Confessions of a Perennial GM.

I run a lot of games, like a LOT of games. However if you have listened to the Cult you will likely have noticed something; I almost always GM.

I would say something like 95% of all of the games I have been involved with I have been the GM for. As such I thought I’d let you into some of my confessions.

Confession 1: I enjoy GMing

I know there is a stereotype of the GM as the put upon guy, who toils for weeks on a campaign only to have the players destroy it in a matter of minutes and wander off to a whorehouse as he sits and weeps but that’s not (always) true.

I enjoy GMing, I like simulating a world for the players, giving them dilemmas to work through. Hell I even like setting things up for the Players to circumvent them or defeat them in new and interesting fashions. I like providing the stories, and facilitating the Awesome/Horror/Vengeance.

I do more work than a player will do (see below) but I usually enjoy the work. The setting and system I am working on at the moment has probably taken 30 or so hours of work, but the test game I have run has been awesome. So awesome that even when really ill I was still running the game.

Confession 2: I’m actually also a player in the game.

The second stereotype I’ve seen which is pretty prevalent is that the GM is there to make the fun for the players. That is their JOB, it’s what they DO, that is their only purpose. They should do everything to make the players time fun, the GM has a job to do and that is it. They don’t have fun, they make fun.


I am doing this for fun as well, if the GM is not having fun your group is doing Role-playing wrong. I’m not your story slave, I’m not your holodeck. If I’m not having fun then you can be very very sure that this campaign is not going to last very long! Also the whole “You have to make the players time fun” does not automatically translate to “they get everything they want all the time”. Sure don’t mess with them unnecessarily, but if the players are doing something with consequences then don’t softball those consequences if they whine.

If I am not enjoying running a campaign, if it is not meeting my expectations, I’m entirely within my rights to stop running it! I am not your game slave!

Confession 3: I’m not always against you (but sometimes I am)

Part of being a GM is playing your adversaries and enemies, it’s my job to do this in an appropriate manner as per their level of intelligence. This means I sometimes reign myself in if I can see the obvious flaw in your plan, but the stupid orks I am playing might not. However, if you are fighting an intelligent foe I most definitely SHOULD take advantage of the flaws you have left open.

A bad GM will have your enemies be psychic, always aware of every flaw and able to respond to capitalise on them immediately. A good GM will allow them to respond to flaws they would see and understand, but if the flaw is only known to one guy who they would have had to talk to in an obscure dialect, then if there is no reason for them to have done so, then they won’t have.

This doesn’t mean that you know exactly what the enemy knows however. It’s entirely possible that they have been doing things that you don’t know about. So if they do spring a surprise on you don’t assume “I’m out to get you” or that “Oh we’re not supposed to be able to win this fight then”, its possible you missed something.

Confession 4: I do less prep than you think I do.

After running games for so long I have come to terms with the fact that you players are going to wreck my adventure no matter what I do. Or at least if you do not wreck it, you will do something that I didn’t expect in any way shape or form. As such, while I do definitely roll up NPC’s build up a plot web, and work out where the game is likely to go, I no longer write out huge amounts of flavour text or create detailed plots of exactly what happens when.

Why? I’m going to end up improvising anyway, so I might as well embrace this fact and rely on my ability to make stuff up on the fly. As long as I have the basis of the plot, and the stats to the NPC’s, I can usually come up with anything else I need on the fly.

That’s not to say I don’t do work, I do, but that flavour test I’ve been reeling off? The description of the Shopkeeper? The description of the weather? I most likely just made that stuff up on the fly right when you asked me for it. If a fights happening, then you are probably seeing my work on the NPC’s but all of the description and so on are generated on the fly.

Confession 5: I like playing (I’m a terrible player)

As Bloodied will no doubt tell you all, I am not a good player to run for. I’m constantly circumventing or avoiding the direct route, min-maxing my situational advantages, or you know slipping the Mountain’s Grand Melee team Pennyroyal in their Ale. Having spent ages as a GM, thinking of all the possible way to deal with certain things so I’m ready for what the players will do, it comes as second nature to me. Which is fine when I’m running but can be problematic when I’m playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I Love playing just as much as anyone else. Having to only deal with one character? Bliss. There is just one teeny tiny problem. I am still programmed to think like a GM and as such I am always looking for flaws, and ways round things. So yes I am going to notice if your Big Bad is standing underneath a pipe carrying molten steel, or try and find ways to turn the situation to my advantage.

This can be frustrating for GM’s I admit, but I’m not doing it out of spite, I’m just so used to people doing it to me!

Confession 6: I am ALWAYS thinking about campaigns.

Literally always. It takes exceedingly little to inspire me to want to write and start a new campaign, however most of them never make it beyond the initial idea, or maybe a few notes. Some I will write up, and by the time I have, it never gets run because the inspiration has moved on. Asking me to run something specific, is definitely going to result in something other than you expected because I’ll follow where my inspiration leads rather than what you are expecting.

The good thing about this is that I probably have a campaign seed for any game you can mention. The bad thing is that I really need to be in the right mood to run any of them.

Confession 7: I practice Character voices and conversations with myself.

My players have a tendency to put me in positions where my NPC’s argue with each other. I also want to be able to just “talk” as the character in question, getting a good hold on the sort of things they would say and also how they would say them.

Now normally I do this when I’m on my own, and doing something else like the dishes… seriously Henri from the Horror on the Orient Express campaign was worked up over three evenings dish washing.

However I occasionally forget myself when people are visiting me if they aren’t in the room, and I’ll be stood there cooking or washing up having seemingly very charged arguments with myself.

It gets a bit uncomfortable when they ask who you are talking to, let me tell you (n.bdo not answer “The Madman chained in the luggage car cupboard…”)

Confession 8: I practice descriptions as well.

Good description is the difference between:

“I roll a 19, that hits, you take 8 damage. OK it’s your go.”
“I roll a 19, his blow arcs in from above you and cuts deeply into the meaty part of your arm causing you to gasp in pain. That does you 8 damage and he’s winding up for another hit, but first… its your go.”

I do practice description, but it tends not to be a verbal thing more than it is a constant thing I do in my brain which is looking at something and then just running through a quick couple of seconds of describing it. I do this when I’m watching films as well, just working out how I would describe certain things or actions. It really helps having done it before when you need to improvise some action description.

Confession 9: I am convinced I am a Bad GM.

No seriously, I am convinced I am a terrible GM and as such I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that my players are having fun. Please players if you are having fun make sure to tell your GM of the fact. Similarly the GM isn’t psychic, if something in the game is upsetting you or just isn’t working for you then let them know, they are almost certainly not aware of the fact!

If you tell your GM what bits of the campaign you are liking and which you aren’t and you will almost certainly get more of the stuff you are liking. Bear in mind though, the GM still needs to be having fun, if what you want is hack and slash and they were after diplomacy, then you may end up having to compromise.

Confession 10: I do not remember what I have run.

This one is almost certainly just me, but the reason I started recording games was s I could remember what the hell I’d said and done during the games. I’m not sure really why I don’t remember them, I suspect it’s because I’m using so much of my brain to generate the world and keep every thing flowing and the game consistent that I don’t get chance to shove anything more than the basic details into Long Term storage! It’s very weird because people regularly tell me stories about my campaigns and some of the awesome things that have happened and I just have to nod and smile usually!

So there they are, my ten confessions, although I most likely have a lot more that I just haven’t thought of! Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or post your own Confessions below!

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