Gamemastering 211: The Great Divide – Fun

GM with a lightsaber
ThatOneGM armed with a lightsaber.

Welcome! Today’s lecture is one of a series called The Great Divide, which talks about the differences between playing and GMing. You should all be familiar with the obvious differences, of course, but I’ll be talking in detail about those and going over the less obvious differences as well.

Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge the feedback I received after the last class from some attendees.  My next lecture will revolve around a point made previously that “the GM’s job is to be defeated by the players in the most entertaining way for everyone involved.”  I hope that all those who offered feedback on that lecture will add to the discussion on both this special upcoming lecture and to today’s.  For now, however, I’ll be going over a related matter: the differences between playing and GMing when it comes to fun.

As a player, the fun of playing comes from controlling your character. Whether you enjoy hacking and slashing your way through cavernous dungeons, solving crimes and moving through high society, or simply accruing experience and treasure in any way you can. A player need only be concerned about having fun him- or herself and about not directly ruining the fun of the other players.

The GM, however, has a much more complex set of responsibilities when it comes to fun. The GM should ensure that each and every player is having fun. That’s not to say that all players must be bursting with ecstasy at all times, but all players should have fun every session. Depending on the types of players you have in your group, that can be more difficult than it seems.

For example: Alejandro, Brianna, and Cadance are all playing in a high fantasy game. They all enjoy high fantasy in general, but they each have their favorite encounter types. Alejandro loves solving puzzles and discovering mysteries; Brianna enjoys interacting with NPCs and delving into the details of the setting; Cadance’s favorite thing is to hunt down evil monsters, slay them, rescue NPCs, and gain fame and reward. It is not always feasible to try to include all of those types of encounters in every session.

Instead, it is important to include those types of encounters frequently, and to make sure that there are elements that are fun for every player every session. In one session, players must delve into a Goblin fortress to rescue the mayor’s daughter. As part of this quest, they might have pass a riddle door and interrogate a captured Goblin. While the bulk of the session will be fighting evil and rescuing NPCs (Cadance’s favorite), it includes in-depth NPC interaction (Brianna’s favorite) and even a puzzle of sorts to solve (Alejandro’s favorite).

Keep in mind, too, that while it is the GM’s responsibility to make sure the players have fun, the GM must also ensure that the sessions are fun for him or her as well. As with players, not every GM will enjoy every single aspect of GMing, but it is vital to ensure that you as a GM are having fun every session, and that planning each session does not feel like a chore (or worse, like homework). If you enjoy one aspect of planning (like NPC design) but abhor another (like dungeon mapping), look for resources online or borrow ideas from your favorite book or movie.  Or better yet, talk to your players and find a style of game that they enjoy playing and that you enjoy preparing and running.

Hopefully, you are a GM because you already enjoy some of the main aspects of GMing, so just be sure that you and your players are enjoying yourselves each session. I have found from personal experience that this can be as simple as asking each player (at the end of the session) what his or her favorite part of the game was. If you are very brave, you can also ask the players about their least favorite parts of the game.

To repurpose a quote from The Three Musketeers: all for fun, and fun for all.

Girls sliding and having fun
Image courtesy of Alex Proimos (click for link).

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