Mentally Strong GMs And 13 Things They Avoid - Roleplaying Tips

Mentally Strong GMs And 13 Things They Avoid

From Robert Ferency-Viars

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #612

An article popped up recently on Forbes.com about the kinds of things successful business people don’t allow themselves to do, thereby making them mentally stronger and more successful.

Naturally, Johnn and I thought the same concepts can apply to successful game masters.

Mentally Strong People: The 13 Things They Avoid Here’s a link to the original article.

And here are 13 things that mentally strong GMs don’t let themselves do:

Waste Time Feeling Sorry For Ourselves

Mentally strong GMs don’t get stuck in the mud feeling bad about a bad game session or something that went wrong at the table.

Everyone has an off night. Successful GMs take responsibility for what we do wrong…or didn’t do as well as we could have.

We then take steps to prevent it from happening again. We learn from our mistakes and reach for those dice!

Give Away Our Power

This one has to do with interacting with others, namely our players.

Sometimes tempers flair. Some players can be pushy or quote rules at you like they were song lyrics to try and prove you wrong.

Sometimes we are wrong. If that’s the case, see #1 above: admit it, fix it, and move on.

But sometimes we’re right or it’s not a case of right or wrong at all. A mentally strong GM does not give other people power to make us feel inferior or bad. We maintain control over our emotions and in the way we deal with players and conflict at the table.

Shy Away From Change

Don’t become stagnant and complacent as a GM.

Mentally strong GMs embrace change. We try new things in our games, be it in-game, like taking the PCs to new settings or giving our NPCs fresh new personalities, or for me, not being stingy with the treasure.

Good GMs also try new things at the meta level. They learn new things about the rules, like finally getting a handle on grappling. Play and run new RPGs to expose yourself to other play styles.

Always be willing to try something new. Don’t be afraid of a game system, character type, or technique you’ve never played before. You might like it, you might not. But at least you tried it.

Waste Energy On Things We Can’t Control

As a mentally strong GM, we don’t waste time complaining about those things over which we have no control. Things like what minor detail the PCs choose to focus on in the story, or who showed up that night.

When things go wrong, we know the one thing we do have control over is how we react. And we strive to do so in a useful and positive way.

Deal with the situation in the moment, then later (back to tip #1 again), find ways to correct for what went wrong and prevent it from happening again.

Worry About Pleasing Others

Yes, we’re all here to play a game and have fun. But that does not always mean giving the players everything they want.

It also doesn’t mean we should deny players at every turn either.

We strive to kind and fair, keeping our players happy, but also keeping the game and story moving forward.

Fear Taking Calculated Risks

A mentally strong GM is willing to take a calculated risk.

We can’t grow and change if we don’t take calculated risks. Mind you, that doesn’t mean we should behave recklessly. It means we should evaluate the situation and be willing to take a chance on something.

If a player wants to try a new class or feat, a mentally strong GM will consider it and after weighing the risks, allow him to give it a try. The worst-case outcome is the new class is overpowered or doesn’t mesh with the story or other PCs.

“We tried it, it didn’t work, now we can make an adjustment: back to the old class or a different new class.”

Looking back to #5, we’ll work with the player to keep him happy, but not at the expense of the game.

Dwell On The Past

We learn from our past, but as mentally strong GMs, we don’t wallow in our past failures or in the disappointment that comes with thinking our present experiences just aren’t as good as we remember in games from days gone by.

Instead, we focus our mental strength on making our current and future games the absolute best they can be.

Make The Same Mistakes Over And Over

Thomas Edison didn’t create a working light bulb on the first try, but he also didn’t keep building it the same way over and over. With each attempt, he refined his design little by little until he got it right.

Mentally strong GMs don’t stop trying new techniques just because they didn’t work well the first time. We examine what happened and find ways to adjust our design and give it another shot.

Playing Fiasco was like this for me. The first time wasn’t that great, but we all talked about it afterward and figured out what we could do different. The second time was better and the third time we played was a blast!

Resent Other People’s Success

Mentally strong GMs don’t get upset when the PCs defeat the Big Bad Guy too easily or uncover vital plot secrets too soon.

Instead, we celebrate their victory and give them their rewards. And then we take note of how they so easily achieved this victory so the next challenge will actually be a challenge or a good mystery.

We don’t do this so we can feel smarter than our players. Actually, it’s the opposite. The goal is to keep the story unfolding and to make the players feel mighty, like they earned their success.

Give Up After Failure

A failure is really just an opportunity for improvement.

Determine what went wrong in that session, or in that campaign if necessary. Make notes. Actually write them down.

Then pick one or two of the problems and focus on turning those mistakes into successes in future games.

Fear Alone Time

This one isn’t really a problem for most GMs. We relish our alone time to plan and create for our games.

However, it requires mental strength and fortitude when there’s nothing BUT alone time.

Finding or creating a gaming group is hard. And keeping it running can be just as difficult.

Mentally strong GMs don’t stop searching for players and for ways and times to play.

Feel the World Owes Us Anything

Just because we’ve been gaming for decades or have put many hours into creating a campaign does not mean we are entitled to have everything in the game go our way, or even that players have to play it.

As mentally strong GMs, we earn our players’ respect by giving them a great experience.

We recognize that our friends are CHOOSING to spend their time at our table and it is we who owe them for that courtesy.

Expect Immediate Results

As mentally strong GMs, we recognize that the perfect game does not happen overnight. It takes lots of practice and mental awareness to sharpen our skills and perfect our art.

We select specific GMing muscles to work on, specific areas where we can improve, and we work towards that improvement.

Johnn Four has dedicated many years to helping us all become better GMs. His free weekly Roleplaying Tips newsletter is an easy way to get regular doses of support.

He has also published several books focusing on specific GMing skills. And he’s certainly not the only source for help. The Internet is filled with fellow game masters sharing ideas and looking for support, all of them striving to become mentally stronger GMs.

It’s up to you, the mentally strong GM, to practice by GMing lots and to never stop learning and improving.

Graphic of logo used as divider

Brief Word From Johnn

Character Events PDF

Your table of d100 random character events is ready for download.

Thanks to all the GMs who made suggestions and edits.

Hopefully you can use this table to liven up the life of a character or two. 🙂

Download » d100 Character Events

Winners of the Campaign Seeds Contest

What a great response to the campaign seeds contest!

Thanks to everyone who participated.

There were 167 entries in all, crushing our goal of 100.

Here’s the list of lucky winners:

  • John Kerpan
  • Christopher Martin Olson
  • Michael Hutchinson
  • 1soni
  • Chris Jarvis
  • Jesse C Cohoon
  • Andrew “That One GM” Young
  • Sebastian Reid
  • Lorenzo Pepe
  • Grumpf
  • Felipe T. Holzmann
  • Melissa Macunado (Arlesienne)
  • Vance Atkins
  • Mark Macedo
  • Daniel Brouwer
  • David St.
  • Daniel Gent
  • Nathan S. Forrester

Gem Cutter Roberts is now busy compiling, selecting, and editing the entries.

There’s no eta on the finished book, but once editing is complete it shouldn’t be too long in layout and prep.

I’ll let you know by email when the book becomes available.

-Johnn