Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #466
From Player to GM: Tips for Making the Switch
This Week's Tips Summarized
From Player to GM: Tips for Making the Switch
Game Master Tips & Tricks
- Handling Disputes
- Critical Success at Sleeping
- Classic Reading For Fantasy GMs
- More Advice For Game Masters (rant warning)
Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
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Return to Contents
A Brief Word From Johnn
How To Create An Intense Campaign
Frequent RPT contributor Mike Bourke shows us his excellent
process for creating a politically-charged, intense campaign
over at Campaign Mastery.com. There's also a hot sheet
download you can use as a checklist or guide if you want to
try his process out. One of his best posts yet!
(By the way, if you cannot access the internet because
you're on deployment or at work or in the field, drop me an
email and I'll email you the article and hot sheet.)
Giving Players The Power To Choose Their Own Adventures
Do You Remember When You First GM'd?
This week's feature article offers advice for new GMs.
There's also a reader tip that covers a lot of the basics.
It got me to thinking about my first time GMing. It was D&D
Basic. A friend received it for Christmas and I spotted it
on the floor, along with the module B2: Keep on the
Borderlands, when I was over at his place.
I asked what it was and he said he wasn't sure, he didn't
understand it. Well, I sure knew what it was, having played
a couple times at school the previous year, so I asked to
borrow the books. Three days later I called him up and told
him it was a game and asked if he wanted to try it out.
Within an hour he was using pre-gen PCs and approaching the
We got hooked immediately. We played almost every day until
school was back in session, and then we played long hours on
weekends. Within a month we were ready for level 4 and his
mom bought the Expert book for us. By spring we were looking
for the next book but it wasn't available yet. However,
browsing at a hobby store one day I spotted the Advanced D&D
Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. I thought
these were the next books in the series. (They did say
advanced, right? And we were ready to advance.)
I bought the PHB because it was all I could afford. Upon
reading it though, I learned it was a different game. So we
whipped up new PCs and I started creating my own dungeon
layouts. A month later I went back to that store and held
the DMG in one hand and the Monster Manual in the other. I
could only afford one - what to get? That was probably the
toughest decision I had to make that entire year. I opted
for the DMG and learned a lot about stuff we were doing
We kept playing relentlessly. For my birthday I received the
Monster Manual. That opened up the treasure tables. Uh oh.
By the following Christmas we little munchkins had
progressed his PCs to level 50+. Thor and Merlin were
unstoppable. This posed a problem. The solution? Deities and
Demigods for Christmas! A whole new book of monsters to
We played one-on-one for two solid years using dungeons of
my own making plus the random dungeon generator and
encounter tables from the DMG. Then I went to a different
school, met other players of this amazing game, and we went
our separate ways after that. I still have Merlin and Thor
in a binder. I scooped them when, years later, my old friend
let me know he was getting rid of all his RPG stuff.
Remember those orange character sheets TSR sold? Merlin and
Thor are on those. And they are LOADED with magic items.
They each have over a million gold pieces and multiple rings
of wishes. Man, those guys are living in style.
Have a game-crazy week.
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From Player to GM: Tips for Making the Switch
By Kit Reshawn
One of the most difficult things to do with RPGs is making
the transition to being a GM. Here are some tips I have for
new GMs. Hopefully these will be useful for anyone thinking
about taking the plunge and at the same time give new ideas
to people who GM regularly.
1. Start Out Simple
A lot of new GMs get started because they have an idea for a
campaign they want to run. Although that is a wonderful
thing I actually advise not doing that immediately.
Campaigns are a heavy commitment that most new GMs are not
prepared to undertake during their first session behind the
Instead, I suggest running a one shot adventure with
moderately powerful characters, preferably from a module.
Most modules are well written and will give you a good idea
of the type of detail you will need for your own quests,
both by what you see was included and possibly by giving you
ideas for improvement based on what they left out that you
It also takes away the burden of creating the quest
yourself, letting you focus on getting used to running a
game - something I feel is vitally important for the first
couple sessions as a new GM.
