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I am part of a games club that has been running for years. Our size varies but we usually have around 10-15 members and run 2-3 games at a time. We change games every 6 months (this also varies sometimes).

Only about half of those members actually GM, and most of those only do this occasionally (and often grudgingly). Our club Chairwoman hasn’t gotten out of the GM seat for 2 years now. I see this as incredibly unfair.

I would like some advice on how to "encourage" players who have never GMed before to take the plunge.

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6 Answers

up vote 21 down vote accepted

The root question here is Why are some members not keen on GMing? This could be answered by a simple questionnaire (if you had the time to do it) or by asking a sample of them face to face. Now, because you are not asking about that, I'll leave it at that for this side.

There are tricks that you can do:

  • Have a library of ready to run adventures. Once a set of players have played it, one of them runs it for a new set of players.
  • Bribes. Things like pizza, beer, wine, or just a lift to where the game is played. Maybe even a T-shirt with $SuperCoolImage as a prise for being a first time GM.
  • Positive feedback. Make sure that the new GMs can talk to the old hands and get help. Hey, this site might be a good source of help too...
  • Encourage players to come up with settings elements while they are playing. This will get them into a designer mode which is what most GM do in preparation for a game.
  • Limit GM time: If you GM a game, you must play in one next time. Thus, some players will have to step up to get a new game running.
  • Make sure the new GMs run games in settings they are more familiar with than the players.
  • New GM could run shorter games -- maybe even one shots -- to get more familiarity with the science of GMing.
  • Pair GMing. Have two GMs, one experienced and the other not to GM a game at the same time. It will require a little setting up but the rewards are great. This has nothig to do with pair programming, you know...

Note that some players do not want to GM at all. No amount of manipulation will get you to make them run a game. This should be fine too.

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+1 for positive feedback (this is also very helpful during the game, e.g., quick advice on rulings), pairing up (helped me get started), one shots and the fact some people just don't like to GM. –  Eric Mar 7 '13 at 13:13
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Pair GMing also works great in larger groups. Especially if the players tend to like to go in 10 different directions and do private GM time stuff. –  Pulsehead Mar 7 '13 at 14:07
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Having shorter games for inexperienced DM's is probably good advice. You may have more people willing to step up if they are not making a 6 month commitment to do something that they are not sure if they will be good at. –  ElenionAncalima Mar 7 '13 at 16:50
    
+1 for all but especially the one-shots. This is a great way for new GMs to get their feet wet with most of the work already done for you! Makes learning to GM much easier. –  Ben-Jamin Mar 7 '13 at 17:49
    
All good advice, especially the bribes and positive feedback. –  TimothyAWiseman Mar 7 '13 at 21:13
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The club I used to go to had a (small) entry fee and a raffle at the end, to help with the cost of renting the place, mainly. GMs didn't have to pay for the entry and they got a free raffle.

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Welcome to the site! +1 to get you going for a nice (if short) answer. –  Sardathrion Mar 7 '13 at 13:15
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+1 Nice point. The GMs at our weekly gaming evening don't pay for the room fee either. –  Rob Mar 7 '13 at 16:31
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My group runs on similar principles but doesn't have that problem. I'll describe some of the things that we do which might impact who GMs.

Half way through each game, people willing to GM nominate the games they are willing to run. The following week a vote is taken to determine which ones.

  • Each game runs for 6 weeks. This is less intimidating than 6 months for new GMs and allows us to try out a lot of different games. The cost of this is that it is harder to develop long term campaigns. (Not impossible though, some games do return time and time again, to the extent that the Exalted game is on the verge of collapsing under the weight of its backstory and the way that second edition mechanics start to fail at high XP levels).
  • GMs are not allowed to run more than 3 games in a row (nor are they allowed to run the same game more than twice in a row). This is designed to avoid cliques forming, but in a group where few people are volunteering to GM it could provoke a "Well if I do it, then at least there will be a game" response, unfortunately that has a risk of backfiring.
  • GMs of the current games are rewarded with first pick of available player slots for the next block of games.

