So, you may or may not be aware of this, but I am a part of a weekly RP. For all of those uninitiated, an RP stands for Role Play, like dungeons and dragons. Yes, I’m a nerd. But you know what, who care, it’s fun, and it’s a very good way to improve speaking and storytelling skills.
My group mostly participates in a Trail of Cthulhu campaign (which you can follow here if you’re interested). There are many things that I have learnt from my time playing Cthulhu, however that’s a topic for another post. This one is about my first time as a GM, or a game master.
I’ve only been with my group for about a year now, but I felt comfortable enough with all of them to have a go making my own one-shot. This was very interesting for me, not only because I’m not the most confident in my improvisation skills, but also to make the change from being a player character to actually knowing what I want to happen, and how to get from my original story to the actual ending.
My story was heavily influenced by twin peaks, wayward pines and haven – basically it relied on the trope of a small town with a big secret. This was probably the biggest thing that I was worried about – creating the terror and tension that comes with that trope. That’s by and far the hardest thing of writing an outline – figuring out if it’s going to be tense enough.
Something that I learnt very quickly into running the campaign, however, was that what I wrote didn’t really matter. I mean it did, but it didn’t at the same time. Let me clarify: It was important for me to write out a script for each scene, but not because I would follow that script, in fact I’m pretty sure I ignored the script after the third scene. It was important because I was able to determine what was actually needed to finish the story, as well as create the world in my own mind. That is probably the most important thing to do as a GM – knowing everything about your world without any hesitation (and then remembering it). Because I had written so much about the town, I can tell you exactly how many book are in the town library (398), the town’s special coffee (Half cream latte with a hint of hazelnut and a dash of vanilla), and the colour of the couch in the B’n’B (it use to be red, but has faded to more of a brown colour). This not only helped me create a more seamless story for the PCs, but also calm my nerves about improvising when I realised I pretty much knew everything about the town.
Another thing that I found rather interesting was the actual structure of writing a one-shot. There are obvious scenes where something needs to happen, and scenes that are used just to go to the next scene. This experience has actually changed how I’ve been viewing other media – I’m now noticing how these scenes actually work – there are scenes for character development, scenes to create the tone of the episode, and scenes to move the plot along. Of course there are other scenes, but those are the three main ones that come up over and over again.
Even though I felt that overall the campaign was a success, there would definitely be things I would change, particularly the final choice I gave the PCs. While I had a win and a lose condition, I did try to take into account the numerous the player characters might get there, and what they might do to either win or loose, however towards the end in order to try and push them to the final scenes, I panicked, and I think I made the PCs feel like they didn’t have much choice but to blow up the town, with them in it. To me, it felt too forced, and I wasn’t comfortable with how it suddenly ended. But that’s probably a good thing, because now I’ve learnt not to push PCs too much, and to always have a back up plan for them.
I really enjoyed GM-ing for the first time, and I’d definitely try it again (in fact I’m planning on writing a campaign for NaNoWriMo, but we’ll see how that goes). It was such a great experience, and I would definitely suggest it to everyone that has participated in an RP before, because it’ll give you a better appreciation for all that goes into what you only spend a few hours doing a week (spoiler alert, for a newbie like me it took me about 8 hours to write it, even thought I didn’t really end up using it all). And if you aren’t even a part of an RP, I’d 100% suggest getting into one, it’s amazing fun, a great way to make new friends and a great way to improve all of your skills.
Vera Nazarian: The world is shaped by two things – stories told and the memories they leave behind.