While at Gen Con I met and hung out with some very nice people. Not just fellow gamers, but also industry insiders (who in the end were also fellow gamers). I had a very strong impression that anyone could spend some time with their favorite game designer, artist, or author at Gen Con. No one turned me away, and every professional that I met made some time for me when I asked if we could chat. I am positive that many of you have had a similar experience with the people who make up the RPG industry.
That is one of the wonderful things about our hobby – our heroes are grateful for their fans!
Be Grateful For Your Fans!
What really struck a chord with me was that not a single one of the individuals that I met behaved in a way that suggested that they were doing me a favor. Instead each person seemed grateful to have a moment to spend with me.
This is the way to approach your role as the GM of your game.
Your GMing skills are competing with every other form of entertainment out there. From books to video games, and live concerts to partying you must provide an experience that your players consider more valuable than their alternatives. Maybe your players are gaming with you to socialize first and game second. In that case you are still competing with other forms of socialization. I can hang out with my friends at a nice restaurant, and we can always play a board game instead of an RPG.
Even if your friends primarily want to play RPGs there is no guarantee that they want you to be their GM. Sure, some GMs might say “They have to game with me. I’m the only decent GM around!” Perhaps that is true at this time, but it will not be true forever.
Sooner or later your players will hear about another game that has an opening for one more players. If your players only have time for one regular game and two to choose from you can bet that whoever the friendlier GM is will be a factor when they decide which game to play in.
This is why you should never leave any doubt in your players’ minds as to how you feel about their joining you for a game session. When players arrive for the game thank them for their participation. Thank them again at the end of the session. Make your appreciation for their presence known to them in clear and precise language. Do not imply that you are grateful, but instead tell them that you are grateful for their participation outright.
You should also be grateful for your “problem” player. That person is your opportunity to learn how to become a better GM. Either embrace that opportunity, or be decent enough to politely ask that player to leave the game.
People First, Games Second
Zig Ziglar  is fond of saying the following:
“You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
Those people that I mentioned at the beginning of this article are helping me to get a better game. My players are helping me to get a better game. Who is helping you to get what you want? Thank those people.
Practicing What I Preach
I was contacted prior to Gen Con by a friend who is also a fan of my GMing who asked why I had no events listed in the Gen Con schedule this year. I explained that I was taking it easy this year, and that I had not planned on attending Gen Con at all until the last minute. He stated that he and his wife enjoyed playing in my Fudge games and that they had hoped to have played in another game this year.
I could have said “Sorry! I’m not GMing this year.”, but I did not. I agreed to run a game on Sunday for them and their friends. I organized my gear and prepared some ideas on how I would run the game. I put everything I had in me to make sure that game was fun and memorable.
Why? I want to be a great GM. I want to be the best GM that I can be. Sure, I can look at that situation and say “I’m helping them!”, but the truth is that they are helping me. When someone requests that you GM a game for them and their friends based on previous games that you ran, they are helping you by saying “I have other choices, but I am choosing to play in your game because I value that experience the most out of all of my options.” That gives me confidence in my GMing abilities, and that confidence tempered by a humble attitude makes me a better GM.
I am grateful for having had that opportunity. I hope that you are grateful for those opportunities when they come your way as well. Look for those opportunities and seize them, and you will improve your GMing skills every time.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below and let everyone know how you feel.