I was reading a couple “How To’s” for new GMs (namely this and this). Although they try to be somewhat encouraging, they make it seem like GMing is a huge chore, or more like a series of chores. I guess in some sense this is true, but that’s actually more about tradition than anything else. There is no instrinsic need for the GM to do everything.
As well as the preparation of the game itself, you’ll usually be expected as GM to provide the venue. Have a table, enough chairs, and good light on hand. Ask players to bring what snacks and drinks they want, and to help clean up afterwards. Have lots of pencils and erasers on hand, scratch paper and spare character sheets. A CD player or laptop with mp3s can be handy, occasionally… But you won’t use it as often as you might think. If your group leans towards using visualizations, try to have some miniatures or tokens on hand to represent characters and foes, and some assorted items for walls, doors, tables and the like.
Is there any specific reason for the GM to do any of this? Ok, if you are using miniatures, I guess its best the GM brings his own for the foes so as not to spoil anything, but anyone can handle any of these things. Of course, it would generally be easier for the group if someone took care of one thing for everyone (except maybe the snacks and drinks) rather than leaving everyone to get their own, but this doesn’t mean the GM has to do all this.
For example, our usual venue is the office of the company I work for (and partly own). Its in a good central location (although our previous location was even better), it has two distinct rooms suitable for games: one more relaxed, which I prefer for RPGs, and one which is more suitable for board games and MtG. Some time ago, Lauri brought a bunch of pencils here, as well as bunch of tokens (for MtG). I usually have my laptop here, for music if needed and I have access to a printer. I’m glad to provide this place for our games, because its convenient for me, but I think it generally helps our groups. So, why shouldn’t I do it?
Know the Rules – As the DM, you are expected to have a strong grasp of the rules of the game.
No. There are often people in the group who know the rules. If you learn to rely on them rather than fighting them, those can be real assets… or you can take the intelligent route and use systems which are simple enough not to require “strong grasp”.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Well, just… don’t.
First, you can have players make preparations as well. If you don’t have a need to have a stranglehold on your world, you can let your players do some of the work. So, one player wants to play a priest. Why don’t you let him come up with the mythology of his god or gods? Another plays a mercenary, who has a huge skeleton in his closet after serving an evil overlord during his attempt to conquer the world. Why not have that player decide what exactly happened? As those who have been keeping up with this blog know, I’ve written three of the playbooks for Lauri’s Wayward Sons. Actually, most of them are designed by the players themselves, leaving the development process for Lauri (except for the three I developed, one of which was designed by one of the players). You can also have the players do the research. You can’t be expected to know every single factoid about medieval life in Poland, but you’re players can bring verisimilitude by bringing their own titbits of information. One player did playlists for our sessions. There’s plenty of stuff other people can do.
But there are other things these articles don’t think about at all.
For example, I’m better off financially than most of the people I play with. Despite this its generally assumed that the GM should shoulder all the expenses of the games they run. Why? Why not buy the books as a group? Of course, this represents many problems (What if the game never comes to fruition? What kind of access should the participants have to the books they’ve paid for? Simply asking for money is a big problem for many.), but still, if the group is well established, why not do this?
In the end, this is about trusting your players. Trusting your players requires knowing your players, because then you’ll know what you can trust them with. Personally, I like to facilitate games if it means they’ll have a better chance of happening. Why not? Many of the people in my groups are quite busy pretty much all of the time (as am I pretty often), so dividing the workload in some way is good.