Our Favorite GM Tips and Tricks

I read some  interesting blogs [1. The main article is on gameplaywright and penned by Will Hindmarch. The comments are intriguing and interesting. Links to other articles can be found there.]  this morning about game design and found some fundamental underlying differences worthy of further discussion and exploration, so let me hear what you have to say on the matter.

I’d like to carry our conversation forward from yesterday about GMing and such and thought we could share some of our gaming tips. Are you in? Sure you are. Fame awaits!

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader adieu!




2 Notes on, Our Favorite GM Tips and Tricks

  1. Music. I can’t stress this enough. It requires a bit of prep work to pull off appropriately, but if you can get a set of music divided into broad categories (action, mystery, civilization, wilderness, travel, etc.) and genres (fantasy, cyberpunk, dark fantasy steampunk, etc.) it’s easy to pull off effectively in game. Even if you can’t, just having something going in the background can create such a different atmosphere than without it. If you’ve never played with music, give it a try. There are many lists of soundtracks that fit the various genres across the great expanse that is this wide open internet. Start small, though, and think environmentally to begin with. What kind of feeling do you want to invoke with this particular city your heroes are entering? It works for movies and it can work for your game.

  2. I completely agree with Dave. I actually create sublists for distinct campaign settings or campaigns (different vibes for different campaigns/adventures). For example, an “exploring” playlist sounds very different for Eberron than it does for a zombie game. I even had two different playlists for “action” and “battle” in my Eberron game because there were action scenes that weren’t necessarily combat oriented, and they had very different tones. Also, an urban playlist for a fantasy setting would be very different from an urban playlist for a modern or noir setting.

    Another tip:

    30 Seconds or Delayed: If you have players who take way too long deciding what they’re going to do, introduce a 30-second timer. The timer started at the start of a player’s turn. It is only used while they decide what they do, not to actually execute their plan. If they cannot make a decision by the end of the 30-second limit, their character is considered to be delaying, and they can act later in the round.

    This trains players to keep their focus on the game even when out of turn, and even more focused during their turn. It also pushes players who don’t take the time to really learn the rules that govern their characters (e.g. Edges/feats, powers/spells, class abilities, racial abilities, etc.) to do so. After a few delays, they’ll be on top of their game (pun intended).

    At first it might seem like a harsh rule, but it’s actually a benefit. The player taking too long gets the pressure taken off of them for a bit of time during that round. The game can go on while they take more time to decide, and they don’t really lose a turn. They also get an opportunity to react to someone else’s action either going just after or even attempting to interrupt. (Sometimes players just need a trigger.) Worst case, they get to go early in the next round.

    In general, all players quickly grow to appreciate the rule. It keeps the game moving fast, and they become even more invested in a game even when its not their turn. They also respect the fairness of not keeping their fellow players waiting on them if they’re the one slowing things down.

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