Simple Ways to Keep Fun in Your Games

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1199

I recently wrote a few tips for running lunch games. Several RPT GMs sent me this link, which is a D&D 5E Practical Guide to One Hour DnD Sessions (you might want to turn on your ad blocker before viewing the site):

I’m away halfway through, and it has great ideas. A recommended read for GMs of all systems.

I also received a tip request I can’t answer that maybe I could get your help with. A GM asked me for help running solo Old School Essentials campaigns. I’ve done solo, but not with that particular game system. Do you know of any solo OSE resources?

Ok, onto today’s tips. Jonathan helps us keep the game fun by keeping the game moving. Have a great week and try to get some gaming done!

—  Johnn

Simple Ways to Keep Fun in Your Games

By Jonathan Hardin,

A Story to Begin

I remember taking my children to a playground one day in a small town. We expected plastic playsets where kids could run up and down. However, what we found was old, outdated metal playsets and they all had moving parts. Some of them swung high, some went around and around, and some went up and down.

The main difference I noticed was that the old playsets could move with the children. We all had more fun as we substituted the static playsets of new and played with the worn but moving metal sets of the old.

Today’s roleplaying tips are all about keeping fun in your games through movement. Look below for:

  • 3 Techniques
  • 4 Toys
  • 1 Thought

Keep the Players Conscious

It’s no fun to roleplay an unconscious character. When a character drops, keep the character conscious. Go ahead and limit the movement, ability to heal self, attack actions, and whatever you think is fair and meshes with your game system. But keep the PC conscious and aware.

At minimum, this helps your player have fun in their character’s limited state by roleplaying, suggesting ideas and actions, calling for help. The player can stay in-play while still risk death.

Keep the Players Moving

Run your favorite encounter, but this time give the encounter motion. Have the battle occur on clockwork gears that rotate the battlefield at the top of the round. Have the villain attempt escape on horseback. Have the rescue mission occur on a ship —

and then add a storm that rocks the boat up and down.

Keep the Players Interacting

One of my favorite things to do as a GM: describe a scene using no more than 3 features. For example, a home with a meal, cheery host, and family crest on the wall. Then I ask the players around the table, “What do you notice?”

Players spend the first few minutes of the scene assessing the scene through exploration before engaging in decisive actions. Then, after exploring the scene together, the players announce their actions.

This allows the players to question if there are features within the scene that I did not describe. If it makes sense to the setting, then yes, “you do see a roaring fireplace.”


Now that you have 3 techniques, let’s look at four toys with which you can tinker. Granting a character an impairment after a harrowing event compounds conflict in the game. Now the player continues to perform the abilities of the character, but with another factor to consider.

Allow these impairments to continue at least 4-8 encounters. You can think of this as the time it takes for an adventurer to recover and good in-game pacing. Eight encounters also gives enough opportunity for the player to experience their character in a fresh way.

After enough gameplay, introduce a method by which the player can experience their character’s recovery and game that out for extra fun.


I participated in a one-shot murder mystery recently. And as a spellcaster, I was surprised to find the opening scene within a town that outlawed magic use! This restraint occurred in the first half of game time and was lifted due to story in the second half.

The novel limitation gave me and the other players a chance to think outside the box on how to face the challenges of the adventure. I also experienced new ways to roleplay my PC.

So consider granting limitations not to penalize your players, but to provide relief from using the same old tricks for different jobs.


Incidents occur to trigger encounters.

“An old beggar approaches you for coin.”

“The wind begins to howl and raises your ship upon the ocean.”

“The count invites you to a dinner party.”

I use them in my games to start the action up again. You can use them when the game drifts into easy boredom, or when you are ready to start up a new encounter.

The best incidents also trigger roleplay to enhance the fun. While you could have a sudden storm at sea trigger all kinds of perils and skill checks, you could use the incident to describe the worried crew and the captain with deep furrows in her brow. Invite the players to parley and roleplay before the storm hits and the action starts.


Events demonstrate the passing of time.

“The sun sets upon the last day of winter now marking the dawn of spring.”

“The music begins to play and the celebration begins.”

“The horn sounds in the courtyard, announcing the call to prayer.”

You can include each of these statements with all interactions. They immerse players into the setting and give them the opportunity to enjoy adjustments to their actions. Players can still explore, interact, and fight, but now with these events in mind, things can become more dynamic.

If you explore during the first day of spring, what will happen? If you interact during the party, what will change? If you begin combat during prayer time, will that mean anything?

Use events to provide more movement in the game, giving the players a real world feel.

Final Thought

After all of the settings are built and described, ask your players a simple question, “How do you respond?” This allows them to assess and enjoy in free form the setting before the action begins. Think of this question as free time on the playground before the official playtime game begins.

The Recipe for a Fun Playground

As a game master, I want to fashion a dynamic world. When I include a feature into the setting, I ask myself:

  • How can this move?
  • How can my players interact?
  • What will they discover?

Keep on creating and having fun with each of these games. May your players forever see the fictional world you create as an endless playground of adventure!

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