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Introduction and Good Advice

Do you want to host glorious and enchanting games? Do you want your friends to talk about the adventures you created for years to come? Then congratulate yourself on picking up this book. By the time you put it down you will have learned something new about one of your favorite activities, tabletop roleplaying. As you continue reading this book you will learn how to run adventures that your friends will talk about fondly for years to come. When you finish it, you will seem like an improvisational genius and your group of players will work together to make an epic adventure!… If you send me $20 you will have seven years of good luck!

Well, OK, I made that last part up, although you will feel like sending me that $20 once you see all the information I have for you. After running over a thousand games, I set out to compile everything I wish someone had told me when I first started. Everything I discovered about managing players, creating adventures, and saving time is in this book. About eight years ago (in 2008) I had a group of nerdy friends who wanted to try playing Dungeons and Dragons, even though none of us had ever played before. At the time, though, I thought that I had to be an expert on all of the rules in order to run a game. That totally isn’t true. In fact, I know GMs who barely know any of the rules and still run fantastic games. Eventually I learned it doesn’t take anything special to be the GM, only the courage to give it a try.

The truth is in order to be a good GM all you need to do is make sure everyone is having fun. The more you know about working efficiently, communicating with your players and knowing how they get their kicks, the more fun you can help everyone have. That’s what this book will help you do.

Like I mentioned, when I first started running games I thought I had to know everything, so I read everything I could find about being a GM, and I read a lot of bad advice. One piece of bad advice that I seemed to read over and over again was the comparison of the GM to a “god.” “The GM is basically God,” was the phrase I heard many times; you may have heard it as well. I am here to tell you that isn’t true, either. Being a god is a lot of work and a lot of pressure. A GM is more like a director or a narrator. A god determines everything about everything, which is a lot of work. Nobody wants to do all the work. In a well run game the players contribute to the world as much as the GM does. That’s the real trick to being a director instead of a god: cultivating an environment where your players actively participate, not looming over them in the sky with a look of evil contemplation on your face.

The bad advice that upset me the most, however, was from a book I spent a lot of money on in order to learn as much as possible before I started my first game. It said the best way to become a GM is to learn the ropes from someone else who is already a GM and participate as a player in one of their games until you learn enough to try it for yourself. I found that advice to be totally useless and enraging, partly because I didn’t have a GM to learn from, and partly because the author had the stones to tell me I bought his book for nothing! If I had a friend who was teaching me what to do, why would I buy an instructional book? It is a great thing to learn from someone else if you have the opportunity, don’t get me wrong. But I was looking for something more helpful than that, and I am sure you are too.

My intention is for this book to be your “Friendly GM,” a friend who gives you all the tools and good advice you need to be successful. I also want to help you without bombarding you with advertisements. While I bought books and searched online for help, I always seemed to run into a wall because I wasn’t willing to pay for more services and stuff. It seemed like my game would not be complete until I had more books, miniatures, tile sets, subscriptions to online resources, monthly magazines and organizational software. My goal here is to give you all the tools you really need so you can have an epic game that your friends will talk about for years without any of that stuff. That being said, a lot of the extra stuff you could buy is cool and may make your adventures better, but I want to dispel the myth that you need them to have an excellent game.

And with that, let us charge ahead like a focused and angry Minotaur. Together, we will smash through walls made of masonry and myth with horns of experience and solid skulls of determination!