Tops tips for 2005
#1) RPGs are both a game and a story, they are a game that tells a story. They do not tell the GM'ss story, nor a single PC's story, but they tell the group's story as they deal with the dramatic conflicts before them. It is a story that no one in the troupe controls, as it is a combination of the random game aspects AND the inputs of every member of the group.
You need to balance the story telling aspect with the game aspect.

#2) There are two kinds of scenarios, active and reactive. Reactive scenarios are when X happens and the PC's respond. Active scenarios occur when the PCs have a goal they want to achieve and must take steps to achieve it. Reactive scenarios are the tool of last resort for most GMs and common in campaigns where the players are not willing to invest time and effort into the game or their characters. You get as much out of a game as you put into it. Characters should have their own goals and needs, determined from the begining (as well as picking up a few as the campaign plods on). Those should drive your campaign, not reactive scenarios that no player really cares about.

This is the Key Tip for 2005. Everything else derives from it
#3) Cue Drumroll
'If you have any doubts and let it into your game, you will have to deal with the inevitable consequences.'
If you have any questions or doubts about a character (or other game element), don't let it in. It will only lead to heart ache later.

#4 (3b) A character may be perfectly legal, but not be suitable for the campaign or the troupe of characters currently in play.
The character's mechanics/ power level must be comparable to the rest of the groups. The character's conception and history must fit both the campaign world, the campaign being run, and the GM's style of play.

#5 (3c) Each character must fits into the world, and with the rest of the characters, before you let it in the game.
The character's conception and history must fit the campaign being run. The character's role in the group should be defined and have little overlap with the rest of the characters. The character should have ties to the rest of the group and the world around it. Once a character is in play, it is really hard to fix these mistakes. Also by doing a little work ahead of time to make the character fit, you will have fewer problems than if you didn't.

#6 (3d) Check out the game mechanics, many innocent combinations create synergetic effects beyond what you might expect.
Look at what the character can do, singularly and in combination. This should include skills, powers, and abilities. Too many story telling GMs, or GMs that emphasize the story aspect, ignore the game mechanics of the character in favor of its story. Yet certain combinations create huge effects that have scaled far beyond what you as the GM want in the game. And in situations when you will be using the mechanics, these character effects will dominate your scene.

#7 (3e) Check out the game mechanics so the character can actually do what its conception says it can.
Here comes the story. I had friends who had there wonderful conceptions, but they required HUGE number of creation points or that were purchased poorly and were uneffective. (A character that was a jack of many trades with no skills at all, just a modifier to any die roll... or a courtly character without courtly contacts or skills.) Some people want to be a master surgon, yet don't buy enough medical skill to accomlish anything better than first aid. They want to be friends with everyone in high places, but did not purchase contact and any social skills. People need to remember that this is a game, that they are playing... so must choose wisely their abilities and backgrounds carefully.

#8 (3f) Pay attention to the characters as play advances, experience can make the character unrecognizable.
Character creation does not stop once the game begins. It is an ongoing process. Characters will take on new skills and abilities through character advancements. Problems you as the GM thought you dodged at character creation will come back to haunt you in the experience phase. The GM needs to carefully monitor and approve what the character takes with experience/ advancement and make sure it fits the campaign and style of game.

#8.5 (3Fb) Related to above, give your character rewards in ways other than 'power'. Magic tchotchkes and interesting crunchy bits are always fun, but as the power level of the characters advances, so does the power level of the opposition. It creates an 'arms race' where bigger threats are created to match their items, and they must have more powerful items to meet the next threat. Characters could be given contacts, or lands they are responsible for, or awards of honor (giving the characters name recognition). This keeps the 'arms race' in the campaign down, ties the character to the world, and gives the characters new avenues of adventure.

#9 Think carefully about the elements you add to your world. What might seem to be a 'cool' or 'neat' thing to add to your game setting, might be unbalanced in the long run. Consider what people are going to do with the elements (and the powers/ effects they bring) to the setting. Remember, if it exists in the world, the players are going to get access to it eventually. So never put anything in your world you don't want used against you.

#10 Remember: If you let it in your game, you get what you deserve. It needs to be said. When in doubt, keep it out.

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