5 Steps To Pressure Free GMing

Point #1: The Group Comes First

A good game is built on a good group. When you’re gaming, you’re sharing your imaginations, which in turn thrive in a trusting and pressure-free environment.

In the best groups I have been a part of, people were gaming together because they liked hanging out together – not the other way around. If you treat the group like they’re only here for the game, you’re going to take your game too seriously and miss the subtler group dynamics that are going on. Is everyone having a good time doing something else? Then you don’t have to start the game.

Get together to watch a movie or play some simpler kind of game. Friendship is first.

Point #2: Never Let the Game Be A “Have-To”

Don’t let prep be an item on your “to-do” list. Instead, get done with your to-do items for the day, sit down, do something relaxing and creatively stimulating (i.e., not watching YouTube videos) and then, when you get around to it, scribble down some notes.

You do have to prep – the group is depending on you – but when you’re doing it because you have to and not because you want to, your session will be rigid and difficult instead of free and easy. Set yourself free to play. This is a game, after all – and GMs are supposed to have the most fun with it.

Point #3: You’re Running the show

…not putting on the show. There’s a difference.

by Glennis Silverson. Link: http://www.redbubble.com/people/glennis/works/3659645-the-ringmaster

The players are not just audience members, they’re also your fellow performers. That means it’s ok – it’s required – to let them behind the scenes once in a while. Let them know what you’re doing storywise. Step out of game to explain something that was missed. When they touch on a part of the gameworld you haven’t got prepped, ask them for some details.

Trying to make your session “perfect” will only leave you feeling overworked and your players feeling excluded. The irony is, as soon as you set yourself free to just play, you’re much closer to having a perfect session.

Point #4: The Spotlight Starts on You, but It’s About The Audience

You can’t change that. When you have non-gamer friends over, the evening just unfolds as it will. But when friends are over for an rpg, they’re waiting on your cues to direct the evening.

In a way, the whole activity rotates around you. That doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want in the story. It means your job is creatively and intellectually taxing. It means you can’t affford to doze through some of the session and make a couple contributions now and then – as is completely fine for certain players to do.

This creates pressure: so instead of letting the pressure drive you, just act mellow and spontaneous, never serious and “in charge” – if you can’t get comfortable letting your guard down around these people, you probably shouldn’t be gaming with them. Look for opportunities to turn the spotlight onto other players to make them look awesome. Keeping it on yourself would have been exhausting anyway.

Kind of like point #3, to lead you have to let go.

Point #5: You Don’t Have to GM Tonight.

You have the freedom to cancel rpg and just hang out tonight.

If your group gets together and you don’t feel like running the game, just say so. If you say you’d rather hang out or play a board game, the group will probably be happy doing that. Because it’s not all about your game, after all (see point #1).

Now, don't do this on a regular basis, but remind yourself you have the freedom to do it. That knowledge alone will take off pressure like nothing else.