is simple. Allowing your players freedom of choice is the sole difference between running an RPG game or telling your players a Story. As a Gamemaster, you want to be someone that encourages a mentality of “Yes and…?”or any other thinking that progresses the story. Try not to be a Gamemaster that says “No” or “Yes but…” thus opening your games up to whatever choices that your players come up with. This can be scary to some Gamemasters
This can be scary proposition for some Gamemasters at first. Yet once you become accustomed to it, is very liberating in action. The key reason for this is entirely about your a game preparation. As much as you might like to think that you are prepared for anything your players will throw at you. I can promise you that you are not. More often than not you will have a table of four or more like-minded gamers playing across from you. They are all going to be thinking outside the box in an effort to creatively overcome any obstacles in front of them. One of the worst things you can do in this situation is to stifle that creativity instead encouraging that behavior.
You must be willing and prepared to go off script whenever you run a game. Give yourself a few options for any scene, yet be willing to be flexible and change things on the fly . This will usually serve you far better than scripted encounters or storylines that you had written down. As a GM, you must be the ultimate impromptu actor and director because you can’t call for a cut and a reshoot of a scene
Tact is simple and nearly the exactly the same as it is for the players. Be mindful of who is that your table the feelings and opinions they bring to the game. Consider the things that you say and how it might affect them. Do your best not to offend anyone and speak with anyone before or after game if you have concerns that you may have offended them.
If you have concerns that the Theme of your game might have an aspect that someone may be offended by it be tactful and bring it up before the game let people know that this might be an R-rated or an off-color topic. Make sure all of your players are comfortable as well as willing to go down that route. It is no fun and rather awkward to have to try and sit through a game with people you may have seriously offended because you were not Tactful.
When it comes to a system as a GM for the love of all that is holy please take the time to prepare, prepare, prepare. Read your system rule book and know your system! Not everyone starts gaming knowing the system that they’re going to be running. It helps if maybe one of the other players as a GM of that system we could sit near you and help you with the rules. Otherwise, make sure you run primers or quick shots.
Be prepared to study if you don’t know the system. If you have the intention to run it for any period of time then you better become knowledge of it. Nothing sucks more in a game then having to pause and flip through books to look up rules. It grinds the game to a halt and bores your players to death.