Thursday Feature – The Modern First-Timer GameMaster

Author: Kallak


Hmm, for the main villain…

“The End.” – with these words, the six-book Pathfinder Adventure Path that my gaming group has spent the last few months hammering through reached its conclusion, and our collective thoughts turned toward the next campaign (if you’re curious, we played Second Darkness, and our ending was uh… let’s just go with “less than a total win”).

And so, this week our group will attend the character making ‘session 0’ for the campaign of our good friend Fealoce, who despite having more than five years under his belt with the group, is still the new guy. I can’t help but assume that this campaign will be long remembered by our troupe, because it has something that no other campaign we have played together in the last decade or so has… a First-Timer GameMaster.

Now, to really get the full sense of where I’m going here, you have to understand a thing or two about Fealoce (and I hope he doesn’t hold it against me for writing about him). He is not the “traditional” roleplayer like pretty much everyone else in our group is. He didn’t come up playing D&D and reading fantasy novels. Fealoce was a member of the armed services, a husband and father long before any of us considered that path, and he didn’t get into roleplaying and gaming until he joined our group through a mutual friend (again a bit over five years ago).

As the current campaign grew ever-closer to completion and it was fully decided that Fealoce would in fact run the next game, a series of after-session discussions began cropping up; we would talk about past campaigns, formatting of session notes, how to deal with Doombinger’s rules lawyering, etc… and the thing that struck me the most was how different his situation is today as a First-Timer GM than mine was twenty some-odd years ago.

Since taking up the hobby, Fealoce has pretty much cannon-balled into the deep end of the gaming and roleplaying swimming pool. He has read every book and series, played every video game, seen every movie, show and twitch channel the world has to offer. He has played in both module-based and custom campaigns (set in both pre-generated and homebrew worlds), witnessed games run not only by myself and others in our gaming group, but by people on the internet as well (and it must be nice to have done all of this at a point in our society where roleplaying and gaming are VASTLY more mainstream and accepted than when I got my start).


I began looking at the google drive he set up to house documents for players to reference, and I saw his Photoshop-built world map, editable character sheet for my tablet, PDF player’s primer and new class options, information in neat tables and charts. I started thinking about all of the apps and programs he’ll be using to build NPCs, all of the “How To” GM videos and gaming sessions he has watched, and how everything in his arsenal is accessible from virtually anywhere in the world; It made me think back to the old three ring binder with loose leaf paper and hand written notes with scribbled drawings in the margins of my first campaign.

The comparison in terms of resources and readiness was almost staggering; despite knowing about and having lived through all of our technological advances over the years, it was still a bit jarring to get a reminder in that particular context. The idea of having all of today’s capabilities coupled with many lifetime’s worth of shared GameMaster experiences over the internet for a first campaign… How much better would I be now if I could have had access to all of the tools, resources and guides to start with back then.

Fealoce and I are nearly the same age, so I’m certain we’ll be roleplaying together for many years to come. I wonder what his games will be like in twenty some-odd years. I wonder if I’ll be able to jack into his campaign worlds Matrix-style by then. Mostly though, I wonder if he (like me) will look back at his first campaign and laugh to himself at just how woefully unprepared he was.

Award Winning!

Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

Silver ENnie for Best Website, Best Podcast 2012-2013
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