Thursday, February 21, 2019

Tricks of the Trade

A new 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: Try to start a new game, particularly if you are a new GM, with a short, quick set up. As the game progresses you can work in the larger story. Turning it over to the characters quickly allows players to engage in the game and become interactive. It will help with their attention later on as well. Spending too much time setting up the world or the circumstances that launch the game can be tiresome to listen to. After half an hour of background most players have long since tuned you out. All that information you have designed can and should come out in game play, particularly during the role playing sessions.

#2: Try to keep treasure hoards smaller in coin but richer in detail. When you keep treasure them small it imparts a sense of value to them, and added details make the treasure very memorable. A fallen hill giant who has only 48gp, 110sp, 1 20gp, gem, a ring set with two topaz stones worth 50gp, a bag of rabbit bones and a small box of salt will resonate much more than one with 800gp. Including mundane things like the aforementioned box of salt instantly tethers the imagination on something that is real and tangible, which in turn makes everything else a little more real.

#3: Roll each monster’s hit points separately and if you can, arm it differently. Monsters are pretty static things. If you meet a group of the same monsters, they generally have the same HD, AC, attacks, skills, damage etc. Hit points are the major exception to this. You can encounter a drider with a wide variety of hit points, some being very weak and some strong. This gives the encounter flavor with minimal work. It might take the party 7 rounds to kill monster A, but they dispatch monster B with painful ease. It shakes things up a little and keep characters guessing.

#4: If you are just starting out as a GM, or if you are running a new game, or with new players, plan on a short session. Try to shoot for about 3-4 hours for this first adventure. You and your group may be accustomed to playing longer (we used to run games 18 hours long back in the college days), and that’s fine, but its best to wrap up the first adventure a little quicker. Even if you are going to continue playing, this allows players to digest who their characters are and what they can and cannot do. Likely as not, they’ll take some time after crossing the finish line to look a little closer at abilities, equipment and other odds and ends that help them get a better grip on the character. It also allows you to readjust anything you need to. Perhaps you found that the paladin was more powerful than you anticipated, so you can adjust your next adventure accordingly. It’s a good time for players to role play amongst each other as well… it's something noted in an earlier tip you should encourage.

#5: Try to speed up your combats a little. This helps with pacing and keeps player excitement high. That’s always good and is fun for everyone. Don’t linger on rules and mechanics any more than you have to; fast paced combats are far more enjoyable than a discussion on a spell’s area of effect. You will, of course, have to discuss some of these things, but unless its going to be a game changer… suddenly kill all your monsters, spring the trap or what have you… just make a quick ruling and move on. Keep your descriptions short with key words; a long drawn out description of what a blade does is not nearly as effective as “the blow ruptures the globe of your eye!” And lastly encourage the players to make fast decisions about what they are going to do; let them know beforehand that they only have 5-10 seconds to make a decision, if they don’t then the tide of battle overwhelms them. (As a side note, never bark things like “You lose your turn.” That is crazy rude and combative. Say something like the aforementioned “the tide of battle sweeps past you before you can react, but don’t worry, next round you’ll be keyed to go).
Post Script: I love the words nonetheless and aforementioned and I managed to use aforementioned twice in today’s tips. I shall celebrate with a cold Dr. Pepper!

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