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October 30, 2005, 1:31 pm

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Never Get Involved in a land war in Asia- Classic GM Blunder

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You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”

First posted at http://WWW.OpenRoleplaying.org in the tips section.

One of my favorite movies is “The Princess Bride”. In that movie, the Evil VIZZINI, explains that there are a few classic blunders.

“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”

He laughs and roars and cackles and whoops and is in all ways quite cheery until he falls over dead.

I love that scene. Some of us are so confident in our abilities that we ignore the basics. There are things that begining GMs do wrong on a regular basis, that even experienced GMs do upon occasion. They are easy to do, so these classic blunders are things that every GM, DM, or ref needs to be on the look out for.

Classic GM Blunder #1: Failing to provide enough motivation for characters to go on the adventure. While forcing players to do things is never a good idea, a character needs some motivation to do things in the game. If the GM does not provide enough motivation, the players could easily go off on tangents that they find much more interesting. FIND THE CHARACTER’S HOOKS AND USE THEM TO PULL THE CHARACTER INTO THE STORY.

Classic GM Blunder #2: Failing to pace the story well. The GM must keep the story going, giving the players something to do or react to. Every scene has a purpose and a way to lead into the next scene. KEEP THE GAME MOVING OR THE PLAYERS WILL GET BORED.

Classic GM Blunder #3: Making NPCs more important than PCs. The player characters are the protagonists of your campaign story. If they are not, why should they play? GMs sometimes love their NPCs a bit too much, allowing them to save the players, show up the players, or make the PCs useless and unimportant. IF A GM IS WRITING THEIR NPC’S STORY, WHY SHOULD THE PCs SHOW UP?

Classic GM Blunder #4: Failing to engage the Troop in the fictional world and the campaign. The GM is the author and narrator for the campaign story. If you were reading a story and you don’t like the characters, the supporting characters were flat, and the setting was grey and lifeless, would you keep reading the book? Probably not. Why would you keep playing a game with the same failings? Players need to know about the game world, interact with colorful characters, encounter dramatic events, and encounter interesting things. PROVIDE THESE THINGS FOR THEM.

Classic GM Blunder #5: Failing to entertain the players. There is a reason it is called a game. The point of the game is to enjoy yourself. If players are not having fun, they have no motivation to come to your game. Run the kind of game the players want, with the kind of scenarios they want, with the kind of subplots they like. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE PLAYERS WANT: ASK!!

Classic GM Blunder #6: Failing to know the rules: The Game designer can only write so many rules; the publisher can only publish so many. There is no way to make rulings for every contingency in a game. That is what the GM is for. The GM must know the rules and be able to interpret them for any situation. They must be fair in their handling of the rules. They must know the rules so well, they do not have to think about them, so they can use them and still concentrate on the game story. KNOW THE RULES OR DO NOT GM!

Classic GM Blunder #7: Failing to listen to the players. A Game Master should listen to their players, determining what they like and dislike about the campaign, the game, and the GM’s play style. By responding to player comments, the GM can provide the kind of game the players will enjoy and improve their own gamecraft. LISTEN TO YOUR PLAYERS, THEY ARE YOUR AUDIENCE AND YOUR STAFF.

Classic GM Blunder #8: Failing to be prepared. A GM should spend some time before the game session to organize thoughts and notes, prepare any scenes or opponents, and plan out story lines. Do not take away play time by spending time at the session to do this. Even if you are of the “wing it” school of game mastering, some preparation will allow for easier, faster, and better play. A LITTLE PREPARATION GOES A LONG WAY!

Classic GM Blunder #9: Allowing the Dice to rule the scene. Dice are used to resolve conflicts and make the RPG more of a “game”. In roleplaying games, we also tell stories. Sometimes the dice generate responses that do not fit the GM’s desire for the campaign saga or scene. If it is in the best interest of the game, change the results to better fit the story. WHO IS IN CHARGE? YOU OR THE DICE?

Classic GM Blunder #10: Failing to improve your your gamecraft. Roleplaying games are not static, they are always changing. What challenged and amused your players a month ago might not do it now. The way you presented information a few months ago is now old hat. Gamecraft is like an actor’s craft, except it includes things that authors, storytellers, and wargamers do. Always strive to do it better than you have before. Find what works at a given time and do it. A LITTLE EFFORT TOWARDS SELF IMPROVEMENT GOES A LONG WAY!

PS: If you want to read the Princess Bride movie script: http://www.godamongdirectors.com/scripts/princess.shtml or rent it. It is a great movie.



