Traits of a Good Gamemaster

I’ve posted examples related to this topic before.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  In coaching students to become good GMs, I crafted this list to help give specific “to dos” that can help GMs improve their skills.

Ten Traits of a Good GM

A good Game Master…

1) Invites players to suggest goals or tasks.  If the players do not on their own, the GM provides a concrete goal or choice of goals.

2) Crafts a balance between challenge and success.  If the players express concerns about the game being too difficult or too easy, the GM adjusts to help satisfy the player’s sense of adventure.

3) Places the fun and community of players ahead of their personal desires.  If the players don’t find fun in the same dimensions of the game as the GM, the GM prioritizes the player’s conception of fun.

4) Considers how problems might be solved through their actions.  If players exhibit undesirable or caustic behaviors, the GM first considers what choices might be unintentionally encouraging those behaviors.  Blaming the players is not often the root cause of problems.

5) Is an ally of the players, placing story, fun and community above control or manipulation.  If players need help learning the game, the GM teaches them, or invites the help of experienced players to help.  If players do not understand role-playing protocol, the GM teaches them, or invites the help of experienced players to help.  If players have a creative idea, the GM does everything in their power to nurture it.  If the players question a GM’s decision, the GM clearly, logically and politely explains their rationale.  If the GM cannot provide a logical answer, the GM considers whether their decision is supportive of the game experience.

6) Fulfills closure to their campaign before seeking out game experiences for themselves.  If they leave their game early, players are likely to feel resentment.

7) Works to read the facial expressions, posture, and verbal cues of players to craft a positive experience for them.  If a player looks bored, the GM engages them in conversation or asks them to contribute ideas or choices.  The GM is flexible with the pacing of the game to avoid spending an extensive amount of time with only part of the group.  If a player shows visual dislike of a game ruling, the GM works to bring them back into the game, without compromising the rules of the table.

8) Sets clear expectations and ground rules for the table.  If time is not spent establishing table guidelines, the GM can expect players to follow a unique set of rules for each person.

9) Strikes a balance between role-playing and roll-playing that is appropriate for the interests of the group.

10) Understands when to bend the rules and when not to.  If the rules are preventing the players from having an enjoyable experience, the rules need to be changed.

This list is not comprehensive.  Its just where my current thoughts are on GMing.  There should probably be something about rich characters and settings in here.  ;P


2 thoughts on “Traits of a Good Gamemaster

    1. klecser Post author

      Thanks Jim. I agree that improvisation is incredibly important. Improvisation stems from experience. The creative mind is active when it spends little time worrying about the unknown and a great deal of time taking risks backed by experience. These are calculated, high-reward risks, of course.

      Liked by 1 person


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