No game master, now what?

Having a game master (GM) is integral to many tabletop roleplaying games, so when you cannot find one it often seems like it might be the end of your roleplaying group. Fortunately it doesn't have to be.
There are a few ways you can continue playing while not having a dedicated GM and I'll go through them in this guide. Hopefully it'll inspire you and your gaming group to continue having fun despite not having a dedicated GM for now.

Why?

Before we delve into the different ways you can get around having no dedicated GM it's first important to know why you don't have one. If there's 3 or more of you then surely one of you could GM, right? Even with just two people one person could be the GM and one person could be the player, but I admit that this is far from ideal, especially in some gaming systems.

If you have a decent sized group the problem is probably that nobody is able to be a GM because they either don't have the time to put into organizing everything or because they just think they're not good enough to GM. While these two elements probably aren't completely true they are definitely understandable and they could help with picking an alternative, like a GM-less system.

GM-less systems

Believe it or not, but there are countless gaming systems that require no GM at all. Others require only minimal GM-ing and others spread all the tasks of a GM across all the players, but there's never a need for a dedicated GM.
Granted, many of these systems rely far less on dice rolls, skill checks and so on and more on story telling, which isn't for everybody. But if this sounds like fun than definitely seek out these systems.
There are systems available which do use dice rolls, skill checks and so on though, so don't think all is lost if you're just after that.

Take turns

Another great way of solving the problem is by simply taking turns as the GM. It spreads the preparation required from a GM in many game systems across all players and each person only ends up with having to prepare once every few weeks or so, depending on how often you play.

My friends and I use this method, so I can attest to how well it works. We also used to try a new gaming system every time it was someone else's turn to GM, so not only did we end up with a different GM each week we also got to experience a whole range of gaming systems.

We eventually ended up sticking to one gaming system as we did miss character progression over longer periods of time, but we're still switching GM every 2-3 sessions. We basically play through short stories, all of which are part of the same universe. The character of the GM simply stays behind to watch the camp (boat in our case) or does something else.

If some people in your group are just not confident in their ability to GM this method will be helpful too. My friends and I specifically chose this method because we all wanted to gain experience as GMs, but none of us have the time to run a long campaign on our own.
I'm shy and insecure as well, but I now love to GM. So if you're insecure as well know that it really isn't all that bad and if you have a fun group to play with it'll all be fine. It even helps with building confidence.

Collaborate

This may seem like an obvious solution, but many people seem to overlook it. By working together you can share the workload while still being able to run a huge campaign spanning many weeks or months.
Now I will warn you that this method does require some careful planning in terms of how you GM, as having two people be the GM in the same session generally doesn't work and I speak from experience here.
Instead it's easier if one person GMs one session and the other GMs the next. Alternatively, one person could do the social interactions (maybe even some voice work) while the other does the battle interactions and puzzle elements. Work with each person's strength and cover each other's weaknesses.

Collaboration's a lot of fun and you often end up with ideas together you wouldn't have thought of alone. It also helps to have somebody else as support rather than being there on your own.
I've worked with some of my friends on several occasions to create fun, one session campaigns and the creation process alone is a blast. We did run our story on our own though and for different groups, but afterwards we were able to compare how each group did and how our stories deviated because of it.

If you are going for the 'one person GMs per session' route the other could play a character, but make sure it's a fairly passive participant as you'll obviously know what's going to happen next in most cases.

The dice rule

Another way of solving the problem is by having the dice decide every decision. Many systems have charts to roll against for random encounters, why not expand this further and have a chart for everything?
The adventure begins and it's *roll dice* late in the evening. You're in a *roll dice* fancy restaurant and you see somebody look at you. It's *roll dice* a suspicious looking elf.

Obviously this requires you to create charts and you can go as crazy as you want with this, but creating the charts can be a collaborative effort as well.
Letting the dice rule tends to lead to pretty chaotic campaigns, depending on what you've put on your charts of course, and it usually only works for shorter campaigns, but it can be a lot of fun and isn't that the entire point of gaming together?

Final words

Not having a dedicated GM isn't the end of a gaming group. In some cases it could even open up a world of other opportunities and fun you hadn't expected. But the reason I wanted you to identify the 'why' at the start is so you know what you need to find a solution for. If time's the issue maybe spread the load. If confidence is an issue maybe try taking turns to see if you can build confidence over time. If experience is the issue definitely take turns and learn from each other.

There's almost always a solution to the problem, you just have to be creative. If all else fails there's always the GM-less systems and they're a ton of fun as well. So relax and enjoy yourself.

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