Category: GMing Advice


How many RPGs have you run without having played it first? It can feel like a chicken and an egg conversation, but obviously someone out there read the book and ran a game without ever having played it before. Sitting beside my bed are a pile of books that includes a couple of novels, a couple of essay collections, and at least two RPGs I want to run where I have no (or limited) experience playing. There’s a little voice inside me panicking at the […]


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 […]


Recently, I was given a chance to run a game for a group that I previously GMed. This was back before my playing style changed over, from a more traditional prep-medium, linear story, to where I am now with a lite-prep, more improv/collaborative style. At first, I was a bit hesitant to run for this group, since their focus is not improv play, and more on what might be labeled as “traditional play”. My concerns centered on if my improv style would mesh with their […]


Representational artists must consider the value scale when planning a drawing or painting. Without light, dark and mid-tones, a picture can look bland and flat. When actually executing the picture, the artist must decide whether to work light to dark, dark to light, or something in between. A similar process can be used when planning your sessions. In this article, we’ll use the painting process as a metaphor for game prep, and we’ll look at three possible approaches. LIGHT TO DARK Most watercolorists work in […]


Luck comes in many shades and flavors in roleplaying games. Some games actually build in a mechanic to emulate luck in varying ways. Others have an inherent kind of luck with a bennie, plot point, or some other token type of system. Even games that have no mechanical way to represent luck are still dependent on the fickle fate of the dice. Given today’s connotations as a day of bad luck, I thought it might be worth taking a look at the nature of luck […]

Ryan Miller improv seminar

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 […]


Today’s guest article is the second one we’ve featured by Robert A. Neri Jr. of Ranger Games Publishing. His first, Can an Onion Bleed?, looked at engaging NPCs. This one’s about items with backstories. Thanks, Robert! — Martin Items can be given a backstory and a level of detail much like a non-player character (NPC), increasing their role within the gaming narrative (which is different from narratives in the traditional sense as the ‘beats’ of the story tend to follow a Sine-wave type pattern, high […]