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Comments ( 7 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Mourngrymn
November 9, 2005, 15:20
0xp
This is a classical list that should be adhered to should anyone be Dming. It is all helpful information and should be used as a checklist for any DM. Good job to the limitless knowledge of Moonhunter.
Voted KendraHeart
November 12, 2005, 0:54
0xp
These is anothe presentation of the Best Rules of 2003. I like this one better.
Voted Silveressa
June 9, 2008, 20:41
0xp
Another gem I would have missed were it not for the useless barbarians senseless comment. Over all a useful compilation of rules every gm and player should reread from time to time. (And come to think of it, should be printed in the "how to play and rpg" section of most rpg books)
Voted Drackler
June 12, 2008, 12:48
0xp
I was reading through this article thinking: What of these, if any, do I commit?
The answer is between me and my players, but the question is one you should probably ask yourselves, too.
Voted Dossta
June 18, 2012, 14:43
1xp
A very good list of reminders and common pitfalls. There is a lot that I agree with here, and only a few things I don't. Knowing the rules, for example, is important. However, you shouldn't feel like you can't GM until you know all of the rules stone cold -- that is impractical for some of the more technical systems, and may make you reluctant to ever try a new system. Instead, know all of the BASIC rules (basic combat, character creation and social rules), and make a point to at least read through the more complex stuff once before you start gaming. That way, you'll at least know where to go when the more specific stuff comes up (bookmark your sourcebooks or take notes if you need to!).
Voted valadaar
September 22, 2013, 16:51
0xp
This is a great list, and while it does come from the gaming as storytelling direction, virtually all of the rules are good and applicable.

MoonHunter
September 22, 2013, 19:10
0xp
All roleplaying games are a balance between story orientation and game orientation. It is easier, in most games cases, to approach it as a pawn/ board/ action orientation (game orientation). That is why most GM advice tends to slip towards the Story Side of things.

You can make an interesting game mechanic situation great (and thus more enjoyable) by adding story elements. Just as a good storyline can be made great with interesting tactical/ mechanical challenges.


Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

Hooper McFin's Two Shot Portal

       By: dudeington

Now, this ol' ramblin fellow tends to walk his talk a bit too far down the train sometimes.. So I'll be brief in my recantin' of how it was my Tavern "came to bein'" on the multiverse as a weave of it's own spell.. And how I'm even alive to tell the story!

You see it's simple really, trust me.. that's my specialty, keepin it elementary. And you can trust this old Bard.

Anyway, this one night these wizards get a ramblin' on about the temporal exististance of space and time and how it could be manifested in a weave of super dimensional space. whereupon the folded space would give rise to an infinite number of entrances and exits to one or many spaces. Now, seein' how my talkin' sometimes get's locked into the way us folks used to talk back in the ol' west. These wizards didn't know I was a master of the word. and I had heard everything they said. They were also a bit over the wagon, while I was steerin' the show.

So that's how it came to pass, I struck a bargain with the wizards. They come to me in the morning and conjure up their idea into reality and I'd pledge them my life, my existance.. in essence my soul. but in a much nicer sense of the word. So they came by in the morning a half remembering our talks the prior evenin'. And I recanted their words verbatum, and that's how it came to be. The spell was complete that afternoon. My tavern would be the super dimensional cube that would exist in this weave of space and time, folks could come and go as they please, knowin in mind some of the rules and limitations set forth.

A few of 'em as follows.

No feller can be causin a ruckus inside any of my fine establishments, as always rule number one god damnit.

n' second the portal works kinda tricky. When ya outside ya cast the spell and lend your will to luck a bit and regardless the doors to the bar will appear, the windows a luminescent amber.. you can hear the chattee but ya can't see in. And the catch is the door might be locked, in which case you chalk it up to lady luck and go walk off and try again in an hour. Now most times the door pops right open and from the outside you always come in the front door, immediately greeted by myself or one of our many fine patrons of Hooper McFin's Ale & Steakhouse.

Now when ya cast the spell from inside the Tavern, another catch comes up. The back door is mainly a secret for the non-initiated staff and the regulars but for sake of the prose let's assume we all know there's a secret door in the back with a portal there. Now when you go on through this one, you got two scenario's you oughta be aware of. One is ya pop outside relative to the same spot you came out. The other is, you walk back on into this one or another of our many Hooper McFin's Ale & Steakhouse.

so it's a clever quantum railroad I got my tavern and my people's caught on. But, Hey the show's sure as always goin. ohhh' rutin tootin skidoodle -

** And that's it.. that's the only notes I found on the spell, apparently out there somewhere is a Tavern caught on the mighty ebb and flow of the multiverse. Well. at least I can put to rest my torment as to the condition now referred to as "Hooper McFin's Teleportation Paranoia".

Dr. Clarke T. Mulligan - Professional researcher of Time & Space.

Hooper McFin's Ale & Steakhouse

Ideas  ( System ) | June 21, 2015 | View | UpVote 4xp


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