Gaming My Way

06 Jun

When Are You Ready to GM a Roleplaying Game?

If you have to ask yourself (or anyone else) the question “am I ready to GM a roleplaying game” the answer is most likely no. That said, if you want to run a game, do it anyway.

Running a game is the best way to learn how to run a game, and even how to play it. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your players will be patient with you while you learn the ropes of running. In fact, it’s probably best if you run for beginners and friends, as they’re less likely to care if you mess something up. Just keep things interesting and it’ll be fine.

So now it’s story time. The first game I ever ran was straight out of the 3.0 Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook. I’d previously played a couple of short-lived 2nd edition campaigns, and a lot of Baldur’s Gate II. I had a Monster Manual, which I didn’t really use, and no Dungeon Master’s Guide. In short, it was a train wreck waiting to happen.

And it was a lot of fun. I called up five friends of mine who I thought would be interested. One wasn’t, but we picked up another friend who decided he’d give it a go. We started everyone out at level one. I added some house rules for spellcasters. Spellcasters always get houseruled by GMs I’ve noticed. My particular brand of house rule was all spellcasters cast spells spontaneously, because it just makes more sense that way. I came from a video game background after all. It was many years before I understood game balance.

I began the game with Fizban of Dragonlance fame beating a hasty retreat from Ifrit, as portrayed in Final Fantasy VII. From there, crazy awesome ensued, including a session of arena party battles in which the PC’s squared off against a party of Megaman characters, the party from Super Mario RPG, and a few other games as well. I even worked their powers into the game rules. Mario could use fly via a feather, or the spell fireball via a fire flower for instance. When he got hit, powers were gone.

There was also an NPC created by the players, more or less. One suggested finding a black market dealer for poisons to use in combat. I allowed this, because it would be amusing. Another player, cracking jokes, set the mood for this dealer as a jovial, easygoing man. And he was a rich traveler, with many wares to sell. In fact, the players were so friendly and such good customers that he traveled with them for awhile, supplying them as needed and becoming one of a few prominent NPCs in the game, despite having no name.

They also did the standard explore ancient ruins deal, the solving of riddles, saving kingdoms, a full scale war, battling dragons and gods. All the stuff you expect to do in D&D. I pulled almost everything from some video game I’d played or book I read, and put it all into a fanfic style loose continuity. And one of the PCs was a monk who used a magical spade as a thrown weapon with a 100 ft. range and that dealt 1d8+1 damage. I certainly wouldn’t call it one of my best games, but for my first, it was pretty good. It held everyone’s interest for a year or two, and everyone legitimately made it to level 15 or so.

Remember earlier how I mentioned house rules and train wrecks? Well, there was another house rule. Everyone in the party will have the same amount of experience points. Always. No XP penalty for being resurrected or raised, spells with an XP component, or item creation. Not that anyone used item creation anyway, because no DMG. And when one person gains XP, everyone gains XP.

Now comes the the train wreck. There was one person who was willing to take insane risks. And we had recently gotten our hands on a 3.0 Dungeon Masters Guide. And, wouldn’t you know it, the Deck of Many Things looked really cool. I immediately made it part of the next treasure horde. I slightly misread how the deck worked, and didn’t make the player state the number of cards he would draw ahead of time. And when all was said and done, the player had loads of shiny gems and gold, along with about 200,000 more XP. And, by extension, the rest of the party had 200,000 more XP due to my house rule. And they jumped from level 15 to level 25.

It was at this point we chose to do a big concluding session in which the PCs teamed up with the gods to do battle with an evil overgod to save the world. We all had fun with it, despite it being far from a standard campaign, and more than a little thrown together. Thinking about it, I’d kind of like to run another like it… minus the Deck of Many Things.

Of course, I learned a lot from this campaign:
-Never, ever use the Deck of Many Things in a game. Just don’t.
-Not providing lots of magical loot may earn you titles such as “Evil GM.” Having a DMG goes a long way towards fixing this, though I still have a hard time sticking with wealth by level.
-Random campaigns can be very fun when you’re looking for a lighthearted campaign. And anything goes in random campaigns.
-The rules of D&D. Well, a lot of them anyway. I read the Players Handbook before we started, but I learned the rules by playing the game. There were still some I missed too.
-And way too much other stuff to call to mind at the moment.

So, with that story, I leave you with the thought that, without knowing all the rules, or even having access to all the rules, you can still have a game everyone enjoys as long as it’s run in a way the group will like. So if you’re itching to run a game, get some (patient) friends together and give it a shot. And listen to your players’ input on how to make the game better too. It may not always be better, but oftentimes they’ll have some good ideas.

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