Rules and Advice
Gaming - In General
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September 16, 2008, 1:28 pm

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MoonHunter's Top Tips for 2003


I am always giving advice to various gamers on various game forums. I am constantly giving the same advice over and over again (cut/ paste repeat). Once a year I think about the advice and put together The List.

GM’s have issues. Okay, I mean issues on how they GM. Geeze. These tips address the top 10 issues that most GM’s have in one form or another. The first is the problem, the next is the explaining the problem and solution, and the one line admonishment on how to fix the issue.

So lets begin:

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.

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.

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?

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.

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!!

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!

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.

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!

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?

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!

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Comments ( 18 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Ancient Gamer
November 7, 2005, 3:24
Game Mastering 101 Curriculum.
Voted Strolen
November 7, 2005, 13:20
Go Moon!
Voted Zylithan
November 8, 2005, 15:14
All pretty basic - but IMPORTANT - pieces of advice. The NPC one is especially relevant for my experience, where I've had several GMs who use their old PCs as NPCs in campaigns they run. I understand the temptation and the attraction to the loved character, but one must restrain.
November 12, 2005, 0:09
Okay. I knew you were uber gamer, but this is scary good.
Barbarian Horde
November 28, 2005, 19:07
Great tips! The best thing is to listen to youre players,
what do they want? Sure, i have tried this. But what do I
do if the players dont know what they want? Or dont have
any interest in trying to figure it out but still want
to play roleplaying games?
November 29, 2005, 0:07
There are a couple of options.

First, and best, talk with them and find out what they want in the game. If they don't know, straight out tell them what you expect from your players and what kind of play the campaign will have. Tell them if they want to play this kind of game and are willing to meet your expectations, they can play. If they don't, no hard feelings, and they can game with other people.

Second, find new players. Life is too short to play with crappy players. If they want to play with you, they should enjoy the kind of game you are running. If they don't or don't want to play it, they should leave and find someone who does.

Third, Roll Play Fixes, search for it in the articles section.
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
December 22, 2005, 4:31
Pin it to yer walls Game Masters.
Barbarian Horde
December 22, 2005, 8:49
I had to comment some more!
This article is so great. It is shorter than most MoonHunter articles but each sentence is dead on. Every seasoned GM will know of these problems and every beginner GM will sooner or later encounter them. This article should be among the very first things new GMs read. It will save every GM a lot trouble in the long run.

Voted Ria Hawk
April 9, 2006, 18:59
I am tempted to print a copy of this and take it up to the local gaming store and leave it there for the future reference of any game masters that happen to be around.
Voted Cheka Man
April 13, 2006, 13:07
A very good piece.
April 13, 2006, 14:07
Thank you who ever HoHed it today. I am working on Top Tips 2006
Voted valadaar
November 22, 2007, 15:59
Definately a good set of rules, though I am less enamoured with the Know The Rules rule. I would replace it with Know Enough of the Rules and Know Where to Find the rest. Of course, this depends on the type of gaming you do and the type of players...
November 22, 2007, 16:33
If you know enough of the rules to know where to find what you need, then you know the rules. Of course, if you knew the rules (or enough that nobody is going to ever think you don't), you don't have to slow the game down while you look them up. (Bookmarking your book for quick reference on certain pages helps).

The point is to have smooth play flow. Stopping play while you look up a rule is stopping play (or slowing it down). So if you know the rules, you can "go with the flow of the game/ story" and not have to stop for anything.
Voted axlerowes
December 13, 2012, 16:48
This is good list of warning signs, more directional than instructive, I like the use of broad brush, makes it accessible to many people. But people ask for advice on the internet, sometimes want advice, but mostly I think they just want to talk about themselves and their ideas or problems.
Voted Dossta
May 8, 2013, 12:30
A solid list of advice. I think this is one of the very first articles I ever saw here -- and probably one of the ones that convinced me to stay. It's not rocket science and it's not terribly original advice, but it's clear and VERY helpful to a new GM. Thanks for posting this.
Voted PoisonAlchemist
May 28, 2013, 18:57
I think this is much more relevant and generally useful than you 2004 set.
Voted Silveressa
April 8, 2014, 8:24
Old but still solid, and a virtual "must read" for any new GM since this forms the core of running a fun session as well as a fun campaign.
Voted Kassy
June 9, 2014, 8:52
Invaluabe advice Moonhunter!

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

       By: Agar

A possible answer to what happens to spells when a mage dies. If the spell is strong enough, say and enchantment or other permenant effect, part of the mages spirit may become lodged in the magic. It may be a way for items to gain some kind of intelligence, but a mage who has knowledge of this fact would be very hesitant about enchanting anyone or thing. He might have other plans for his afterlife than counting the change in your bag of holding.

Preists, I think, would have this sort of thing covered.

Ideas  ( System ) | November 10, 2002 | View | UpVote 5xp

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