Meeple Blog > GM’s Journal – Storytelling

GM’s Journal – Storytelling

GM’s Journal – Storytelling


In the GM’s Journal we will discuss all things role playing. From tips for running a successful table to reviews of various systems, you’ll find it here.

Today as I write what will become the first entry in the GM’s Journal, I find myself reminiscing about all the sessions that I have run over the years. This got me wondering about what it means to be a Game Master. Game Masters wear many hats: the primary antagonist of the players, every non-player character ever, rule interpreters, and (from time to time) referees. As Game Masters, our most sacred duty is to tell an entertaining story that our players can influence. That’s right – a story.  If we get down to brass tacks, we are carrying on the noble tradition of storytelling.

Since the existence of people, there have been people telling stories. Some stories speak of great heroes and explain the formation of the world. Others try to explain why dogs chase cats and why the sky is blue. These ancient storytellers have long since departed, yet we still crave stories. You can see it in the multiplexes when the next Avengers movie is released.  It can be seen in the eyes of the fans as they anxiously await the next book in the Song of Ice & Fire saga. We still love stories, but why do we have such a fascination? Because in each of us there is a sense of adventure.  We desire to hear tales of far off places and adventures beyond our experience. Even if they never were or never will be.

So why do we as Game Masters seek out like minded players to dedicate hours and hours to play a game that has no foreseeable purpose? Is it that we are hoping to find a +1 Sword or an Amulet of Health? No. We do it because of the love of the story. We spend hours and hours playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, Call of Cthulhu, Shadow Run, and Fate because we can’t wait to see what happens next. We have to know what lies beyond the next hill, around the next corner, in the next room, or at the end of the dungeon.

Roleplaying games awake inside of us a sense of adventure. As Game Masters we are able to bring everyone at the table together to share in that adventure. We long to spend quality time with our fellow players and in doing so share in their revelry. The players are playing in our sandbox. Their characters exist in our world.

As Game Masters, we have the privilege of crafting our own world with its own unique story and therefore joining the tradition of the many storytellers that came before us. And yet, we have an advantage over our predecessors. Even we don’t get to know the ending to the stories we are telling. Our players help us to tell the story – exerting just as much of an influence over the story as we do. Through their actions, they change our plans and drive the plot of the story.

So I challenge you the next time you sit down behind the screen. Don’t “run a campaign.” Go tell a story and let the players help.

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.