Training New Blood


Do you have a bright, creative, potentially great, new GM whose adventures just plain suck? Are you tired of running games ALL THE TIME and you want a chance to play for a change, without having to suffer through lame games? Try training your New Blood GM and teach them some tricks of the trade. This is one thing that worked for me...

I was writing a response to an article entitled "The DM, Plot Building and Forced Conflict" by Sifolis, advising him on how to quickly bring his new wet-behind-the-ears GM up to par when I realized that this is a rather common problem for experienced GMs who wanna roleplay for a change.

It's hard running intricate, detailed, exciting stories that you'd LOVE to play in as a PC and never getting that chance. It's worse when you finally get that chance and all your hopes of enjoying a game are crushed by clumsy GMing, bad story-writing, implausible plots, and stupid things that you outgrew years ago, even though you went into the game with lowered expectations. You end up feeling like a third Dan martial artist being taught katas by a yellow belt. It's just not fun.

So what do you do? You could give up playing and just stick with GMing and suffer the pangs of never getting to play. Or you could just suck it up and settle for mediocrity or worse and then have the other player force you back into running games for all eternity anyways because they are used to your games and don't wanna put up with a crappy GM any more than you do. Or you could teach the new GM some of the skills, tricks, and knowledge that you've picked up over the years.

When writing stories, most of the creation process is made up by answering questions.

The hardest things that new GMs have to learn are the ability to handle a roleplaying group and the ability to write up a good story. Handling a roleplaying group, especially if you have mature players who want a new GM to succeed, can be easy and something that each GM will have to learn and handle on their own. Other articles have gone into depth over this.

Writing an adventure is something else. One of the best ways that I found to teach someone how to write an adventure is to sit them down with pen and paper and walk them through the creation process. It may only take one time, if you take it slow and explain things as you go. When writing stories, most of the creation process is made up by answering questions. Who did what to whom and how does that affect this? When tutoring a new GM, your job is to ask them these questions.

For example, I went through this process with my wife about two years ago. She had a plot premise of Dark Elves kidnapping a human girl from a small surface town because of a necklace that she wore.

I sat her down and asked her questions for about three and a half hours. During this question and answer period we discovered that the necklace was magical and had originally been crafted by Drow Elves as a key to open a door into the seventh plane of Hell. The key also allowed the wearer to control the demons and granted the user immunity to them. The Drow created the key and the door as a weapon to use against other cities in the Underdark and had already successfully destroyed two cities with it, one Drow and one Illithid.

Unfortunately another Drow city, knowing that their time was limited, sent a strike force to attack the city where the door was located. This strike force caught the city's high Drow priestess in the process of opening the door and killed her. The demons spewed forth and destroyed the city. In the confusion, a human man and an elven woman, slaves who had been chained together for years, freed themselves and escaped. They passed near the door and the human grabbed the necklace (among other things) on his way out. The two eventually made their way to the surface and separated. The man sold most of the Drow items that he had and bought an inn in a small town nearby. The Elf joined the elves.

During their time as slaves the human and elf had slept together and they continued doing so until they reach the surface. The elven woman got pregnant and bore a child that she gave to the human to raise. Over the generations, the elf woman kept a close eye on the human family that carried her blood, picking and training one each generation to be a ranger or druid.

The story starts with the 16th birthday party of the main character. The party is crashed by a squad of Drow Special Forces who grab the girl (who had just received the necklace as her family heirloom welcome to adulthood present) and run back to the Underdark. The town sends a party to rescue the girl and runners to the elves for assistance. The rescuers, with little to no preparation, have to fight their way through the maze of the Underdark, to the Drow city and rescue the girl before the Drow convince her to give them the necklace (it doesn't work if they just take it).

All I did was ask her questions. She supplied the answers.

Now, I thought that was a hell of an adventure! The PCs are all townsfolk or people traveling through, there is a maiden to rescue, elves, magic, demons, and countless problems to overcome. And this was written and invented by someone who at the time had only been playing for a couple of years and who had never ran a game or written an adventure for it.

All I did was ask her questions. She supplied the answers. I didn't let her get away with "I don't know" but I didn't pressure her either. I just moved on and came back to it later. I started with her idea and let her expound on it. I turned down easy answers that were too vague and steered her towards logical reasons for why and how things happened. I never suggested anything. All I did was ask her questions.

Please bear in mind that this process takes a good amount of time. It should be done in a quiet place with no distractions. We had to wait until the kids were in bed before we could work on this and it still took us over three hours. If the person that you are working with starts getting frustrated, change the line of questioning. Go to something easier. Don't give them answers unless they ask you for help. Even then, don't tell them what to do. Give them advice and several options so that they can still have choices.

When you are done make sure that you explain why you are asked certain questions. Ask the person if they have questions for you about the process. Above all, make sure that the final story is something that they invented, but that you would love to play or GM.

I would recommend doing this process twice. Once with them writing the adventure and you running it, so that they can see the entire process in action. The second time, have them write and run the adventure with lots of feedback and advice between sessions (but none during sessions).

This should get them up to par and get you a decent GM. Everybody wins.

What a great story! Truly impressive storyline from a "Novice DM". The plot & detail are brilliant. Just be sure to leave enough leeway for PC chaos & unpredictability. But the framework is INCREDIBLE!