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The Game Master

What is a GM?

The GM is the Game Master. He/she runs the game. Including NPC's and Monsters. Something like a moderator and a narrator rolled into one. The GM is the Game Master. Just as the name implies, he or she controls most of the elements of the game. Including things like NPCs, monsters and random dice rolls. The GM also creates the adventure for the players and guides them through it, giving descriptions of different areas and deciding on the effects of players actions. This does not mean however that the GM is gonna tell you what's waiting around the next corner though. That's for you the players to find out for yourselves. To have a succsessful game, the group must have a good GM. Most game systems (Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Star Trek etc.) have a set of rules intended as a guide for the game. Remember though, the keyword is GUIDE. Your GM ALWAYS has the last word on any disputes. Hopefully he/she will listen to reason but in the end it's his/her decision.

What a GM does...

The GM must be prepared. With the adventure all laid out on paper, all needed equipment, maps and a clear mind of what is going on. Of anyone in the group the GM must be prepared the most. Not only during the game, but long before the game ever starts. Before the gaming day the GM must organize the entire adventure, what and who is where and what is the party doing. Right before and during the adventure the GM should have all needed equipment organized and within easy reach. This includes things like the books, the adventure, player's character sheets, dice and other needed devices. (Maybe a hex board and lead figerines if you are using them. And don't forget, lots of pencils & an eraser are a MUST!!
The GM's preparations before the game are very very important. The GM must have the Adventure planned out with all required information on paper & within easy access. The GM must do some very important preparations before the game. The most important of these would be creating the adventure. The GM must design an adventure to lead the players through, and it must be prepared well so the GM isn't caught going "Er, um, well...gee". How to be prepared? When creating an adventure make sure you take care of the little things as well as the big important ones. The little things like having a monsters or npc's hp and stats rolled before hand..and having at least a short description of even the most bland room...players like more than "this is a 20X20 room with walls". Take some time and prepare your adventure for anything your players can think up. Even still players will always find something you missed. Even the most well planned adventure will have some hidden teeny flaw somewhere. And trust me the players will always find it. Be prepared to improvise if needed but never let 'em know you are doing it!! If this sounds like alot of work...Well it is. But to most of us it's worth it. If you want to run an adventure but havn't the time to write your own most game systems have ready made adventure you can purchase at your local hobby shop or direct from the manufacturer. It's your decision. YOU are the GM.
During the adventure the GM has a lot of things to look after. Things like rolling dice, making important descisions, controlling NPC's and monsters and looking after the general areas of the adventure. Finally after getting completely prepared you get started. Now what is the GM's task? First you control the adventure. This involves giving the players descriptions of what is going on around them..and sometime suggestions on what to do about it, the suggestions usally come from the mouths of NPC's. If player ask for somthing you as the GM have to decide what to do about it. Should you make a random die roll? Should you just decide? It all depends on the situation. Above all try to be fair about these decisions. Players will almost always want the best magic, or the best weapons, or to be a noble, or some similiar all powerful being. But remember the object is to role play, not have everything handed to you on a silver platter. Trust me the really hard part of being a GM is when your players have everything. This becomes what is known as a "munchkin" game. It becomes harder & harder to find things to challenge these players. Why should you be afraid of a dragon flying overhead when you own 10 potions of protection from dragons breath not to mention a sword of fire +5 against dragons? So just be reasonable without being overindulgent. They'll earn it quick enough..
The GM controls NPC's and monsters, these play an important part in the adventure, but they can also add that certain something if you play them more than just plain old people. Don't just give them a name and a profession. Give them a personality. If that NPC is a tough guy play him as such. If it's an intelligent monster well play him with a brain. Remember most players will enjoy the role playing experience 100 percent more if they NPC's & monsters are fleshed out beyond just a page of stats. First of all what and why for NPC's. NPC's are non-player characters, in other words, they are just players that the GM controls. What are these used for? Pretty well anything, shop keepers, kings, inn patrons, street thieves, barmaids, any non-monster that is somehow interacting with the party. Some NPC's give important information to the party, while others will lead the party astray. The last thing about NPC's is that each should have it's own personality, when the party is interacting with a NPC, you are the GM no longer, you are Brenda the Barmaid or Lord Randell, king of the manor. Make NPC's an intricate part of your game.
Random dice rolls can make or break a game. Make sure you use random dice rolls where they were meant to be used, and common sense where it is meant to be used. Rolling dice is a very important part of most RPG's. Combat and skills systems are usally based on dice, as well as player creation and a ton of other things. During a game the GM has multitudes of chances to use dice. The GM has to roll for things like, spotting secret doors, to hit rolls, ability score checks and proficency checks. Some of these in secret, others in public and some made by the players with the GM watching. But games shouldn't be all dice, you can also use some common sense. Just remember that, it is Role playing, not Roll playing.
Use the above methods to help yourself be a better GM and make it so you and your players have much more fun. If you are just beginning and you have been chosen as the GM, you might try some of these ideas. The bottom line in GMing is that you must be well prepared and quick thinking. But here again, remember, YOU are the GM. It's YOUR game YOUR adventure. You do what works for you!!

Questions or Comments E-Mail Michelle Heber at

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