Author: Phil Vecchione

About Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.


I was running out of time to prep my games. Sounds almost ironic from the guy who wrote Never Unprepared, but it was true. Things have changed in my life, and my ability to prep was straining against my dwindling free time. I had maximized the usage of my time, and I simply had less time to prepare than before. It was time to re-evaluate the way I prep and evolve my prep to meet my new life situation. Prep-Lite you say? Four years ago, […]


Your group has just completed a major story arc. They have been down in the depths of the Dungeon of Ultimate Sorrows for weeks. You are ready to start off the next delve, into the Tower of Unimaginable Anguish, but are your players ready, and more importantly are their characters? Perhaps all they want is some R&R, to head into town, spend some of that hard-looted gold, and find out the latest gossip. Before their assault on the Tower, they need a repositioning session. Come […]


Running a game is a two-way interaction between players and GM. When the table is in sync, the game develops smoothly. There are times though when things fall out of sync and the game starts to slow down, eventually grinding to a halt. As the GM you try to spur the game back into action, but your NPC’s fail to draw the attention of players, or your plot hooks are too weak to pull them forward. That is when you tap your ace in the […]

Improv Toolbox

You are not as creative as you think you are, and less so when you are under pressure. Our brains are great at pattern matching, but not as great for storage. So the things we tend to remember are the things that get frequently used, while obscure concepts are forgotten. When we engage in any form of improv gaming, from just the natural improv that occurs between the interaction of the players and the GM in a traditionally prepped role playing game, or the more […]


Building actual tension at a table is not an easy task. GM’s often go to great lengths to create a dramatic tension through the use of lighting or music, only to have jokes about Monty Python undermined our well crafted narrative. Through my many years of gaming, one method I have found for successfully building tension is the countdown mechanic. When employed properly, your players will be riveted to the table, and jump every time that counter drops another increment. Want to start building some […]


For the most part, we GM’s take a lot of abuse in our games. Our NPC’s get beaten and killed, our world-ending plans are thwarted, and our hidden treasures are plundered, all while we cheer on the Characters for their victories. Then, there are those times, when we get one over on the characters and players. Times when we reveal a plot twist that leaves them reeling, and they sit there speechless, stunned by the sudden change in their campaign world. In those moments as […]


In many stories in books, on television, and in the movies, the protagonists are often dealt one or more setbacks before the story reaches its climax. In these cases the writer crafts specific events with an intended purpose and outcome. In Role Playing Games, we GM’s often rely on the players to create their own setbacks during a session and within a campaign through bad rolling and impulsive decision making, but there are times the GM wants to write a setback into the game. Depending on […]