[RPG] How to an experienced GM improve without watching other GMs


I've been running role-playing games on and off for years, mostly D&D going all the way back to first edition. I was the first person in my town to get the hobby bug when I was a boy, and so I was by default the GM for my first games. It stuck.

Over the decades I've had plenty of practice, and plenty of different groups. They all seemed to enjoy themselves, so I know I can't be a bad GM. I have, however, been told by some players who've had experience of playing under different people that I could be a better GM. A particular criticism was that I didn't evoke enough emotion in my descriptions or playing of NPC's.

On the occasions I've played under other GM's I have not, on the most part, found them particularly inspiring. Certainly not people I'd want to learn from or emulate. Perhaps I just prefer GMing. Who knows?

Nowadays, I GM mostly for my kids (not a comment on the RPG hobby – it's just that all my adult gaming friends prefer strategy board games). I either use pre-made adventures or chop and change existing bits of material (dungeons, NPCs etc) into my own narratives.

I do not have the time, nor the desire to go and play under another GM in a different group. If possible, I'd rather not watch videos of other people's game sessions: if I were to do so, I'd want something that I know would be good enough to learn from, ideally specifically tailored to that end.

What other options are open to me to improve my skills? I found this question on the site, How do I learn to become a good GM? – but the answers are tailored toward novices, which I am not.

Best Answer

Ask and read questions on RPG Stackexchange

No wait hear me out. To improve as a GM you need:

  1. Practice. If you're consistently running games you're going to get plenty so we've got that covered.
  2. Feedback. This can be harder since, in my experience, players can be reluctant to honestly discuss what they are and are not enjoying about a game. Luckily not only does this stack have plenty of questions related to talking to your players and encouraging their feedback, it can give you feedback. Say an interesting situation came up in your game (Maybe ship combat in D&D 5e) and you made up something to handle it (Used rules from D&D 3.5e Stormwreck but with lots of 5e style wide skill checks)? You can ask a question about the situation that already happened and post what you did as an answer. Make it interesting and this community will give you excellent feedback in the form of votes, commentary, and alternate suggestions. Speaking of alternate suggestions...
  3. New Ideas. It's too easy in modern roleplaying where the groups are often small to become isolated from outside ideas. But if you keep reading and asking on stackexchange you will constantly be exposed to different approaches and ways of doing things. Each user has a slightly different style and pushes those approaches in their answers. You get to take it all, sift through what you like and what you don't, and bring it back to your table. It's a great system.

Bonus: Read everything Brian Ballsun-Stanton has ever posted

Seriously it's like an undergraduate class in gaming history and philosophy. If you're looking to improve it's certainly a start.