When the pre-game banter dies down, the cold sweat starts. All eyes turn my way. An expectant hush falls over the table. They’re all waiting for me to pull the levers and turn the wheels that roll back the curtain to Fantasy Land. I’m terrified that I’ll forget how.

Like many GMs, I struggle with self-confidence. My players seem to like my campaigns well enough. I can expect a bevy of “thanks for the session” comments when it’s time to roll up the battle mat and head home. But as you may have noticed, the negative experiences tend to stick in my craw.

When you care about doing something well, and when you want to execute at a high level, the worst critic lives inside your head. Every minor misstep, stutter, or forgotten rule feels like a personal failing. And if you’re not careful, you can perpetuate that negativity even as you try to do the healthy thing and learn from your mistakes.

“If I was a good GM I would have….”

“If only I wasn’t so freaking lazy I could have prepped….”

“What kind of jerk forgets to….”

Ironically, that brand of self-flagellation hurts a game worse than [insert minor thing you’re stressed about]. And this biz is decidedly not healthy.

We all like to remind one another in this community: If you’re having fun you’re doing it right. But when you psych yourself out, the game threatens to stop being fun. Prep feels like a chore. Constructive criticism feels like personal attack. Players notice the tension as, hoping to be flawless, you forget to find pleasure in the hobby you ostensibly love.

So on the off chance that any of the above applies to you, take it from a fellow basket case: You’re good enough as a GM. Your players enjoy chucking dice with you. And even if you aren’t perfect 100% of the time, that’s OK too. You’re allowed to make mistakes. Fantasy Land is waiting just behind that curtain. And you’ll remember how to find it again.


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