Tuesday, January 29, 2019

GM's Tricks of the Trade

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: When setting up and preparing a game, manage your expectations. Chances are you can see a whole tapestry unfolding in your mind. In it is an epic adventure with nuanced moments bound in with chance and choice. How can it be anything but fun? Remember that you can see the tapestry, the players have no idea what to expect. So, manage your expectations, orient on getting the quest/adventure started and the players involved. Everything beyond that is gravy. If you try to push it on them or explain it to them as this that and the other, you are likely to cloud the whole game. Its much akin to overselling a movie you like. I love the Walking Dead, but if I talk about it too much, people who don’t know the show, just think I’m nuts. Just don’t expect too much. Once they do buy into the narrative and the whole of it is revealed, the moment will be that much better.

#2: Much of the game is interacting with players, but a bit of it is behind your screens -- or if you don’t use screens -- on your end of the table. One of the simplest things to do, to prep, concerns your dice. Too often dice sets are all the same color. They look pretty and you can showcase the matching feng shui one with the other, but they are actually unpractical. Several of the dice are shaped alike, and when you have 30 dice, pencils, miniatures, note books, crib sheets, books, food and drink piled around you, the last thing you want to do is break the stride of a game…whether combat or other…by trying to sort through your dice and accidently picking up and rolling a d8 instead of a d10, then having to reroll. Just put different colored dice behind the screen. Your d8 should be a different color than your d10 and so on. It leaves one less thing you have sort through. Sadly these sets are hard to find and you may have to buy several to get different colored dice.

#3: This is something my good friend (Mac Golden co-Designer of C&C) reminded me of, or rather I was reminded of when listening to the Crusader Podcast he was a guest on. Do not require an attribute check for everything. I go to the Spring River often, I swim in it and I don’t drown (I did dive into a ball of water snakes once). I can swim decently. The river is slow moving and relatively shallow and not very wide. Though I could drown in it (knock on wood), mostly I don’t. A check isn’t really required. As the GM just allow them some things. If they try to climb a wall. “Yes, you climb the wall.” If they try to swim a river. “Yes you can swim across the river.” Save the checks/saving throws for important things.
#4: Go easy on the traps. Having your character killed by an orc with a huge battle axe while you are defending a group of orphans is kind of heroic and lets you sleep at night. Having your character fall into a pit and become impaled on some stakes and die of rot disease that was on the stakes keeps you up at night just mad. Traps can be fun and challenging but they can be extremely irritating. There is next to nothing the player can do aside from one saving throw/attribute check or they become maimed, wounded or dead. In combat they can keep fighting after one, two even a dozen wounds. But for traps, you get one roll. They can be fun, just limit them and try to avoid the “you fall, you die traps. As an aside, they can be fun and funny sometimes, so don’t toss them altogether.

#5: We have a saying in my family: “No is a complete sentence.” Don’t be afraid to tell players no. They are going to try all manner of things, describe all manner of characters, role play things, act out, attack, etc. Just say No. You don’t have to explain yourself. You are the GM. Adjudicate. You can explain yourself, but you don’t have to. If pressed say “Just, no.” Now it’s not something you want to do too often, players have as much vested interest in playing in your game as you do running it. But when something is beyond the pale or makes no sense or is just crazy, don’t hesitate to say No.

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