NaNewGaMo: One New GM’s Experience

NaNewGaMo Title-2016

January was National New Gamemasters Month, and we here at MCG offered a fun program to help gamers who have been thinking about GMing, but don’t quite know where to start, run their first games. We set out an eight-part course on how to GM, covering everything from rules to snacks—but mostly focused on the basic confidence and sensibilities that make GMing fun and successful. (If you missed out, you can find all the posts here.)

Many of our participants ran their first game last weekend, while others are running games this week or later this month. We’re just starting to get feedback. In the mean time, though, here are a few words from one of our participants: MCG’s very own Tammie Ryan.

One of my first experiences in the world of roleplaying was as a playtester for Deadlands, Shane Hensley’s outstanding weird west RPG (in case you want to fact-check me, my name was Tammie Kurtin at the time). Working in the game industry, the list of GMs who ran the adventures and campaigns in which I played reads like a Who’s Who list of RPG designers, and to top it off, I’m married to Charles Ryan, my very own GM extraordinaire.

So, most of my RPG experience has been playing in campaigns run by the designers of the games. Is that a humblebrag? Maybe. But when you hang out with game designers, guess who’s usually the GM? Which is fantastic, because who better to interpret the worlds they have created than the creators themselves? I certainly didn’t want to be the one to butcher their creations. Or more realistically, I was too intimidated to take up the GM reins. Surrounded by such noteworthy designers, I was too afraid to make mistakes, to get the rules wrong, to look like a fool.

Enter NaNewGaMo 2016. I decided it was time to overcome my fear of GMing. So, at the 2015 Autumn MCG Summit, we set the date. I would run Numenera for my bosses, my co-workers, my friends on January 15th. My first thought after scheduling it was, “Oh good gravy, what have I done?!?”

I read all of the NaNewGaMo posts and followed along in preparation for the big day. I read the Numenera adventure, selected the characters (pre-gens), gathered the GM intrusion cards and the creature cards . . . I did everything I could to ensure things would move along smoothly. I was nervous as heck, but determined to move forward as the big day crept closer.

A few days before the game, circumstances arose that could have delayed it. I was very sick and we were scheduled to travel out of town for the weekend; either of these was a legitimate excuse to postpone the game; to buy more time. More time—just what I needed, right? More time to fret, more time to worry, more time to doubt myself. Yeah, on second thought, no thanks. I’m a rip-off-the-bandaid kind of gal. Let’s do this.

The big day arrives. I gather my materials, sit with Chas at our dining room table, dial up Monte, Shanna, Bruce, and Jennifer on Skype, and run them through the first few scenes from The Beale of Boregal. I achieved my goal: I ran a session of Numenera for Monte and Shanna, the creators of Numenera.

And you know what? I got some things wrong. I wasn’t great at pacing the story. I forgot to shift the spotlight between players as much as I should have done. I don’t feel I adequately conveyed the feel of the Ninth World. In short, I made mistakes—and yet, the players all claimed to have had a good time. And that’s what matters . . . sitting around a table (real or virtual), rolling dice (or not!) with friends and having fun.

My next session is scheduled for Friday, and I’m less nervous. If you’re new to GMing, or have a particular hang-up like I did, I highly recommend the NaNewGaMo posts. They helped me focus and prepare to run Numenera. And now, I can say I’m a Rookie game master Who Triumphs Over Her Own Fears.

Tammie Webb Ryan
Tammie Webb Ryan

Tammie Webb Ryan entered the game industry as a playtester for the first edition of Pinnacle Entertainment’s Deadlands, and has since worked at Last Unicorn Games and Wizards of the Coast, and as a freelance editor. Tammie is the Administrative Manager for Monte Cook Games.