General Order 8) Reward Characters Fairly And Then Stop

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Listen Up!

I want you to imagine its the end of one of your games. You do have an
imagination, don’t you? Your game is over for the evening and your players are happy as alligators in the New York City sewer. They finally defeated the dragon/evil gangster/alien menace.  Goodie for them. Now they are all looking at you to hand out their characters  reward- gold pieces, magic items, advanced technology…whatever. Here is another great opportunity for you to screw up, so don’t. Take my advice and reward them sparingly but fairly.

If you heap tons of cash and experience points on them, they will think you’re a chump and push for more and more every game.  If they have to fight three Black Wizards and an army of trolls for ten copper pieces and a used Q-tip, they ain’t gonna be happy either. Like any good Jedi, you have to bring balance to the force.

Most new GMs screw this up by handing out lots of swag early in a campaign because they want the characters to get the gear needed to go on to the next level where the “real” adventure is.  Problem is- players grow to expect such bounty every time they push over a street thug.  Before too, long your party is made up of uber-macho super heroes who easily bat aside, or buy away, any threat you throw at them.  The players get bored and your game dies a slow death.  If you try to fix this problem half way through the campaign, you will find them wondering why the “real” adventure involves pocket change and the
“preliminary” game yielded gold plated, platinum sports cars.

Keep it fair and keep it simple.  Give a reasonable reward for the successful completion of each game scenario, and leave it at that. Your players will not feel ripped off, and you will be able to keep some measure of control over the direction of your campaign. Believe it or not, they will actually appreciate the modest swag that they earned more than the buckets of gold that you just let fall in their laps. There, was that such a hard thing to figure out? I didn’t think
so!

That is all.
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Game Master’s General Order 5) Guide the players to create characters for your game.

Listen Up!

It does no good to have a character who is an expert sub-marine helmsman on a desert planet!  If your player’s characters do not have the skills needed to fit your game they will spend the entire evening warming a bench.  This may be a way to get rid of a player you don’t like, but if that’s the case why don’t you find the BALLS to tell him to his face that you don’t want him around? If a player’s character has nothing to do in your game it’s because YOU, the GM have failed!

Before you photocopy the first character sheet you probably have an idea what kind of game you’re running.  Maybe a team of mercenaries in South America will be the setting for your action. You have lots of ideas for dangerous missions against evil drug lords in the jungle. So why in the hell, would you allow a player for that game to create a character who is a skilled Russian speaker, and ballet dancer? Seriously?

Now don’t give me any of that stupid crap about “player’s creative decisions.” Yes, they get to create the character they want to play.  You are not going to push them into a corner and give them only one choice for a character.  However, you ARE going to help GUIDE them when they create their character.  They want to have a part to play in your game and it is your job to make them successful!

Think about a range of skills and talents that would be useful in your game.  Help the player find his creative niche within that range and then set ‘em free. A simple “Hey Bob, the party has plenty of fighters but what could really save their butts is a mage or cleric,” should be all the guidance they need. Without such ‘Divine GM Intervention’ you can easily end up with a space ship crew of eight gunners and two engineers but no pilot.

A party is not a random collection of individuals.  It is a TEAM that supports each other to accomplish a MISSION. You, the GM, are the author of that mission and it is your job to see that everybody has a part to play.  No player should EVER spend a game warming a bench on the sidelines. You must craft your scenarios with every player character in mind so that the whole party can be engaged in the action. Guiding players to create appropriate characters is the first step in that right direction.

That is all for now.

General Order 4) Know the Rules

Listen UP!

If there is one thing I can not stand, it’s a Game Master who doesn’t know the fricken rules to his own damn game!  Useless, panty wasted excuses for GMs that couldn’t find their butt with a map, both hands and a flashlight!  Makes me sick just thinking about ‘em…

How do we overcome this little hurdle, you may ask?  Well, besides taking the GM into the DI’s office for a little “wall to wall counselling” the answer is TRAINING.

First off, The GM needs to take the time to read the friggin rule book, cover to cover.  He don’t need to memorize it, just get a feel for the rules and learn where everything is so he can look it up as needed.  Second he needs to get some practice.

The hardest parts of most rule systems are character generation and combat.  The GM should create a character of his own and then invite a friend over to create one (I am assuming the GM has friends here).  Once you have that down kill each other. Have the two, recently created characters fight to the death. Who wins? Who cares?  The point is practice. Find out how the rules really work BEFORE you’ve got  four or five players staring at the GM on a Saturday night as he fumbles through charts and tables looking useless as a sun-dial on a wrist watch!

Also, with a new role playing system the GM should hold a “Throw Away Game.” This is an evening’s game play that is not part of any campaign or larger story arch.  If characters die they can come back in the next “Real Game” you run. The point of the Throw Away Game is to get everybody familiar with the system and have a little fun. That way you can correct last minute misunderstandings about the rules and no one gets pissed off, because the Throw Away Game don’t count!

Right now I’m gonna’ put in a shameless plug for Star Run and Tran-Dimensional Pizza. Star Run is meant to be easy to learn and this whole process takes a lot more time with other, more complicated, rules systems.  Trans-Dimensional Pizza is a bunch of short, fast scenarios that are perfect for your Throw Away Game. Crap, it’s like the Q&E Games people actually THOUGHT about this ahead of time!  Smart feller, that Clayton Callahan.

That is all for now.

(General Order #2) Be A Story Teller

LISTEN UP!

I’me only going to say this once.  It’s simple and it’s clear.  If you do this, you will be at least good.  If you don’t do this YOU WILL BE A DISGRACE!

     Oh, but don’t get your pretty panties in a bunch.  A lot of GMs SUCK.  You would just be another one of thousands, who screw up the gaming hobby every day and twice on Sunday!

What’s that?  You say, you don’t want to be a sorry sack of elephant excrement? You say, you want to be not just good, but GREAT?  You say, you want to know what the hell I am talking about? Well…ain’t this your frigen lucky day! Cause I’me here to tell you to BE A DAMN STORYTELLER!

     You heard me. Don’t just tell a player, that their character is trapped in pit. Tell him, “Your character is in a dark and slimy hole.  There is barely enough light to see  and he can hear water seeping in. He thinks he has enough rope to lasso the  post on the edge. He also thinks he can hear something growling in the dark.” Even if you don’t actually have a monster in the dark, the unknown adds tension. Now the player is ENGAGED in the action.  The dilemma becomes PERSONAL.

See the difference?  One way gives facts, and the other creates a scene. We are Game Masters, not Hollywood producers. We don’t have million dollar special effects budgets.  We DO have our imaginations! But that imagination dose flip diddly do if you don’t share it! We are the ones that make the difrence between what is boring and what is totally cool. To be totally cool we MUST be storytellers! FIGURE IT OUT!

That is all for now.