Last week, something very special happened. I got to play as a PC in a one-shot based in a campaign world I started. I was playing with my old group, with two of the players taking turns to GM based on how busy they are. It was an enlightening experience. It was also a lot of fun.
My initial thought was that I’d write about it this week and advise every GM to make sure they play the game they run sometimes. That is a good piece of advice, but it simply isn’t practical for many people due to time constraints. Being a GM is a yawning abyss of time spent anyway. Adding developing a PC and joining a campaign of your own to that is beyond many of us.
Lesson number one: if you have time or opportunity, play as well as GMing, even if it’s just a one-off game.
So instead, I tried to reflect on what being a player taught me, and how I’m going to change things over the next few sessions.
This sounds simple, so I’ll explain what I mean specifically. Be open with your players about how much preparation you have done. Tell them what is prepared well, what is outlined, and what is going to be completely improvised. Arguably, this breaks verisimilitude, but it also gives the players an informed choice about what they’re doing. Meta elements do influence the game we play, we shouldn’t be afraid to tell the players which bits of the world map are less coloured in.
Ask the Players What They Want
Any good GM will be getting player feedback and discussing how things went with them. A lot of people do it at the beginning of a campaign, and they do it after/between sessions. I’m suggesting doing it at the beginning of a session, or even during the session. This can nicely connect your game world with the real world. Just as a combat encounter is finishing, you might ask the players if they’re ready for a break. If you get a yes, provide a small break in the game world. This allows the players to come out of their character for a little bit without having to think about that encounter you just started setting up before the break.
Do Bookkeeping Outside the Session
When the final enemy is slain, the mystery solved, or the villager rescued, don’t get bogged down in an intense paperwork slog. Unless you want to, of course. The end of so many sessions is a book-keeping marathon that is being done when people are more likely to be tired, and it can be a bit of anti-climax. Doing some of that after the session via WhatsApp, a Facebook group, or whatever medium you choose can be a great way to finish sessions on a high, and keep the momentum going.
What do you do to keep your players front and centre in your mind? If you’ve got ideas, or other thoughts about this article, please comment below. Also feel free to let us know on Twitter or Facebook.