Sometimes the GM must do non-game related tasks. As the GM your role extends beyond just running the game. You schedule the sessions, you organize the materials for your game, you approve supplements and verify character builds, and you need to provide the tools for the game. When you agree to be the GM you are agreeing to a second job.
I’m not suggesting that you treat the GM role as work. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. The role of a GM should be fun, but to maximize that fun you do have to apply a little self-discipline and planning to achieve your goal. What I am suggesting is that you recognize what parts of the GM’s role may not be fun, and then work out a method to make those tasks as painless as possible.
Getting the Band Back Together
Scheduling games is a task that really becomes a pain as you get older from my personal experience. With careers, marriages, and children all requiring more and more of yours and your player’s times it isn’t unusual to spend an hour going around the table saying “Nope, I can’t make that date. How about the next weekend?”. People live busy lives these days, and even the best laid plans can be trashed by the unexpected.
If this sounds like your group do yourself a favor and create an online calendar using a tool like Google Calendar . Work with your group to schedule your game sessions out for the next three months and make sure that all of your players can access the calendar. You can then arrange for email and SMS reminders to keep your group informed. It won’t guarantee that everyone can make every game, but it will make it easier for you and your group to coordinate your schedules with.
On the Road Again
As a GM, I’ve acquired a lot of inventory. Maps, battle mat, miniatures, markers, dice (tons of dice), scenery, pencil box, notebooks, gaming books, and a lot of other stuff. I’ve learned that not only do I need to plan for the needs of the GM, but I also need to plan for the needs of the players (i.e. – “I forgot my character sheet, my book, and I didn’t bring anything to write with. You have all of that stuff right?”). Needless to say, on game day I have a lot of junk with me.
This isn’t a problem when I host the game at my place, but occasionally we game at another person’s home. For those occasions I’ve organized my gaming gear into two categories: essentials that I will most likely use at every game, and non-essentials that may be used only for that particular game. Take all of those essentials and acquire something to transport them with easily. For $20 I picked up one of these mobile toolboxes  on clearance. When I need to run a game at a site other than home I just load up the toolbox in my car and grab those non-essential items that I want to use for that particular session. Now I’m ready to GM on the go.
Delegate the Small Stuff, Focus On the Big Stuff
Like any successful manager you should delegate out smaller tasks whenever possible. Have someone else be in charge of snacks and food. Have one of the players make sure that the table is cleared and ready for the game. Put someone in charge of initiative and keeping track of the combat rounds. Don’t just ask for volunteers though, state exactly what you would like to delegate to another person and then ask who will do it. Saying “I need a volunteer.” is the quickest way to ensure that hardly anyone will volunteer.
If you say “I don’t want to interrupt the game to order the pizza. I want a player to take the order for the table and to place the order before 6pm so that we are not starving by the time the food arrives. Who can handle that for the group?” you will probably have much better results. You have given a reason for the volunteer work and you have made it clear what it is that you expect to happen.
Note that I did not suggest that someone else may want to consider taking the task with my choice of words. Instead use a tone that implies that you won’t do the task. This is not meant to boss the players around, but it does send a clear message that gets you the help that you need from the group to run the best game that you can for them. And if your players are helping out with these tasks you should make it your number one priority to show gratitude for their efforts with a game that rocks.
Infinite Problems But One Approach For Solving Them All
Before your next session try and incorporate a few of these suggestions and see if they work for you. Some may, and some may not. You are going to have to think about your own game and come up with what works best for you and your group. For that I offer this final piece of advice:
Make a list of the GM tasks that you do not enjoy doing. If someone else can do it, delegate that task. If you have to do it, improve your process for that task.
That is really all there is to it. Recognize the problem and fix it if possible, make it less painful if it can’t be fixed, or give it to someone else who considers it a challenge and not a problem. Give it a shot and see how it goes.
That is my opinion on the matter, so what is yours? Leave your comments for others to read and share your own experiences with me and other members of the GnomeStew community. And no matter what happens, don’t forget that the GM is a player too! Have fun with it!