Of course, for any of this to work, the members have to buy in to the system — and if most of them don't want to GM then that will be a hard sell.


So, that is what we do… but those are approaches at solving speculative problems. You really need to be addressing the barriers that are stopping people who aren't volunteering, and you need to find out what those barriers are before you can do that.


Some more possible solutions for speculative problems:

There are too many rules to learn

Introduce a simpler system to the club and encourage people to run that.

I don't have time to prepare

Introduce simpler systems that avoid the need to spend a long time writing stats for characters.

I have a hard time reacting to what players will come up with

Encourage the use of systems with rules that hand narrative control over to the players (or add house rules). (e.g. Fate or Hillfolk/DramaSystem)

Do I know anyone who could get me a meeting with the mob boss?

(After optional Contacting role)

You do. Tell me his name, job and favourite bar.

As well as reducing the burdon new new GMs, when an experience GM uses rules like these then it will get players used to contributing these details so things will be easier for them when they GM.


Our club Chairwoman hasn’t gotten out of the GM seat for 2 years now. I see this as incredibly unfair.

One of our members (who enjoys GMing far more than PCing) grumbles about how infrequently he gets to GM. He was surprised to discover that nobody GMed more often then he did last year. It is possible that your chairwoman prefers sitting behind the screen, be careful you aren't trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist.

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RPG Jam sessions

We coned the term in our group for campaings/sessions where there was not a single dedicated GM but several or all of the players were GMing taking turns.

I asked a question about this here, where you can also find a more detailed description.

What I like most in GM jamming:

  • The Load on the single GM is small
  • A GM can just do a small segment he/she finds interesting, then pass to the next person
  • Each GM also gets to play a character on a regular basis

Especially to bait new GMs I think this is highly viable. Most people will feel overwhelmed when asked to prepare a full blown RPG session of several hours. They will be tackling many 'beginner problems' (like how to handle your players not doing what you expect) at once, and also have to juggle their notes/prepared handouts/encounters/etc.

Try to interest them in taking over a small segment within a full session, maybe give them some guidelines (e.g. "one quest for the group inside the city"). That way they can try out GMing in a 'safe environment' where not much can go wrong. Also they will be able to fall back on an other (more experienced) GM in case something is unclear, or when they struggle with some mechanics.

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I think you need to let prospective new GMs get their feet wet in the shallow end, so to speak. Have a regular (say, every six months after a campaign arc has finished) one-shot week or whatever you want to call it, and ask for people willing to try running a single session, preferably with a simple system and pregens.

This will let people have a little experience without tying themselves down to several months of work, and if their session is a flop, it's just one session. If you add a small bribe as some other answers suggested, it will help get people to try it out.

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Run Club

I first ran into the idea on Ben Robbins' blog. The concept is similar to fgysin's RPG Jam session. Rather than taking turns within a shared campaign or per session though, the members take turns running one-shots or short-term (non-campaign) games. Once everyone in the (mini-)club has run a game, the turn ends and a new Run Club turn begins, so everyone runs once each. The objective is twofold:

  • Try new games with no obligation to stick with them
  • Try GMing with no obligation to stick with it

A member's turn is however long it takes to run what they're proposing to run, so anything from a single session to a month of weekly sessions is fine, but no longer – no campaigns or even mini-campaigns allowed. Because the minimum commitment to GM (or play under a GM) is only a single session, it encourages people to feel like it's no big deal to GM / try this weird new game / be patient with this new GM for this one session.

Run Club takes the anxiety out of GMing, and lets you all try a wider variety of play experiences. It's an excellent incubator for new GMs who might not even realise they like GMing, since they can learn in a low-pressure environment where there's a quick turnover between being GM (and making mistakes) and watching others GM (and suddenly being able to understand and observe GMing skills more).

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First rule of run club - you don't talk about run club? ;) –  fgysin Mar 11 '13 at 12:14
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