Game Mastery

self improvement

Game Wrap – Travel

by on Sep.12, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

I got a lot more mileage than expected out of the Game Wrap posts.  This last topic (for values of “last” pertaining to the original list of Game Wrap topics.  I’ll probably come up with more thoughts and observations later.  For now this is the end though) is something I’m still struggling with, because it’s something I’m still torn on.

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Game Wrap – NPCs as caricatures

by on Sep.06, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, organization, self improvement

Some time ago I wrote about trying to wear NPCs as hats.  I’m more of a method actor (assuming you can call what I do acting at all), so switching around between NPCs has always been a challenge for me.  In a previous post I discussed my plan to treat NPCs as caricatures, defining their outward traits first, never worrying about their inner psychology.

I’d link to that earlier post, but the method sucked and the beginning of the game sucked because of it.

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Game Wrap – If I could take back any one mistake…

by on Sep.01, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

As I’ve mentioned, one of the themes of my last game was trying to break my own rules.  Early on in game planning I came up with a crazy idea for a backup scenario.  If a certain overpowered boss fight wiped out the party, the only idea I had for fixing it was to declare that the world had lost.  The bad guys were too powerful.  And the players would have to go back in time to slow them down, before things got so bad.  The idea only got more over the top from there.

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Game Wrap – Level Skipping

by on Aug.30, 2011, under dnd4e, GM, observations, self improvement

This one should be short and sweet.  I thought the biggest disruption to my recent game would be getting married.  We took 6 weeks off and lost a ton of momentum.  Turns out that the Mrs. and I found another way to disrupt my GMing.  She’s due to roll character creation in about 10 days.  That’s why game ended when it did.

Being extremely slow, I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be able to run a game and manage a baby at the same time until we were about 5 sessions away from the due date.  The PCs were level 12 at the time.  I saw two options.  Keep them around this level and finish off the local plots, but leave the bigger plots unresolved.  Or fast forward between levels and story elements.  I elected to fast forward.

We played a session at levels 12, 15, 19, 24, and 30.  This didn’t hurt the story at all.  The problem was we never felt comfortable with the mechanics.  Combat was slow.  Players made mistakes.  I made even more mistakes.  Nobody felt like they knew what they were doing.  And this method gave everyone a ton of homework.

Now I don’t regret this choice, but in retrospect I’d have jumped around a little differently.  I’d have fast forwarded one jump to level 27, and then done one level at a time between sessions.  Then we wouldn’t have as much to process between sessions.

On the other hand, this 3/4/5/6 level jump between sessions really helped the narrative control, which I’ll be discussing just a few posts from now.

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Game Wrap – Let’s Start at the Beginning

by on Aug.29, 2011, under dnd4e, observations, self improvement

After game I asked the players for some immediate feedback.  Different parts of the game worked for different people.  That’s fine, it’s something I was expecting.  One of the GM’s biggest tasks is managing entertainment so that everyone gets what they like a fair share of the time.  But the one thing they all agreed on was my beginning.  It sucked.

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Nurturing NPC growth

by on May.05, 2010, under dnd, GM, observations, self improvement

I have trouble running NPCs.  It takes me a while to get into character and even longer to switch between characters.  This isn’t news.  I’d be surprised if less than 1/3 of the posts here mentioned  this fact.  It’s something I’m aware of and I’ve been trying to work on.
I was talking to one of my PCs today, expressing this problem, and we came up with a possible solution.  I don’t know if it’ll work or not, but it’s definitely worth trying.

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Here we go again

by on Jul.07, 2009, under self improvement

I’m conisdering starting up another game.  Ostensibly it’s because I’m sick of being a PC, but really it’s because I miss writing posts here.

The problem is that my last game ended pretty recently and I haven’t recovered from GM fatigue yet.  Published campaigns are looking more and more attractive.  If only I hadn’t already attempted one and utterly hated it.   The other option is to run a standard game instead of my usual type of game.  The sort of thing that’s stereotypical D&D where dungeons can be stupidly complex because you don’t ask “who would ever build this thing?”

Or if anyone else has suggestions for how to deal with GM fatigue I’m glad to hear them.

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Kickin’ it up a notch. Musings about how to add flavor to my games at the expense of plot.

by on Feb.10, 2009, under self improvement

As I mentioned in my Lessons of NaNoWriMo post, one of the things I learned about my writing is that a structured outline does not inhibit my creativity, it simply displaces it. Instead of coming up with crazy plot twists on the fly, I start filling in details when all the plot twists are set in stone.

My biggest problem GMing recently has been a lack of flavor. NPCs turn out bland. Locations lack description. Flavor exists in the world, but I don’t bother publishing it. My theory (which came at about 1am last night and kept me up till about 2am last night) is that if I stopped writing complex plots by the seat of my pants I’d take time to invest creative energy into juicy bits of detail. After I finish this game I’m going to try running somebody else’s published adventures just to see what happens. With any luck I’ll start leaving my mark as colorful NPCs instead of Lost-esque plot twists.

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Yet another random observation

by on Jan.22, 2009, under self improvement

I had a thought.  My games tend to focus on story.  I like writing story.  Building powerful enemies feels like homework, but story is always new and exciting.  In all of GMing, nothing is more fun to me than spawning a new plot thread or tying two plot threads into one.

As much as I like story building, I don’t like story telling.  In my head I know that a story is about the journey, not the destination, but when I’m speaking (something I do frequently as a GM) I rush it.  And it’s not because I have a super cool ending that I have to show the players.  Far from it.  I rush to the end because I want to find out what happens.

If I’ve written a plot correctly, it’ll be up to the players to handle the conclusion.  So they’ve killed off the BBEG?  That’s not the end of the story.  The end of the story is what they do once they’ve stumbled into control of whatever power he was amassing.  Done correctly, I’ve given momentum to the plot and then set the players free to resolve the final conflict.

But when I get excited and rush it, the players don’t take over when I hand the game back to them.  What’s supposed to be the grand finale sputters and halts.  I’ve handed off the game to the PCs, but they’re left bewildered and don’t know that it’s their turn to take over.  I can’t blame them for dropping the ball.

Strange as it sounds I think my GMing would benefit if I hogged the spotlight just a little (this goes for NPCs as well as giving plots enough time to boil over).  I should take time to tell the story instead of pushing to see it resolved.  The more I steal the limelight, the more the players will want it back.  As it is, they’re used to taking control whenever they feel like it, and I let them because I want the game to be open and sandboxy.  Maybe denying them control is the best way to make them want to take control.

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Taking some time for self improvement

by on Sep.12, 2008, under GM, self improvement

So far in this blog I’ve been trying to show my answers to common GMing questions. I’ve come across with a much more elitist tone than usual because of it. I’m sure I could preface each of my sentences with “in my experience” or some such, but these posts have been lengthy enough already.

At any rate, I called this site game mastery, not because I feel I’m a master GM spreading wisdom as a Dunkin Donuts employee spreads delicious low fat veggie cream cheese on my onion bagel every saturday morning. It’s because I want to achieve GM mastery. I think I do some things very well, but others come off extremely poorly. It’s time to examine one of those factors. It’s a biggie. I’m talking about my flat and lifeless non player characters.

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