The reason I suggest one shot adventures for moderately
powerful characters is they are quick enough to finish in a
sitting or two, allowing you to get feedback from the
In addition low level (or weak) characters are too easy to
kill off by accident, while ones that are too powerful made
things difficult for new GMs as they haven't learned the
tricks for dealing with high level characters yet.
After running a pre-written module or two, attempt making
your own one shot adventure to be run in a single session.
After successfully completing maybe 3 of those I would say
you probably have a good enough grasp of the game to move on
to writing a campaign.
2. Get Lots Of Help
Being the GM is a heck of a lot of work, and when you are
new it is especially difficult to keep up with it all. I
suggest playing with a group of experienced players, if
possible, as this will reduce your work load. Alternatively,
consider having a co-GM who helps you run the game.
A good example is having players keep a log of the
adventures their characters have. This not only allows you
to keep track of what has already happened, but also gives
you a player's perspective on what is happening. This can be
vital when you are wondering if they are understanding what
If the party has split up, you can allow idle players to
play some of the NPCs (in combat even!) and dole out minor
rewards for playing their parts well.
3. 3x5 Index Cards Are Your Friend
These little cards are handy! One card has enough space for
a bare bones NPC: stats, notes, quirks and appearance. When
you need a new character just whip out a stack of 15 or so
cards, pick the one that seems best, and run with him.
If the character seems like he might reappear, take notes on
the back of the 3x5 and set it aside in case the character
comes up again. Much the same for monsters.
Magical quest loot? Write down what the item is, what it
does, and all other information on a card. Then put it in a
small envelope that has a basic physical description on it.
Leave space for players to take their own notes as they try
to figure out what the item is. When it is actually
identified allow them to open the envelope.
They also make handy things for holding information to be
passed to players, especially if you have time to prepare it
in advance. If players are sending a message but are not in
verbal contact, you can have them write it down and
physically pass it across, with no other communication
between your players.
4. Maintain Player Focus
Heck of a lot easier said than done, especially when you are
just starting out. Sometimes RPGs are just an excuse to get
together and socialize, and that is fine. While you are
learning though, it is best to keep the game on track.
Notice when players start talking about other things,
because typically that is a sign of boredom or disinterest,
signaling you either need to move things along or do
something different to recapture attention.
Some groups are difficult regardless of how you attempt to
alter the session to keep them on task. In this case, I find
giving out a reward, often experience, does a lot to bring
people back to the task at hand. The reward doesn't have to
be huge. For example, when I play D&D it is usually only 25-
50 XP, but players will notice.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is impossible to
focus forever on one thing. Since most sessions (in my
experience) are around 4 hours long I suggest having a short
5-10 minute stretch and refreshment break every hour or so.
If the session is longer still (say 6 or more hours) you may
want to have at least a 30 minute break right in the middle
You can make the breaks longer or shorter as necessary, and
depending on what is happening you might also want to move
exactly when they happen (such as right before or after a
major combat encounter).
This allow players to get non-game talk out of their systems
and relax from the game for a bit, ready to return and focus
on what is happening.
5. Play Smart Bad Guys
Anything capable of thinking should be played in an
intelligent manner. This does not mean that a pack of wolves
will attack using high level, thought out tactics. Rather,
they will attack the party with their whole pack, and
probably target one person to try and bring down to drag
off, rather than charge in alone.
Likewise any intelligent foe who (a) has a capability and
(b) knows he has it will likely make use of it in a fight to
stay alive even if they are not too bright.
This is not to say they have to be brilliant, but they must
appear to be thinking. Stupid giants will still be fully
aware they can hurl boulders at enemies, and so can be
expected to do so if the opportunity is presented (even if
they then go on to blindly charge in and fight as
Smarter foes who are weak will try to offset their weakness
by preparing elaborate defenses and tricks to give them the
edge. Even stupid monsters will have a basic understanding
on how to build defenses like walls and pits.
