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One-on-One With…Me!

July 12, 2012
One on One

One on One

Okay, I’ll admit it. It is a little bit lame to kick off my interview series with myself. But, after giving it a bit of thought, I decided to go ahead.

Why is that?

Well, in the first place, if I can’t be self-indulgent on my own blog, then where in Hades can I? Second of all, while I have some folks that have committed to doing an interview, I don’t have the content at the moment. And third, I figure that there might be someone who thought about participating in this project but isn’t sure because they don’t know what all the interview entails. So, I’ll just use myself as an example.

On with the show!

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a professional librarian and part-time writer. He has had gaming two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine and has also written for Nevermet Press. He grew up mostly in Central Texas but now resides in beautiful Denton (“The Home of Happiness“) with his loverly wife and the two obligatory demon-spawn cats. He has been an RPG player for nearly 25 years and has been a game master for about twenty of those years*.

In your opinion, who are Game Masters?

Game Masters are the people who run the game. They create the worlds and scenarios in which the characters act. They are intelligent, imaginative, and improvisational masters of words and images. At the same time–they are you and me. Ordinary people with lives and loves and hardships and triumphs.

How do you describe to “outsiders” what a Game Master does?

I’d say that they are the referee of the role-playing game. They create the scenarios, describe the situations, and arbitrate disputes in-game. They set the stage so that role-playing can happen.

How did you get started Game Mastering?

I started playing AD&D (1e) regularly with  pair of friends back in high school. Our small group kind of merged with another when the cousin of one of our players moved back to our home town. Then we were in a group of anywhere from 5-12 any one week. After playing for a few years, I decided that I had some ideas I wanted to try out on my own and then got the bug. The rest is history…

How has being a Game Master affected you as a player? Or vice-versa?

I think I have more of an appreciation of the work involved in world building. And in allowing the GM to have the final word on things. When I switch into “player mode” I make a conscious effort not to step on the GM’s toes–mostly because I expect the same courtesy from players. One interesting thing that I’ve found is that I enjoy being a GM far more than being a player–which is not something I would have expected when I started out.

How has Game Mastering impacted your “real” life–if at all? And has “real life” impacted your Game Mastering?

I sometimes find myself tucking away various bits of knowledge to use in an adventure or a setting. A neat maneuver in a war movie. A clever clue in a mystery novel. Things like that. I’ve been married for twelve years now and the biggest way that has impacted my gaming is that my wife has joined our group. A campaign that started off as just me running her through adventures on our own turned into a three-player epic, taking 10 years in real-time. Probably the best campaign I’ve ever ran. Plus, running games has made me a more savvy supervisor and arbitrator at work, which has been useful.

What inspires you as a Game Master?

Good movies and books, obviously. But first and foremost are my players. They really keep me on my toes and force me to think out of the box. A lot. The adventures we have together are truly collaborative and, as a result, have been pretty great.

How would you explain your philosophy or approach to Game Mastering?

First and foremost, it’s a game and everyone is there to have fun. I tend to approach adventures from a storytelling point of view. I have a story I want to tell and then I try to mold the game around it. I tend to have a fairly open-ended approach to creating adventures as well. I’ll present a scenario, but really try not to include a plot train or even “in order to get out of Trap B they must find Antidote B…” I’m often as surprised by how the players react to the situations as they are. I also don’t see myself as playing against the players. It’s not a “I win if they lose” situation. We all win if the story is interesting and they have fun getting through it.

What do you like best about Game Mastering? Least?

What I like best is world building. I love playing with different aspects of culture and putting them together in unique ways. I like to create realistic cultural realities for the players and sometimes even include aspects of language and religions in intricate ways–sometimes so intricate that only I see them or appreciate them, but that’s okay too. What I like least? I guess the uncertainty that sometimes springs up when I’m not sure if people are enjoying the game or not. I constantly bug my wife after sessions “Was it fun? It was lame wasn’t it? You can tell me…”

What is the most challenging aspect of Game Mastering? Why?

I think the most challenging aspect is keeping a balance between giving the players free rein while at the same time keeping things moving in a useful direction. I think most player groups could talk an idea to death if given half chance, or talk themselves out of doing anything. But knowing when to push and when to let it ride is definitely a challenge.

What are the traits of a good Game Master? Are there different traits needed to be a good player?

I think patience and the ability to improvise are probably the most important aspects of being a good GM. Players are going to go off on rabbit trails. It’s going to happen. So take a breath, and figure out your next move. I also think organizational skills are important. Nothing slows a game down more than when the GM has to scramble for that note he scribbled on the pizza napkin from last week’s session… These traits are important for players as well, but players can get by without them and still enjoy the game. A Game Master needs them to make the session enjoyable.

What is your favorite game story (with you as GM)?

It’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one. I think the most satisfying moments, in a strange, sadistic kind of way, are the times when beloved NPCs**have died. And my group is still POed at me for killing them! First of all, it’s so rare to have such a thing as a “beloved NPC”, much less ones that still instill such emotion from the players. That’s probably my favorite story.

And that’s it! Hopefully you were entertained at least a little bit. And maybe even inspired to participate yourself! If so, email me at serialdistractions@gmail.com or use the Contact page up top.

Thanks!

*And those numbers seem really huge as he types them…

**Non-Player Characters (for those outside the RPG life…)

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