The Three Things that Suck Most About GMing

This question occurred to me the other day, while I was out for a run. What sucks most about GMing?

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

I expect, if you asked loads of different GMs you’d get loads of different answers. I suspect, though, you’d also get lots of the same answers. Some facets of a GM’s “job” are pretty universal.

It’s Time Consuming

All of us—or at least most of us—spend much more time preparing for an upcoming session than our players. It can be tricky to fit this in around our busy modern lifestyles. Sometimes I feel players don’t truly appreciate how much effort GMing can be. After all—except when they are levelling between sessions—they can just turn up and play.

An Aside: Related Preparation Posts

It’s a Lonely Job

All my gaming friends who I see on anything close to a regular basis are in my gaming group. Thus, I have no one to confide in or plot with.

It’s Not Conducive to Playing

I get loads of great idea for character concepts, and never get to play them. I think I’ve been GMing weekly pretty much for the last six years (except a break when a chum ran a module to give me time to prepare the start of the Shattered Star).

An Aside: My Characters Past & Future

What About You?

For you, what sucks about GMing? Let me know, in the comments below.

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

10 thoughts on “The Three Things that Suck Most About GMing”

  1. This is why a rotating GM situation is so awesome, if you can swing it. You get to play and you get to run and it creates more space/time for your prep as well.

    That said, it can be hard to find those willing DMs. And some people just…refuse to try it.

  2. For me, I’m not too upset about the prep time, and while not being a player is a little sad, I’m fortunate enough to have a friend who also DMs separate campaigns. The only big downside for me is being the rules referee. I want my game to be fun, but at the same time I have to tell players things like “If you shoot a guy with an arrow he’s going to know something’s up regardless of how good you are at stealth”.

  3. I’ve done an outline style of GM prepping that has worked pretty well. Outline a few major points and 3 to 4 small points in between. It’s cut a huge amount of prep off and helped me deal with off the rails situations.

  4. DMPCs are frickin’ awesome. Not only do you get to legit play in the world you built, but you also have an extra tool to help nudge the party in different directions if you so choose.

    Mot every DM can make them work. But when they’re done well, DMPCs can help save otherwise lost campaigns. They can also help add quite the incredible depth to the world. AND, they cam fill needed gaps in the party allowing players more freedom to choose what they wanna play. Nobody wants to play, “The other Bard,” or, “The Backup Healer.” Party balance is so drilled into most players, even new ones, if roles are already picked, they’ll often feel obligated to fill the ones left behind. A DMPC provides a safety net making that choice much easier.

    1. You are one of the few people I’ve ever heard come out in support of GMPCs. I know a lot of groups loathe them and I understand the reasons why. That said, however, I often play one; I just try not to let them be insufferable. Part of this, for me, is that I’d really like someone else to GM but I always get lumbered with it because no one else will do it.

      There weas one 3.5E game I ran with just two players where they ran into more trouble than I expected and took some nasty injuries, with more wilderness to get through. They were both skilled, one samurai and one shugenja, but neither of them could heal (the shugenja was fire-aligned and couldn’t use healing magic because it was water-aligned). I did consider just cutting out most of the encounters and letting them get there without further incident, but in the end, I instead put in an NPC. She was a crab hengeyokai who lived alone int eh wilderness and didn’t give a rat’s arse about the social status and rules they both took very seriously. My intention was for her to patch them up, then go with them as far as the settlement that was their immediate destination and go back home. As it turned out, the samurai started falling for her (no, we weren’t dating or anything rl) and when she said “Well, I’ll just be going,”, both PCs said in tones of dismay “What? No! Don’t leave!” I ended up having her continue to travel with them, just seeing how things went, because they really didn’t want her leaving. Sadly, the campaign did end up concluding (one player had life get in the way and had to quit :'( ) before they concluded the first big plot arc.

      Sorry, I’ve rambled; I’m not even quite sure what point I was trying to make.

  5. I play online via Roll20 as well as Face2Face, and so can pick and choose games i want to play or run. I get to meet new people from all over the world. I mainly play Pathfinder Society, and we have an active community on Discord & Messinger, that means i can discuss with like minded people all over the world.

  6. You take responsibility for everyone’s fun. If the game is a little slow or illogical or has too much/too little of what people want, it’s pretty much on the GM.

  7. Not to mention all the cool characters you do get to use get killed and rarely does anyone know of their glory!

  8. DMing sucks when there isn’t an alternate DM to allow the chance to be a player.
    There is a plot hole in the main campaign storyline.
    Accidentally having conflicting design elements.
    The worst is having to mitigate a campaign unbalancing power that has fallen into the players’ hands. Like allowing constant flight. Sometimes after a few encounters, the players will become bored of being overpowering and agree to having uber abilities nerfed. It requires a tremendous leap of maturity to agree to these restrictions and it will cause some people to leave a group. I recommend players requesting to join a group have to agree to allow DMs to have an evolving list of restrictions.

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