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I have a couple of players who might be interested to try GMing, but have so far been reluctant to "take the plunge" and start up their own games. I think this is mostly because they're not sure that they can "do it," and I've given them a bit of basic advice, and tried to convince them that no, it's not that mysterious, and yes, I really am just making stuff up most of the time. What else can I do to encourage them or help them to start running their own games? Or should I just back off and let them get going when they feel the call strongly enough to overcome whatever's holding them back?

I don't mean "what advice do I give them?" I can handle that on my own. But should I be giving them much advice, or will that potentially just make them more concerned about "getting it right?" Should I try to help them find players, or would that be too meddlesome/put too much pressure on them?

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Very close to – Rob Lang Aug 20 '10 at 13:46
Agree with @Rob, already been asked. – Iain M Norman Aug 20 '10 at 13:55
Edited to make it more clear why I asked this question separately. I'm talking specifically about encouraging people who have talked about maybe GMing but aren't pushing hard for it themselves, not people who are starting games on their own and just happened to come to me for advice. – Oddysey Aug 20 '10 at 14:08
Noted, difference is now clearer. – Iain M Norman Aug 20 '10 at 14:29

10 Answers 10

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Have them serve as assistant GMs for you a couple of times. Start out by giving them NPCs to voice, and extend by asking them "so, what do you think should happen here?" You'll always be there to prop 'em up if they need it, and before they know it they'll realize they're doing all the stuff they were nervous about doing.

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I second this - I both love having, and being, an assistant GM. – TML Aug 23 '10 at 18:35

A newbie GM should try to internalize the facts: you're among friends, you're human and imperfect, and your friends will help make it work, rather than trying to tear you down.

If you try GMing, just explain this pov to your gaming group. Everyone will be on the same page. Yes, do your homework; yes, plan the adventure; but all that is secondary to having fun, whatever the rules (or violations of same!).

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The following spring to mind:

Is there a particular film, book or genre they have expressed particular interest in? Most people are much more comfortable handling game worlds they are most familiar and happy with (the exception perhaps being people who like winging it, creating worlds as they go along). For instance if they really liked Lord of the Rings you could offer to develop a scenario set in Middle Earth around whatever ideas they came up with and then be their support GM. Don't jump in too much if you do, let them handle it.

Use a small group of friends (3 or 4 in addition to you two), preferably easy going people who are good at "going with it".

The scenario should be one where they can concentrate on a clear story line, managing the players and having fun rather than having to wing things or deal with multiple plot trees or players that ask difficult unnecessary questions for the sake of it. This probably means it is "on rails", and again the players should be willing to go with it.

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I'd like to second the "assistant GM" answer. Other things I'd recommend would be to have one of them take care of the Initiative tracking (if the game you play uses Initiative), or drawing out the map during exploration.

A great thing that Gnome Stew (I can't find the link to the specific article at the moment) recommends is to have players take over an enemy or two if their character falls in combat. It keeps them in the action until they have time to get Raised (or re-roll), plus they get the experience of playing on the other side of the screen without most of the responsibility.

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It's easier to manage a small one-on-one (or two) session than a whole group. One possibility is to see if the potential DM is up for trying to run you through a small mission alone. That way, there is less pressure, they can play with game mechanics safely, and they can ask questions if desired. Think of it as a low-pressure coaching situation. If they decide they want to go on and run a game, make sure they know they can lean on you if need be (human security blanket).

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What worked for us once or twice was to play a comedy/light hearted game with the role of GM/Storyteller being a round robin affair. Og being the favourite for us.

Our usually serious game playing group played Og with e few beers and I started the game but passed the storyteller role to the person next to me after half an hour or so, and then they passed it on a bit later until everybody had been in the hot seat.

By sneakily making sure that a couple of more confident people went first, then those who had half wanted to give it ago followed by the far from confident we made sure everybody had fun and nobody felt put upon. More importantly the comedy game with no real wrong way to tell the stories was the perfect encouragement for those thinking of giving it a go.

Having them be assistant GM's is a great tool but can, on some occaisions, still come with the fear of 'doing it wrong'. Especially if they are assitant to a renowned great GM or in a session that is part of a long running game. either of which come with baggage and expectation that can really add to the doubt of the newbie GM.

Assistant GM roles work better for light hearted games or new games (at least in the early stages), especially if the person in the GM chair has recently changed. Another good tactic is to have the would-be GM run just a single scene for your DM without the DM/GM in question being there. So say if the party splits up the GM can ask his 'assistant' to run the scenes for one party and so long as he includes the esential events its his ball to run with. No pressure from the standard GM can really ease off the doubt.

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When I GM'ed my first game our original GM was a player and "helper" to me. He didn't read the adventure but he would correct me on rules and how to handle certain things without ruining the game for the other players so this I'd give the "assistant GM" or "GM with a helper" option a vote.

Also starting out with a 1st-3rd level adventure is a great place. It's alot easier to manage a group of orcs and goblins who don't really have much in the way of powers or hitpoints rather than a horde of demons and undead who have tons of powers and hitpoints.

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Offer them an opportunity to do a casual single session that would be a parody. It reduces the "stage fright" a lot.

Eg. My friend's first session [long ago] was a fantasy epic quest "save the princess" where we encountered people from our class at school put in to different roles and made fun of a lot. My character was a peasant who always carried a bag of potato peels.

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  • Have them start 1-on-1 with you. Less audience, less pressure.
  • Ease them in...
    1. Have them write up an adventure which you then run.
    2. next time, they run the big bads, but don't play.
    3. then, they run all the encounters
    4. next time, you just help with rules, and you play.
  • Have them run a one-shot for the group themselves
  • play some shared GMing games, like:
    • Troupe-style Ars Magica, or
    • having them play the liege-lord in Pendragon, picking who goes on which missions.
  • play some of the more narrativist games as prep; the process of picking when to trigger others' disads, or one's own for that matter, and imposing tags on other characters is actually prototypical of GMing...
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For me, writing an adventure is much more difficult than running it. It seems odd that you would suggest having them do that first. – DCShannon Oct 22 '15 at 1:48

I suggest having the would-be GMs run a QAGS game. The rules are extremely simple and short. The GM won't have to dig through sourcebooks to look up dice roll modifiers and whatnot. Also, QAGS is best suited for a light-weight (silly?) one-off game session as opposed to a long campaign. That lowers the initial pressure considerably. It did for me anyway. :-)

Side note: combat in QAGS is extremely deadly and random. The new GM will have to focus on something other than killing piles of goblins if he doesn't want his PCs to all get killed. IMHO, that's a good thing, unless that's exactly the sort of thing your gaming group thrives on.

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