Dec 21

Tabletop RPGs: 5 Principles: Positive Energy

It is your job to make sure that you do everything you can to create an atmosphere in which people can have fun, and maintain that atmosphere despite player sabotage.

Before the Game
1.    Love the Scenario: You as the GM need to be enthusiastic about the scenario, or the players will notice and develop a hostile attitude toward you and the scenario, which is no fun for anyone.
a.    Clarify: If you see something that doesn’t make sense and annoys you, try and get clarification from the author (if possible), other judges, or the event coordinator.  Oftentimes such annoyances are easily remedied.
b.    Fix the Scenario: If there are things you can’t abide by in the scenario, fix them.  This is much harder to do in Living events, as there is an importance attached to running them the same for each group, but as long as you have the players’ best interest in mind, you should fix things.
c.    Reject the Scenario: If the scenario is just too awful, and you can’t stand the thought of running it, reject it.  Only do this as a last resort.
i.    Do this ASAP:  Don’t wait until the week before the con to declare the scenario trash.  You need to sign up to judge early enough to make this decision without compromising the convention.

2.   Love the Setting: If you can’t stand Greyhawk, or Living City, why are you running it?
a.    Let it Die: You aren’t doing anyone a favor by running something you hate.  If you dislike it that much, let it die!
b.    Polish the Gems: Every setting has things about it that make it great.  Find them, and present them to your players with relish.
3.    Find Your Comfort Zone: Find a style, a setting, and a rules system that you can love, and run it.
a.    Learn Something New: Don’t forget to try new things on a regular basis so that you can find your new love!
b.    Don’t Be Guilt Tripped: Don’t volunteer to run something you don’t like just because the con needs judges for it.  Find something you do like and volunteer to run that instead.
i.    Player Exception: If you are an avid player in a Living campaign, you have an obligation to run it, in exchange for others running it for you on an ongoing basis.  If you can’t stand to run it, but you love to play it, are you part of the problem?
4.    Be Passionate: If you are passionate about the game, the setting, and the scenario, that will come across to the players!
5.    Don’t be a Prima Donna: Don’t make others suffer for your preferences and attitude.
a.    Be Honest: If you don’t like running something, tell the coordinator.  Better they find out before the players come griping to them.  Make sure the coordinator understands your preferences, so that they don’t stick you with something you end up hating them for.
b.    Keep Bargaining to a Minimum: Don’t come to the coordinator with devilish bargains about trading playing for judging.  It just pisses them off in the long run.  Tell them exactly what you’d love to run, and if they offer you something in return, accept graciously.

During the Game
1.    Don’t Slam the Scenario: Whatever you do, do not sit down and proclaim that this is the worst scenario you have ever read.  If you feel that way, you should have either fixed it or rejected it (see above).
2.    Maintain a Positive Attitude: Keep up the attitude during the game by embracing and feeding off of the fun your players are having.
a.    Grab on to the Good Stuff: Find the players who are having fun within the context of the game, and encourage them.  Their enthusiasm combined with yours will be infectious.
b.    Nip the Bad Stuff Fast: Don’t let players bitch for more than one or two exchanges.
i.    Gloss Over It: Sometimes players are just grumpy.  Turn their grumpiness into a joke, and move on.
ii.    Look for the Source: Why are they bringing the game down?
1.    Is it You: Are you annoying them?  If so, can you change?
2.    Jerks: Are they just jerks?  You need to take a firm hand.
iii.    Don’t Punish the PC of an Annoying Player: It always comes back poorly on you in the end.  Tell the player straight that they are being annoying, and what they can do to fix it.
3.    Take Breaks if you Need To: No one is happy when they are starving or have to pee.
4.    Read the Players: Keep your finger on the pulse of the players.  It is your responsibility to spice up a flagging game, or cool off heated tempers.  Give them what they want.

After The Game
1.    Leave a Good Impression: Most players will remember the last 30 minutes of the game more than any other part. Make them enjoyable.
a.    Don’t Rush: If time is running out, don’t rush the players.
i.    Clip: Cut something out, and play the end whole.
ii.    Summarize: You can summarize things like combat, especially if the outcome is clear.  Don’t be anal about finishing a long combat, unless the players are super gung-ho.
iii.    Leave Time for Paperwork: Make sure you leave plenty of time to fill out any required paperwork.
2.    Give Good Feedback:  Tell the players and the GM how much fun you had, what things were great, and how things could be even better next time.

Dec 21

Tabletop RPGs: 5 Principles: Fairness

-=Before The Game=-
1.    Don’t Pre-judge Players: Give everyone an equal chance.

