Welcome to the third installment of New Gamemaster Month!
In New Gamemaster Month we’re helping players who feel the urge to run an RPG—to become a GM for the first time—take the plunge. If you’re just joining us, start with the first installment. Then join us every Tuesday and Thursday throughout January, and by the end of the month you’ll be a GM too!
This week we’re going to spend a little bit of time learning the rules and setting of your chosen game, and a little time digging into the adventure you’re going to run. Let’s do the rules and setting first, then look at the adventure in Thursday’s activity. But first, a note about how all this relates to other roleplaying games.
Just This Game?
When we go into the rules and setting in this program, we’re going to be talking about the game you’ve chosen: Numenera, Unknown Armies, Trail of Cthulhu, or 7th Sea. As you learn those things, you’re learning that game. But our goal is to make you into a competent GM—no, let’s say a great GM—in general. With the limited time and bandwidth we have this month, we can’t teach you the specifics of every game out there, but the process by which you’re learning applies pretty much to any game. In three weeks you’re going to run a great session of your chosen game. Take the general skills you’ve learned, spend a little time with the rulebook, and a few weeks later you could be running Star Wars or Savage Worlds or Pathfinder or Cypher System. In other words, the most critical skills you’re picking up are easily transferred to any and all of your favorite games.
What If I Already Know This Game?
If you’re already a pretty experienced gamer—and particularly if you’ve already played your chosen game—some of what we go into today will be old hat. That’s fine, but it’s worth it to at least skim your way through today’s activity. It may fill in a few gaps in your knowledge base, and it will definitely help build your confidence. And as we’ll discuss, confidence is one of a great GM’s biggest assets.
Back to the Rules and Setting
Rules and setting are really critical to GMing, right? Weeelll, sorta. Here’s what’s really critical: Creativity, nimble response, and an engaging pace of play. You know what kills those three things faster than a ravage bear in a cavot pen? Stopping too much to look things up in the rulebook and worrying too much about minor details of the rules and setting that don’t actually affect the quality of the game experience. To avoid that problem, you need to have:
- A strong enough foundation in your rules and setting so that you don’t slow down the game recalling or looking up key information.
- And confidence in that foundation.
Here’s what you don’t need:
- An encyclopedic knowledge of every facet of the rules or game universe.
In a way, these two sets of bullet points don’t seem to fit. Sometimes the minor details of the rules matter—sometimes they matter a lot. If you want to avoid looking things up in the book, you have to commit them to memory, right? No, not really, because there’s yet another important bullet point. You also need:
- Good judgment about when it’s better to slow things down to work out a specific detail or look something up, and when it’s better to keep the pace up even if it risks getting a minor detail “wrong.”
Developing that judgment comes from the strong foundation mentioned in that first bullet point. And don’t worry: As you GM more and more, those rules details and minor facets of the setting will build up in your brain, and your knowledge will become increasingly encyclopedic. That’s good, but it’s not critical to running a fun, entertaining, and memorable game. And, for now, we’re focused on what’s critical.
We’ll come back to some of that other stuff in a later post. For now, let’s start laying in that foundation.
It’s time to dig into the rulebook a bit. But first, here’s a video for you.
A Video to Watch
Watch this How to Play Numenera video (it’s about half an hour long, so don’t start until you have a chunk of time available). Feel free to enjoy it; you don’t have to take notes or commit anything to memory just yet.
A Little Reading
Once you’re done with the video, here’s a section of the rules to read through.
- Chapter 8: Pages 100-110 (Stop when you get to the header that says Ambient Damage.)
And some setting content:
- Chapter 9: Pages 130-135 (The entirety of the chapter.)
That’s a total of about 17 pages, so you might spend a little time on it. If you’re new to the Cypher System and some things don’t make sense right away, don’t lose too much sleep over it yet. RPGs, like almost all games, are easiest to grok by playing rather than by reading the rules. But if you’d like a little help with anything you read, don’t forget about the New Gamemaster Month Facebook group!
Enjoy the video and your reading, and we’ll talk again on Thursday!
Throughout this program, we have expert GMs on hand to answer questions and provide general support at the New Gamemaster Month Facebook group. Please drop in, join the group, introduce yourself, and ask any questions you might have. Other new GMs will also be there—it’s a great place to share your experiences and support one another. Hope to see you there!