9 Game Master Tips From Valdron Inc.

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0042

A Brief Word From Johnn

Mark J. Young provides us with some great tips this week from his Valdron Inc. and Multiverser RPG web site. He has a neat Tip of the Week banner program, which other sites are welcome to participate in (RoleplayingTips.com happily being one of them). And our tips this week come directly from a few of his banners.

The link to all the other archived tips banners is:

For those of you who are hungry for even more GM tips and information, I have a new article posted on-line in the articles area.

It is titled “How To Fix Botched Encounters In Mid-Game” and provides tips and advice on what to do if you get stuck in the middle of a session with no encounter/story ideas. It also gives some tips on how to fix encounters that just don’t feel right when you start them, or ones that you simply botch and want to fix in mid-game.

Click here to read it.

Roleplaying Tips Weekly is now being mirrored at the Fantaseum web site. Fantaseum is a collection of valuable resources for Dungeons & Dragons gamers abroad: searchable Core Rules exports, message forums, stories, databases, jokes & humor, Play by E-mail support, editorials, and news. A newly added 3rd Edition section as well. I highly recommend visiting the site.


Ok, enough chatter, on with the tips!

[email protected]

Build Party Chemistry Through Skill Sharing

Party chemistry can be built if characters teach each other skills, such as trading martial arts lessons for language classes.

Surprise Players Through Misdirection

Ask for a character’s score in a totally irrelevant, obscure skill, and you can misdirect player expectations and surprise them.

Use Gifts As Plot Hooks

A gift with a mystery attached can start an adventure.

Create a Character Skill List When Planning 

Keep a special character skill list. Know which party members can open doors, start fires, operate equipment, see in the dark — whatever might be useful. It helps when planning to know your resources.

Use a Portable File For Organization

A portable file is ideal for creating referee papers, maps, descriptions, character info, each in its own section.

Spell Names Backwards For NPC Names

Stuck for a name? Try spelling something backwards. Anutrof (Fortuna), Cire (Eric), and Lucard (Dracula) came from reversed names, and Remmils (Slimmer) came from a word.

Use Insignificant Details To Mislead PCs & Spark Ideas

Create and describe insignificant details. Players will attach undue importance to some of them, and may even give you a starting point for a new idea.

Use Specific Times & Distances Wisely

Worry about times and distances only when they matter. A rough idea of how far or how long is probably sufficient for most purposes, especially if the characters have no way to measure.

Keep “Stalling” Encounters Handy To Buy Yourself Time

Stall scenarios are useful–keep something around which will occupy the players for an hour or so while you think of what you can do next. Minor combat encounters are good for this, but there are other possibilities.

That’s it for this week’s issue.

Have more fun at every game!

Johnn Four

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

More Law, Crime & Punishment Tips

Excellent Articles Available On-line written by Mark Young

How our laws and societies define each other:
“The Source of Law”

The mechanics of police and court systems:
“The Course of Law”

The theories and practices of punishment:
“The Force of Law”

Graphic of section divider

Circuit Judges & Lawyers

From Django Dunn

A strong government or other agency with legal powers may find that their resources are spread thinly over large areas. Often in remote areas there were no judges, but the citizens did have the right to be heard by a judge.

This is where the circuit judges come from. A group of judges would circulate from area to area and hear all of the crimes along each stop (including Sci-Fi where the citizen may have the right to be physically visited by a judge). Judgments would be made and punishments or reprieves would be granted. There are some opportunities here for some interesting characters.

Along with the circuit court comes the concept of precedence. If you have different judges traveling through the same area, each judge would require a benchmark of previous crimes and their outcomes in order to remain a fair judge. A ruling would be recorded and later recounted in court when making a ruling on a similar crime.

When the legal system becomes complex, a new profession arises – the lawyer. This character is a sage of laws.

Recording the law is an ongoing process – each crime and punishment may be recorded for future reference, the names of the criminals and victims may be written down somewhere too. There are a set of ten famous laws. One of which is: Thou shall not kill. I was watching a TV show where some scholars were debating the translation. Their translation was: Thou shall not murder. Changes everything doesn’t it?

One last suggestion about using laws in your games. Be careful about including an unusual law in your culture that isn’t obvious to your players. For example, perhaps staring at your elders is punishable by a beating. There may be a specific reason for this law but if your players don’t have some warning, they may decide to stare at everyone because the town’s folk get all squirrelly and then ‘pow’ the characters are being attacked.

Use foreshadowing here. Have the party come across someone who has suffered the punishment before the group reaches the town or country. If someone had the life half beaten out of them for even looking in the direction of a person with white hair, you can be sure the players will be watching their character’s tongues very carefully (or looking out for people with rabbits).