In Part 1, I discussed how hard it can be to break into a GM position, regardless of the game, regardless of whether you are in a LARP or tabletop. I also listed a few of the impediments that came to mind. In this conclusion, I’d like to list a few ways in which a person can break into that role. Some of these are my ideas, but most have come from other players, both male and female. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. It takes determination, support and the willingness to make mistakes to become a GM.
1. Find a mentor. Find someone who knows how to play and is willing to mentor you. This will take extra time on their part and maybe extra patience, so be careful whom you ask. They should be someone who bolsters your confidence and helps you formulate your ideas. They should be as excited about you running a game as you are nervous about running it!
2. Be an assistant. You can be someone’s assistant! This way you can learn how to develop plot, run combats, design an environment (if it’s tabletop), manage a large group of people (if it’s a large LARP). You can bite off small bits and pieces and even run some stuff on your own for a session or two as your confidence builds up. A lot of times, secure and well-adjusted storytellers will welcome the help.
3. Play with friends or people you trust. if they’ve never played before, or are novice players, then the pressure is definitely minimized. If you play with experienced players, make sure they know you are learning and be open to their help and suggestions. They can be amazing resources.
4. Pick a game you feel comfortable with. If you’re just starting, don’t start with the hard ones like Champions/Heroes (shudder!) Start with a game you feel comfortable with and really enjoy. Mouse Guard is a relatively simple game with cute mice, but dangerous situations and heroic challenges. Or start with the ultimate simple game….Fiasco! Practically 100 percent role-playing. You just need to know the rules, which are simple, and you need to shepherd people along. Or even try a board game tie-in like Castle Ravenloft or Arkham Horror, although those can be as complex as the real thing sometimes.
5. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’re only human. Even the most experienced game masters make mistakes and run plots that don’t work. Don’t take it personally if you do the same. Retrace your steps and try again. Listen to your players.
6. If it wasn’t explicit enough in #3, let me be explicit here. If you’re just learning to run a game don’t start with jerks! Even if you want to prove yourself to them for whatever reason. Get comfortable and deal with them later. They’re not going anywhere, unfortunately.
7. Read and plan. Learn your world. Plan what you want to do. But don’t overdo it. You can get too bogged down with details, but you should do enough to make yourself feel comfortable.
8. Listen to podcasts and read blogs. Those are safe ways to learn from others without having to deal with them. Use their wisdom and experience from afar.
9. Set the mood. It’s only a game. If you act as though this is just a game and not some sort of test or baptism by fire, then others will pick up on that. The ST, GM, DM whatever always sets the tone of the game. The stakes will be high for you if you act like they are. People pick up on the general dynamics and tension, or lack of, in a room.
10. Have fun! If you keep trying and you never have any fun, it’s not worth it. Try something else. Life is too short.