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I play a Pokemon tabletop game with a few friends. We're all in college, and our GM recently stepped down due to falling grades. I offered to take over if there were no objections, and as you can likely guess, I got the position. Now, I have a few ideas of my own and our old GM will be providing me with everything he has, but I'm still rather nervous as this is my first time GMing. What advice do you have for a completely new GM taking over in the middle of a campaign?

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Is the original GM stepping down to play or leaving the game entirely? I haven't taken over a game before, but I feel like you'll have less creative freedom if the original GM acts as a player and has certain expectations about what's going on in the world. –  valadil Jan 13 '11 at 3:08
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4 Answers

Don't try to be the old GM. Everyone has their own style and it can take a while to figure out what that style is. But don't try do something a certain way because the previous guy did. Make it your own, with your own flair. Talk to the previous GM about what his ideas and goals were for the campaign, and then turn them into your own campaign. Keep the primary goal at least close to the same for the purpose of continuity. But for everything else, keep what you like, alter what you want to change, toss out what you don't like.

I think it's especially important to make abundant changes if the previous GM is staying with the group as a player. You want to make it clear very quickly that you are the one at the helm now. If you don't, you'll be constantly struggling with "that's not what was supposed to happen" kind of situations from them.

But even if they aren't staying in the group, it's important for any GM to make it their own to at least some extent. That gives you more motivation to be a genuine and enthusiastic story teller than you would be if all you did was read from the script. And I think for the players that can make a huge difference in their enjoyment.

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You've got two separate challenges/opportunities:

  • It is your first time as GM.
  • You're inheriting a game-world.

Don't panic!
There is good news on both fronts! First, you'll be playing with the same folks you've always adventured with and know something about how they play. And you already actually know how the game works, the main PC's interact, and some of the quirks of the universe. The transition will be a little awkward at first, but mostly for you - since the players still just show up, drink soda, and roll dice.

Make your training a group project:
Work with your group - tell them that you'll need help as a GM, and forgiveness as you evolve the storyline/sandbox to become your own. Tell them you'll need lots of reminders about previous game history, how the rules work, and how and when to make certain rolls and decisions. Invite them (and you too!) to share how what they liked about the previous GM's techniques and what changes they would like to see going forward.

You'll still be the GM, who's word is law, but this should be a honeymoon period - take advantage of it!

Most of all, have fun!
This should be a very exciting time for you and the group - a chance to take things in a fresh, updated direction. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and correct them later.

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It might be a good idea if you played something different for the first session. If you have the time, prepare a quick one-shot (either a pre-gen adventure, or something you cooked up yourself using the five room model) with low-level characters. This allows you to try out some of the base mechanics, and it allows you and the players to get used to one another without jeopardizing the main campaign. It also makes for a cleaner break with the past, and you'll be more confident and quicker when you resume the old campaign.

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Yes, but only if this is somehow related to the main plot. For instance taking the role of a bunch of minor characters. –  Lohoris Jan 18 '11 at 14:51
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If it's possible, run your first session like it's the first episode of a new season of a TV show. Run the session in a way that spotlights the core elements of the characters in a relatively familiar circumstance. This way, the players can see how you handle their PCs in a typical game, and you can start to show them what your GM style is like.

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