June 13, 2011

GM Interview: Frank Bartlett

game master interview

This week we hear from Frank Bartlett, who GMs for his wife and two daughters. I love the idea of the whole family gaming together! Well done, Frank.

Please introduce yourself

Do you have a blog, website or campaign wiki?

No, while I use my PC to create my campaigns, my group prefers old school paper.

How long have you been a GM?

Going on 25 years now.

What are your favourite game(s) to run?

Dungeons and Dragons. We have started to branch into other worlds such as The Game of Thrones and Wheel of Time.

How did you first get into GMing?

Back in middle school we had a D&D group that was run in the school library after school on Wednesdays. One day the teacher decided to start having us create and run adventures. I was hooked instantly.

How has GMing affected your life over the years?

I think it has made me more confident and outgoing. As a child I was very introverted. Since being a GM, I have opened up and become an extrovert. It has also made me a very good storyteller, a fact my two daughters love at bedtime.

Section One: Your GMing Stat Block

What is your usual gaming schedule?

Every Saturday from 10 am till 5 pm, weather permitting. We can get some nasty storms in New England winters.

Where do you play?

We play in my living room. We have TV tables for each player that sits on the couch, my kids have the coffee table and I have my desk.

Do you use published material or create your own?

A bit of both. Typically I will use the maps from published adventures but will rework the inhabitants. I like adding a personal touch to my adventures.

What non-digital and electronic GM aides do you use (other than books)?

I use dungeon tiles, minis, old maps, pretty much anything that strikes my fancy to add flavour to a session. The biggest aide I feel is music. Low barely there music that fits the mood is perfect.

Minis or no? What do you use for minis, and how do you use them?

Oh yes. Love the minis! I have been collecting them since high school, my wife is always telling me the boxes are in the way. Typically, minis are only used when there is combat coming up. It has become a running joke that when I pull out the minis box it’s time to fight!

Last week I broke out the minis at the start and we only had one major combat. Just keeping them on their toes.

Section Two: Opportunities

What is your biggest GMing stumbling block right now? What could you do to fix that?

Finding inspiration. I have found that after 25 years it’s hard to stay original. To fix that I have been rereading some fantasy novels, especially the Gord the Rogue series by Gary Gygax. Mix up a few of the plots and you have a new adventure.

When was the last time you were a player? What insight about GMing did you pick up?

It has been almost 6 years since I was a player. But the one thing I remember is everyone has an opinion, as a good GM you have to listen to them. You don’t have to follow their opinion, but you do have to listen.

Describe your perfect gaming session with you as GM.

Hmm. The perfect gaming session? One that went smoothly from start to finish. LOL!

In all seriousness, our group is: my wife, her best friend, my 9 year old daughter, and my 7 year old daughter. My wife’s best friend comes occasionally.  It is difficult to keep everyone focused on the job at hand, but the kids are learning.

Section Three: GMing Style

What are the top qualities you look for or need in a player?

Reliability, personality, and imagination. There have been a few players that joined to be with their BF/GF and they quickly became a disturbance. Now we only have players who want to be there for the game.

Describe in a few words each of your players and their playing style.

  1. Lissa…quiet and calculating. Like a drowsess. Makes deep in-depth characters. Very well organized. Each and every one of her characters has a well stocked backpack.
  2. Haley…spontaneous, brash, and funny. She has no problem wading into battle or sitting quietly on the sidelines waiting to loot the dead.
  3. Dee…thoughtful and logical. And smart, too smart for a nine year old.
  4. Zoe…one word, Kender. Nuff said.

Describe in a few words your group’s playing style.

We like to have fun. With the kids involved there is a lot of banter, but we are teaching them that what they say their characters actually say. It is funny sometimes.

Describe in a few words your GMing style.

Fairly by the books. I fudge a few rolls when necessary.  Fun, I always try to make it fun.

What is your best GMing skill or ability? What advice would you give to a GM wanting to improve in that area?

Storytelling. I have always had a gift for accents and I use them all the time. If you want to improve your storytelling skills you have to have a firm grasp of the flow of a story. The only way to improve that is to read. Or tell stories in the commons to strangers.

What is your typical session planning process?

I will spend weeks working on an adventure. Jot down notes and ideas, then work them all into a completed design. I look at the many ways different people could see things and try to make things challenging.

What are your favourite online resources for GMing?

donjon.bin.sh/random/#npc I absolutely love this site. They have everything from npc names to dungeons to loot.  Of course there is always http://www.roleplayingtips.com the best site for GMs and players alike.

What tools or aides do you wish would be created or invented to help you GM easier?

A full npc generator. Stats, equipment and a backstory.

After working through these question and getting a 10,000 foot view of your GMing, what is the number #1 thing you’d like to learn about and work on next to become a better GM?

Lol, more patience with my kids.

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