However don't take this too far the other way. Foes that are
caught off guard will likewise have their capabilities
degraded as they may not have a good plan on what to do.
They might even panic. Creatures that have just moved into a
new location are not likely to have set up robust defenses
yet, and might have serious flaws in their plans and traps.
Just remember, things that can think should seem to do so.
6. Description Is Key
One thing you will learn fast is the better you describe
things the better your adventures will be. Do not only
describe the important details, but tell the players how
things feel, smell and look.
Use analogies to help make your point more clear.
When talking for an NPC try to adopt their mannerisms and
All of these things help convey the world to your players.
Captain Maximillian Harken, the hero of the town who slew
seven goblins during the last raid despite the ghastly wound
he took to his face, is a more memorable character because
of the details.
By the same token, if you linger describing him long enough
players start to lose interest. Your goals are to give a
quick feeling of the NPC's appearance, size and personality.
Same for locations. If players want to know more they will
let you know by asking questions.
A rule of thumb is to have 3-5 trivial details mixed in with
major ones. For throwaway NPCs you can get away with having
only one minor detail, or sometimes even none.
Place the most obvious details first. Make sure that some of
the most important details come later, as well. That way,
when you announce there is a huge dragon in the center of
the room, your players will hopefully have learned to keep
listening so they can also hear about how it is standing
under a boulder that seems to be loose.
7. Write Things Down Early
Coming up with things on the spot is HARD, especially when
you are not used to doing so. Do yourself a favor and take
as many notes before the game as possible.
There is a surprising amount of stuff you can prepare before
sessions. Describing rooms and places players might visit is
a good start. You can also take notes on how things change
(and write descriptions about the changes). Dialogue is more
difficult, but you can write down the answers to likely
questions as well as list things NPCs will and will not like
Pre-planned encounters are another area where notes are
good. Jot down the plan the enemies will use as well as
highlight any rules you will need to know.
Anything that doesn't get used isn't wasted either. For
adventures, you can use the content with another group, or
potentially find some hook to bring the players back later.
NPCs are easy to recycle by putting them into another
encounter or saving them for when the PCs return to the
8. Have Back-up Plans
Sometimes players will ignore (or not notice) adventure
hooks. Sometimes they want to do something different for a
session or two. When they do this there are two possible
ways to react. The first is to try to railroad them back to
the area/quest. Players generally react badly to this
because it means they have no real control in the game.
Better is to let them go off on their own but with
consequences in the main campaign. For example, the big bad
being unopposed is able to complete the next phase of his
plot with no difficulties, so now the Paladin Society the
players were going to get help from has been disbanded.
Knowing what the effect will be if the players decline the
quest (or even just delay for a significant portion of
time), allows the players to go off on some other tangent.
For these situations I like to have a couple minor quests
that can be dropped in, and maybe a minor settlement, with
more or less no notice. These can be tangentially related to
the main quest, though this isn't necessary or even always
wise as monolithic evil is unrealistic.
That said, these encounters might give you new ideas and
possibly give the players new and valuable allies when
fighting their main foes. And from time to time you can
bring up the main quest as players start to see the effect
their dereliction of duty has had on the game world.
9. Demonstrate Capabilities Using NPCs and Encounters
One thing I noticed while GMing was that players typically
get stuck in a rut where they only value a few skills, often
all related toward a specific goal. So, I started having
them encounter NPCs that made use of the skills they
themselves neglected, or placing them in situations where
those skills are useful.
Mages suddenly found a use for spells that were not intended
for combat. Everyone learned the use of various social
skills and general use skills, like swimming and climbing.
This is a good way to educate players, and they will notice.
A good goal is to find some way to highlight some particular
spell or skill in each season, either by using it in a new
but effective way or by making things much easier with it.
When you show players that each skill is useful, and how it
can be applied in nearly any game session, they will be more
willing to diversify and create more balanced characters.
This is doubly true if you target their specific skill
weaknesses to hand them out a defeat from time to time.
