My greatest mistakes and achievements as a gamemaster seem to occur more frequently in stituations outside of my gaming norm. For example, when I GM at a convention I notice that I have to focus more on reading the player’s motivation, because often that person and I have just met. When I run a new system I tend to push myself harder on understanding the rules better, because I am not familiar enough with how the game plays to know which rules are going to come up frequently during play. Being in strange new gaming “territory” not only increases my focus on the game, but it gives me something to compare my regular games to so that I can improve upon the skills that I regularly use when GMing.
If you are happy with your current game, RPG system, or group of players you do not have to ditch them to stretch your gaming muscles in new ways. The purpose of trying a new system, or playing with a new group from time-to-time should never be done for the purpose of replacing something that works (if it does not work you have another issue entirely).
The purpose of doing something different is to establish different experiences that you may reference when GMing your regular game. I arrange events at my local game shop that are open to the public for the purpose of challenging myself as a GM. I am preparing to run one or two events where the players will bring in characters from games that fell apart for whatever reason, and we will convert those characters into Fudge characters. I will then run an adventure that I have prepared with no idea what kind of PCs will be playing in it. This could be seen as GM lunacy, and I do risk running a very bad event, but regardless of the outcome I know that I will learn something as a GM by challenging myself in this way.
Yes I am using the Fudge system, one of my favorites , but I’ve never used it in this way before. I have never tried to run a game where the characters Green Lantern, Gandalf, and Hello Kitty all arrive at the last minute unannounced and expect to be entertained. I am also planning games with systems that I have never GMed before, or even played for that matter, because experiencing these new games will help me understand what I like and dislike with my regular games.
Our brains are great at two things: noticing changes, and running routines. If you have been using the same system, playing with the same players, and playing the same setting for a long period of time you have established some routines. Great! Nothing is wrong with that, but you might also be taking some aspects of your game for granted without even realizing it. By stepping out of your comfort zone and breaking aways from your routine you might learn of ways to improve that same routine once you return to it.
To sum up I once had a Kung Fu instructor who would stay late to observe the beginner’s class despite his shift being over. Curious I asked why he did so. Was he looking for mistakes and wanted to make sure the junior instructors corrected bad habits early? I was a bit surprised when he responded with “I learn a lot from the students who don’t know the practice yet. They show me different ways of doing things that I have taken for granted.” He did not ditch his years of physcial conditioning and training in order to adopt what he had observed, but he did question his way of doing things in a very productive manner. He was learning through observation what someone does naturally as opposed to what someone does after conditioning. This made him a better instructor because he understood what a beginner would do versus what an experienced student would do in the same situation.
So take a break from your routine and push yourself with a new GMing challenge. You can always return to your regular game, but you might return better prepared for it!
That is my opinion on the matter. What is yours? Do you take on new GMing challenges, or do you prefer building upon your established game? Leave your comments below to share with others. And remember that the GM is a player too. Have fun with it!