In previous articles, we discussed some of the roles filled by players in a role playing game. Some of these roles involved combat, some involved support. Some were specialized, while others were generalized. In roleplaying games players often get to choose which roles they want to fill; that is often a luxury not available to the Game Master. Of all the people sitting at the table, it is the Game Master who often has the most responsibilities. Some of these responsibilities have nothing to do with role-playing, but they are still important.
In this article, I will discuss the roles and responsibilities the Game Master is often expected to handle outside of game play. They may seem simple, but these responsibilities are very important.
Master of Time
A roleplaying session cannot happen in the absence of a Game Master. Therefore, it often falls to him or her to make sure the session is properly scheduled. The Game Master is responsible for contacting their players and making sure that the session does not conflict with their schedules. The Game Master should give players a date and time for the next session a few weeks in advance. This gives the players plenty of time to check their schedules. Ideally, the Game Master announces when the next session will be at the end of each session. The session should be scheduled so that all players are available, but sometimes this is just not possible. Both players and Game Masters must be understanding in that conflicts arise and not everyone will be able to make every session. Sometimes you must schedule a session that will directly conflict with one or more players’ schedule. If there is no other way to make the schedule work you may be faced with a hard choice. Get the perspective of your players before deciding, but the decision is ultimately in your hands. However, make sure to work with all your players to find the best time for everyone.
Master of Space
Just as the Game Master chooses when the session will be held, he also is responsible for deciding where it will be held. I may be a bit biased, but it seems obvious to me that the best place to run your session is right here at the Malted Meeple – not only for the drinks & snacks, but the helpful staff and atmosphere too!
Wherever you decide to run your session, make sure that your players and the establishment are open to the idea. Before your first session, be sure to visit the location to ensure it will fulfill all your needs. Can the location seat your entire group comfortably? Is there plenty of space for you to utilize whatever gaming aids you use, including maps, whiteboards, projectors, or whatever else you might need? Is the playing space, usually a table, large enough to accommodate both your gaming aids and the players’ effects? Finally, before scheduling the session, be sure that all your players are comfortable with the location. The last thing you want is to find out at the last minute that one of your players must travel an unreasonable distance.
Master of Peace
The Game Master is responsible for resolving any conflicts and disruptions that may arise at the table. I will be honest I do not relish this responsibility, but it is necessary. My biggest piece of advice is to let your players know what your expectations are. But first you must decide for yourself what the guidelines are. Once the boundaries are set, players can be held accountable for their actions. Conflicts happen, even amongst close friends, perhaps even more so. These can come from any number of things: long days at work, late nights, trouble at home, stress at school, or even just conflicting viewpoints. Disruptions can be caused by tangents, recurring jokes, technology, language, or any number of other things. Whatever the cause of the conflict or disruption, it is your responsibility to quickly resolve the situation. If you do not, the distractions they cause can derail the entire session which will be frustrating to everyone at the table, not only the parties involved. My advice is to pull whoever is involved in the conflict or distraction aside, remind them of your expectations, and point out that they are being disruptive and therefore disrespectful to the rest of the players. Ask them politely yet firmly to refrain from the disruptive behavior. Then drop the issue. If it remains a problem, further conversations may be necessary.
These are the roles that the Game Master can count on being responsible for outside of running the session. While they are not always as fun as running the session, they are important. A lack of organization, scheduling, or managing conflict gives your players the wrong impression. Just as prep goes a long way for the session, mastering these three elements goes a long way to help your group enjoy their session.
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Karington Hess is a lifelong gamer whose passions for hospitality and all things game-related led him to Ravenwood Castle, where he served as an Innkeeper before joining The Malted Meeple. When not pouring beers, crafting milkshakes, or teaching boardgames, Karington can be found behind the DM’s screen, weaving intricate stories for his fellow gamers.