Doing this is vital if you want players to be able to solve
odd problems that require creative thinking. Suddenly that
attack spell isn't just used to kill foes but can also be
used to keep warm or cut a rope. Clever use of diplomacy
allows them to convince the two evil races to fight against
each other, saving the hapless town from having to get into
a fight themselves. And suddenly you are able to throw in
more creative problems for your players to overcome, knowing
they will be able to imagine clever ways to overcome them.
10. Have Fun
This is the most important thing to remember! If you are not
enjoying yourself it will show and your players will not be
able to have fun either. If, on the other hand, you like
what you are doing it will show through in your work and
your players will enjoy themselves much more. When you find
your interest waning it may be time to take a short break,
either letting someone else GM for a session or two or
running a one-shot in a different system that you don't
usually play. This can even be a great way to gain new ideas
for use in your own games.
* * *
Johnn: Thanks for the great beginner GM tips, Kit! If any
other readers have tips for new GMs I'd love to add them to
the ezine. Email me at email@example.com if any tips
come to mind.
Return to Contents
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Return to Contents
Game Master Tips & Tricks
Have some GM advice you'd like to share? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org - thanks!
1. Handling Disputes
From: Maggie Smith
Dispute resolution comes pretty naturally to me, and I'll
try to parse it out. I should preface by saying that, in
almost every game, I make it clear that whatever your
motivation, whatever your alignment, your character has to
have an interest (even a totally selfish interest) in the
party's cohesion and success. The rest of this is going to
sound like hippiespeak, I'm afraid.
Start with thinking the best of others
I assume the absolute best intentions of every player.
Whatever is causing conflict, I look at it from their
perspective and try to imagine a story or motivation that
makes it seem reasonable to them, regardless of how it seems
to me or anyone else. If someone is trying to obtain a
weapon that's unreasonable for their level, or use a power
in a way I think is sketchy and creates imbalance, I imagine
why he's doing it.
In the first example, maybe he feels guilty for not doing as
much damage as other players in recent combat encounters,
and thinks he's not able to contribute enough to the group
with his current gear. In the second example, maybe he's
bored with combat encounters.
Both of those are things I can address, so I talk to the
player and offer both explanations. The trick here is, maybe
he's being a little bit of a jerk; maybe he had a bad day
and felt like picking a fight.
However, by offering charitable explanations for his
behavior, I've given him an out, and reminded him that I'm
just here so he can have a good time, not to make him
I show that I'm coming to him in good faith to try to help
in any way I can. It's a chance to bring him back into focus
and for him to tell me it was one of the two ideas I've
offered or give me another reasonable explanation.
Offer solutions, not accusations
Depending on which of those things he tells me is causing
the issue, I can offer a solution. If it's the first case, I
can customize an encounter that has some small part just for
that character that puts him in the spotlight for a moment.
Maybe the villain is hiding in a temple of his deity and he
needs to be the one to negotiate the access to investigate.
In the second case, I can make sure there are plenty of non-
combat encounters and, if so, try to create more variation
in my combat encounters: weird abilities, weird terrain,
Get to the root of problems
The same holds true of disputes between players. Sometimes,
when there's conflict, they don't even know what the root of
it is. When I offer each person an idea about why they might
be doing whatever it is that's ostensibly causing the
problem, they're more willing to think about it and see
alternative ways of satisfying that need that might not be
in conflict with the needs of the other person.
I'm not talking about an hour long conversation with just
the two players, though. It can be as simple as asking a
question like, "Wait, what is it you're trying to
accomplish? You think if you stop to rest, there might be
greater danger later on? Maybe you could make an check to
see if you know anything about the fighting patterns of this
So they check it out and realize either it's safe to stop
and rest or it's safer to push forward. But if I'd treated
one player like a lazy slacker, or the other like an
inconsiderate boor, they'd be less receptive to the
Love, respect and safety
I taught second grade before I started law school, so I
think a lot of this comes from managing conflicts in a class
full of 8-year-olds. But it's not really that different.
