Yesterday I ran what felt to me like just about the worst session of any game that I have run for many months. The core of the problem and the root of that feeling was the thought that I don’t know the rules system I am using well enough to perform as GM to the level I want to achieve.

Before we go further, it’s important to say that I am not beating myself up about this. The realisation that you simply need to “up your game” and develop some deeper levels of mastery in a skill is not a new one but it is a realisation that I had been resisting.

For most of my gaming career I have laboured under the mistaken belief that, “If only I could find the right rules / world / method /scenario / module / dice / cards / book / device / tool, then I would become an amazing GM.” The truth is that I already have everything I need to become a great GM. What I need to do is simply become that great GM.

You don’t become great at anything overnight. The key to becoming great at something is practice. It’s focus on learning and practice that, over time, develops mastery. The amount of effort and time varies based on what you’re trying to learn but it’s not more complicated than that: turn up, practice, persist.

I’ve got to the point where I realise I need to stop looking to variety and new things. I need to focus on what I have. What roleplaying games need is a combination of imagination, willingness to share, and a relentless focus on bringing the World, Method, and Rules together in a way that achieves the experiences you and your players want at the table.

This starts with me because if I want to change my experience of gaming at the table then I need to change the way I am approaching things. The answers are not “out there”. The mastery I am seeking lies on the other side of focus, effort, persistence, and learning.

My choice is one about continuing the scatter gun approach I’ve been following for decades – and which clearly has not been working – or instead trying something simpler.

For me, that’s choosing one set of rules to learn, picking one vision of a World that I want to bring to life as a home for that learning, and allowing myself to take the next step towards that vision.

It’s time to show up and commit.

Game on!


  1. The session was not “bad” from the other side of the experience. The players had an entertaining time and had a lesson in overconfidence to boot.

    I do understand what you are feeling about the session as the GM. I frequently have a vision of what a “good” game session will be, and feel I have not come close to running that session. Sometimes the players know it, mostly it is just us, the GM, who feels it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely understand that sentiment! Same for me, though I have managed to mostly draw down to only a few game systems, and some of those share the same fantasy world so it is a bit easier.

    There is no perfect game – but there are great games when the DM & the players all have fun. Sounds like the players had a good time.

    One thing to think about, and I know this haunts me in both gaming and in real life: imposter syndrome. Where we doubt our own skills and abilities. Basically, we gaslight ourselves! And that is a hard thing to counter but listen to your players. And just learn to let go and have fun (which I am still trying to do!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for this, Craig – wise words regarding imposter syndrome. My goal is to be able to provide as immersive and enjoyable an experience as possible while also recognising that the only real leverage point for experience is what I do and say. In the end, everyone at the table is encouraged to bring their best selves for the benefit of all.

      Liked by 1 person

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