Being a GM

Being a Game Master/Game Moderator/Game Operator can be a fun but trying aspect of any game. So in order to help make things easier for prospective gamer operators, here are several tips to help improve the experience for players while also minimizing your stress.

Note- this section does not cover looking over applications or anything of that nature. This section is purely devoted to making the game flow better.

Start events

Players, in most cases, need to have a clear idea of what they're doing. So as a GM you need to give people something to build off and go for.

This ties into the exposition aspect. You need to give players a bit of history but then spend time focusing on what happens next. Give players a basic goal and then let them go to make choices about how their character acts/interacts.

Be careful with exposition

(Exposition being the history/backstory of an area or character.)

A lot of backstory given to only one character means others don't have any idea what's going on. And at times this means posts may be more difficult to reply to because large sections of information are larely useless to the other players. They can't use that information because their characters don't know it (and if they somehow included it then it may fall into meta-gaming territory.) This is not to mean that this information isn't useful… Quite the opposite, it may be interesting and relevant to other players (for understanding the story) but be careful in how it's presented.

Too much at one time can be a chore to read. Especially when it comes to making a reply and the post may have to be read 4-6 times or more in order to figure out which aspects are relevant and can be replied to.

Limit world building

Taking tons of time to explain how everything works can actually detract from the story. In many cases players will have a general idea how basic things work (like players in a modern setting real-life based game will generally know what a phone is, time doesn't need to be spent going into describing them/their history). Either that or it's been explained already. So it's not really necessary to spend much time explaining every thing to them. (It can also feel a bit insulting also…)

So when you are world building make sure to be adding things that are new, relevant and necessary to the plot at hand.

Also be careful when you do start world building that what you say fits within the universe. (You don't want to write a bit of information only to find it directly conflicts with something established.)


Try to avoid going into situations with a very rigid expectation of what will happen. Situations can develop in the middle of a topic that can break what was originally thought of. (For example a conversation could veer off quickly or maybe a sudden bit of action could reveal a new area/threat.) And in these cases the results can be even better than what was originally intended. (Players will very often surprise you.)

So don't be afraid to modify the original plan to reflect new events.

Though also don't be afraid to set things back on track if they get wildly out of control in a way you really don't want to go through.

Be mindful of the end

Threads do not need to go on forever. At some point they will likely reach or need an ending. This is fine.

Knowing when it's time to end the thread though can be difficult at times. If there is a clear objective (like stopping an enemy from blowing up a building) then the thread has several good ways/places it can end. (From the example, if the enemy succeeds then the thread can end. Or if they're caught then it can end. Or if the bomb is disarmed but the enemy escapes then it can end.)

It's a little trickier when there is no clear set end point (like a general discussion). But if characters start repeating themselves in conversation then that can be a good indicator it's time to end things off. But don't be afraid to end things early if nothing seems to be happening/occurring. (Like if a character is sitting off in the corner on their own trying to ignore everyone, after a brief attempt at social interaction that fails it's fair game to end the thread off.)

Remember the limits

When it comes to making a game work, you have to keep your own limits, other member's limits and limits of the site in mind.

When it comes to site limits, most topics aren't going to be able to have 30 people in them. That many players gets way too chaotic too fast. Plus progression can happen at incredible rates making events happen that you may never have wanted.

Make sure you keep in mind the speed and activity level of players (yourself included). Some players can respond quicker than others due to real life circumstances. (Some players may work shifts each day where others have a straight 9 to 5 day job and yet another may not have a job so they can play all day/night.) So don't plan for topics to happen in a 12 hour time period when players may not even be able to get online for it.

Avoid power-playing

This one is hard as a GM because we have to keep the story moving forward. So it's very often that we have to take some level of control over player's characters. Most players are fine with something like:
“And then the group went to a new area. They broke off onto their own to search the rooms by themselves.”

But for something like this:
“Iron Man went to the 3rd room, Spider-man went to the 4th room and Thor went to the 5th.”
Players may take exception to because it's explicitly dictating their actions or what they've stated. This is something to avoid because most players have a general idea how their characters would act/behave in a situation and how they're controlled might not be it. (Even if it's exactly how the writer would have done it, they still may not like having control directly yanked from them.)

In general if you need to take direct control of a character, ask the player first. Most people won't mind if you ask for that first. Those that do mind will often be more than willing to come up with a compromise though. (They may just want to write whatever their character does, even if it's in your post.)

Though in some games (depending on that game's rules), important characters (like canons) who are inactive may be used like NPCs to help push the plot along. So be sure you know what that game's rules are before forging ahead.

Use reminders sparingly

Reminders that it's a players turn can sometimes harm more than help. Generally you should not send out more than 1 reminder every 1-2 weeks. (Any more frequent than that and it only causes players to get annoyed and may cause them to put off replying for you because they feel rushed/pressured.)

If a player isn't participating very much, sending them further reminders to tell them it's their turn is a waste of your time/energy. They know it's their turn at this point and are possibly busy and can't really reply right away. (So sending them more messages may only add to their stress/pressure since they know they owe you a reply but don't have the time for it right then.)

Generally the best option is to send a reminder that the thread/game exists. Then if they don't reply (to your message or the thread) then you skip their turn and go anyway.