10 Tips To Stop Nerves Before GMing

From Mark Knights

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0587

Brief Word From Johnn

Get A Crash Course In Calligraphy

Details about this online class hit my inbox today, and I thought it was a very cool idea.

What better way to make awesome player handouts than to do them in handwritten calligraphy?

And if you’ve always wanted to learn how to do this, then check out The Art of Modern Calligraphy online class by Molly Jacques: Online Creative Classes

Chaos Keep Season 1 Episode 1 Begins With Tension

Last week I started my new campaign, Chaos Keep!

The PCs are escorting a new baron to his keep on the frontier.

Though the mountain passes are treacherous and the valley swamps are dangerous, the true threat comes from within.

After only moments of campaign time, the PCs started to clash with others in the caravan.

It almost came to blows.

And the tension just rose throughout the session as the caravan members fought with each other.

It nearly cost them as goblins attacked twice.

The first assault came in the form of exploding cows. They nearly blew apart the paladin.

A goblin alchemist and an assistant distracted the PCs long enough with their bovine WMDs for speargoblins and a spellcaster to attack from cover.

The second attack came from above. Goblins hidden on a ledge dropped boulders onto the heads of the PCs who had stopped to investigate a dead goblin with his hand caught in a pickle jar.

We ended the session about halfway through the trip to the keep.

I worry about my NPCs.

I think the player characters are about to gang up on them. And there will be casualties….

This was a great game episode. It involved my favourite things – great action, good roleplaying, and escalating tension from PC-NPC dynamics.

I can’t wait for S1E2!

10 Tips To Stop Nerves Before GMing

Sometimes games take you out of your comfort zone. You feel pressure to perform for your group. You get nervous.

This commonly afflicts new GMs, but can happen to you even after years of gaming.

Here are 10 tips to help you overcome pre-game nerves.

Know What You Are Covering

Be familiar with the material you are going to cover in the game. Read over your entire adventure and make notes and highlights. Get an understanding of the whole plot or premise, the bad guys and how encounters connect.

The nerves will only get you if you have not read a section because you underestimated how much you would get done.

Getting familiar with the adventure will also keep the pace of the game going and everyone in it engaged and interested.

Consider What Aides You Will Need

Think about what you need to cover:

  • Stat blocks of monsters
  • Notes on where the treasure is
  • You know what the magical treasure does
  • What are NPC initial attitudes to the players
  • Do you understand all NPC abilities and powers?
  • Are there any things you need to use to foreshadow things in future games?

And think about props you can add to help the experience.

Background music or sound effects can help. Candles on the table or a skull and crossbones flag for the wall.

Anything you think you will need to push your game from average to good or great is a worthwhile investment.

Homemade stuff is all the more fun, especially if the players can keep them and refer back to them.

Prepare Things Early

If you want to use props, have them ready early rather than leaving it to the day of the game. If something goes wrong you can fix it with time to spare.

Same for maps and other game aides. Make them early and all you will need on game day is a refresher read and you are good to go.

Bookmark important rules.

Be Organized

Have props organised in the order they need to be handed out.

Have NPC cards, minis and stats at hand and in order so you just need to grab the next one for the adventure to continue.

Get your GM binder sorted out, plot notes updated and ready, gaming area clean and good to go.

Get In The Mood For The Genre

Watch a movie or read a book on the genre you are gaming.

Describe some of the settings that appear there so you get the hang of the genre before you have to present it.

Describe them while in the shower, driving or in front of a mirror so you can see the facial expressions you use and have practiced describing various situations out loud (without people thinking you are weird!).

Think About Reactions

Consider pivotal role playing moments between NPCs and the characters and try to plan for how you think they may go.

If you have an idea of player style prior to the game, think how you will have an NPC react to save stumbling over a response in-game. Think of witty banter the NPC may offer and note in down in your adventure notes for use in play.

Get There Early

Early GMs get to set up the game space to their liking at their leisure.

If you are going to use music, make sure the sound system works.

If you need the internet, make sure you can connect.

Find a place for your books and props that gives you easy access.

Make Sure You Are Comfortable

Have snacks at the table if you think you are going to be hungry, and a plate for you alone. You can miss out on stuff as the GM unless you grab some first.

Have a steady stream of drinks available. Your voice is your most important asset.

Have the table and seats to your liking and get as comfortable as you can.

Have your area ready so anything you need in a snap moment (dice, adventure, note paper, pen/pencil) is available to you in no time at all.

Turn on a heater if it is cold (unless the PCs are on a snow covered mountain!) or open a window if it is hot.

If it is going to be a long session, plan where and when you can take a quick stretch.

Allow For Catch Up Between The Group

Allow some time once everyone has arrived for all the players and yourself to have a chat.

Role playing is a social pastime, and it is good to allow everyone time to catch up on outside interests.

Don’t let it take over the session though. It will be your job to say “Righto everyone, are we here to play?” or something similar.

Give It Your All!

Once you are at the table let all your techniques take over. You are there for the fun of the game, so relax and give it your all!

Funny voices, over the top actions and gestures. Feel the roles of the NPC’s and try to keep your players attention all the way through the game.

Be enthusiastic and a good listener. Be fair and consistent. Tell great stories.

To quote William Purkey, “Dance like no one is watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like no one is listening, Live like it’s heaven on earth.”

If you are not self conscious in the game everything will fall perfectly in place.

Graphic of section divider

These tips will go a long way toward calming your nerves and helping you get on with the game you want to run. Don’t focus on the worst that can happen. Just think of all the fun you and your players will share!