At this point, I’m reminded of that bit from a Life of Brian where someone asks Brian’s mum, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
I mean, how much more personal can you get?
Sure, I’ve asked myself before whether I’m a good GM (or not). But being a good GM and being a successful GM isn’t necessarily the same thing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever really stopped to ask myself whether I’m a successful GM.
Measuring your success as a GM is a tricky business. GMing is—hopefully—something you enjoy immensely and something which gives you a tremendous amount of satisfaction. Ultimately, measuring your success as a GM is a personal affair. People GM for many different reasons (good and bad) and it, therefore, stands to reason different people will have different criteria for success.
At this point, sadly, I have to reveal I can’t tell you whether you are a successful GM or not. Hell, I can’t even tell you if you are a good GM or not! However, I can share with you some of the ways in which I measure my own success (or lack thereof). Questions, I ask myself include:
- Am I running the kind of game and/or adventure I want to run?
- Am I running the kind of game and/or adventure my players want to play?
- Do my players actually turn up to the game? Do other commitments come up suspiciously often on game night?
- Do I have space at my table? Is it hard to recruit and retain players?
- What’s the mood like at the table? Are people—including me—having fun? Are they frustrated?
- Is everyone engaged in the session? (Obviously, everyone can’t be engaged all the time—sometime the spotlight is on you and sometimes it isn’t—but essentially everyone should be paying attention and engaged.)
Of course, you can’t measure everything. Here are some of the things I don’t think are worth the effort:
- The players level up or get other tangible, character-based rewards.
- The players get exactly the shiny treasure their hearts’ desire.
- The players complete the adventure/defeated the villain (it’s perfectly possible to have fun while failing) or make demonstrable progress toward doing so.
- Did a certain number of PC die or get knocked unconscious. (Was the level of challenge “just right”). As an aside, I once played with a GM who thought the challenge level was just right when one or two PCs died every session; this is not a view to which I subscribe.
- Did I know and follow the rules “properly”. The rules are important—I’m a bit of a closet rules lawyer I think—but what’s more important is the play experience. I’ve realized in the course of writing this post that the subject of rules vs. fun is a tricky one and one worthy of an entire blog post. I suspect I’ll write more on this in the future.
Of course, the fatal flaw in my new genius plan to measure my success is that essentially I’m an optimist and also prone to my accursed (and fallible) human nature. I’m much more pre-disposed to look at the positive aspects of my performance and not focus on the negatives too much. I suspect this affects the results of my tremendously unscientific approach.
Essentially, though, I think it’s a good idea to ask such fundamental questions as, “AM I a successful GM?” If I don’t, I’m limiting my opportunity to improve and to have more fun. And that’s a bad thing both for me and my players.
How Do You Do It?
Do you measure your success as a GM? If you do, how do you do it? Let me know, in the comments below and help me be more successful at measuring my success!