Another in the series of GM Tricks of the Trade from 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: When starting a new campaign, or a running a convention game, or even a one-shot adventure, keep the goals of the adventure relatively simple. Players, especially new players, are going to need a little time to adjust to the new game (even if it’s the same RPG), the setting, in some cases the rules -- and in others your style of play. They have new characters with new backgrounds and personalities, etc. Keeping it simple allows them time to get a grip on what they want to see and how they want to play the character. Simple goals include small dungeons (4-5) rooms, travel from point A to point B, an escort adventure, hunting a monster or brigand. Now, all that said, it behooves you to introduce elements for a larger game that is coming in sessions in the future.
#2: With #1 above in mind-- When you are running a long campaign, try to avoid making ‘save the world’ the game’s focus. If you are going that route, that’s great, just plan to have hosts of games in the middle that have little or nothing to do with saving the world. It gives everyone a break from mission-oriented games, makes many stories, and allows for level and treasure acquisition.
#3: Occasionally you’ll have players that want to correct you, or at least “help” you understand the rules a little better. These players, whether well intentioned or not, are often a bit troublesome. I’ve found that little good comes out of arguing with them. I often take note of their comment and calmly respond with “there’s more going on here than you aware of” or perhaps “I look at that a little differently”. Make eye contact, direct the comment to them, and make sure everyone can hear it. Be consistent and don’t give in. The vast majority of people stop after a while, usually because they think you are just doing it wrong and are beyond help, and you can get on with the game. Arguing is just going to bog it all down and cut everyone else out of the game for 20 minutes while you resolve the situation. It’s important to note however, to not linger on the person. Make your comment and move on immediately.
#4: Give ‘em a death swing. When they are dying and all is lost give them one last shot at glory. We are talking negative 10 death. When the character cannot be saved, the damage is done, the hit points bludgeoned out, tell ‘em to take one more swing. It doesn’t change their fate, but it allows them to go out in glory…or to utterly miss and make things a little worse, but at least they can try. Give ‘em a death swing.
#5: Use player input, and if their idea is better than yours, go for it. I once had characters passing through a large tunnel that was guarded by some mythic beast chained to a wall. The wall was decorated with the faces of the dead. My plan was to have the characters use brute strength to force their way through in an epic battle. But mid-catastrophe (they were getting hammered) one of them decided that the faces of the dead on the wall were the creature’s source of power and began destroying them. I thought to myself, well that’s just wicked cool, and went with it! They never knew until later of course, but it didn’t take away from the moment. It was just too cool. It’s why I’ve said, though I created the world of Aihrde and wrote the Codex of Aihrde, it wasn’t done in a vacuum. Inspiration came from a host of sources and all the players at my table.
Follow these simple rules when interacting with your group and you will be assured a great game night, every night.