Learning From the GM’s Curse

Posted: July 6, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Advice, Articles, Campaign Design, Roleplaying Games

Those who have been reading this blog for a while now are probably familiar with something I like to call the GM’s Curse.  To put it simply, “A GM is forever cursed to run the campaigns that he wishes to play.”

It’s one of those little ironies in life that the one perfect campaign that would have been absolutely fun to play in, is the exact same one that you will never enjoy as a player.

But rather than wallow in self-pity, there’s something to be gained from this experience.  A GM can learn a few things about themselves and the games that they’ll tend to run well by examining their desires under a microscope.  Think about your ideal campaign and ask yourself a few questions that isolate specific key elements that make you interested in it.  For example:

  • What is it about the Campaign that makes you want to play in it?
  • What situations did you imagine your character running into, and why are they interesting to you?
  • What is a your ideal setpiece scene for the Campaign?  Is it a thrilling firefight, or a tense debate at Court?

By identifying the elements in a game that excite you to play, you might find the building blocks necessary to put together a campaign that will in turn be exciting and interesting to your players.

I’ve always believed that the best horror scenarios I’ve run are the ones that have personally freaked me out.  By using myself as a mirror, I can find out the eerie things that make a given scene or campaign work, and apply those to a game that I’m running.

The GM curse is a cruel thing, and while there’s nothing we can do about not being able to play in that perfect campaign we keep thinking about, at least we can still mine it for good ideas for the games that actually will become a reality.

  1. EvilGardenGnome says:

    I’ve just found your blog due to an interest in L5R 4e and your post about Matsu Koji (don’t know how to link in your comments).

    That said, I’m going to add your RSS feed to my list for a very good reason: I agree with paragraph 2, in the sense that my ‘perfect’ campaign is not your ‘perfect’ campaign, and so I can’t make the perfect situation for you. Your breakdown for bridging that gap is clear, simple, and applicable. Excellent. I look forward to great reading.

    • Hi EvilGardenGnome!

      Thanks for dropping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the blog post. Feel free to check out the rest of the blog, and I’m looking forward to hearing your own insights in the comments.

  2. sonsoftaurus says:

    I think that’s a pretty general curse, and a natural one. A GM generally doesn’t try to run games they wouldn’t be interested in! I certainly have this curse, and the corollary one of wishing to be a fellow PC with the PC groups you’re running for (partly b/c you had a hand in forming them to a greater or lesser degree).

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