Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?
GMs have a number of jobs to do: think about the next session(s), prepare material, engage the players, drop hints and clues, introduce conflict, convey information to the group, manage the table, answer rules and setting questions, run the game (including all the little jobs therein), take notes, write up summaries, rinse and repeat. (Your mileage may vary; not all GMing experiences are identical, etc.)
When you’ve got a job to do, the proper tool can make it much easier. Take a look around at the rest of the table, and consider them as your toolbelt.
- Don’t know what the guys who kicked in the door are really after? Give the players some discussion time, and borrow one of their ideas.
- Want to drop some information on the party, and have it come out organically? Share it with a player before the game, with a reward if she handles it well.
- Want to add an element of intraparty conflict? Turn one character’s former street gang into another character’s mystery enemy organization, and enjoy the fireworks.
- Need a hook? When was the last time you looked at their character sheets and backgrounds?
- Still stuck? Chat with the players individually, and ask what they think is going on (and listen to their answers!)
- Combat bogging you down? Put someone in charge of initiative. (Or if you run Savage Worlds, let the player with the fewest Bennies shuffle the deck for one.)
- Need a writeup at the end of the session? Sounds like a reward-worthy job.
- Got a rules-lawyer? Co-opt her to answer questions for you, or even to co-GM complex situations.
- Is one of your players a scenery-chewing, over-acting, drama jock? Then let him play your BBEG’s social interactions. (Warning: Handle with care.)
Players can handle many of the little tasks for a GM, and help make the game that much more fun for everyone. As usual, talk to the group beforehand, make sure everyone’s on board with your ideas, and check up on the situation later to make sure it’s working as expected.
Have you used your players to help with any aspect of the game? How did it work out? Sound off in the comments and let us know!