There is a concept that I’ve seen with GMs and systems that can lead to a muddied role playing experience. This is a gaping problem I’ve found with what’s become called on the podcast and elsewhere as Session Zero. Using these systems and methods we can create vibrant settings for our players to interact with and there can be a multitude of options for what story element gets spun into the narrative that moves the group forward. Continue reading “Eyes Up: The Story Thrust”
As a player I’ve seen many GMs get distracted by the seeming whims of a player. The plot wanders all over until the GM finally gets inspiration and starts asserting their creative direction on the narrative. It isn’t enough to come up with a setting and then thrust players together to get moving themselves, as a GM you’re at the table to provide guidance and narrative shove to the player characters. Continue reading “Eyes Up: GM Focus”
I’m an improvising GM. I know that this hurts my games in some ways, but I work to even these issues out. I’ll go through my preparation stages to give a few windows into how I work out what happens in a session as well as how some of my bad habits can be overcome by other methods of pre planning. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Preparation”
My name is Ben, and I’m a GM. There isn’t a way on this planet that you could get me to change this.
I came across an article about the Yucca Mountain waste facility and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) when the warning labels that they are trying to put in place for radioactive waste jumped out at me. This could be the label sitting over the enclosed domain of a lich or a warning for a great evil. It’s started to make me very interested in these ideas of how to best keep people out of an abandoned, and dangerous, facility. This is a very realistic but grim view of how people design these facilities.
Something weird happened with the last Eyes Up, people asked questions and commented. Here’s one that I knew would take me longer than a 5 minute response to have the answer be any sort of use.
Here’s something I’ve been dealing with lately that keeps jumping to the front of my mind. How can I deal with a published adventure that has significant problems with it but has a single diamond in the rough that will drive some great sessions?
GMs have to strike a weird balance in ongoing campaigns. Don’t do too much preparation; so that when players go off the blazed trail you aren’t starting the nights campfire with your notes. But, also have enough structure so they aren’t just spinning on the log flume again and again going nowhere. All while having a little bit of fun while doing it. Many people look to random tables to solve the preparation issue to avoid burning out from creative fatigue. The problem with that is many of the encounters I’ve seen using encounter tables have been horrible; worse than just throwing a dart at the index. There is little life to the encounter and the GM doesn’t understand how the monsters are to be utilized in the scene.
You need direction at the table. If you’re reading this I’ll assume you aren’t trying to flesh out your Imperial Assault or Descent games just for that little extra bit of story. I mention this because the standard villain of the week approach is boring. It’s boring on TV and it’s boring on the table. A campaign has structure. A campaign needs structure, even if it’s loose, otherwise you and the players will spin your wheels after a while and people will drift away.
Never talk to me about adventures, because if you are trying to it’ll be a book in length and I’m going to be bored, or it’s going to be a about something that isn’t all that long but I’ll be wondering where the rest of it is because I’m expecting the whole novel. Adventure is a meaningless term that could be anything from going and building a snowman to throwing some jewelry into a volcano, or even following the adventures of a Naboo ship-repair droid as he goes through the galaxy orchestrating the overthrow of an evil empire.
As a GM we fear the loss of control. I see this everyday with myself being the one fearful, but I also see it at the gaming table quite a bit. I’m a very weird player when it comes to RPGs, I’m not attached to a character and will play it like it’s just an avatar in adventures doing things that are far past the daring do of what a ‘sensible’ character would show. This is my own take on it because of needing to let go of my fears and do things in ways I wouldn’t do away from the table.
When creating a campaign you have a story you want to tell. This will have its own rising and falling actions, but, if you’re designing this week to week, it becomes near impossible to find ‘act breaks’ and make it fit well into the tropes of a nice classic three act structure. The best structure for planning long campaigns I’ve found is to follow the pattern of TV shows or comics, for example Saga, Babylon 5, Farscape, and Leverage. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Teasing A Bigger World”
As a GM you know this at least theoretically, combats don’t go the way you expect or even don’t happen at all. The changing course of how people interpret information you give them is often seemingly bizarre. Players jump to one conclusion and are unwilling to give up on that idea. I’ve seen players do it time and again. This isn’t a bad thing, but what you do with it can be. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Change with your Players”
Let’s talk about rewards for players. I have yet to meet a GM or player who doesn’t get the basics of rewarding players with experience points. In some systems it’s an equation as simple as putting monsters in at one end, running them through the shiny bladed grinder of players, and dropping at the feet of the players blood splattered items of surprising usefulness. This is all well and good, and keeps the characters growing in power, but this can be minor to rewarding the players for their actions instead of just their characters. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Rewarding the Player, not the Character”
I’m Deuterium Ice, you may know me a bit from Tales from the Hydian Way and Confessions of a Newb GM. I have been doing an article series about how to run adventures, but @TheAngryDM is doing that with attitude, so I’m shifting to something less obvious. When we were recording next week’s Tales from the Hydian Way it became clear to me how I could help and how I can use my own experience, foibles and all, to give ideas and guidance to people doing campaigns to try to make them more interesting. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Focused Intentions”
Creating a story out of, or imposing a story upon, a roleplaying group is a very daunting thing. Taking a look at what The Angry DM has written this week got me back thinking about why we use anything at the table, from an NPC to a blaster pistol. There are so many different levers you’re able to use to get to the same place whether it’s character power or world based. Continue reading “Eyes Up: Messing with Money”