How NOT to be a great RPG Game Master

You know, I now realise that this article might need some context. Previously we looked at some tips and tricks on how to be a great Game Master for your RPG players. Knowing how to do a job well is part of it, but knowing what not to do can be just as helpful. A lot of these can be common sense but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to retread the basics. So, find below, our top tips on how to be a bad RPG Game Master (you should not do these things, for clarity…)

Do NOT be stifling and constricting

If a player character wants to open a door, let’s say, don’t just say “Nope, it’s locked”. If a player character wants to do…well, anything really, never just say no! Give it some flavour. Make them roll for it. If a player character wants to open a deliberately locked door then tell them to make a Skulduggery check. Or for another example, if a player wants to move an immovably colossal boulder, let them roll for it anyway. If they somehow do manage to roll a success then work with it as best you can. For instance “You shunt the boulder an entire inch from it’s original place. It is, after all, several tonnes; how impressive!”. You may even get a few laughs.

Do NOT be the enemy

Rarely, but admittedly it does happen, people seem to the think the objective of the dungeon master is to get the player characters killed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In Dungeons and Dragons for example the DM is there to world-build and guide player characters on their quests and adventures. Sure, the Game Master will represent and take the role of the various creatures and hazards designed to impede the heroes. However, the Game Master does not exist solely as the arch-villain. He simply assumes him/her as a character from time to time. Don’t forget, they also the role of delightful merchants and friendly passers-by!

Remember, as the Game Master you are not the prime-villain. The only thing that should be getting abused/sworn-at are these fiends!
Do NOT lose focus

Sometimes players can bicker. Be it to decide what to do with their new prisoner or where to go next. Do not let these discussions bore you and cause you to lose focus. In this digital age where everyone is on their phones every moment it can be a test for both you and the players. Try to keep the players on track and their heads in the game. Lest your attention or theirs begins to swerve. Be it an unexpected whisper from the shadows draws the attention of their characters or a goblin ambush! That’ll soon snatch their focus.

Do NOT get angry with the players

You may have set up this grand encounter full of wicked NPCs and elaborate puzzles. Maybe you drew out a large scenic map for your player characters to explore. It may be just behind that magical gate your player characters are stood in front of. Should they decide to turn around and go elsewhere, you absolutely cannot take you frustrations out on them. This is a session for them to enjoy an experience. It should not be essential at every point that they have to go through a set door at a set time. You need some fluidity to keep them invested and not believe that they are being railroaded too much. Either give them a valid reason to go into that magical gate, or have them return later. The world is not set in stone, neither should the choices of the player characters be either.

These are pretty much some of the core examples of what you should NOT do as a Game Master. Whilst the objective is for everyone to have fun, this is the store for your players and their characters. Do not hamper their creativity and do not cram in some half-baked ideas to ensure things go your way. RPG sessions are long, drawn out, elaborate beasts and are not to be rushed or caged. Just let them flow naturally and your players will find the way.

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