People need to be reminded that they're loved, that they're
respected, that they're safe. If you assume that someone is
being a jerk, and you treat him like one, it becomes a self-
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2. Critical Success at Sleeping
From: Brandon Echols
re: Roleplaying Tips Issue #465
The critical failures for sleeping were great! In response
to your request for critical successes along the same lines,
I thought I would take a shot, as I am often critically
successful at sleeping, myself. These are formulated for 3.5
edition D&D, but hopefully GMs can easily adjust the
particulars for their favorite system.
- The PC wakes up feeling lucky - add +5 to their next d20
- The PC regains HP as if they had rested for two nights,
instead of one.
- The PC finds that a small injury, wound, bruise or
discomfort has vanished overnight.
- The PC slept especially calmly - add +1 to their
Fortitude Save or Reflex Save for the day.
- The PC dreamt soothing, relaxing dreams - add +1 to their
Willpower Save for the day.
- The PC wakes up to find a few extra gold coins in their
- The PC wakes up and finds a small, useful object they
thought lost, or that they do not remember ever having.
(This is great to stall the party for a good fifteen
minutes...more if you have suspicious players.)
- The PC got exactly the right amount of sleep - add a +1
bonus to any single Ability Score for the day. (GM's choice,
without player knowledge, is best.)
- The PC wakes up just in time to hear an approaching
- The PC dreamed of success in battle - add +1 to their
damage rolls during their next combat encounter.
- The PC dreamed of doing a specific activity. Reduce the
DC for any related activity by -1 for the day.
- The PC wakes up to find something valuable nearby that
another person has discarded or lost.
- The PC wakes up and gets entertained by someone else
- The PC has a prophetic dream that reveals information
about the current quest. (This should be kept minor.)
- The PC has a dream that forewarns them of impending
danger. (Allowing the PC a lot of latitude in acting on
this information is good to do.)
- The PC has dreams that prompt them in the direction of a
character-specific side quest. (This is a lot of fun for
players, because it keeps them active and thinking during
a down time for their character.)
- The PC has an erotic dream...just not the bad kind from
the other list.
- The PC wakes up abnormally well-rested - assign 5
temporary Hit Points for the day, or until they are used.
- The PC wakes up feeling comfortable and limber - add a
+1 to their AC for the day.
- The PC wakes up with the benefits of a full night of
rest, no matter how little they slept. (This is a great
surprise benefit when they have to sleep before resuming
You can award them with anything you like, but I find that
generous and temporary rewards work best. The bonuses to
numbers on the character sheets of the players are valuable,
but not unbalancing to the game, and they disappear quickly.
Best of all, these kind of things go a long way to building
player-GM trust. Small, pointless rewards reinforce the idea
that you - as well as the players - want their characters to
Return to Contents
3. Classic Reading For Fantasy GMs
From: Gillian Wiseman
Some recommended reading:
Jack Vance, Lovecraft, Poe, Fritz Lieber, and Moorcock are a
A.A. Merrit, Tolkien, Lewis, William Morris, Sir Walter
Scott, George MacDonald, Stevenson, Rosemary Sutcliffe (esp
her Arthurian cycle) are authors I recommend over and over
again to lovers of modern fantasy.
Mary Stewart, Mary Renault, Jean Plaidy (her historical
novels of the English kings, not her incarnations as
Victoria Holt and Phillipa Carr), Ellis Peters, Susan
Cooper, Edward Eager, Lloyd Alexander. Some of these are
historical writers, some are children's authors. But each
has something to offer in either the sense of adventure, the
creation of time, place and mood, or simply pacing and
Return to Contents
4. More Advice For Game Masters (rant warning)
I've been running games since before they invented dirt. I'm
not the best GM in the world (and don't claim to be), but I
would hope I'm not the worst either. I'd like to take this
time to introduce some GMing ideas as well as address an
issue I've seen running through a lot of other tips.
