Category: GMing Advice


Veteran game masters might fall into the trap of viewing every monster in terms of its hit dice and combat capabilities. It’s too easy to just plug in a monster that matches the requisite challenge rating, call for initiative, and play on. Resist that urge. Freshen up those monsters. Every time your group rolls up new player characters or you start a new campaign, you have a chance to make those familiar entries in the Monster Manual new again — legendary even. The key is […]


This past week, I was listening to the new and excellent podcast, Gaming & BS. The episode was about Game Balance, and the hosts, Sean and Brett, had an interesting discussion about Encounter Balance in RPGs. Their discussion was solid, but as they were talking I realized that Encounter Balance is not the root issue. There is more lurking beneath the idea of Encounter Balance, and if you want to solve the problem you have to find the root cause. So let’s go digging… Encounter […]


Dungeon crawls are a staple of roleplaying. For this article, let’s expand the definition of dungeon beyond traditional tombs and caves. Crashed spaceships, inner-city sewers, and post-apocalyptic abandoned malls are all really variations on the dungeon. In a way, any remote location where bad things live can be a kind of dungeon. If you GM, odds are your PC’s will end up in some stinkhole sooner or later. The drawback to dungeons (and remote wilderness areas) is that they may not provide sufficient roleplaying opportunities. […]


Anyone who’s played any edition of Dungeons & Dragons or its derivatives are familiar with the concept of the side quest. Whether generated through a random encounter roll, the need for members of the group to kill some time because Regina and Claude couldn’t make the session, or the GM simply noting that the players are ill-equipped or lack enough experience to move forward, side quests provide a means for the player characters to gain a bit of experience and possibly a new item or […]


Today’s guest article is by Patrick Regan, a screenwriter living in Los Angeles, who learned how to write for TV by GMing after a college roommate made the mistake of showing him Dungeons and Dragons. He blogs at, podcasts at Cinema Excelsior, and can be generally found on Facebook and Twitter @underwoodfive. Thanks, Patrick! –Martin Who Needs Context? The Hook breathes heavily as he walks through the dark, although it sounds like it’s coming from all around you. Molly, you’re badly hurt, four lethal […]

RPGs aren't that different from playing pretend...

A couple weekends ago, I ran a game for my friends’ three daughters, ranging in age between 9 and 14. This was something I’d been meaning to do for a while, but with hectic schedules, it ended up taking longer to coordinate than I had hoped. All three kids are bonafide nerds in their own right, but they only know of pen and paper RPGs by reputation. R, the oldest at almost 14, is hugely into the webcomic Homestuck and starting to experiment with cosplay. […]


On the map, those entrances to a dungeon level look so innocuous: Hash marks to indicate a stairwell, a stylized ‘H’ for a ladder, a curving arrow for a slide. But dungeon-delving adventurers should be wary. There’s no better place for a monster to call home than at the doorway to another dungeon level. After all, what monster doesn’t want to be first in line at the buffet? Even game masters working from published game modules should take note to tweak those adventures by adding […]