GMing is a lot of work, particularly in systems as nuanced as the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Whether it is Organized Play or a weekly gathering in Tom’s kitchen, the realities of GMing include thoughtfulness, time and effort. Most GMs are service-oriented people, expressing their love and respect for their friends by hosting a game. Some few might be more authors of stories they wish to present (though a game is NOT a novel) and GM for the audience they crave. Regardless of motive, a lot of effort goes out to making sure the players have a good time and it is something a player may wish to express their thanks for. But not every GM wants, needs or expects the same things from their players, so how best to express gratitude to a GM for their hard work?
10 Ideas for Expressing GM Appreciation
People give and receive love, gratitude and service differently, but no one really refuses it. While it may take some time to find the “best” way to honor a specific GMs efforts it never hurts to give a nod or small gestures. Believe it or not, if a player hasn’t expressed a specific need or comfort level then all aspects of the environment should default to the GM’s preferences (they are hosting the game after all). Here are a few ideas:
- Show up on time and ready to game. – This one is deceptively simple because “ready” might mean different things to different people. A GM might not like distractions like food preparation or even eating, while another might run with beer and nachos til 2am. Find out what your GM expects and/or tolerates and act accordingly.
- Pay Attention (Even when it isn’t your turn). – Like being “ready” there are a lot of ways to express engagement or attention to the progress of a game session. Maybe something as simple as putting a phone away or telling another player who is mentioning a non-game tangent that it is more interesting to focus on the game. “Getting what you give” is a truism for the table and players will be more invested the more they invest.
- Communicate Directly. – GMing is a processor-intensive task. A GM might not have the spare brain power to anticipate someone’s needs at any given moment. If a GM doesn’t seem to be noticing something, respectfully call it to their attention. If a player isn’t getting “screen time” they are capable of fighting for it themselves. Don’t wait on others to fix what can be fixed in the moment.
- Compliment a Great Scene or Moment. – Nothing gets more awesome storytelling faster than appreciated awesome storytelling. Acknowledging things that amaze or strike your sense of wonder validates these actions in the GM and helps create synergism and momentum in the storytelling act.
- Express Trust to the GM. – Be partners in story telling. Allow your character to be part of the story and part of the world. Don’t manifest objections to the storyline to “prove” something. At the heart of things the GM is a collaborator. They want the heroes to triumph and aren’t out to get you (the just run hordes of screaming monsters and foes that ARE out to get you.. and there is a difference).
- Learn Something New. – Spend sometime researching a game bogging issue, print or link a useful aid, or spend some time with GM delving their world building. Asking questions that might not be for you or your characters benefit might still help the GM flush out their world, increase their rules knowledge, or otherwise enrich the game world.
- Respect the Other Players AND their Characters. – As hard as some players would appear to believe, GMs don’t actually like mediating and policing players. It might be fun for your assassin to commit regicide but if Gerald’s paladin is going to find out and is going to lead to another four session table war between your characters. Take the time to care about other players character’s and their situations outside of loot division or decide the next course of action.
- Separate In and Out-of-Character Knowledge. – Try not to react to player knowledge of monster tactics, abilities or positioning. Avoiding an invisible foe because an ally interacted with them or drawing an usual weapon with the flaming quality when fighting a troll for the first time, or even expressing emotional reactions to player actions without knowing they have happened yet.
- Food. – The truth of a cliche is still usually true and “the way to the heart being through someone’s stomach” is no exception. Even more points are awarded for being aware of the GMs preferences or dislikes. Bring enough for the whole group and praises shall be sung in the halls of heroes.
- Gifts – Similar to food, a gift is often welcome to a GM. Keep in mind this doesn’t have to be a new rule book or a Gift Card to a game or bookstore. Small heartfelt things from handcrafted dice-bags to name-cards or initiative trackers. This is something a player should never feel obligated to do though. Some groups have rules about pooling funds to purchase new rulebooks or accessories but a player should be aware of them be already.
Taking the time and effort to discover a good way to thank a GM is still probably less time than they spend working on a game for your each sessions. And expressing gratitude to a GM is a good way to ensure they feel like GMing for a long time to come.