GM vs. Players
I read a post (at roleplayingtips.com or another site) that
talked about GMing from a player's perspective. I agreed
with most of what the article said. I just want to make a
Game Mastering is a thankless job. The article in question
addressed freewill in gaming and how players should be able
to do whatever they want despite the adventure laid out by
The author said something like (paraphrasing): "If the game
is so closed in terms of doing this or that, and the
scenario is so scripted, perhaps the GM should write a novel
instead so that he can have total control over character
On the surface, this sounds completely logical. However,
game masters spend countless, thankless hours developing
worlds and campaigns and scenarios for the players to enjoy.
Of course the GM wants the party to partake in the adventure
or story he created. Hence, I would like to counter the
scripted scenario complaint as follows:
Yes, most scenarios are scripted to some degree. That's what
GMs do. As an exercise in touche, perhaps the player that
refuses to go along with the story line of the campaign or
scenario should not role-play and also write their own novel
entitled, "I Do What I Want, Answer to No One, Always Win,
and I Have No Friends!"
It seems some players just love screwing up a GM's game,
scenario, campaign, or otherwise as they go gallivanting
across the countryside just doing stupid stuff. I feel that
is equally wrong.
Hey, if you agree to play in a group with a GM who
introduces a plot line, and then you get angry because the
GM steers the party towards "whatever the case may be," I
would say the player is in the wrong. And, if you don't like
the GM, group, or play style, then find another group or run
your own game (or write your own novel).
Now I will play devil's advocate. Players should be able to
do whatever they want (free will) in an RPG. Yes, dictating
what players can and cannot do is wrong; it is the mark of a
poor GM (I will expound upon that later). It is the
inexperienced or bad GM who can't handle it. So how do you
handle players who seem uninterested in your story, dungeon
You, the GM, have a product (adventure, dungeon, etc.). You
have to sell it. You have to get the party interested in the
story or adventure. You have to hook 'em and reel 'em in.
It's easier said than done.
When designing an adventure or dungeon (as a story teller),
you should have the 5 Ws and the H. It's the same requisites
for a journalist or author. It's answering the questions of:
what, where, when, why, who, and finally how. You have to
have a reason or back story for everything you do. Then, you
have to get the party interested, involved, or intertwined
within your plot.
Suppose you have a dungeon called Caves of Chaos (how
passe), and you want the party to explore them but they seem
less inclined. I believe players have free will. I also
believe the GM can do everything in his power to challenge
that freewill (cuz nothing is ever really free). There are
no rules against coercion or manipulation or underhanded
dagnastiness. Players can have in-depth backgrounds, flaws,
dark secrets, and so forth. Tie those into your adventure or
plot line. It's a good way to make things personal for the
Example 1: A player's brother went to the Caves of Chaos and
never returned. That's somewhat decent.
Don't give them a choice (heavy-handed approach):
Example 2: While in the nearest town, an old man bumps up
against party members in the street, mumbling some
incoherent words. The party members fall asleep. They wake
up in the room of an inn. The old man is really a mage who
has either cast a spell or poisoned the party. They will all
die in seven days unless they go to the Caves of Chaos to
retrieve some magical item. Only the old man can reverse the
effects. If the party doesn't go to the Caves of Chaos, they
die. Twist it with the old man bluffing about the poison or
Make it personal. Anger them. Humiliate them
Example 3: The party has heard about the Caves of Chaos but
decides they want to go on to the next town instead. OK,
that is fine. Ambush the party with brigands and highwaymen
in overwhelming numbers (meaning resistance is futile). The
bandits take everything the party has (I mean everything).
They insult the party members: "This all you got? You should
be robbin' us." Beat them to a pulp, tie them up together
(naked), knock them out and leave them for dead. But let one
of the party members overhear a conversation between the
bandits that they will meet up at the Caves of Chaos in
three days. Seems the party will be quite angry and want
In all the above examples, the party is going to the Caves
of Chaos whether they like it or not.
