This article was written for Obsidian Portal’s weekly tips and tricks column.  Not only do I love Obsidian Portal, but their tips and tricks by guest bloggers are a wonderful way to find good suggestions by other members of the gaming community.  Head on over, create an account, play around with their wonderful site.  While you’re there, browse through some other campaigns and see what other gamers are doing.  And of course, thanks to the great guys at Obsidian Portal for publishing my second piece!  You guys rock.

GMing can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also terrify the living daylights out of you whether you are a new gamer or have been around the block a few times.  Here are a few suggestions to make your first sessions as GM a little easier.

  1. Be prepared.  This one (almost) goes without saying, but here are a few specific tips to help get you ready for game night.  Take some time to review the game rules, bookmark any relevant ones that you’ll need for the session, and make sure you know what adventure you plan to run.  Regardless of whether you plan to run a published adventure or one you’ve written yourself, make sure you have all the stat blocks that you’ll need and bookmark any that aren’t in the text.  If you need any sort of table aids, like a screen, dice, or minis make sure they’re ready ahead of time.  And for goodness sake, make sure you have directions if you are driving somewhere!  Being on time will help things go smoothly.
  2. Create new material.  Whether you are running a published adventure or your own creation, adding a little something of your own helps make things more relaxing and fun for you as well as more exciting for your players.  It can be something as small as a cool NPC that you thought of, or as large as a whole extra side quest in your adventure.
  3. Improvise!  The time will come when your players do something you could never have expected.  No, you have not failed as a GM.  No, they have not failed as players.  Rather, it is a chance for all of you to really show off to one another.  It helps to have some improv aids handy, so before every session it’s often a good idea to prepare some stat blocks or maps for random events.  Serendipity makes for great stories around the gaming table in the years to come, so embrace the chaos!
  4. About that chaos…  Chaos is good when it’s carefully controlled and doesn’t derail the game.  It usually falls to the GM to control the table and keep everyone on track, which often means arbitrating disputes in character and out.  Be firm when you need to, otherwise people will begin to get bored and raucous.
  5. Quit worrying!  Most GMs, especially when presenting something they’ve written themselves, get nervous.  It’s completely natural, so just tell yourself it’s the Mountain Dew and it’ll go away.  Seriously, folks, anxiety is natural but don’t let it spoil your fun.  While I won’t guarantee that your players will necessarily love what you’ve done, I’m fairly confident that they’ll at least appreciate the effort you’ve put into it.  Your creation, whether it’s the whole shebang, including writing, or just running the session, is worth some applause and any good players will thank you for putting in the time.  Of course, it cuts both ways – don’t forget to thank your players for bearing with you and they’ll do just about anything you tell them to!