Dear DovahQueen – Someone Else’s Turn

A lot of veteran game masters have experienced being the only member of their gaming group willing to GM. Today we answer a question about how to help get someone else to step up to the plate so a weary GM can have a turn as a player.

Dear DovahQueen: How do I get one of my other players to try GMing once in a while? – A tired GM

Dear Tired Grandma: GMing isn’t an easy job to someone who’s never done it before. It can have a steep learning curve that overwhelms would-be GMs into staying within their comfort zone. The best way for a veteran GM to get a player behind the wheel is to help teach and build up that player—make sure they know it’s not a sink or swim situation.

First, you’re going to have to convince someone that they actually do have what it takes to be a GM. Surprisingly, lack of confidence is one of the most common reasons players are hesitant to don the mantle. Ask your group if anyone has had any campaign ideas in their head. See if someone has been thinking about it, but might have been too nervous to speak up. If no one volunteers, you may just have to let them know in no uncertain terms that you’re exhausted and need a break. Communicate to them that if they want to continue to throw dice in imagination land, someone is going to need to be willing to step up and that you’ll help that person to be prepared for the job.

Next, guide them through the process of getting ready for a campaign. If you’re a veteran GM, then you probably have our own pre-game methods in place; review what’s been working for you. Hold their hand through how to construct a narrative that suits their purposes. Go over how to fill the world with as much detail as needed without being so fastidious that the forest gets lost in the trees. Show them the shortcuts and tools you use; make sure they know how to look up rules and information. Throughout this whole process, they’re probably going to get overwhelmed simply because running a game involves a lot of moving parts, and that’s ok. Take a break; go slow with them. Hold their hand while you guide them through all the parts. Offer to be their “GM training wheels” in-game they know that in every session you’ve got their back.

Picture of a castle D&D screen.

Getting behind the screen for the first time can be intimidating. Support helps.

I have my own particular method that I use for training new GMs. I’ll schedule an ultra-casual solo session with the GM-to-be where I’m the player and they’re running the most basic vanilla adventure imaginable: rats in the tavern cellar. I’ve even done this through a chat program before. This gives them a chance to get their feet wet before the real game so they can start to build their confidence early on. As the player in this warm-up session, talk to the barkeep or any patrons that they’ve volunteered to come up with. Don’t go making it hard for them by scouting for as much depth as you possibly can, but allow the green GM to comfortably give you as much detail as they feel ready for. Doing this, you’ll let them experience GMing in a controlled, comfortable, and predictable environment with something who can really help ease them into the process. Oftentimes, you and they both will be surprised at how well they’re able to do on the fly.

Those of us who have been GMing for a long time often forget how overwhelming it can seem to someone who’s never done it before. Be patient and understanding when your players aren’t chomping at the bit to take the reins. When you’re not getting volunteers, you may have to put your foot down with your group and let them know that someone *is* going to GM the next game because you need a break, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’re not being impolite when you insist that it’s someone else’s job for a while; you’ve paid your dues. Now, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. If nobody can or is going to GM for whatever reason, you might just have to start asking around your local game store to see if anyone would like to join your group. It’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s the only answer. Local gaming pages on social networks can also be a big help here.








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Loren Sieg

Loren has been writing and playing in tabletop RPGs for over 15 years. As both a GM and player, she pours heart and soul into producing new content and helping shape the way tabletops are experienced. She's worked with companies including Paizo Inc., Legendary Games, Swords for Hire, and Encounter Table Publishing to publish material for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Dear DovahQueen began early in 2016, and Loren has been helping GMs and players fully realize their stories and game concepts ever since. When she's not knee-deep in characters sheets and critical hits, she can likely be found studying Biology at Indiana University and/or doing research on different types of marine life.