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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happy International GM's Day

If you're a GM, thank you!

Today is International GM's Day, a day to celebrate and appreciate game masters everywhere. As a GM myself, I sort of internalize the idea and use it as an opportunity to look at the way I run games and think about what I get out of it and why I do it.

For all of you reading this—whether today is International GM's Day or not—I've decided to take the opportunity to share a list of GMing advice I've acquired online.

"Always move the story forward."

- Chris Perkins

No matter what system you play, the goal is to tell a story of some kind, even if it's just the story of violent adventurers who kill monsters and take their loot. If the game starts grinding to a halt, it is generally the GM's responsibility to get it going again. That might mean ending a combat early if it is no longer interesting, or it might mean interrupting an uninteresting exploration scene with a surprise combat.

Whatever you do, it should progress the general story concept that you and the players are enjoying.

"Obstacles should have agendas."

- Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws

Obstacles, whether they're stubborn NPCs, violent monsters, or mystical puzzles, should have agendas, some reason that they refuse to give in to the will of the PCs without a struggle. In the case of inanimate obstacles (like the aforementioned mystical puzzles), the creator of the obstacles should have had an agenda for creating the obstacle.

An agenda can be as simple as a monstrous spider's "Drive these adventures out of my lair" or as complex as the chancellor of the exchequer's "Prevent anyone from discovering that I'm cooking the books, but also keep suspicion from falling on my allies in the royal treasury guard."

"The more your bad guy gets away with, the more your players will love him."

- Newbie DM

In my experience, nothing gets people riled up more than someone who's getting away with something they shouldn't be doing. That counts double if the thing they're getting away with is something you want. In a game, this could be as simple as a bad guy who steals the queen's flaming sword of power, especially if the queen had promised it as a reward to the players for a quest they've just completed.

Some of the best love-to-hate-them villains are those whose actions are both highly visible and highly lucrative.

"Avoid talking too much."

- Chris Perkins

This is a hard one for me especially, and I suspect it's difficult for many GMs. The idea is that if you say only a few things, it will prompt your players to react and to ask questions, and players who ask questions are players who are invested in the game. It also negates one of the pitfalls of GMing: being too descriptive. Despite what we may think, most players are not interested in a five-minute description of the ominous castle or the Fangbeast of Venus.

In fact, saying "You crest the hill and see an ominous-looking castle" or "From within the green mists emerges the horrific Fangbeast of Venus" is an almost surefire way to get your players to ask questions.

And finally, a wonderful piece of advice from the folks at The RPG Academy. I don't think this one requires any explanation.

"If you're having fun, you're doing it right."

- The RPG Academy

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