Saturday, August 20, 2011

The DM Challenge...

A fellow blogger named ckutalik over at Hill Cantons posed a question and challenge.  The rules are thus...

1. Name three “best practices” you possess as a GM. What techniques do you think you excel at?

2. What makes those techniques work? Why do they “pop”?

3. How do you do it? What are the tricks you use? What replicable, nuts-and-bolts tips can you share?

I have read many of the blogs that have tackled this topic and I will try to as well.  However, I must say that I feel like I can't answer this very well.  I can give you a few reasons:

1) My campaigns fall apart fast.  Two separate games that I thought could get off the ground lasted one and only one session.

2) I don't feel like I follow my own advice half the time when I try to run these games.

3) My players sometimes take advantage of me.  There is one whole campaign in particular that I feel--was actually talking about this with one of the players earlier today--like a substitute teacher.  (I felt like since I was not well versed in the rules, I would allow things that helped to "break" the campaign.  I am not saying it was entirely my players fault.  I take some of the blame myself for how I set about trying to make this Star Wars Saga game "pop" but in reality I feel like I made it groan, wheeze, then finally settle back and begged to be taken out of its own misery.)

HOWEVER, this dreary note does not mean I can't try and answer these questions to the best of my ability.

1) Creativity.  I am a bit of a frustrated novelist.  I have another blog about it here if you wish to read that one as well.  However, I do know that I have some creativity.  It is one of a few compliments that I have received on my games.  I try to focus on what will make this game fun and what might be exotic or interesting to the players and try to bring it in and show them.  How do I do it?  Well, I read as much as I can.  I carry a notebook with me everywhere.  Not just to write down ideas for stories, but for games as well.  Also, as much as some will comment that the medium is dying, TV and movies are full of great ideas and not so great ideas.  Look at something that tickles the DM bell in your head and twist it and turn it around.  Ponder on what will make this better.  And, ask the next question.

2) Allow for a more free-flow game.  I have found that the more the players can seek out and do what they want, they will enjoy it.  Have a story, yet don't ever railroad.  That is a mantra I think most good DMs have.  Let the PCs have some freedom.  With freedom, comes action.  They will love the fact that they don't have to doggedly continue to go into the dungeon time and again, getting to the point where it feels like punching a time card as they come in and sit down, ready to grind through the next level of dungeon.

3) Learn from your mistakes.  I think one thing I have learned in my ten plus years of gaming is try not to make the same mistake.  (I know, I am still a newbie in many ways with only ten years of gaming and DMing under my belt, but write what you know.)  Some of my first campaigns were dreadful.  Nothing but a linear point A to point B progression.  I remember there was one game where the players, through a critical and the shouted out want to use a critical hit table, decapitated my main NPC, my Baron Von Badass for lack of a better term (I suggest you look up Fear the Boot and listen to some of their podcasts, they are free and funny!)  I was so stunned, I just closed up the book and said we are done.  And, I walked away from the game.  I learned several things.  One of them is that you always need a plan B, and another is to allow the players to kill that big bad.  Why?  Because and even bigger bad is always going to be out there somewhere.  And, since then I have made many many more mistakes.  And, I have learned from them all.

I hope that this has been enlightening for you.  If not, no worries.  Either way, feedback would be great.

1 comment:

  1. Discovering sandbox play has been a relevation for me. I have been raised on published adventures and kept structuring may sessions the same way. A more free-form game where players can seek out what they like and by their actions "vote" on future content of the campaign was a critical element.

    Currently the Baron Von Badass syndrome no longer plagues me because I rarely have them anymore. There are many medium bad guys anymore and they are all there to talk or die — I no longer have great plans for them. If they survive, great. If they die, just as great.