Picture GMing as a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is the "gaming" end, where all the dice-rolling, rules-following, and adventure-prepping is. On the other end is the "storytelling" end, where the improvising, player interaction, and collaborative world-building is.
Following this blog's emergin motif of balance, I believe the best GMs lay right in the mid-point of that spectrum. I think a good GM knows when to crack the book open, and knows when to slam it shut.
As a GM, I find myself a little too far on the "storytelling" end of the spectrum. I seek to correct that.
This weekend, I am playing D&D, 4th edition. I'm starting a campaign that will take players from 1st to 30th level. My personal goal is I want to try hard and follow the rules and the text of the adventure as much as I can. I think it will make me a better GM in the long run if I can learn to embrace that "gaming" end of the spectrum.
Now, before a bunch of people start telling me "it's not ALL about following the rules", let me remind you all that I consider myself on the STORYTELLING end of the spectrum. Knowing when NOT to follow the rules is something I have down cold.
Looking back on this past year of gaming, I can think of multiple instances where I simply chucked the rules in a drawer and just went with it. The most notable time I did this was at the "Taste of Fate Core" mini-con event a month or two ago. My players were vampire hunters chasing down vampires who hid inside of a Wal-Mart during its annual Black Friday sale. I could have busted out all kinds of Aspects, invoked and compelled shit like mad, drew up a map of the store and ran a conflict on getting these guys...but I didn't. The "vibe" felt like I should just let the players tell ME what was going on, and I simply acted as the vampires. Every once and awhile, I'd have the players roll the Fate Dice, and I'd base what happened next on how good or bad the roll was.
Though the players had a blast, I was really upset with myself. I barely even rolled the dice that afternoon. In a game as rules-lite as Fate Core, I still couldn't be bothered to run by any but the most basic of the rules. I felt like the whole point of the event was to put the game in the spotlight, not myself and my free-wheeling storytelling. In that, I failed.
So I'm putting myself back into the "development league." I want to treat this Sunday's game of D&D as a traditional, orthodox RPG experience, where the dice are hot, the soda is cold, and I read that narrative flavor text with as much suspensful melodrama as I can muster!