PLAY SORCERER 46: The Role of the Game Master—Giving Gifts


The main role of the Game Master is, in my view, that of gift giver. In my view, whenever the Game Master asks questions of the Players, he is giving gifts.

For example, during the Character creation session, if I’m the Game Master I’ll ask questions of the Players. I’ll say things like, “Okay, your Character is married. What is you’re the name of the Character’s wife? How long have they been married? Do they have children? Oh, they do? How many, and what are their names?”

Or, “Okay. What is your Character’s Price. What is the cost, the thing that happened, when your character bound the Demon? A limp? Okay, I just want to check one thing—only because you didn’t sound that excited… Does a limp really excite you for your… oh, a scar. Down your Character’s left eye? Yeah, see how you’re kind of excited now? Yeah, so… okay. So is it no depth perception… oh, okay. Freaks people out. A minus one to social interactions?… cool.”

Or, “So, you contacted, summoned and bound the Demon so you could get the money to pay for your daughter’s medical bills. So, what’s your daughters name? Cool. So write that under the—well, what do you think, the Lore quadrant of the Character Grid? Oh, she’s going to be part of the Kicker, too? Okay. So decide which one matters more for you in terms of her, and write her name in that quadrant, but place it near the border of the other one. Okay, cool. So write her name in the Kicker quadrant, but right up against the edge of the Lore.”

I ask questions of Players, and consider the questions gifts, because a lot of time a Player gets flummoxed when making a Character. They are, after all, making up a person from scratch. Creating something from nothing often leaves one uncertain how to begin.

I want to make it clear, I don’t ask these questions to challenge the Players or get into their face. I ask to help them find out more about the Character. I ask not to challenge them because they’re not doing enough work, but to give them the opportunity to add more detail to the Character Sheet.

Since I’m not in the position of having to make up anything as the Game Master during Character creation, I can just listen to what the Players are brainstorming.

I listen and then I ask questions to get the Players to go deeper into the brainstorming session. That’s all I’m doing. Whatever answer the Players give is good enough. And then I’ll sometimes ask one more question to see if I can spark one more idea or thought.

The key of all of this is to get material on the Character Sheets. The Character Sheets are my greatest resource for my game prep. When the Players fill out those sheets with Kickers, Prices, Telltales, characters, places and things that really interest them, then I know I’ve got material for sessions upon sessions of play.



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