Courtesy of Troll Lord Games
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: Big games with large numbers of players require a great deal of energy. Keeping up with all the players can be difficult and often your attention is consumed by only a few. Try to keep an eye on the whole table, even while role playing with one or two players. If you see someone disengaging, looking at their phone, or just looking about, get their attention with a hand gesture and make eye contact. I usually look at them, get their attention and hold my finger up in a “wait one sec” gesture. Turn back to the players at hand, but don’t let it go on very long. A minute at most. Break it off with a simple “Okay, while you are doing that” and turn back to the disengaged player and engage them with an equally simple “While that is going on, what are you doing?”
#2: Use magic. It's easy to forget that magic is a huge part of the story because we define it in game terms with mechanics (whatever those may be). Try to bring a magical feel to the game through terrain descriptions, psychic feelings, what players see and hear. Examples include 1) they stumble across pools of magic gathered like a mist; 2) a vision that allows them to momentarily see into another plane; 3) A creature cloven with axe and shield does not bleed, but the cuts reveal nothing but flesh or empty space. It's an easy habit to get out of, but once you bring magical effects to the table, it makes the world and adventure that much more fun.
#3: When running continuous games, or campaigns, not one offs, try to mix up your timing. Not long ago, I found myself in a deep rut that developed after several years. Our games were shorter and I felt compelled to hit certain elements that included a recap, opening journey, target, action, close. Rinse and Repeat. After a while it became very predictable and boring. To solve it I began treating each 3-hour game as a part of a larger 12-hour session. There was no obvious break in the time. We stopped at midnight and where we stopped is where we picked up next week. It didn’t matter where (though I avoided stopping in the middle of a combat or role playing sessions). This made for several games where there was no action. Some games where there was only action. At times the adventure has ended by 9 pm with 3 hours left to play and we were moving on to the next adventure (whatever that may be). It’s made the game far less predictable and more fun as no one can predict what is happening next.
#4: When prepping for a game try to make a general outline. Just a loose series of notes of what you want to happen and what encounters are planned. Players are extremely innovative and solve problems in the wildest ways. Keeping a script that you are wanting to follow is a recipe for frustration and confusion. Adjust the outline as circumstances develop.
#5: Look for adventure everywhere. In movies, comics, novels, walks in the park, feeding your dog, people in a cross walk. Once you begin seeing the potential excitement that can unfold from almost any everyday event, you’ll be able to react to players and their reactions almost anywhere and anytime. Furthermore, it will allow you to adjust quickly to games that go off your outline and into the wild blue yonder. After awhile you’ll find you can shoehorn an adventure into an overall campaign arc with little problem.