x Confessions of a female gamemaster | GeekGirlCon

Confessions of an RPG addict: Part Two

From the desk of Kristine Hassell, Twitter administrator

Firstly, thank you SO much for coming back to read the second half of my article! It’s much appreciated.

Now when last I left you, dear readers, I had made the decision to run some sessions for my boyfriend and our roommate. To ease me into it, we decided to rotate GM duties. I could get an idea of how to run a session while knowing some of the major plot points. I didn’t know all of them though, to be clear. It was like dividing up writing duties on a television show. I took some of the plot arcs that I felt more comfortable running and he took the rest. And I began to plan…

First, I shamelessly took a page from his playbook.

For years, I’d grown accustomed (read: spoiled) to musical cues scoring various scenes during game play. There wasn’t constant music; that would be irritating and distract from the role-playing. I suppose an example or two would help. If a character entered a combat situation, there were musical cues that could be played during key points that I wanted to stress, and what that would do is heighten the scene. Indulge me and let me borrow your ears for two minutes. I used this stirring piece of music to punctuate a futile chase scene that became more and more time-sensitive as the players ran… in the rain toward an almost uncertain fate. And c’mon, how cool would it be to have some hand-to-hand combat, slayer-style, with Burly Brawl playing in the background? Answer: pretty cool!

Bebe the Vampire Slayer

I knew some cues straight away that I wanted to use—favorite ones that I heard in previous sessions—so I began to make a playlist. I then gathered which NPCs would be needed in my session. I found that I needed to write up a couple of characters required for plot advancement, so I followed the template in one of the Buffy books and—VIOLA!—a pair of sorority girls were created with little fuss. The more I thought on the music and the NPCs, the more I found the session was beginning to form in my consciousness. It might sound hokey to say this, but the more I let the characters free and “speak to me,” the more they told me what they would do. I feel it’s important here to note that they weren’t actually chatting me up, it was more like letting their voices come through as I made loose notes about how I wanted the story to proceed during my time of storytelling.

I’ve used an important word here, storytelling, and it’s what I found most compelling about stepping into the spotlight of GM. I knew my end result for a particular episode and had enough contingencies in play to allow that to unfold naturally. Neither of my players felt goaded down a path, but I’d leave enough breadcrumbs to pique each character appropriately.

Leave enough breadcrumbs to pique each character appropriately

Was it easy at first? No. Did it become easier when I began to understand the mechanics of the game more? Yes!

I had little victories along the way that fueled my desire to keep GMing. One night, I had an absolute coup! I did something that really startled both players. We were playing for several hours and it was the wee hours of the morning. It was a tense scene where the characters entered a house to try to locate the origin of some hell hounds.

It was a tense scene where the characters entered a house to try to locate the origin of some hell hounds.

They covertly moved room to room. I had some music playing to heighten the scene, a strings piece by Clint Mansell. The characters were arguing with each other and then they heard something. They became quiet. I began describing the scene and, at a key moment, I pressed send on my mobile, calling the house phone at the home where we were playing. The player jumped up to answer the phone and I hung up, continuing to set the scene. This player sat back down. Moments later, I did the same thing, calling the house phone while working the ringing phone into the session. They completely loved the tension and it was so much fun to hold a pair of old-school gamers in thrall.

Since then, I’ve GMed sessions with heavy drama and ones with back-to-back combat, something that I enjoy a great deal. If you’ve ever wanted to RP, eventually you will want to GM. You will want to shape the story and hook characters with plot or kick-assery… and you’ll have fun. I promise you. Now there’s a little caveat here: not all male players will be as welcoming. I had experiences where male players pointed out the best course of action before I had a chance to think of it myself. And once, I had a player take my character sheet and TELL me what my character NEEDED to do. Hell to the no. I didn’t pitch any fit but thanked him for his two cents and proceeded to RP my character. Thankfully, the players that I’ve experienced on the whole have been very welcoming to a female GM without being patronizing.

So if you’re curious, put some feelers out. Don’t be daunted by the numbers or the dice. It’s role-playing and it’s going to be fun. There will be a learning curve but once you get the groove down, you’ll be hooked! I promise.


Kristine Hassell
Twitter Administrator

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

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