Under Control

Stephen Beaulieu

Ever get the feeling that things aren't going quite how they're supposed to?

Well lately I've had more than my share of that feeling. Granted, I asked for it, but that never makes it any fun. A few months ago I discovered the wonderful world of PBEM Diplomacy and felt the need to just jump in. And like most things in my life I decided to jump in head first, without even taking a good look at how deep the water was. I can only say it's a good thing I have always been a good swimmer.

Here's what happened:

I was looking around at the various resources available about Internet Dip, when I stumbled across the first issue of The Pouch. Obvious among the attractions of this first issue was the game running concurrent with the publication of the zine. From the first time I read through the rules and the player statements, I fell in love with dippouch. I just had to join the game. So, not knowing any better, I went ahead and got in touch with Manus Hand to find out how to get involved. Like a good GM, he promptly told me to sign up for the game (and how), sent me my portfolio and thought that would be the end of it. If I had actually been a normal person, he would have been right.

Needless to say, he was wrong, and I am not your normal person or player. I found that I just wasn't satisfied with the role of investor in the game. So I offerred up my services, to both Manus and Andy Schwarz (who had taken over the Bourse section of dippouch), as a reporter on the game. I would produce a section of the Pouch detailing the in's and out's of the investor trading. Manus and Andy just seemed so overworked, I felt it was my duty to lend a helping hand.

So I started down the road I have been walking since. Things went much as would be expected. My offer of help was gratefully received. The Garden was born and became a fairly popular section of the zine. Dippouch continued to grow, and with it the work needed to run the game increased as well. I continued to offer my services in picking up the slack. Then, one day I found out that the unexpected had happened. I was suddenly the GM for dippouch. Andy had valiantly been keeping up as best he could, but he was heading back to school and just couldn't do it anymore. Quite understandable, under the circumstances. So I volunteered. What else was I to do?

'Well, alright', I thought to myself,'Now that you have gone and become the GM of your first Diplomacy game, you should really figure out how to do the job. That shouldn't be too much of a problem. There's bound to be some amount of literature on the subject somewhere online.'

I looked, and I found some, and it was helpful, but not as helpful as I might have wanted (especially considering what a beast of a game dippouch is). What I found were the judge files on How to be a GM, written by Daniel Loeb. These gave some great basic information about what steps to take when starting a game, along with basic rules a GM should live by. Sound stuff, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. Danny's articles focused on the mechanics of being a sound GM. I wanted to know how to be a good GM. I still do.

You see, I never found the literature that told me how to become a good GM. So I have decided to write it myself.

'Now hold on a minute', you might be thinking. 'What does a newcomer like Stephen know about being a good GM? He's just told us that he doesn't know what he's talking about?'

True enough. Nevertheless, I am going to try. This is the first in a series of articles I will write about my GMing experiences. Over the upcoming months and years I am going to start a campaign of games from which I hope to learn what to do, and what not to do as a GM. And I will use this forum to keep you up-to-date on my progress, or lack of it as the case may be. Then others can learn from my mistakes. In the end I hope to be able to write a good solid article about how to be a good GM. In the end I hope to be a good GM. We'll just have to wait and see if it happens.

In the meantime, I'll continue treading water.

Stephen Beaulieu
( hippo@mail.utexas.edu )

If you wish to e-mail feedback on this article to the author, and clicking on the mail address above does not work for you, feel free to use the "Dear DP..." mail interface.