-=During The Game=-
1.    Players are Not the Enemy:  Do not treat the players or their characters as your enemies.
a.    Cooperative Atmosphere: You need to build an atmosphere of congenial cooperation at the table.
i.    NPCs vs. You: Make it clear when NPCs are talking and when you are talking.  The evil wizard being angry at the intruders is a different matter than you being angry at the players for screwing up the scenario.  Make sure its clear which is which.
ii.    You are in Charge: Games are like wagons.  The PCs are the horses, and you are riding on the wagon, throwing down road in front of them.  Most of the time, the PCs are go where they wish, but don’t be afraid to grab the reins if things are getting out of control.
iii.    Keep Play Friendly: Don’t let a few obnoxious players spoil the game.  Tell them straight what they need to do differently.
2.    Let the Players Play: Your job is to come up with a way to let the players play they characters how they want to, not to make them play your game.
a.    Enable their Ideas: Come up with a way to let the characters do what they want to, assigning appropriate difficulty.  If they want to jump off a building onto a running horse firing their crossbow at the guy behind them, come up with what you think that entails, and let them try!  Give them a fair and reasonable chance of success, and let them know what they are in for.
b.    Suggest Gently: If they are unsure what to do (especially new players), give them a few suggested courses of action to get their thoughts going, but don’t be offended if they pick something else, even if you think it’s stupid.  Don’t tell the players what to do.  You have enough to think about.
c.    Make it Memorable:  Many of the best moments in games come from GMs letting the players try wild, cinematic stuff.  Even if they fail, it will be spectacular!
5.    Don’t Play Favorites:  Don’t take certain people’s ideas more seriously, or worse yet, give them more play time just because they are:
a.    Your Friends: You may know them and their play very well.  Their style may mesh well with yours.  But, everyone else at the table deserves your full consideration.
i.    Start Low: If anything, start out paying more attention to the strangers at the table, so that you can get a feel for them.  You already know your friends!
b.    Attractive: Don’t pay more attention to certain players just because of their physical attributes.
c.    Not Your Style: Some players just may not have the same play style you do.  It is your job as the GM to set the tone of the game from the start, and adjust it to match the players as you go on.
i.    Play the Field: The best GMs can expertly shift the game to suit each player throughout the session, so everyone gets a chance to shine.
d.    Aggressive: Some players will try and dominate play.  You need to help them share the game with everyone else. Don’t let them steamroll you.  Make them talk to the hand if you have to.
e.    Quiet: Very quiet players, A.K.A., “rocks”, or “plants”, deserve your attention too.
i.    Prod Them: Go out of your way to ask them what they are doing, and don’t let obnoxious players talk over them.
ii.    Praise Them: If they do something cool, point it out!

-=Articles in this Series=-
[|Positive Energy]

Dec 21

Tabletop RPGs: 5 Principles: Focus

You need to set the precedent.  If you aren’t focused, the players won’t be either.

-=Before The Game=-
1.    Adequate Preparation Time: Commit yourself adequate time to prepare to run.
2.    Show Up On Time: This is the most important thing you can do as a GM.
3.    Have a Food Plan: Figure out how you are going to feed yourself, so you don’t have to take long breaks during the game, or beg someone else to get food for you.

-=During The Game=-
1.    Don’t Chat: Limit conversation with people not playing at your table to 2-3 exchanges, unless it is with the coordinator regarding the event you are currently running.
a.    Make Time Between Games: Make sure that you leave plenty of time between games so that you and your players can chat with each other, and with everyone else.
2.    Don’t Read: If you know the scenario, and have annotated it well, you should not have to sit there and read it for more than 30 seconds at a time.
a.    Call A Break: If you do get stuck, and have to spend some time refreshing your memory, call a break, and spend it catching yourself up, so that you won’t have to do it again.
3.    Don’t Reminisce: The worst possible thing you can do during a game is start reminiscing about other games, your college years, your love life, etc.  Save it for between games or the bar.
4.    Don’t Anachronize: Movie quotes belong in the bar.  Keep them there.  You are here playing this game, right here right now.  Keep everyone’s mind in it by keeping out of game commentary to a minimum.
5.    Keep Your Mind On The Game: Even when the PCs are talking amongst each other, you should be thinking about what’s coming up next, and how to tweak the ending to fit in the time slot, not about your taxes.
6.    Stay Engaged:  The players should feel like you are playing the same game that you are.  If their actions have no effect, or you ignore them, they will quickly lose interest.
7.    Keep Track of Names: If you have to make up a name for an NPC, or some other factoid on the fly, write it down somewhere, so it doesn’t distract from the game when you scramble for what you have forgotten.
8.    Don’t Get Sidetracked: If a few of the PCs are interested in pursuing some encounter to death, and the rest of the players are rolling their eyes, wrap it up smoothly.  Pleasing a few PCs to the exclusion of the others isn’t fair.
a.    Seems Fun at the Time: Sometimes it will seem like the PCs are having a good time pursuing some side track, and then they are grumpy later when they realize that they didn’t get to the end, or were on the wrong track the whole time.  Don’t fall into this trap, because they will remember how they felt at the end of the game, not the middle!

-=Articles in this Series=-
[|Positive Energy]

Dec 21

Tabletop RPGs: 5 Principles: Players

Although this document is meant mainly as advice to Game Masters, you should consider all of the advice to apply to players as well.

You’ll notice that a big chunk of advice in the points above deals with problem players.  Why not make things easier and more fun and not be one?

1.    Bring your positive energy to the game, and share it with everyone!
2.    Think like your character, and talk as your character.
3.    Help others, not only with rules, but with getting engaged with the game, coming out of their shells, and having fun!
4.    Be reasonable about the rules, and go with the flow!
5.    Come up with fun and wild things that your character would do.

1.    Come into the game expecting to have a bad time.
2.    Say “Bob the Dwarf is going to kick his butt.” Say “I’m going to kick his butt”.
3.    Monopolize the table.
4.    Argue about rules, especially if it isn’t really going to matter in 30 seconds.

-=Articles in this Series=-
[|Positive Energy]