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Tabletop Tidbits: The Ballad of the ‘Live Free or Die Bard’ Party

As a GameMaster, you never quite know what sorts of difficulties or issues are going to crop up during the course of your campaign – particularly at the outset. There are simply too many variables to factor into the calculus. Things could be going swimmingly for months of sessions, when suddenly an aspect of the game system’s physics drives one player to argue about movement rules for an hour; or maybe that ancestral sword you approved at character creation comes back to haunt you; perhaps a player is forced to depart the game and leaves the Party missing a crucial element. Situations like these, and a million other possibilities mean you must always be on guard. It can be quite the challenge…


Tabletop Tidbits: Dirty Cop – A Case Study of the Narrative Danger of a Hasty “Yes”

One of the classic lessons taught to new GameMasters early on by various guide books and resources is what I refer to as the Benevolency Rule. The basic premise goes like this: As the GM, it’s your game, and you have the right to say no when your players make requests for things relating to the campaign; However, in the spirit of being a fair referee (not to mention a good friend), you should try to say yes unless you have a specific reason not to. It’s generally a solid rule of thumb, but what it doesn’t state is that utilizing that “try to say yes” attitude without proper care can produce circumstances that could adversely affect the game.


Tabletop Tidbits: The Measure of Success in Relation to the Mental Movie

One of the things people often say about success is that it’s a state of mind. The basic idea being that if you think of yourself as a success, or in terms of success, then that positive outlook will assist you in overcoming obstacles and you’ll start being more successful. With respects to GameMastering, I always sort of translated this premise as the mood I was in when writing. If I was “in the zone” while working on my game, then surely that would find its way into the material, and eventually into the presentation of the campaign itself.


Tabletop Tidbits: Adding Perception Filters to Your GM Toolbox

A druid, a rogue and a paladin walk into a tavern…” At this point most people begin thinking about the sorts of punchlines that might go to a joke with that opening. But the better use of time for the typical GameMaster is to start imagining, and asking questions. What time of day is it? What sort of folk live in the town? Are they well-off? God-fearing? How long has it been since the druid last set foot inside a settlement? These sorts of questions get the mind going in a much more useful direction, and will lead to an examination of the key perception filters at play.


Tabletop Tidbits: The Write-up Imbalance that is Brunkel’s Room

When running a campaign, there’s a sort of inner checklist of things I’m looking to achieve. I want everyone to have fun, of course. I want a story that’s great and for the player characters to progress. I want the campaign world to feel real and alive, with companions and NPCs that are more than just backdrop. I want to screw up as seldom as possible, and for things to run smoothly. And finally (if I can), I want to add to my group’s list of “isms“. Some of these things are harder than others. Some are probably going to happen no matter what I do behind the screen. And some rely on a bit of a balancing act to do at the same time as others.


Tabletop Tidbits: Gaunt Brad Pitt and the Slippery Slope

One of the primary elements that influences how something is perceived is the tone in which it is presented. Even the most serious of content will be taken more lightly if it’s delivered between giggles. As the GameMaster, the responsibility of maintaining the campaign’s intended tone falls to you. Players, being in a largely reactionary role, take their cues from you, and respond based on the manner in which you run the game. Unfortunately however, they also grease the slippery slope towards a campaign that can be far different from what you’ve envisioned.

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