Category: Tools for GMs


One of the problems in an exploration game is content. We’d all like to put together a campaign world with content jam packed into every nook and cranny, but there are some problems with that. First and foremost is our time constraints. Not only would it take forever to create so much content, but a lot of that effort would be wasted as entire swaths of our setting never got explored closely enough to dig out most of the material. Here is one potential solution […]


A common behavior (at least at every table I’ve ever been part of) is the clean dungeon sweep: making sure that every nook and cranny of a dungeon has been explored, every enemy fought and every goblin slain. Players often do this because they don’t want to miss any treasure or experience. In an idealized world, this turns out to be an inefficient strategy that actually slows players down. In practice there are external considerations that the GM controls. To see this, we need to […]


As usual, rather than actually prep, I find it much more useful and productive to agonize and fret over how exactly I should go about prepping until the desire to prep fades away. But at least this time I think I’ve actually gotten somewhere with it: namely I’ve decided on an alternative to overland mapping with a hex map. There are three main advantages to overland mapping with a hex map, as I see it: Easy to judge distance due to the built in scale […]


I’ve recently been reading some books on how to improve my story writing, and one of the tips they invariably give is to not start your stories with a massive exposition dump. This is bad news for me because my writing is usually nothing but exposition dump, so I probably will never write the next bestseller to take the world by storm. That’s OK though, because it brought into focus one of the traditions of tabletop gaming that I’ve never really cared for. That is, […]

Players roleplaying at a store

Hip Pocket Games aren’t a real classification or genre of RPG. Instead, hip pocket games are scenarios that you’re always ready to run. They’re there in your hip pocket, ready to whip out and play on minimal notice.

Sometimes, these games are full game systems, like A Penny for My Thoughts, which is a GMless game designed for a single evening’s play. Other times, they’re specific scenarios, like Secrets of Sokol Keep (a D&D 5e scenario), or Dark*Star, the Fate adventure (and setting).

Any game that you can run with minimal prep is a good hip pocket game for you. You’re basically taking something big and amorphous, like everything a D&D game can be, and mastering a specific version of it. When you meet someone new or attend a con, you can leap into play and always be ready to contribute. It’s much like having a board game in your backpack that you love and can teach effortlessly.

One of the mechanics built into Primetime Adventures is called Screen Presence. It’s a mechanic that goes on everyone’s character sheet, but has to be coordinated by everyone before anyone can set it. Screen Presence is awesome in Primetime Adventures… and might amp up your current game too. What is Screen Presence? In Primetime Adventures, Screen Presence measures how central your character is to the episode and how much the episode revolves around your character’s issues. Screen presence also affects your character’s competence. When your […]


I recently completed a pair of short series of Primetime Adventure games, whose beginnings were described in Pitching Primetime Adventures: Two Recent Series. A Brief Recap Primetime Adventures is an independent roleplaying game, first published back in 2004, which proved to be an instant hit in the indie-roleplaying scene. The game was recently republished in a brand new third edition by the original designer, Matt Wilson, and his company Dog Eared Designs. I was eager for the new edition; when I got the PDF, I […]