3 Ways Your Players Can Help You Out Next Session

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1197

A Brief Word From Johnn

Do you allow players to change their characters during level-up or between games?

I received a nice tip on the weekend about this from RPT GM Paul M:

I offered to modify the ability scores of the barbarian in my friends and family game to more closely represent how he has been played.

In my opinion, Knute has consistently been played with a lower intelligence than his stats would indicate.

I offered to let the player drop Knute’s INT a point and increase another ability by one point and the offer was accepted.

I know at least one of the other players appreciated it because he told me so.

This is a great approach, especially with new players or players new to a system.

I find until I walk in a character’s shoes for awhile I don’t know my PC well. So it’s appreciated if we can make tweaks after the campaign starts.

Likewise, players might’ve put valuable points into an ability only to realize it’s not what we’re serving up as GMs. Having the option to tune a PC better based on actual challenges presented is a nice boon.

Is this what you do? Or do you run more of “a card played is a card laid” style?

On a related note, I’ve started prepping a new campaign! I’m very excited.

My weapon of choice is Old School Essentials for a sandbox I’m locating on the main continent of my homebrew world, Duskfall.

It’s fantastic to be prepping again after time off due to real life. I hope you are having fun prepping a new or existing campaign too. Good gaming = good life, in my books.

Have a great week!

—  Johnn

Delegation comes naturally to some.

For others, we don’t think of it, worry we might bother or offend folks, or just want to control too much.

We do not have to take on the entire burden ourselves.

Getting players to help us out makes the game experience better for all.

Because some players want to help.

And reducing workload and cognitive load helps you become more present at the table, which translates to smarter decisions, better descriptions, and easier access to your creativity.

Getting players to help you out helps everyone have more fun at every game!

Here’s a list of ways you can enlist players to assist your GMing.

Designate a Party Leader or Caller

Especially in large groups, having a player volunteer for or be assigned the peacekeeper, er, decision-maker role smooths gameplay.

Session spotlights switch between GM, player, and group.

When in group spotlight mode, we need players to decide and tell us what the party wants. And when multiple people need to weigh in, getting consensus takes time and energy.

A person responsible for getting consensus and telling you what the party does next means you aren’t spending that time and energy.

This designated job also comes in handy when the party splits.

The others can plan while you GM one group. The caller can be ready to debrief you when the spotlight shifts.


This goes against my grain as an old school GM, but I’m slowly letting go. 🙂

Ask players to build stuff for you.

For example, teach your players the 3 Line NPC Technique.

Then ask them to build recurring NPCs who survive contact with the party, NPCs from character backgrounds, and NPCs whom the characters want to meet.

The format keeps things fast and simple, and you still control stat blocks and deeper plot secrets as desired.

Last campaign, a couple of players created the magic items they wanted for their PCs at higher levels. I considered these awesome first drafts and took them from there to the finish line.

I then gave the items to the bad guys. 🙂

Players can also create locations for you.

If you have doodlers, ask them to draw you some clever combat maps.

And ask players to detail places from PC backstories, home base spots like the local tavern, and upcoming areas with furnishings, features of interest, brief histories, and even plot hooks.

Record Keeping

Several options fall into this category of players taking notes and handling certain details for you.

  • Sage — Log sessions to help everyone with details
  • Timekeeper — Track time’s passing whether it’s years, days, rounds
  • Effects —  Note active conditions, spell durations, trap and hazard effects to help gameplay go smoother
  • Treasure — Log what the party finds, and most helpful for you: log what characters took what special items
  • Shopping — Shorten town trips with a unified goods and services request list

Combat Familiar

Depending on your comfort level, you can automate and delegate significant pieces of combat.

We want Player Fog of War to keep the game mysterious and exciting. It helps prevent metagaming too.

However, for mooks and recurring foes, that effect wears off fast.

So why not share the defensive and offensive stats of foes when you’re no longer earning that Fog of War thrill?

Then you can have a player help assess conditions, modifiers, and player attack + damage rolls for you.

Rules Lawyers are perfect for this role. They can also triage numerous player combat actions in the background, such as moves, skill usage, and special abilities.

For example, for online games, once I’m confident the group’s familiar with the rules and the VTT, I only want players to summarize their actions for me.

Who are they attacking? Where are they moving? What are they trying to do?

I’ll referee any tricky stuff.

Otherwise, they can target, roll dice, move their token, and so on, as I shift my thinking to the next player.

Other combat familiar tasks:

  • Track initiative
  • Track foe health and damage
  • Countdown timers
  • Rule lookups
  • Turn timers if used
  • Rolling foe saves and defensive checks
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What Will You Delegate?

We don’t have to do it all. We can and should ask for help.

Players can assist with content creation, recording keeping, and combat.

They can also help with the most important task of all:

Getting the GM another beer. 🙂


Discuss these game master tips in this thread at the official Roleplaying Tips community forum.?