The best place for an introvert at an RPG table is . . . as the Dungeon Master (or Game Master or Master of Ceremonies). It may seem like a bold statement given the amount of responsibilities the Game Master (we will use this as a catch-all) has. Doesn’t being the GM require leading others in a very social game? Why would an introvert do that? Shouldn’t the best GMs be rambunctious extroverts?
Keep in mind that by “introverted” I don’t mean “suffers from crippling shyness.” I mean the more accurate understanding of introversion – an introvert gains energy from being alone. They can and do still enjoy activities that are social, but they require expending energy.
So why should an introvert be the GM? Well . . .
Game Master Prep Time is Introvert Heaven
To be a dungeon master you need to be willing to invent or study a fictional world, craft NPCs, occasionally draw maps, and consider the multitude of ways a scenario could play out. All this time alone, imagining, planning, crafting is exactly what an introvert excels at.
Honestly, if you are going to spend 4-6 hours as a player in a fictional world, don’t you want that fictional world crafted by someone who can be lost for days on end in that world?
The Game Master Does Not have to Compete for Attention
When the Game Master speaks, the players listen. The Game Master is the voice of God in the game world after all. When you’re the GM say “Around the corner you see . . .” and then pause for dramatic effect. You may see the players lean in a bit. Will it be a bunch of puny Goblins or will it be a cult of Mind Flayers? Was it wise to not take that short rest in the previous room? Should we fight or run now?
As a GM, there is a natural mechanism that ensures that he or she is always heard. If the players roll a skill, the GM resolves it. If the players make an attack, the GM resolves it. If the players look around a corner, the GM describes the scene. This back-and-forth rhythm between player and Game Master means that the introverted GM will get the spotlight with regularity.
In a party, if the bard, rogue or half-orc (you know the types) are major extroverts, the introverted player may need to fight to be heard and have their character get an equal share of the spotlight. An introverted GM has an awareness of this extrovert-bias and can work to ensure that all players are heard.
The key job of the GM is to share the spotlight, not to hoard it for themselves or let a single player hoard it. Because . . .
Game Mastering is Not About You
A good Game Master knows when to be silent. If the players are roleplaying an emotionally touching scene back and forth to each other, let them. If a group of players want to take the mission in a bold new direction, let them. A dungeon master knows he is not the star of the show.
A healthy and balanced introversion enables a person to value and hear the contributions of others. An introvert’s propensity to listen to others before speaking or acting themselves is exactly what a Game Master needs.
A tabletop RPG is a collaborative game, and the increasingly loud world should learn about collaboration from the quietfolk. So start planning that campaign! Introverts, the game needs the worlds you can forge.