Category: GMing Advice


When I first started gaming, not quite at the dawn of time but definitely a ways back, I was in awe of Game Masters. Whether they were good or not was beside the point, they were the masters of the game. They knew the rules backwards and forwards, brought the world to life, and kept all the wacky, fickle players in line following some semblance of plot. Theirs was an arcane and incomprehensible job that I never thought I would ever be worthy of even […]

The Prince of Redhand, one of the great social encounter scenarios. (Dungeon 131, February 2006.

As I run almost exclusively in the d20 fantasy sphere of games — Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, d20 Modern — one of the tools that gets used often is a combat grid, whether it is a published or dry-erase footmat, HirstArts tiles of my construction or printed cardstock tiles. But should you use the grid for social encounters? You might think the default decision for social encounters is to never use the grid, reasoning that if the players aren’t focused on the table, then they […]


I recently started running a Night’s Black Agents game, after coming off of running both Fate and Savage Worlds. This was my first time running anything with the Gumshoe system, and I found myself, for the first time in quite some time, having to get use to running a new system. In order to get comfortable running the game, I was going to not only have to learn the rules, but learn how to GM the game as well. Learning to GM a Game GMing a […]


The real world is a rough place. People move, take new jobs, go back to school, have family or health issues. (And sometimes they get mad at you, or you at them. But let’s not go negative here). When a player leaves your group for whatever reason, there are two effects. First, you may feel a loss because you are losing time with a friend or pleasant acquaintance. Second, you have to figure out what to do with their character. This column will detail some […]


During my last session one of my players was trying to pick between two powers to use against a foe and, in the process of debating, asked me what he needed to hit. Without thinking I blurted out the number. I was caught off-guard; normally I don’t share those things, and I was pretty upset about it (more with me for responding without thinking than with him for asking). I was upset because I like to keep the players guessing. I don’t like to let […]

I recently completed a few months of public play that went far better than I’d imagined. On Wednesdays last fall, we played D&D Encounters. At my table, I had a drop-in-group of 4 or 5 pretty consistent players, with several more who showed up for a session or two. They completed the Encounters storyline in early December, then travel and holidays reared their head–along with confusion as to what we’d tackle next. When we broke, the GMs were divided on the next step since we […]


Many of the games we play are set in worlds created specifically for those games (or universal enough for player created worlds), but there are plenty of games out there designed to immerse your players in a setting from movies, television, books, comics, and so on. Firefly! Song of Fire and Ice! Supernatural! Doctor Who! Battlestar Gallactica! Star Wars! Buffy the Vampire Slayer! The list is almost endless – if there’s a movie, book, television series, comic book, or whatever out there that tickles our […]