Game Masters


The group's assembled, but you don't have an adventure prepared for them. What to do? Rather than ripping off the plot of some movie or book that everyone has already seen, turn away from the bookshelf and head over to your CD shelf. It's time for a little Rock and Role-Playing.


I have a hard time walking into a bar. Why? Well, I'm afraid I'm going to bump into another human who is really a Player Character. And, after that happens, I know I'm doomed. Anytime two or more PCs meet in a tavern, it means they have to go on an adventure. It's a bylaw of RPGs.

I have previously presented the possibility of using roleplaying as an avenue for personal growth for the player. Now I would like to shift the attention to roleplaying as personal growth for the GM, addressing three different dimensions of the GMing experience: world creation as self improvement, running the game as a self improvement experience, and leading your players into using the game for self improvement.

Recently I've been considering different ways of refreshing my gaming experience. After all, I've played for 15 years now, and although different games and different players have brought me varied experiences, eventually one settles into a rut and it can be a rough trend to buck. Gamegrene has a stable of writers who form a strong community to support the hobby, luckily. And for my part, I would like to add an experience with a (sort of) new and long-awaited aspect of our favorite pastime.


Nik Nak is a term I use for anything extra I add to a gaming campaign. Nik Naks are things my group and I have created - for the most part, you won't find Nik Naks in the Player's Handbook of whatever system you're using. Nik Naks are also universal. You can use them for DND, Shadowrun, Star Wars, Toon, whatever.

A few years ago, I decided I'd try an experiment with my players. We had been playing in the same fantasy campaign for many years, but we'd gotten to the point where we wanted to start fresh. At the time, most members of the group didn't really care if we abandoned our campaign world or not. Everybody seemed to be itching to start fresh with new PC's. Things with the "old world" had gotten, well, old. Time to start over, so to speak.

As a ten-year veteran of game mastering, I have played within several different worlds. Although many GMs are satisfied to leave the creation of these worlds to the module and box set writers, I have never been one of them. I feel even with the marvelous amount of detail that goes into these sets, I can never fully envision the cities, sewers and houses and general locales that greet the characters when they roam a game world.

I wasn't a big fan of modules in my early days of role-playing. Being new to the RPG experience, I wanted to plant my own flag, so to speak. I wanted to make my own dungeons and use monsters I was interested in. I wanted my own story arcs, my own set of villains, and my own home-grown NPC's.Of course, I was 14, didn't have a job, and had nothing better to do with my summer vacations.

I have a little red notebook. 150 sheets, college rule. If my players could get their hands on it, they would have access to every plot hook, NPC, critter and dastardly plan I have ever plotted to place in their paths. Every week, when the players go home after a night of grimy, blood-soaked battle against the latest nasty, I stay up to catalogue the events onto our private web page so they can have a real account of the events, and so I can later compare my original scripts to what actually happened to keep the storyline cohesive. Then, I send out an email to the group confirming the next session date is still open for everyone. I do this without need for encouragement or thanks; it's in the job description (more or less.)


I'm a firm believer that virtually any character can work in a campaign. Lots of folks like making hard-to-kill barbarian lords, ultra brilliant mages, and rogues with outrageous amounts of dexterity. A lot of the times, players get bogged down in the stats and don't focus on the character itself. A beefed up warrior can hack his way through a dungeon, sure. But it might be more interesting to see how a quirky warrior with a common strength rating and a broken sword would approach the Caves of Doom. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Character development is what makes the difference between roll-playing and role-playing. So one of the things I do as a GM is to try and keep guys focused on their character, not their stats. One of the methods I use to do this is through what I call sidebars.

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