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Bite-Sized GMing Tips: Issue 2

Posted By Martin Ralya On February 8, 2010 @ 2:06 am In GMing Advice | 4 Comments

Welcome to the second digest of Gnome Stew’s bite-sized game mastering tips, all of which were originally posted on Twitter (@gnomestew) from July 14, 2009 through February 7, 2010. (Punctuality: not always our strong suit…)

We archive our GMing tweets in this article series, making them searchable and collecting them for readers who don’t use Twitter. Bite-sized tips can be a great source of inspiration, and can help keep you sharp and on your game — we hope you enjoy them.

If you’re on Twitter, follow us to get tips throughout the week, and to chat with us about GMing. (We sign off with our initials so that you’ll know who’s who.)

Sometimes We Tweet About Dwarf Cankles

Three gnome wives have already pledged to kill their gnome hubbies if we do another secret project right after this one. -MR

RT @SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: Give your players a lot of different quests, each with a well-designed quest card so they can keep track of them.

Learned about farting snakes today. Surprised they’re not already a #dnd monster. @Wizards_DnD: Where’s the suggestion box? -MR

Gnome Stew now has a Facebook page. Love the Stew? Find us here and become a fan: -MR

Head crabs from the Half-Life video game would make a fun addition to most settings. – MN

My most intense gaming experiences as a player have nearly all been brought out by extraordinary GMs. -MR

Reading some Robert E Howard – MN

Double check scene transitions when running a module. How can you gracefully end the scene, and how do you telegraph it’s over? –SM

Martin is being a slavedriver on our secret project. We hope you appreciate all the whip marks we’re getting (and not the fun kind). – MN

@rpgblog2 – re: campaign inspiration – search gnomestew for “Dawn of Worlds” and “garage sale” and steal bits you like – MN

Jacking myself up with coffee to get some work done, amd it occurs to me that PCs might do the same. – MN

Like space opera? Check out Scott Westerfeld’s Succession series — some of the best I’ve ever read, and full of mind-boggling ideas. -MR

Betrayal at House On The Hill is a great game to scavenge for tiles and pieces. OOP now, but they are coming out with a new edition soon.-JA

“PCs turned into small animals, must find a cure” is common, but what if villains changed and PCs must STOP them finding a cure? – MN

What one object does your character have that defines them? Their walkman, flower from their hometown, notepad for gift ideas, etc. – JA

The #dnd minis set Savage Encounters is much cooler than I expected. I miss the old pricing, but these are gorgeous minis. -MR

Why does frozen food get a whole month (March), but gnomes don’t even get a National Gnome Day? 2010: Year of the Gnome! -MR

Holy crap! Mythos parody of “Hey there Delilah”.

A damned fine #dnd 4e play mat designed by @jcdietrich: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/365435/porter235 -MR

Eidolon: a phanton, apparition, or ideal. How could you include one in your game? -MN

I may never get around to writing articles on www.obsidianportal.com or www.wanderingmen.com, but you should check them out anyway. -MN

Elvis would have turned 75 today – perfect excuse to include the “Elvis is still alive” conspiracy or an impersonator in your modern game

You’ve seen it by now, but it’s too delicious not to tweet: today’s Penny Arcade post from Gabe rocks some seriously cool GMing ideas. -MR

@geeksdreamgirl I don’t just mean lady dwarves — dude dwarves would totally have cankles, too. #dnd -MR

You know what? Dwarves would totally have cankles. #dnd -MR

Also excellent for RPG music: Avatar and Gears of War. Not-so-excellent: Braveheart (mostly boring music, surprisingly). -MR

Need some new RPG background music? The Pandorum soundtrack is excellent, particularly for creepy BGM and action scenes. -MR

Once you GM with background music, not gaming with it (on either side of the screen) will seem weird. It’s an easy thing to try, too! -MR

Keepig a journal of doodles, notes, & tidbits about every session is one of the best gaming decisions I’ve ever made. Slice of history. -MR

If you’re light on family obligations, holiday gaming can be awesome: marathon sessions, great atmosphere of cheer, and lots of treats. -MR

Pick a set or two of dice and use them for an entire campaign. You build all sorts of associations with them, and it just feels right. -MR

We’re working on a seekret project, and that plus the holidays has kept us quiet on Twitter. Daily articles haven’t stopped and never will!

@dmyax: About 90% of my group’s D&D combats end with all monsters dead. I agree, that’s too high. –SM

Just unpacked some boxes from a few years ago. Found this in one: http://bit.ly/7EyAUp . Possibly the best RPG supplement to date. -JA

This may be the solution to the ultimate gaming map. $100 image projector. Seems it could be ceiling hung easily. http://bit.ly/5uFX8v -JA

A small haiku: game with designers – at any chance you can get – your game will improve. -JA

@ChattyDM #backseatGMing is a default mode when I know the system better than the GM. When we all know the system, I immerse. –SM

OOG conversation hampering game? Ask the players to do it in character. Adventurers would talk like friends and it adds character depth. -JA

When your players come up with something unexpected, call a break and come up with a plan.A few minutes of thought will go a long way. -DNA

