What to do as a new Con GM?


Here’s some hints and tips for your first time as a GM at a convention.  Its well worth doing, very rewarding and helps get more good and better games out there on the scene.  Go on, be a devil.

  • Firstly, run some games with a weekly group or at a club.
  • Get some confidence from running games, get comfortable with a system and style you’re used to.
  • Don’t think you have to be some kind of overlord or tyrant. Those days are over.
  • Read the GMing sections from some games. No, really. People quite often flick over these, but actually, there is often some good advice.
  • Know your setting, system and scenario in advance. Write yourself cheat sheet or post-its, whatever you like.
  • You can never have to much prep. That doesn’t mean having glorious handouts (although they’re nice), it means really getting the story straight in your head, so you know what’s going on. Thinking about the personalities or quirks that the NPCs might have. Little details you might be able to inject into a scene. All that kind of stuff.
  • Run the game for your weekly group. Get feedback, make changes or think about how you can improve things.
  • Write a scenario or some notes that give the players plenty to do. But the action in their hands and give yourself a breather.
  • A good choice for a game would be something like Pirates or Cowboys, something that any player can drop right into. I kicked off my Pirates game at Conception and could barely get a word in for the first half an hour. The first half of the game more or less ran itself.
  • Advertise the game, with a note that you’re a new GM. If people come to the game knowing you’ve got a learner plate on, they’ll be more forgiving.
  • You could even ask for pre-con sign-ups and gather some players in advance that are going to help you out.
  • Consider having a friend or someone you know from the con scene in your game. That might make it less scary.
  • Be aware that you’ll make some mistakes. We all do. Even people who look like they don’t are just good at covering it up.
  • Take breaks if you need them.
  • If you can time a break with another GM, then you could always tap them up for a quick pep talk mid-game.
  • Don’t feel like a game has to last 4 hours. If you’ve come to a good, punchy ending after three, stop it there and end on a high.
  • Make sure everyone round the table gets a chance to speak. They might not want to. That’s fine. But give them a chance.
  • Try and work with the players, not against them. Share and grow.

One thought on “What to do as a new Con GM?

  1. Hi Gaz

    Good post, and these points are all great. I’d like it if you expanded each of these succinct bullet points out into posts dedicated to each one. Kkowing something is good and all, but actually reading about and possibly seeing examples of how GMs who are good actually put some of the points you raise into practice would be cool.

    For example, “Know your setting, system and scenario in advance. Write yourself cheat sheet or post-its, whatever you like.” Some concrete examples of what YOU do as regards this point would be good… do you draw relationship maps, do you use post-its – and if you do, can we have some photos of the kind of stuff you put onto those notes – , etc.


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