For the Hardworking GM… – #RPGaDay 2017, Day 25

August is RPGaDay month. Yep, a month solid of RPG-related posts, answering these questions:

Today’s question is this:

What’s the best way to thank your GM?

It’s hilarious that I’m answering this question (as I prewrite the answer) right now, since just last night I met up with one player from my last campaign, who is moving away. Typical me, I meant to thank him for hosting our games in person, but we ended up jawing so long we finally just sort of ripped the band-aid off (as he put it) and say goodbye and went out separate ways.

But I texted him, thanking him for hosting us, and he texted me back, thanking me for being a good GM. You know, it meant a lot to me.

GMing’s a a lot of work, probably more than some players realize. GMs end up being the ones who buy most of the books for a give gaming group—at least, in my experience—because, after all, a lot of gaming books are GM-facing, not player-facing. They end up being the ones to sink hours into game prep, where players rarely do. They even sometimes end up commuting to wherever the game is held, like I’ve done for most of my games—when I was younger, I cycled across town with my bag full of gaming stuff regularly, because the others all lived nearby one another and I lived far away; in my last group, I drove thirty to forty minutes each way to make it to sessions.

None of this is complaint: after all, GMs volunteer to do these things. They get something out of it, even if it is intangible at times. I think a certain sort of personality is attracted to GMing, though of course anyone can do it—and GMless games often really just require everyone to take on some of the burden of GMing, which is also cool. But there’s a kind of fun that’s gotten in building up game materials and then setting your players loose within the confines of what you’ve created, and seeing how they respond, react and handle it. It’s even fun occasionally watching them burn things to the ground, or get their characters burnt to the ground.

But I think thanking your GM is a good idea, in part because it can be thankless work. I think it’s important to actually thank your GM: to say, “Thanks for running tonight’s game!” or “Thanks for all the prep you did, that adventure was crazy!” or whatever. 

However, I think if you really want to thank a GM, you could do one (not all) of the following things:

  • Have players take turns being responsible for the snacks and drinks. If your group usually has beer while playing, the GM’s beer (which shouldn’t be more than a couple anyway) can go on the group’s tab, with the players pitching in to cover it. Trust me, that’d probably add up to a $1/hr wage for you GM, given how much prep time many of us expend. 
  • If your group is short on players, or the GM expresses a desire or need for one or two more, take the initiative of trying to attract some people to the game. Post something on Facebook, put up an ad at the local gaming group shop, invite a curious friend along. Your GM is busy enough prepping for your next adventure, after all. You can also take responsibility for organizing game nights, instead of making that the GM’s job. 
  • If your GM is someone who uses a lot of supplements, consider pitching in for new ones: maybe make a little kitty fund for your group, where players contribute a certain small amount for each session, and the proceeds can go towards more materials the GM can buy or order books or adventures or resource cards to use at the game table, as well as covering things that might come in handy (like, say, a pound’o’dice to stick in a bowl in the middle of the table for when newcomers come, or someone’s forgotten his or her dice at home). The host of my last game group had a Pound’o’Dice and did exactly that, and it was great! 

I think all these are fine ways to thank your GM. One more way, which boils down to something simple:

  • Be a good player. Seriously: get into the game. Try to be conscious of what the GM’s trying to set up, and don’t be that guy who wants to “win” at D&D by minmaxing his characters and being a crybaby when things don’t go his way, or who ignores the GM’s signalling—if he’s lighting candles and setting up a spooky mood, the odd quip or reference is fine, but don’t spoil the mood with extended comedic roleplaying. Make sure other players are involved and participating, and help bring them on board if you notice they’re being reticent or hanging back for whatever reason. Asking questions works better than encouragement: “Do you want to climb down and see what’s in the crevasse, or stand guard at up here on the first floor?” Put into the game what everyone wants to get out of it: energy. 

Oh, and GMs should always remember to thank their players. I think the best way to thank them is to make sure they have the materials they need to play, and to do your level best to be prepared for a good session every time… well, and to pay attention and see that everyone’s having fun. In other words: do your job. 

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