To help players learn a new game, make them an outline of all the important rules: skills, combat, etc. –DNAphil

Want more immersive descriptions in your game? The first thing you notice in a new place is how it smells. (Oakland, CA airport: pee.) -MR

From Mazes and Monsters (ugh, and hehe): Arbitrary choices are the worst kind of railroading. “Do you go right or left?” != a choice. -MR

Here’s something to add to your adventure, or encounter design checklists: Add at least one element that uniquely showcases your world -MN

Skill Check tip– a skill check is only interesting if both the pass and fail have consequences. More tips on skill checks coming–DNAphil

Best article I’ve ever read on quickly and confidently achieving a decent miniature paint job: The Dip Method -MR

Sounds like the consensus on Gaming Paper so far is “pretty cool.” I would have killed for this solution back in college. -MR

Re: Gaming Paper: Its thin, but it holds up to marker and its tough enough to play on. I would not keep the sheets after the session though

Re: Gaming Paper — How thin is it? I didn’t get a good look at GenCon, but it looked pretty thin. -MR

Used Gaming Paper while at GenCon. Really liked it. A more in depth review coming in the next few days. –DNAphil

Need to find a map FAST? Add the word layout to any image search. You’ll get a lot of great results that are instantly map worthy. -JA

Heard about a few bad games at Gencon. If the game isn’t fun, tell the GM privately. People don’t improve without knowing they need to. -JA

GenCon Tip: Fight the Convention Crud! Wash hands, with soap, often. No one wants to take home the Crud with their goody bag. TT

Many enemies, even one-hit mooks, makes for long but not epic fights. Have 1 PC attack kill 2 or 3 mooks for speed and epic feeling. -JA

GenCon Tip: There is a lot of walking at GC, so make sure you have good shoes, tie them tight, and get come comfy inserts for them- DNAphil

RPG books are filled with text. But often, it’s the artwork that inspires us the most. Think about displaying a fav piece where you play. TT

Nothing like a really fleshed out Mysterious Stranger NPC to generate some good RP and drive plot. Good guy/Bad guy? Who knows? TT

Evil orgs, tribes and dungeons still have mundane parts. A session might have the party encounter Orcish food storage or wagon train. -JA

Going through files. Found sheet for 1st third edition character. Lots of notes to self on it. Feat does X, spell does Y, sorta thing. TT

Playing to your GMing weaknesses is a great way to learn — just don’t do it during a session you’ve been building up to for months. -MR

When you finally run out of adventure ideas — just drop a dragon on top of your party. That’ll get the juices flowing. — TT

Done designing an encounter? Now add ONE more thing — tough terrain, trap, lever, hazard, oddball monster/goofy npc, weather.– TT

When beasts attack! As GM you must be relentless, at least until the creature is at half strength. Then it’s time to lick your wounds. TT

I have a couple of players who always describe the effects of spells — before naming them so we can apply the right mechanical effects. TT

From time to time, re-read chapters of the rule book you are running. You will be surprised what rules you have forgotten.

Magic in RPGs lose mystery when they become too mechanical. Make descriptions unique and don’t mention spell names to preserve mystery. -JA

Miss the feeling you got from the old grey box (FR)? @paizo’s Pathfinder setting makes me feel like a teen with a GMing license again. -MR

There’s no GMing problem or situation to which multiple clever, thoughtful solutions can’t be found by different clever, thoughtful GMs. -MR

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. He lives in Utah with his amazing wife Alysia and their awesome daughter Lark in a house full of books and games.




4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Bite-Sized GMing Tips: Issue 2"

#1 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On February 8, 2010 @ 7:00 am

Re: that projector, if you’re the type of geek who likes to build stuff yourself, the plans to make your own projector for anywhere to $80 on up are right here: http://www.inventgeek.com/Projects/HomeTheater/Theory1.aspx
It’s a bit bigger than the model we tweeted about and you have to assemble the parts yourself, bu the end product is a much better projector and upgradeable too.
Mmmmmmm…. Upgrades….

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 8, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

RE: Projectors in general – eBay has a lot of LCD projectors for under/around $200.

#3 Comment By tezrak On February 8, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

“RT @SlyFlourish: #dnd tip: Give your players a lot of different quests, each with a well-designed quest card so they can keep track of them.”

Whatever happened to, I don’t know, the players writing down notes about the quests that they’re given? I mean, if the GM is a creative type, that’s one thing, but it’s the GM’s job to introduce “quests” through the course of RP/narrative, and the players’ job to pick up on them (or not) and keep track of them. Handing out “quest cards” smacks of WoW (or WFRP 3rd Edition) to me.

This reminds me, I know I’ve got enough to write an article about manipulatives at the gaming table.

#4 Comment By Martin Ralya On February 8, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

@tezrak – This is an interesting difference in perspective — I think it comes down to a play style preference.

My group, for example, has two games on the go and regularly goes a month or more before switching gears. If you asked me right now to name all of the clearly identified quest opportunities in the one we’re not playing at the moment, I couldn’t do it — I can barely remember last week. ;-)


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