There is a lot of already existing written media on this subject, most notably in the core rule book(s) for each role playing game out there themselves. Unfortunately, as a warning, they aren't always in extreme depth or are only geared towards their specific game. This isn't bad if you have a little personal experience and/or plan only hosting that specific game.
By contrast the intended purpose of this column will only be about my personal opinions, experiences, tips, philosophies, and experiments that can be applied to all role playing games (I hope).
Where to start?
I'd suggest reading the provided materials in the core rule books of the chosen game. By doing so, you'll usually cover a lot of ground and will be informed on how to game master the game you want to host.
Then you can decided if the setting presented by the game is really interesting and is of a genre that your passionate about. If you can say yes to both of these then you're ready to go. I can't stress it enough about these two things. If you have neither, interest in the game and passion for the genre, your experience with game mastering and the experience of the players will be diminished accordingly.
After that is the point you actually decide if you want to take on the responsibility of game mastering - you'll be hosting, writing stories, memorizing rules, figuring out how to rewrite rules of the game to make the more fun, and so on. If you aren't willing to be at least partially responsible and consistent then you might as well stop while your ahead.
Should I already be good at storytelling and writing?
I'm not going to say you need to be a good storyteller and writer, as those'll be something you practice at being regardless of how good you are already.
You will however encounter people who will honestly will not, if ever, enjoy your game mastering and stories despite how good they are. You can't please everyone.
Besides that some popular games already have prewritten modularized campaigns, just grab some of these (don't care from where), and you and the players should be set. These already written campaigns will also give you ideas on how your own early personally written campaigns should progress and be laid out like.
Note that a majority of future posts in this column will be more geared towards, but not exclusive towards, those who are feeling ready to write or already have been writing their own campaigns.
How do I start off my first game?
I won't tell you how to exactly start off your first game - usually what feels best in your gut it how you should anyways. If you aren't surrounded by jerks at the table (or where ever you are doing this game) the players will usually work with you.
What will I need?
Besides players, dice, the books, table, chairs, paper, pencils, and what ever else was called for in the books to play the game...well...it depends, that is, on the game, you, and the players. You, as the game master, will come to notice that some players need to see scenes acted out so you'll need space to act out what is happening. Other players will need drawings so you'll need a whiteboard or similar to draw maps and such on. You may need music to get in the mood of the game to narrate the game well. You may need a separate room for players who currently aren't actively playing to go into to play video games so they're entertained while they wait their turn.
As your starting to see, you may need a lot of of stuff to make a game go near perfect. Don't despair though, as you and players continue the game you all will find out what works best.
I will however suggest some good practices and habits to develop to ease the starting of game mastering:
- Bring Office Supplies - they'll come in handy and are normally cheap, though your players may not bring them (especially mechanical pencils)
- Mechanical Pencils
- Paper (lined, grid, and printer)
- Folders and Binders (for storage of sheets)
- Post-it Tabs/Arrows (to easily mark sections of books)
- Sheet Protectors (to protect your stuff of course - experienced many a spill at games)
- Use Storage Chests - they look nice for carrying all your stuff and they are typically sturdy, but bins and back packs can be used too
- Only Bring the Books You Plan to Use - no need to break your back bringing books you don't need
- Store Player Character Sheets (And Optionally Notes) for Them - not all players will like this, but it saves time as you'll have them at hand already, prevents recurring loss of characters, and more
- Bring Spare Character Sheets
- Organize Your Die in a Tackle Box - allows you to find die faster, you can tell what die your missing easier
- Keep spare die around for those players who don't have their own
- Save yourself space by only keeping the die needed for the game you plan to GM
To be continued
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