Why Do I Prefer to GM Over Playing

The next few blogs that I do are likely to be very Games Master (GM) focussed as I have been requested by a loyal follower of the blog ( +Desiree Kaleopaa ) to offer up some GM advice styled blogs for new GM’s.  She gave me a list of stuff she would like to hear about and so I will try to cover most of them but it is a big list in concepts.
Today I am starting with the easiest question.  Why do I prefer to GM over playing?  This is a question that for me is easy to answer but it may differ from person to person who are self styled GM’s by choice.  There are loads of reasons why you may prefer this role in a group and get “itchy feet” whenever you are forced into the role of the player and I will try to touch on the ones that I can think of and embellish on the ones that are so thoroughly me.

Planning for a pre-printed module can be JUST as satisfying
as making up your own campaign.  I rate one of my biggest
successes as a GM the running of the complete Serpent Skull
Adventure Path from Paizo.

GM’ing is a BIG task.  There is so much more to do as a GM than there is as a player so you have to consider what you get out of it.  For me it simply comes down to control and understanding.  Let me start with control first as it probably just edges out the understanding side of things for me.  Control is an interesting concept as a GM as it is a two edged sword.  I always have a joke with my in person players for the Skull and Shackles and tell them that being a GM would be a lot easier if they would go home and they can read the blog about what happened the next day.  But the truth about GM’ing is that you give up half the control of the story you are working with to a bunch of other people and you need to trust that those people will do the right thing.  Especially if you are running a home brew campaign with a story that you have been wanting to tell for a long time and it seems the players want to go left rather than straight ahead.

Of course designing your own is also very
satisfying too!

The control that I am talking about is kind of like having a finger in every pie so to speak.  From the first session and even before you are working with the players and discussing character concepts.  You are working with them to give them a picture of what sort of world their character exists in and provide them with backgrounds that are suitable to the setting.  Add to that the responsibility of creating what you need to run the game in a home brew campaign to reading modules and fleshing them out to be what you want in a pre-printed set of games.


The magic of being the GM is that anything that you create takes on a certain amount of importance.  There is no reason to create something that in the end you will not need.  It is of course a different thing to create something that does not get use though. When you design or prepare for something in game there is no purpose in creating things you do not feel are relevant.  You are like a director of a movie so everything you prepare has a job to do.  Players know this and when you run a game they will be taking down notes for themselves of names and points of interest that they feel are important. And they are important because they are creating the world in that players eye and it is your control and preparation that has but this for them.
Just grit your teeth and keep on smiling!

Part of the payoff for all the work preparing, designing and cultivating the game is in the players responses to things.  These responses are a direc result of your contr and preparation of the game. Be it leaving the game on a cliffhanger and having a player beg you to play just a little longer or simply having a player call on one of their favorite NPCs because they are so reliable.  The one I like the best is the clue you plant or foreshadow in a game that is four sessions before the one where they realise the importance of that clue.  These long term layoffs are my favorite things as they can be easy to do but really let you know that your players are thinking about things in your game when they have the aha moment!

So that is control.  It happens in both home brew campaigns as well as running modules.  In reality it is the ability to create a reality that the players can visualize, imagine or dream about.  Understanding is a different beast all together and to me is my selfish pleasure.  As a person I hate loose ends in a story and I also hate NOT KNOWING!  So understanding to me is all about knowing what is happening in the game.  If it is a module I like to know why the bad guy took that path and why the dragon decided to lair in a particular place.  When I design I like to make those reasons up and know, even though the players may never deduce the facts, why things have reached the point that they do.

Analysing a game can be quite fun too.  Where did they go
wrong?  What did I do to encourage the mistake?

This idea of understanding actually points to a good GM tip when designing.  There always should be a reason.  I think back to the first game that I ever built in D&D when I was around 11 or 12 and I remember that the dungeon that I made was there for not other reason than to be a dungeon.  It had a medusa in one of the first rooms for no real reason apart from my love of Greek mythology and so on.  This is excusable as you are just beginning but as you gain experience as a GM you realise that why becomes just as important as who, what, when and where.  So that is the other guilty pleasure of mine that I get out of being a G.M.  I do know all the answers because I created the questions.  At times I may not know an answer to a particular question that I leave open as it is a plot hook I put in the game to see if the players are interested.  If they pick it up then an answer will come in a couple of sessions after I work on it.  If they pass it by it is an answer I can live without.

Some of the other reasons to GM that I can see are to get to know a system.  There is NO better way to get to know a system on a broad perspective than to run it.  I guarantee I know the Pathfinder system better than any of the players that sit at my table and it is because I am always reading and checking and using the rules.  Certainly the players will have better specific knowledge of their characters and own abilities but it is a rare night indeed where I do not need to be called on for rules clarifications or judgements.  Rules systems excite some GMs and more power to them, so you may want to GM a game if you have always wanted to get to know it better.

I understand now how a pirate sees with an eye patch now.
I wonder how they walk with a wooden leg?  Where is my
hacksaw?

I responded to a question in one of the Google Plus communities (I forget exactly which one now) about if I had ever co-GMed a game and how it went.  This can be another reason you like GMing as in many groups the players rotate into the GM position and play their game for a month and then they go back to the table.  Same game, same setting, same characters but different stories from a new GM.  I used to do this a little over a decade ago and I have to say that it was an enjoyable experience.  It is not something that I look for in a game now because I love the control and the understanding too much and also I have trust issues with my settings but it could easily be done with an Adventure Path from Pathfinder where each player takes a turn GMing a module each.  This is fun but you have to trust those you do it with or otherwise it can lead to conflict and the game falling apart.

I have given you four good reasons why it is cool to be a GM.  the first two are definitely where I am at right now.  Of course there is pure escapism too but this is not just a GM reason.  It is why a lot of us play, so we can escape to a fantastical world and be heroes or villains.  I hope this helps some one decide to take on GMing, or help those that have just started to see some of the reasons why when they have spent five hours working on an adventure that their party does not want to venture into.  See there can be hard times as well but if you keep your eye on the prize and know why you do it you will be likely to go back more and more for the thrill!

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