This blog post series is about Game Mastering for TTRPGs – I’ve run some talks at various events about this topic, but thought it’d be nice to share my thoughts here on my blog. This second part will be about gathering your party and set a foundation for a safe environment to Game Master and play in.
Gather your party
Usually, to find players that want to play is much easier than finding a Game Master. If you say you’re a Game Master looking for players, players will sign up for sure. However, being a Game Master for a gang of total strangers might be intimidating if you’re Game Mastering for the first time (I know it’d be for me), so I’d recommend to start small and locally. What do I mean by that? Well, with small, I mean a small group – my first group consisted of me and 3 players, which is just enough to get an adventure going. Any number of players between 3-5 would be nice for your first campaign, I’d say. And by locally, I mean people you know well. In my case, my first group consisted of my partner, his younger brother and my partner’s best friend (which I have known for as long as I have known my partner). I knew all three very well and they knew me. We could joke around and respect each other. I could count on them to join the sessions we scheduled and to come prepared. Thanks to starting with this small and local group of players, I felt that I gained enough confidence to ask people outside that group to join my next campaign. These new players were still people I knew very well though, and I’m happy that I have people within my friend circles that’d like to play Role Playing Games so I don’t need to look for plyers outside that group yet.
I have also run games at work with my team. This happened a few years after I started Game Mastering though, so I had gathered some experience and confidence. What made me confident in Game Mastering this group was that they all were very interested in trying TTRPGs, I had worked with them for several years so I knew their personalities, and I had a good feeling that everyone wanted to have a good and wholesome time (and I was right).
I have noticed that I probably enjoy being a Game Master for groups of people that I know somewhat – may it be friends or people at work. I think this preference is very individual though, you might get energized by playing with strangers at conventions! For me though, I like having the control of knowing who I might play with (but this might change later in my life).
What shall we play?
When people talk about Role Playing Games, most associate them with Dungeons & Dragons, but there are a lot of other games out there to play. First off, I’d recommend you to decide with your group what genre you want to explore. Again, fantasy is most commonly heard of due to Dungeons & Dragons, but you can also play in a post-apocalypic world in the Mutant:Year Zero Games, explore sci-fi via Coriolis or Star Trek, try some horror with Call of Cthulhu, play women at war in Night Witches…the list goes on! Nowadays, there are role playing games for almost everything! Drivethru RPG is a page that sells digital edition of Role Playing Games, and you can browse the games by genre, system etc to find your next game to play.
If you think a whole campaign and setting is a bit too much to start with, there’s also a thing called One-Page TTRPGs that is exactly what the name suggest – the rules are described on one page. One of the more well known is Lasers & Feelings, but you can find more examples on the internet.
Some house rules and safe space
Great, you now have a group and a game to play. Time to establish some rules to make everyone feel safe. What I’d recommend as a minimum is to ask your players what they DON’T want to see in a game. You can ask them individually as that might give you more honest answers, but if you already have a group with people you feel safe around, everyone should be able to voice their opinion. But make sure they can contact you directly with their wishes.
As an example, I don’t want to see homophobia, fatphobia, racism and sexism in a game I’m playing. I think it’s plain decency to not include that.
For some inspiration on how you can make your own game a safe guide, check out this free booklet called Consent in Gaming that also has a great checklist that you can use.
Schedule your session zero
Great, you’re ready to schedule your session zero where you get everyone in the mood for the setting and help each other create characters. As I find it hard to do something spontaneously, it’s always good to schedule some time (2-3 hours) for this. Set a date and time when everyone is available and you’re all set. If you have a hard time finding a time when you can see each other IRL, doing it virtually is fine too, as long as you can share screen or show things on your webcam (or send examples via a chat). As long as y’all can get together and help each other.
That concludes this part of my blog series. Hopefully you’ve got some tips on how to gather your first group of players, what game you should play and how you can make your game a safe space for everyone. Next time, I’ll talk more about that session zero I briefly mentioned, see you then!