MoonHunter's Top Tips for 2009
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.
1) Pattern your game after a familiar medium – and let your players know which it is.
Players are familiar with stories and their pacing. They like when their games feel the stories they are used to. They know when to zig or zag, they know when a plot complication is about to hit, they know when to “run to the finish”. So it works to the GM’s advantage to plot their campaign and sessions like a movie/ book/ comic book/ episode. Not only does it make it easier for players, but it makes it easier for GMs as well. (The GM will have a better feel for pacing and such if they think about what should happen next.)
These are just fast examples.
**Movies have one big fast paced story arc that changes everything at the end.
**Novels: slower pace, big arch and three to four sub arcs.
**TV series, a big story arc, with each “episode” having its own related arc.
**Comics: much the way as a TV series, but with more self contained episodes.
What works for a movie, is different than what works for a novel or comic book, so the players need to know which the campaign is.
2) Know the Conventions for the Game.
Every genre has expected conventions that stories in that genre tend to have. The players need to know what sort of things they should expect and is expected of them. Individual “shows”/ “novels” have their own “Bible” which explains what “conventions” and “bits” are appropriate for their show/ novels. (It is a tool for the writers). Players should know what is expected of them and what to expect because of the campaign itself. (One bit is that you will always have a local who will be your barometer as to what is going on in the world around you) These things can be in a world pack write up or you can create your own “Writer’s Bible”.
3) Know the Rules COLD:
The GM should know the rules well enough that they should seldom, if ever, have to review the rules in the book. A little study can make your game run so much smoother. Remember, part of a GM’s prep time should include learning any rules for things that are expected to happen in a given play session.
4) This goes for players too.
Players should learn the basic rolls and mechanics that apply to their characters in specific and the game in general. They should be familiar with their own skills, gifts, flaws, spells, and other mechanics.
5) Have a ceremonial start and finish for the play session.
Once the ringing of the bell, playing of the theme song, reciting of what happened last week, or what ever fits the game, gaming starts. It is time to concentrate on the game, not anything else. Once the bell rings for break or end of games, regular social rules apply. These bits are tools to help players “get into game mode”.
6) Have a long talk with everyone, every now and again, about what is and is not “okay” during game time.
These group conversations can help the game run smoother as everyone will be on the same page as to what is and is not “okay” during the game. It will also help prevent any “silent problems”
7) Review the Campaign every now and again:
We call these “writers meetings”. The group banters back and forth about what they like, dislike, want to see, and don’t want to see in the campaign. The GM can modify the campaign to fall into line with their expectations. The GM can also insist that if they want X and Y changes, she needs A and B from the players. This can make the campaign better for all.
8) Games are about interaction with people.
If you want just a crunching of numbers or conflict of stats, computer games will actually provide that for you any time you want. If you want to get together and “build” something – a story, a campaign, a group, an interesting series of invents- then table top RPGs are for you. So everyone should work on “making the game work better”.
9)Do what you can to make the game run faster.
Do not let the mechanics bog you down. The most common way to speed it all up is to roll all the dice you need for a given action. If you hit, then read hit location die, then the damage dice (having tossed all of them at once). If you are defending, roll the dodge/ parry, and any armor dice.
10) Narration is your friend:
Narration is a great tool for the GM. In addition to the description of thing, places, people, etc, it can be used to "move events along". "And after an uneventful night...", "after several days of travel", "after you have searched the room and opened almost all the boxes you find", are all ways you can cut through that that would be tedious or time consuming to play out. Remember you are telling the story of the characters, not making a documentry. So play out the fun or interesting parts, and narrate your way through the rest.
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? Responses (7)
Thank you for posting these for us!
Update: Formatting issues.
A helpful article that made me think about how I run my games.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
These are a list of good tips - or at least things to aspire towards.
1/2. I both agree and disagree. There are some players that live to subvert the trends.
3. Even if you don't know the rules cold you need to at least be decisive. Make a decision, move on. If a player knows the rules better than you or looks it up later that's fine but your rule is law for that session.
4. You can't make them. Honestly some are just hopeless. As long as they are competent with their own character it's a system's fault that everyone goes 'How does grappling work again?'
6. I think you need to be more clear here. It's up to a DM to know the pulse of things and if things are deteriorating it is best to talk one on one first.
7-10 Yes yes yes.
I miss these. We need a 2013 list.