Darrell Hardy here! A while back, I had the privilege of speaking on a couple panels at the Fort Collins Comic Con. (Unofficial motto: “We’re bigger than you think!”)

The panels were all about running tabletop roleplaying games. Together with Bill Keyes, Sean Patrick Fannon, and Ross Watson, we answered questions from the surprisingly-large crowd about how to get started as a GM, how to keep your players happy, and how to keep a long-term campaign from catching fire, crashing through a line of school children, and plummeting into a pit of giant snakes far below.

We were thrilled at the number of new Game Masters in attendance. As Sean pointed out, the only way the hobby (and the industry) expands is by more people stepping up to the challenge of running RPGs; we can only have as many gaming groups as we have GMs. While the old guard can keep it going, new blood is what makes it grow.

Especially with the new GMs in mind, I’d like to share three recurring bits of advice from the panels:

  1. Communication is Key: Talk to your players. You’re all on the same team, working towards the same goals of a good time and a good story. Work with your teammates to determine the direction of the game (“So no more sewer adventures, then? Got it.”) and resolve any problems that come up (“Sorry, dude, but that clown costume has got to go. Yes, the makeup is great, but it’s distracting to the other players, and it’s freaking my cat out.”).
  2. Match Characters to Campaign: One of the things to talk about with your players is how best to mesh the characters they’re excited to play with the campaign that you’re excited to run. This could start with you (“This campaign takes place on a space pirate ship, so make some space pirates”) or it could start with the players (“We all made space pirates!”), but it should end with everyone playing the role they want in the adventure they want.
  3. Start Small: Finally, if you’re a new GM, don’t feel obligated to create a world-spanning epic for your first few forays into running the game. Find a pre-written adventure (or campaign, if you’re that committed) that appeals to you, read it over, and run it. Yes, your players may go off-script. And yes, things will happen that aren’t covered in the adventure. That’s okay. It’s just one adventure. And when it’s done, you’ll be that much more prepared to run the next adventure. (For more tips on running your first adventure, I recommend this funny and insightful piece by the Angry DM.)

Thanks to the Fort Collins Comic Con team, and to Bill for inviting me. I had a great time at the con, and hope to do it all again next year!

Check out my post on youthful tabletop gaming Dice of Creation.

If you want some tips kids on running a game for your kids, check this article out.

Oh and buy my awesome game Ghost Punchers here! 

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