Coercion does not trump free will. It just offers motive. My
point is, players who deviate from the intended adventure
can be reeled back in with clever plot twists, coercion,
using their backgrounds against them, and such.
As a GM, don't fret if they initially pass on your
adventure, dungeon, or plot (it could be a blessing in
disguise). Innovate. Let the party go off on tangents and
subplots, preferably of their own making. Then tie the
subplots to the main plot and enjoy.
This allows you to let the players explore your world as
they see fit, while still bringing them back into the fold
of the story or main plot you initially devised. Hey, let
the party explore their whims. It will initiate a multitude
of side plots. Just don't give up on the main plot or
adventure you spent weeks making. If you are clever, you can
always steer them back to your original scenario (but
perhaps this time, because of subplots enacted by the party,
your adequate adventure now becomes epic or personal).
So GMs, don't dictate. Don't tell your players NO they can't
do that. Let them weave their own webs of destruction,
capitalize on that, and tie it back into your intended
adventure. The players feel satisfied and your preparation
is still valid.
Ok, so the party dismissed your adventure or plot. Perhaps
you had no adventure or plot to begin with. It's perfectly
reasonable to just let the party members do whatever they
want. Hopefully, this style of play will trigger a plot for
you to expound upon, making a great adventure.
Players have a knack for creating drama or getting into
trouble. Entire games can be based on this freelance
If a plot, mission or goal doesn't eventually develop, this
style of play enters the realm of repetition and boredom
quickly. So mix it up: plot or story line mixed with
freelance. If the players are good, they will initiate
countless role playing opportunities you can use as a game
unto itself or as fluff for the overall scenario or
The danger of running a non-prepared or scripted adventure
will be inconsistency. The GM has to keep track of a lot
more data than usual, such as remembering what an NPC said
or even what the NPC's name was from scenario to scenario.
Yes it's fantasy, but we are logical creatures. If something
doesn't make sense, your abilities as GM will be
scrutinized. Fantasy is not an excuse for lack of reason or
cohesion in a game. I've seen so many examples of poor
- A dungeon stocked with too many creature types, or in a
way that makes no sense. I've seen dungeons that have orcs
in one room or level, kobolds in another, gnolls in another,
a gelatinous cube here or there, an evil human wizard in
room 18a, a minotaur in room 12, lizard men in the sub-
levels, a lich in room 30, green slime in certain hallways,
a giant in the great hall, dire rats all about, something
randomly picked from the monster manual in rooms 10 through
40, stupid random encounter from a stupid GM chart, 10 furry
kittens in room 41, and a dragon in room 42. How do all
these entities fit together in the dungeon concept?
Um, 5 Ws and an H anybody? Getting into player mode, what I
would do when confronted with this: "I come back a month
later." Why would I say this? Well, logically, every
creature in the dungeon would be dead: orcs killing kobolds,
a gnoll and orc war, kill the wizard by overwhelming
numbers, eat the furry white kittens, eat the rats, burn off
the slime, let the gelatinous cube starve to death, let the
minotaur and the giant duke it out, and all the previous is
meaningless because there is a dragon. Dragon = win.
One month later, the only thing that could possibly be in
the dungeon would be the dragon, probably injured. Everyone
else is dead or has vacated for numerous reasons.
- Locked rooms with creatures inside: "The party unlocks or
breaks down the door and gets attacked by three mountain
lions." NO! The party enters the room to see the decomposing
bodies of three mountain lions who starved to death cuz some
jerk locked them in a room.
GMs, make your dungeons make sense. Think of how inhabitants
view each other. Why are they there? Limit the scope: one
entity controls the construct (and for a reason). It's ok to
have different types of creatures in a dungeon setting, but
you must justify why. Otherwise, experienced players will
call you on it.
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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have
written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your
games and to make GMing easier and fun:
How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most
popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well,
plus several generators and tables
Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not
only expand your game world but provide endless natural
encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.
Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to
crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for
any game system and genre. This book will make a difference
to your GMing.
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