I feel that my last few stints in the gamemaster’s chair have been less than successful. There was something that happened in each campaign that made the game unsatisfying to me. So when it came to my turn gamemastering in our current rotating gamemaster-style campaign, I was pretty nervous. Turns out, though, that this particular format bypassed some of my biggest weaknesses as a gamemaster.
One of the issues I struggle with the most is story pacing. Story pacing is different than game pacing. Game pacing – maintaining the flow of action and involvement of the players – is key to running a successful game but that’s not where my problem lies. I have a harder time revealing story elements and “clues” throughout the game in a way that keeps the players interested in finding out more but doesn’t just simply give the story away.
Our rotating gamemaster game was set up with a simple rule – the only facts that you control as the gamemaster are the ones that you introduce in-game to the players. And when your time in the chair is over, you pass everything off to the next gamemaster to do whatever they want with. They may take what you created in a completely different direction than you did, but that’s their prerogative as the gamemaster. Likewise, you’re free to do whatever you want when it’s your turn in the chair.
With the overall story out of my control, I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to worry too much about spreading out clues and story elements, because I would only be running two sessions before the next player took their turn as gamemaster.
On the flip side, I did get to benefit from the threads of story that were dropped before. No gamemaster fully explained in-game everything that happened in their time behind the screen, which meant there were a number of loose ends and unresolved questions that had been building up. I decided to take the opportunity to wrap many of them up in a “season finale” style, answering as many questions as I could in such a way to re-frame the task that the characters have been assigned.
It was simultaneously challenging and refreshing not having to parse out the story over the course of the previous eight sessions, being able to just weave a story from what strands were handed to me, and then wash my hands by passing the game off to the next gamemaster.
After having to set up the story arc in my previous games on my own, this week’s job felt a lot easier. With less to worry about, I was less stressed and was able to just enjoy the experience more. I’m not saying that I’m ready to start up a new campaign of my own any time soon but I’ve definitely started to feel comfortable in the gamemaster’s chair again.