One way to ensure spotlight time for the players around your table is to write it into the adventure. This encounter favors a cleric, this one a rogue, this one a fighter, et cetera, et cetera. All well and good if the adventure is exploration, say of a dungeon, and as GM, you’ve devised encounters for certain areas. But what happens when the players take the adventure in a different direction and the GM has to resort to improvisation? How do you endeavor to provide spotlight time then? Tracking by quarter hour This little trick I picked up by...Read More
Author: Troy E. Taylor
About The Author
Troy's happiest when up to his elbows in plaster molds and craft paint, creating terrain and detailing minis for his home game. A career journalist and Werecabbages freelancer, he also claims mastery of his kettle grill, from which he serves up pizza to his wife and three children.
I had the occasion recently to spend the day at a Boy Scout winter encampment. This is where Scouts test out what they’ve learned in a fairly harsh environment. (Not hostile, mind you, just harsh, as in cold). There were activity stations set up across the state park, which the Scouts had to reach by sled. Then when they were there, they took part in whatever activity was designated. So, here the Scouts demonstrated stuff that would be Adventuring 101 to any group of player characters. They had to start a fire with flint and steel, hoist a pack...Read More
January turned into a whirlwind for me shortly after Wizards of the Coast announced its partnership with One Book Shelf to launch the Dungeon Master’s Guild. And as quickly as I could manage, I had uploaded the DM’s Kit: On the Trail of Tyranny to the site. One Book Shelf, which you probably recognize from its flagship digital marketplaces DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, also manages the DMsGuild. DMsGuild is like those other stores, except the content must use the Fifth Edition rules of D&D, and if it includes setting material, be about the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. As it happens,...Read More
You had this adventure all figured out. Pacing was going to be important, you’ve got a cleverly crafted encounter area, and the players were even given a mission objective by their patron. Then one of the players decides their player character is going shopping. Well, if one PC is going shopping, they are all going shopping. And before you know it, the GM’s pacing plan is tossed out the window and you’ve become an NPC merchant haggling with a PC over the cost of some mundane magic item. And if one PC gets to haggle, well, soon all the...Read More
Not so far back, I wrote a fairly scathing critique of the Neverwinter entry in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. I stand by that. But I also think it fair to note that on the whole, D&D’s creators have been engaged in a long process to make the Forgotten Realms accessible again, to make it inviting to new players and to resonate with its established fan base. No single product or event has brought D&D to this point. Rather it has been a concerted effort to remove barriers of entry from the longstanding campaign setting. The Road Back “Sundering”...Read More
New GM. New players. First adventure exploring a dungeon is a success. But now the players are going to ask things like: Where’s the nearest town so my PC can cash in this loot? Where does my character come from? Where’s she live? Where do the PCs get information about the next adventure? Here is where the GM should anticipate that need by having a home base in mind. Now, there are plenty of published adventure sites the GM can use to provide a center of civilization in a world otherwise run amok with goblins, orcs and evil wizards....Read More
One of the brilliant things the D&D creative team did in Fourth Edition was wreck the city of Neverwinter and turn it into an adventurer’s playground. Yep, they hit Neverwinter with an eruption of Mount Hotenow, slammed it with quakes and ruined the heart of the merchant quarter with a raw, stinking chasm from which spewed all sorts of demonic, spell-plagued creatures. And after the immediate disaster, they populated the city with a despicable array of opportunists and evil factions, all fighting each other over what was left. Lord Neverember’s hold on power was thread thin, with any number of...Read More
High drama. Suspense. Gritty Realism. All great tones to achieve when creating a campaign. Sometimes, though, the group needs a laugh. When delving a dungeon filled with the undead minions of the black-cloaked overlord has become a grind, or the horrors of the apocalyptic landscape hit too close to home — maybe a change of pace is called for. GMs should not be afraid to add some levity. Maybe it’s just a one-shot done with comedy in mind. Maybe it’s a short adventure arc featuring over-the-top and colorful heroes or equally outrageous situations. Maybe the trolls in this world...Read More
Need a monster to slay your party with in 2016? Try one of these five creatures, gleaned from sourcebooks in my gaming library. These monsters are a whole different category of menace. They not only want to devour your crew of 10-foot pole-carrying adventurers, they have the means to be the predator in this ecology. Confronted with these terrors, PCs might think they are ready to fight, but they should always be prepared to flee. So, make sure your table’s PCs have their running shoes on when they encounter them. 5 Tophet Pathfinder Adventure Path No. 21, page 86...Read More
Back in April, on my personal Facebook page, I’d posted a photo of a diorama that I’d done years ago detailing the base town of our gaming group’s campaign, Steffenhold. Based on comments from that post, there’s been a request I do more on Steffenhold for Gnome Stew. Deciding what I should do, though, required some thought. What would GMs appreciate most? What I came up with is a new adventure — a campaign starter — focused on the three-spired structure across the Serene River from the town of Steffenhold. And because it is the holidays, I’ve decided to...Read More
As my home campaign of Tyranny of Dragons rolled into its closing chapter, I knew I was being presented with an opportunity that is pretty rare in rgp adventure storytelling. Namely, it was a chance to see how a massed battle of clashing armies might play out. Usually, the clashing of armies is background to the activities of the player characters. But this time, the two storylines were converging. In the storyline, the combined armies of good dragons and the Lord’s Alliance are taking on the chromatic dragons and the Cult of the Dragon at a bleak dormant volcano known...Read More
The GM provides descriptions of every landscape and of every room. She gives voice to every monster and NPC. She adjudicates every turn in combat, and she lists every bit of loot and reveals every little clue along the way. It would seem, that from start to finish, the GM is doing a lot of talking. So, given the fact that, by definition, the GM is a conduit for a large amount of the game’s information, when is it important for the GM to just zip it? When is silence golden? Restrain thyself Remind yourself to take turns: A...Read More
Regular readers familiar with my GMing style are aware that session prep is a strength. Now, such an approach still requires thinking on my feet, such as when the players turn left (when I anticipated that they would turn right), then I would still have an appropriate encounter or response at hand. Improvisation, however, is largely a foreign thing to me. The technique of GMing on the fly with little prep and a willingness to riff off the ideas of others at the table is as elusive as trying to grab a handful of water. Of course, I listen to player input....Read More
This one is for gamemasters learning to stock their first dungeons, a bit of straight-forward advice to make your life easier as you create and / or adapt adventures for your group. Make the room fit the monster. Now, this is more than just making sure that the dimensions of the encounter space match your adversary’s size. That’s just common sense. Dragons need a BIG room. Sprites less so (but room to fly around in is always advantageous). And with the exception of magical enhancements, the entrance way has to accommodate its principal occupant. The naga might be content...Read More
There are lots of ways to organize your material for a mystery roleplaying adventure. Many GMs find a flowchart format useful. Turn left and follow the trail of clues that way, turn right and investigate another path. But I confess, I am much more of a straight-line breadcrumbs sort of GM. Which means, I suppose, that I dole out the clues in succession, nearly all of them leading in the same direction. There are still opportunities to go left or right. But it’s more of a Y branch that reconnects farther down the track, rather than an entirely new...Read More
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The Complete Game Master's Guide to Running Extraordinary Sessions
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The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
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The Complete Game Master's Guide to Campaign Management
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The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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Do you have what it takes to save Neon City in this 80s, neon, cyberpunk game?
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