Improv GM’ing Dos and Don’ts: Improv is not Unprepared

When I GM a game, I’m an improv guy. I can’t do it all the time, and I can’t do it with every game, but when I run a game, I tend not to do a whole lot of work ahead of sessions on specific sessions. Recently I’ve been running pretty hard on the improv stuff, and encouraging some other people to take up a similar style, but I think that I need to point out that there are a few caveats to consider that I don’t know I’ve fully explored elsewhere.

Continue reading “Improv GM’ing Dos and Don’ts: Improv is not Unprepared”

Table Reflection: Better Game Mastering Through Questioning

One of the most useful items in the human intellectual toolkit is the ability to question; as a fundamental tool of analysis asking questions is a core function of being an effective Game Master. When running a game for others, it is important to ask questions about the rules, yourself, and the players at your table to craft the most meaningful experiences for you and your players. Continue reading “Table Reflection: Better Game Mastering Through Questioning”

Table Reflection: Seven Deadly Sins of Campaign Management

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of warning signs that I’ve seen in campaigns I’ve run or campaigns I’ve played in that can be indicators of a dangerous decline. These things, however, are all avoidable, and are hallmarks of a negligent approach to running games. After the break, I’ll explain what they are and how they can be avoided. Continue reading “Table Reflection: Seven Deadly Sins of Campaign Management”

Table Reflection: GM Burnout

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We’ve probably each heard that several thousand times, but it’s especially true in the case of the Game Master. Burnout is a serious obstacle for many campaigns, but it is also a problem that can be alleviated or prevented entirely with a few simple considerations. Continue reading “Table Reflection: GM Burnout”

Table Reflection: Play With Purpose Part 1: The Reveal

When running a campaign as a GM, especially a free form campaign, it’s important to consider what the end effect of each of your actions and stories will be. One of the most common novice mistakes, including one that plagued me for years, is failing to consider the impact of even seemingly small contributions to the campaign. In a free-form campaign, this can mean that the game doesn’t gain traction and doesn’t get the full dramatic effect, but it can also have dramatic consequences for any game, including a gradual descent into meaninglessness.

Continue reading “Table Reflection: Play With Purpose Part 1: The Reveal”

Table Reflection: Dealing With Writer’s Block

One of the greatest things that I’ve seen kill campaigns is the same plight that many writers and authors face: “Writer’s Block”. It’s a major problem, especially if the GM is the central driving force in the campaign.  At a certain point, either they can’t work through the current issues they’re facing or they don’t have the willingness to continue with the campaign because they’ve lost interest.

Continue reading “Table Reflection: Dealing With Writer’s Block”

Table Reflection: Dealing With Indecision

One of the things that can bring a campaign to a halt is when the players are all divided on their goals and cannot make a constructive decision to handle their progress through the campaign. It’s a problem that can plague even a good game, and it frustrates everyone in the group equally. Fortunately, someone who knows what to look for can navigate their path past indecision and continue the game constructively without causing hard feelings or ruining the narrative.

Continue reading “Table Reflection: Dealing With Indecision”

Table Reflection: Dealing With Frustration

As a Game Master or player, you’ll likely encounter a lot of issues when it comes to the actual roleplaying experience. Obviously, there are the times when the mechanics come out against you, but there are also times when you run directly into an issue with other players, the GM, or the story as it has unfolded. In order to promote a great table environment, there are some things you should consider that will greatly improve the gaming experience of not only yourself but also everyone around you.

Continue reading “Table Reflection: Dealing With Frustration”

Table Reflection: Avoiding False Choices

One of the things I notice a lot of GM’s doing when they’re making a game is providing false choices. That is, they assume that they know how every character will react in a context, and they fall into the trap of intentionally leading decisions. Unfortunately, this can backfire quickly; if a player gets stuck in the middle of a situation where there is no good choice left, they make “false choices” under duress, and then the whole process is likely to continue to spiral toward an increasingly dissatisfying experience. Continue reading “Table Reflection: Avoiding False Choices”

Table Reflection: Finding a System that Works

One of the things that people often take for granted when playing a tabletop game is the fact that their game mechanics are almost always engineered for a series of specific goals, and this will greatly determine the ability of a Game Master to actually create a table environment that is conducive to the sort of play that is desired. The core reason for a lot of this is simply mechanical; like a video game, if the rules don’t match the desired outcomes, the game will fail. Continue reading “Table Reflection: Finding a System that Works”