By - July 2, 2008 - 14 Comments

How to be a good general manager

This posts is a commentary that expands on, adds to, and slightly disagrees with a great post from Patrick Benson from Gnome Stew: GM means “General Manager”.

The Game Master handles a lot of boring stuff non-game related tasks

Patrick makes a good point: the game master has a lot of responsability between games. Since these tasks can make or break a game I chose to expand on his ideas about approaching and handling these tasks.

Getting the Band Back Together

Although there are great planning tools like Google Calendar and e-mail, the single best way to get everyone back together is to talk to everyone. Multiple times.

Just keep calling your players. Find a date that seems to work with everyone and make sure you talk to everyone in person or on the phone. Make another round of calls one week before the game, or even 2 weeks in advance if you play once a month. Talk to everyone again a few days before the session. And make a last round of calls the day before the game.

Lots of work? Yes. But it sure beats one player forgetting about the game in 2 weeks and telling his boss he can work overtime.

How to leverage your players’ enthusiasm?

  • Build hype. When you talk to a player don’t just mention the date and time of the game. Give a preview. Whet their appetite. Even if you haven’t prepared anything just come up with random stuff that you think the player will like (and make sure you add it to your game when you sit down to prepare).
  • Prepare your games as early as you can. Create a self-sustaining chain reaction. I don’t know about you but I’m usually pumped after a game (which usually ends in a cliffhanger) and my brain is warmed up. If I sit down the same day or the next to prepare the following game I spend a lot less energy. I save energy AND I am legitimately pumped about what will/could happen in the next session. This enthusiasm will show when you talk to your players.

As a GM you really can’t rely on electronic tools and your players’ memory to schedule a game. They help but only slightly.

Think about what your players will forget

My favorite preemptive solution to players (and myself) forgetting their gaming gear – or their character sheet! – is to invest a little time and/or money into neat binders. I once offered a binder with plastic sheet protectors and pockets in it to each player. Each binder came complete with pencil, eraser, dice, and they just had to slip their character sheet and miniature in there.

Everything’s been good ever since.

Players pay for pizza

That’s not really managing the game, but make sure you let the players know in advance!

Have fun and go read Patrick’s article for great general manager tips if you haven’t done so yet.

This posts is a commentary that expands on, adds to, and slightly disagrees with a great post from Patrick Benson from Gnome Stew: GM means “General Manager”.

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Leave a comment (14 comments so far) »

  1. Labareda says:

    Whats the history of players playing for pizza?

    Was it just alliteration or is there something more?

  2. Matt says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve recently started a 4e game after an extended hiatus from tabletop gaming, and I can definitely use some pointers to polish my DMing skills. Incidentally, for my first game, I didn’t make them buy the pizza – my wife and I provided food and drink.

  3. pbenson says:

    Yax – Thanks for expanding upon my article with your ideas. It is good to see other sites and authors doing their own thing with these ideas. Well done!

  4. Micah says:

    Sometimes, your group will have multiple rotating GMs or something similar. In this case, it’s very important to pick a head GM who is responsible for all the points above. Otherwise, you’ll get to the table and everyone will say “I thought you were running tonight’s game?”

  5. Chadarius says:

    Our group takes care of this in a number of matters not mentioned here. At first we did have a bit more of an irregular schedule, but we quickly decided to try and meet twice per month. For a while we did the 1st and 3rd Saturdays but now we are on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays. This regular schedule keeps us playing on a very regular basis. We also have always had at least 2 or 3 campaigns going so that if the DM of our “main” campaign can’t make it, we have other options.

    We have also been using voip and uStream to allow players to play remotely if they can’t make it in person. We have also worked on trying to meet in a consistent location that can handle seating everyone, hold all the food somewhere, and provide the constant stream of caffeinated beverages.

    Those are all good ways of keeping the group coming together and playing regularly.

    Also posted at http://lordsoftyr.com/node/570

  6. Bartoneus says:

    “Prepare your games as early as you can. Create a self-sustaining chain reaction. I don’t know about you but I’m usually pumped after a game (which usually ends in a cliffhanger) and my brain is warmed up. If I sit down the same day or the next to prepare the following game I spend a lot less energy. I save energy AND I am legitimately pumped about what will/could happen in the next session. This enthusiasm will show when you talk to your players.”

    Great advice! I’ll definitely have to keep this in mind, thanks Yax!

  7. Yax says:

    Thanks for the input everyone.

    “Players playing for pizza” isn’t just an alliteration. The extra bit of work the Dm undertakes voluntarily has to pay off, right?

  8. Labareda says:

    Im guessing if your playing with Vege/Vegan Healthy Livin types you could substitute pizza for something healthy starting with P.

    Like… ..pasta

  9. Phil Smith says:

    Very good advice on the whole. I’ve not run a game in months, years even; always found organisation a pain in the arse. Articles like this help me get back in the mood.

  10. RPG Ike says:

    When I DM I build a wiki for the campaign. Wikis are great in that everyone can edit them, and they’re free. It’ll give you a place to put all the campaign information where everyone with the internets can reach it. At the very elast you can build a calendar there write adventure suopses that people can read and add to to keep their minds in the game.

    My favourite site for wikis is http://www.pbwiki.com (seriously, you’ll have a wiki in like two minutes–I’m running about five of them right now), but there are lots of other options out there, too.

  11. Yax says:

    Well, I’m partial to the Obsidian Portal campaign wikis:

    http://www.obsidianportal.com

  12. Meg says:

    Gaming is like being the CEO of a company and having to answer to a board of directors. You organize, but they get the power of veto.

    There is a lot to managing a game- not just the behind the scenes stuff (which I call Producing the Game) but also at the table (Directing the Game).

    Our podcast did an episode about this very thing about 6 weeks ago:

    http://brilliantgameologists.com/blog/31

  13. Kurtis says:

    What is a Game Master?
    The GM is the Maestroe of the game. Where it is his job ot weave together a multitude of talent, in which to create a tapestry where plots thicken and desires become needs. where players become enraptured by the finess of the storyline. And where for a brief period of time become their characters in a believable dance of rythm and fantasy.

  1. [... This posts is a commentary that expands on, adds to, and slightly disagrees with a great post from Patrick Benson from Gnome Stew: GM means "General Manager". The Game Master handles ...]

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