When Dungeons and Dragons first came out, my brother bought the game. When it finally arrived, he took one look at the rules and handed them to me.

"Here," he said. "You want to run this stuff? It looks like fun."

My first group consisted of my brother, two friends and my mother (she was a rather free-thinking woman). We used the demo game, and I immediately decided that we'd need to develop some dungeons of our own.

Getting involved in the RPG scene can take literally days out of your schedule. I remember spending months at a time, 8-hour shifts seven days a week working on my little corner of the universe. I have literally thousands of documented Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and well over 300 complete dungeons. I made up creatures, magic items, histories, and cities (down to each little shop and who lived upstairs).

Again, please be aware how addictive RPGs can be.

With years of gaming experience, including several large tournaments, I suggest the following things to keep in mind if you decide to become a Dungeon/Game Master:

  • Know thy shit. There is nothing worse than having a new GM who has not read the basic rules, let alone the advanced ones. If you're working with experienced players, you'll eventually end up butting heads with the players who took the time to read the books. Think of it as a career move that will get you fame and your weight in Twinkies. Study, make notes, put it on a computer, if need be. Don't even consider making rule revisions unless you understand the originals.
  • Document thy shit. Got ideas for the next meet? Write it down. Trying to guess what it was you meant to happen at the crossroads in front of the Thataway Inn will not wash. You want to introduce something new, like a creature or a new magic item? Write out just what it is, and give some background historical reference. Which leads us to:
  • Plan thy shit. Off-the-cuff games can be a lot of fun - for an experienced GM. Until you've earned your bullshit, you need to write out a general idea for what is planned for that meet. Collect images, create important NPCs (and include everything they carry, in case they become Dead NPCs). You need a map of the area and a map of the dwellings. Note what lives where. Note where nifty items are hidden. Without properly planning, you'll end up with a Monty Haul campaign, where your newbie players end up with uber-powerful weapons and magic that they shouldn't even see, let alone own. They more Crap of the Gods that they own, the bigger the monster you have to throw at them, which will cause ill will. ("What? A pissed-off red dragon? But I'm only a Level 1 Monk!")
  • Match thy shit with thy players. Magic should be rare, unless it is the premise of your whole game. This is not Harry goes to Hogwarts. Give them things that can be useful - if they use their heads. A Magic Bucket of One Million Liters of Beer can be used defensively or *hic* offensively. Give your players the tools, and leave it to them to make use of it or do something silly.
  • Thine players hath brains. Allow them the luxury of free will and thought. They should be cajoled towards a goal, yes, but do not force them. Then it becomes a room full of people eating Twinkies and watching you move their characters like pawns or puppets. Believe me, it is not fun, and they'll leave for better things, like watching television. One time I had a huge dungeon prepared for my players, and they ended up going to kill an evil landlord that was extorting money from the pretty barmaids. If their characters want to go left, allow it. When the impromptu portion is over, link the evil landlord back to the original mission. This will get them back on track, and they'll feel like they had a say in the lives of their characters.
  • Be mysterious in thine ways. One thing I used to do constantly was hand out little notes to players. This got the others nervous, and sometimes it said, "It is starting to get dark", sometimes it said, "You notice your guide has a cloven left foot like the evil mage Ticca."
  • Be respectful always. This goes from the real-life stuff ("Thanks for letting us play in your basement", "Thanks for the Twinkies", "Thank you for creating a new scenario for us") to the game world ("No, you fucking MORON, the rule book says you can't do that!", "Oops, I spilled my Pepsi on your stupid character sheet - again", "Gimme the last Twinkie bitch!"). Everyone took time to get the game together, so kudos those around you. Always praise your players after a game, even if they are nothing but a smear on a canyon wall. Characters die, don't rub it in. If someone is acting out of character, politely pass them one of those mysterious notes.
I hope this helps a bit. Being a Dungeon Master is rewarding if you take the time to get good at it. You become an author, actor and psychologist. All three disciplines will improve your real-life writing, acting and listening skills.

Get to it!