So, you want to impress the boys at your local with your masterful storytelling? Figure you’ll show the ladies a good time with dice and an epic quest? Looking to put “Professional GM” on your CV? Well then, if you want to be a great GM (or DM, or Storyteller), then you need to get an education.
What kind of education? I’m not talking about school — stay in school kids — I’m talking about life experiences.
Rules are great. Acting skills are useful. Improv skills are even better. Knowing and understanding all the tools available to you, that’s the road to being really great.
But all of this isn’t very useful without some real experiences. Some fuel for the creative fire.
Go ride a horse. Practice martial arts. Write with a quill pen. Hike up a mountain. Go camping. Gut a fish. Travel.
Real experiences always beat book learning. What you’ve lived through becomes a part of you in a way clinical understanding never can.
Have you ever noticed that many writers, those brave souls who battle with pen and paper their whole lives, struggle to sell a good novel, while non-writers (usually sportspeople and explorers) seem to create best-selling books without much effort? There are exceptions, but I’ll bet that the key ingredient here is substance. Those with real experiences have something meaty to offer.
A poorly-researched example, as Exhibit A: Stephen King cited being hit by a car as inspiration for many of his books. I’m not sure which, but my Google-fu tells me it’s a bunch. Sorry, Stephen, you’re free to pipe up in the comments.
Your experiences are beautiful pigments for painting truly memorable images at the table. Your fantasy games will be so much more real when you embellish them with realistic details drawn from your experiences.
So look, listen, and learn. I promise it’ll be worth it.