On the Shoulders of Dwarves
GMing Anxiety (Episode 95)
In this episode we will speak of the phenomenon of “GMing Anxiety”.
DIsclaimer: We are not therapists or psychologists. So, what we will do in this episode is present some issues that we encountered and how we dealt with it.
Remember: Anxiety is what we feel, not what is actually happening. It’s an emotional reaction to outside stimuli, but it does not mean it’s a *good reflection* of what’s actually going on.
# Uri’s take (01:00)
I think that GMing anxiety is a mixture of two dominant issues:
**What is Imposter Syndrome? (03:55)**
“the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills”.
There isn’t a bachelor degree in GMing. We don’t have an external reaffirmation for being a good GM. and even if we did it wouldn’t matter.
**How Uri deals with imposter syndrome:**
Keep a list of success and failures - At any work I had, I created two folders. One is called Ego and the other is called Hubris. Whenever I mess up I put something into the hubris folder. It might be a screenshot of an error, a copy of an apology I sent.
**What is Performance Anxiety? (08:09)**
The fear that you will not be able to perform well in a specific task. Stage fright falls under this category and I had to deal with that very strongly as an Improv artist.
**How Uri Deals with Performance Anxiety**
- Failure and success as a spectrum: A sentence that a friend once told me about an improv show “relax, You haven’t done you worst or best show yet”. I find that strangely comforting. It reminds me that yea, everything can go up in smoke but there is also a chance that everything will be amazing.
- Accept that there are external forces: when I fail at something I literally say “well, that a natural one, shit”. It reminds me that there are a 1000 things not in my control as a GM. and they all affect the game. One player having a bad day could ruin the session for everyone. But we, the GMs, will still blame ourselves for it.
- Level: if you’re thirty, you are a level 30 human. I bet that you’re really good at being a human. Using all your muscles and breathing and such. If you’re GMing for 4 years you’re a level 4 GM. and trust me, you weren’t such a great example of a human when you were 4. Give yourself some room to improve.
- Share & vent: find some sort of support group to share with. Some people do it to get some positivity, I usually do it for the other viewpoints. You could be angry at yourself for something that 10 other people might notice immediately that is not your fault. I recommend with someone that isn’t your players since you might need to vent or simply need the objectivity of others to accept their points.
- Saya No Uchi no Katsu: prepare in advance. All undead are less scary when you have holy water, all trolls less scary when you have a flaming torch handy.
# Eran’s point of view: (13:55)
Before a game with people I don’t know, or don’t know well. So mostly one-shots. Especially when I’m in a teaching position, running a demo or introducing someone to RPGs.
I feel very responsible for everyone's enjoyment, the burden of being the main attraction and entertainer. This is not actually the case, and more importantly, it’s usually not the players’ expectations.
How to handle my insecurities:
- Know the rules well enough so you feel comfortable to pull a quick ruling. That’s why I love Genesys dice.
- Have solid character sheets. It’s the most basic thing a player needs in order to interact with the game. Put the basis for some conflict on it, to help yourself pull at something during the game.
- Know the beginning, the middle and the end. Even if in only general terms, like “a big fight in a cathedral”. It’s a compass that guides your decisions.
- If I run a demo/introducion, I have a pretty well-thought-out scenario, and I’m already quite familiar with all of the main points I need to go through.
- Ask the players to fill in details.
- I remember 2-3 excellent one-shot session endings, in which my players cheered and clapped. I *am* good at what I’m doing.
- Learn improve techniques (play some Powered by the Apocalypse to train yourself), it helps give you the solid foundations around which you can feel more secure.
# Other suggestions (22:20)
Some suggestions given by others in the [Facebook thread (Hebrew)](https://www.facebook.com/groups/israeliroleplayers/permalink/10159882111568312/) that got this topic on our mind:
Shahar Halvey: I put a lot of my personal value in the game’s success. This won’t be changing anytime soon, but I can remind myself that this is not a good instinct, by verbally reminding myself before a game: How well this game goes does not affect my value as a person, I’m worthy whether or not it’s a success or a flop.” Another important reminder is that this is not, in actuality, *my* game, it’s *our* game, and its success hinges on *all of us*.
Lilach Koren: Imagine the worst thing that could happen if you screw up. The players fail to understand a reference, my jokes flop, they don’t follow plot, I play the NPCs in an unintering way. Some things might technically be worse - a player will start shouting and leave the table - but that’s so unlikely it’s in the realm of non-relevant. Then try to dismantle this worst case scenario into smaller chunks, and handle each of them with some reasonable thought, remembering that the scenario in my head is very probably not a match with reality. Then, imagine the BEST scenario, to motivate yourself to get to the positive place.
Michael Gorodin: Push away from global, intrinsic attributes, such as “I’m a bad GM”, by focusing on specifics. What is your specific goal for this game? Even if you fail it, it’s failure does not mean you’re a bad GM, it means you need more practice to achieve that specific goal. Also, talk about your failures. Publicly, with a friend, in an email to us, it doesn't matter. Get to a place where you feel comfortable talking about the times where you didn’t achieve your goals, from an understanding that it’ll only help you achieve them better next time. How will we learn otherwise?
# Summary (28:30)
You are awesome. Remember that. And remember that you could always be better no matter how awesome you are, this fact doesn’t make you any less awesome.
# Taking the load off (29:10)
- Uri - I got a new microphone thanks to our patreon subscribers, starting off a new character Joseph McLore, had a One roll session.
- Eran - Progressing with our weekly Hell’s Rebels game, in the cellar of a gambling hall with some undead. Really happy with the new Gatekeeper chapter in City of Mist, Shadows and Showdowns.
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Intro and outro based on On the Shoulders of Dwarves by the Cliches Duo. On the Shoulders of Dwarves is shared under [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International](https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/).
Brought to you by Eran Aviram of On the Shoulders of Dwarves