Every time with every group that I have ever been in, when the GM was bringing his or her campaign to a close the question “Who want to GM next?” came up. With some groups the hands shot up without a second thought. With other groups you might as well have asked “Who wants a red hot poker in the eye?”
That isn’t the issue I’m addressing though. Thinking back, even amongst the groups that had GMing enthusiasts, there was always one person who would respond “I would rather play, because that is more fun.”
And when I stop and think about it that person is right in a way. Playing is usually more fun than game mastering is. As a player you have considerably less work than the GM most of the time, and you get to play one of the central characters in the story being told. When you compare the effort to the reward, why would anyone want to be the GM?
Yet I enjoy being the GM, and I know that others do too. So where does the fun for the GM come from? For some it is world building, for others it is the storytelling, and for others still it is that competitive challenge of trying to trump the players without ruining the game. These are all valid reasons to GM, and each is fun in its own way.
But for me the fun in being the GM is trying to keep things from spinning out of control. I like my games to play fast and to be open. I like to have extremes and yet still keep that suspension of disbelief going for my players. I like storytelling the improbable story with highly cinematic moments without the players saying “That was over the top.” Sometimes I hit that mark, and many times I have failed (even if we all had fun anyhow).
For me, the best GMing sessions were the equivalent of successfully landing a 747 that has had three of its four engines burn out (two of which are still on fire) in the middle of a blinding snowstorm with thirty female pregnant passengers all going into labor and a rabid baboon for my co-pilot. That fictional plane may have been brought in for a landing, but it all could have gone horribly wrong at any moment.
Why do I enjoy this so much? I don’t know, and I don’t care to find out either, but I will tell you one thing – you can’t have that kind of a moment as a player. The player is a vital element to any game, and the player can help make the game spectacular, but in the end it is the GM who really makes the game what it is.
And perhaps that is where the fun comes from – the GM gets to see their work through from the beginning to the end and on the GM’s own terms. GMs are not restricted to what they can bring into their games. You can push the envelope and set the tone of the game in a way that the players cannot. It is worth the extra effort to get that kind of a reward.
That is my opinion on the matter, so what is yours? Where do you think that the fun of being a GM comes from? Leave your comments for others to read and share your own experiences with me and other members of the Gnome Stew community. And no matter what happens, don’t forget that the GM is a player too! Have fun with it!