Engaging your GM

The following post is presupposed on the fact that you enjoy gaming with your GM and would like to improve everyone’s enjoyment at the table. If you and your GM have fundamental and irreconcilable gaming philosophy differences, find a new game! But if sometimes there’s a bit of misalignment and you want to fix things, read on.

Dungeon’s Master recently wrote about Engaging Your Players. Smart advice there for DMs. In the author’s campaign the DM brought the players in through two elements: mystery and a time-limit. I personally enjoy these elements in a game I’m playing. I find time limits need to be well tuned. It’s pretty frustrating when you can’t win due to circumstances outside your control. Also there should be several levels of outcomes, so if you’re only a little late it’s not castastrophic.

But what about the reverse situation? It’s pretty challenging to keep a mystery from the GM, so we’ll leave that element for a future post.  Here I’ll describe turn the time-limit idea around on your GM when he is the one who doesn’t care. One way to bring the game back on track and get the GM involved in your plight is to create a false sense of urgency.

Let’s say you’ve got the party in town and you’re trying to track down a werewolf, but you’re having a hard time of it not because of bad rolls but because the problem is too open ended and you haven’t figured out the trick yet. You’re stumbling around trying to figure out what the GM wants you to do.  While no NPC has said it, you come to the conclusion that if you don’t discover the werewolf by midnight, another villager will die.

Here you are bringing the GM back into the game by forcing him to take action. One option for him is to run with it and make that part of the plot or to at least pick up on that energy and put some NPCs in your way for you gather some information from instead of letting the villager get killed. Or he can have an NPC respond to your inquiries “I don’t know what your talking about, the werewolf never strikes more than once a week.” But now you have someone to talk and ask more questions of. Or the DM can inform you that you are mistaken and the time concern is not part of this challenege, but at least then you’ve forced him to think about what’s going on at the table and hopefully bring his attention to your plight.

The worst option is that you have a sadistic GM who enjoys watching you and your partymates flounder around trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do. That’s when you have to remind him that you’re all there to have fun and he should throw you a bone or you all bring out the xbox.

I haven’t needed to try this yet in my current campaign, but I am interested if anyone has tried forcing the GM’s hand or done something similar.


I am going to be on holiday for the next two weeks. I have set a new article to be published here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5pm while I am out. I won’t be able to approve or respond to any comments in that time. Cheers and have a good American Thanksgiving.

2 thoughts on “Engaging your GM

  1. Thanks for the link back! Great article, I know as a player there have been many skill challenges where I really didn’t know what the DM was trying to have us accomplish.

    I’m looking forward to reading your article on keeping a secret from the DM.

  2. You missed the werewolf, which is a good thing for you or you might have contracted Moon Frenzy along with most of the party. Lady Margaret went into early labor and Cordelia, the potion master, was almost out of Black haw. She had enough for 1-2 days at the most and, well, needed a bit more and the nearest source was about 5 miles outside of town. I had no idea about this post when I came up with the story line, but it’s so awesome that it lined up. The group was deeply worried about making it back in time and that worry helped keep everyone on task. Can’t wait for you to get back!

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