Thursday, August 16, 2018

GM's Tricks of the Trade

This is the third in a sporadic series of emails sent out by Troll Lord Games on becoming a better GM:

Being a GM, DM, or CK is a tricky business. You must be able to think on the fly, keep people engaged and lead them down the path to adventure. Bogged down in the minutiae? Stuck in a dungeon? It's important to lead the players to the best game they can have. That's why our CEO and founder, Stephen Chenault -- a gamer for over 40 years and CK that can keep a game of 20 plus moving smoothly -- has put together another 5 gems guaranteed to give you your best game.
#1: One of the GM’s major tools are their descriptions. Whether the characters are in a dungeon or wandering overland, in a battle or talking to an NPC, describing the scene and the monsters and people is a key part of the table top experience. When describing things don’t forget smell and sounds. Describe what the see, but tell them how it smells, try to relate it to something they might already know, such as fresh baked bread. The sounds of things too are important. These senses can bring someone into a scene like nothing else.

#2: Don’t underestimate simple adventures. A quick adventure with a very simple plot can be loads of fun. A hunt, transporting an item, a 3-room barrow mound. Include 1-2 NPCs and allow for lots of role playing. These adventures are easy to prepare for and can fill up several hours with no problem and really engage the players.
#3: Try not to allow anyone get lost at the table. If someone is not participating or allowing others to run their characters, figure out what skills they have and adjust the situation enough to give them reason to make a check. It can be any kind of attribute check, from something as simple as discerning an NPC’s intent to as complex as tracking a wild boar. One simple check can bring someone to the table quickly.
#4: A great way to break in a new player to most role-playing games and teach them the game’s mechanics quickly is with terrain, specifically swimming a river. Crossing the river can require a great many different attribute checks, from intelligence and perception in finding the best area to swim, to the actual act of swimming with dexterity, and even strength and constitution in surviving the swim. Crossing a river can easily require 4-5 different attribute checks. And as importantly, you can control the outcome by mitigating the challenge level you assign, the challenge level can change constantly (it need not be only one check to swim) and if things go poorly hidden material under the water can offer more attribute checks, allowing a drowning character the chance to grab hold of something or stand on it. Once the river is crossed, the new player should have a better understanding of the mechanics.

#5: Rolling dice is fun! Obviously, the GM has to make many of the rolls. But, whenever you can yield a roll to the players, do so. Don’t roll to see if the horse bolts, allow them to roll to see if they can better control the horse. If they want to do something, have them make an attribute check, you can govern the outcome with bonuses and penalties, but allow them to make the check.

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