’tis the Season for Ghosts, Goblins, & Things that go Bump in the night. Or in this case of this month’s article, things that (metaphorically) go bump behind our hobby’s fabled cardboard screens. Because although it may seem odd, there is indeed stuff that scares the person responsible for putting fear into players. Here are the 5 greatest such situations:
FEAR #5 You’ll never get to play the game as a player. ie. you’ll be stuck behind the screen from one long drawn-out campaign to the next long drawn-out campaign.
Morale Bonus from deciding ahead of time roughly how long the arc will run & then whom else will be taking over the DM reins after you. If it look like the campaign won’t end on time, not being afraid to call for a break.
FEAR #4 The game will be too easy/too hard ie. the characters will either find it to be a complete cakewalk or a TPK.
Morale Bonus from setting mutual expectations as to what constitutes the age-old favorite guideline of “tough but fair” before the campaign starts. Then don’t pull any punches for anyone by having the players roll all the dice (a variant seen in the 2nd incarnation of Unearthed Arcana) so they always know that the dice laid is a dice played. No more of that dice-behind-a-screen, then-lift-up-the-screen-to-show-a-20 over dramatic BS.
FEAR #3 Your players won’t really enjoy the campaign
Morale Bonus from regularly soliciting feedback & never asking them if they had ‘fun’ (gag) but rather a few key questions that will provide you with (actual) useful feedback. Then, trying to adapt to what they’re asking for in a timely fashion. If their request isn’t something you can provide then explaining to them why you aren’t able to meet that condition. That way they know you’re listening as well as attempting to adjust.
FEAR #2 Eventually one of your players won’t like YOU or you won’t like them
Morale Bonus from remembering everyone’s common goal, “We are building a story together. You can make assumptions about the situations and encounters your characters are in and my job is to go along with whatever you’re assuming unless it directly contradicts something that was already established.” Also keying in on feedback to discern if anyone in particular doesn’t seem to be enjoying themselves. Lastly, don’t be afraid to speak privately with someone you trust to see if they’ve heard anything table side. Try to work it out as adults. If it is you having an issue with a certain player, then the same holds true, just follow the process in reverse- explain to a player whom you trust that there’s a problem with someone in their group & see if they have any suggestions.
And the #1 FEAR… You’ll grow to hate the game itself or become so addicted to it that it sucks away all your time, energy, & money
It is incredibly easy to spend too much on materials for your game, whether is it making your own or buying supplied. Come up with a reasonable budget & then stick to that. If you do so, you’re far less likely to hate what your role, but if it turns out that you indeed do start resenting sitting behind the screen, its time to hand the seat off to someone else or at least switch to a Plan B until that relief person is ready.