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Your Players Are a Bunch of Tools

Posted By Kurt "Telas" Schneider On November 1, 2011 @ 12:00 am In GMing Advice | 7 Comments


Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?

GMs have a number of jobs to do: think about the next session(s), prepare material, engage the players, drop hints and clues, introduce conflict, convey information to the group, manage the table, answer rules and setting questions, run the game (including all the little jobs therein), take notes, write up summaries, rinse and repeat. (Your mileage may vary; not all GMing experiences are identical, etc.)

When you’ve got a job to do, the proper tool can make it much easier. Take a look around at the rest of the table, and consider them as your toolbelt.

  • Don’t know what the guys who kicked in the door are really after? Give the players some discussion time, and borrow one of their ideas.
  • Want to drop some information on the party, and have it come out organically? Share it with a player before the game, with a reward if she handles it well.
  • Want to add an element of intraparty conflict? Turn one character’s former street gang into another character’s mystery enemy organization, and enjoy the fireworks.
  • Need a hook? When was the last time you looked at their character sheets and backgrounds?
  • Still stuck? Chat with the players individually, and ask what they think is going on (and listen to their answers!)
  • Combat bogging you down? Put someone in charge of initiative. (Or if you run Savage Worlds, let the player with the fewest Bennies shuffle the deck for one.)
  • Need a writeup at the end of the session? Sounds like a reward-worthy job.
  • Got a rules-lawyer? Co-opt her to answer questions for you, or even to co-GM complex situations.
  • Is one of your players a scenery-chewing, over-acting, drama jock? Then let him play your BBEG’s social interactions. (Warning: Handle with care.)

Players can handle many of the little tasks for a GM, and help make the game that much more fun for everyone. As usual, talk to the group beforehand, make sure everyone’s on board with your ideas, and check up on the situation later to make sure it’s working as expected.

Have you used your players to help with any aspect of the game? How did it work out? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

About  Kurt "Telas" Schneider

Kurt Schneider played D&D in 1979 at summer camp, and was hooked. He lives with his wife, daughters, and dog in Austin TX, where he writes stuff, and tries to stay get fit. Look for his rants under the nom de web Telas or TelasTX. Quote: “A game is only as balanced – or as good – as the GM."

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Your Players Are a Bunch of Tools"

#1 Comment By Riklurt On November 1, 2011 @ 2:32 am

Thanks for a great article – I had heard most of this advice before, but it’s easy to forget what a great asset players can actually be. I’ll keep this in mind next time I sit down to plan something.

#2 Comment By fredramsey On November 1, 2011 @ 5:17 am

This was very useful. Thanks.

#3 Comment By twoddr On November 1, 2011 @ 5:43 am

One session, I sent my players through a portal somewhere. For me, it didn’t really matter where that place exactly was, so I forgot to think about that. Of course, my players wanted to find out. While they were looking for landmarks that would tell them where they are, the players came up with some places, where they could be. So I just picked one of their ideas.

#4 Comment By Rafe On November 1, 2011 @ 8:31 am

Short and sweet and to the point. Great article, Kurt!

#5 Comment By Knight of Roses On November 1, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

Good, solid advice there. Now if I can just get some background from my players . . .

#6 Comment By Razjah On November 1, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

Kurt, this advice is great and very straight forward. This is something that I would print out and put on a corkboard where I do my prep work. Since I no longer have a cork board for that I will have to settle to taping it to the inside of my notebook.

@Knight of Roses – ajddvb
Try rewarding them? Bonuns XP or bennies, status, lands, or even some loot. A +2 magic sword at level 4 isn’t game breaking, but will go a long way into getting the players to help you out.

Requiring a background gets sticky, but encouraging one with some rewards has worked great for me. Plus you can tell your players that the more they give you the more ways their character can be central to the story and have it directly effect him or her.

#7 Pingback By Ravenous Role Playing » Blog Archive » Friday Five: 2011-11-04 On November 5, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

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