Game Masters


A large part of role-playing is creativity. People have a desire to build, to create, and gaming with friends offers various outlets of this drive. Game masters produce entire worlds for players to exist in. Players in turn, establish roles and enrich this newly established existence. The ultimate innovation, however, comes in designing a set of rules for this universe to subsist in. While the majority of people use one of the many systems available, others have a passion to create one of their own.


So your player's characters are extremely powerful and all you can do is throw larger and more powerful monsters at them to slow them down, but there is really no way to stop them. Or maybe your campaign is growing stale, but you don't want to scrap all of your hard work and start over. My advice to you is to simply destroy everything and cheat while you do so! All you need is a piece of your campaign world that either is unmapped or unexplored by your players and a technologically advanced, expansion minded society to overwhelm your player's world. To illustrate this idea, we will look at a sample fantasy campaign world, design a society to overwhelm them and then look at the results.

Generally in our gaming sessions we are accustomed to all our PCs being on the same side. We are also accustomed to their side being the side of the just and good. What if one of our PCs was playing for the wrong team? What if the amazing way this PC predicts the enemy's movements is no accident? Moreover, what if this PC is the great enemy the party will finally face to end the campaign? An ultimate challenge for both the GM and one of the PCs, the subterfuge storyline can be the biggest shocker you have ever seen in a roleplaying session.

For most RPGers, rules are a necessity. They guide the creation of a character, influence the shape of a story, and generally set the tone for the entire world. However, there are different levels of freedom depending on the particular RPG you're playing.

Imagine sitting in a theater watching an incredibly imaginative and compelling movie with incredible art and special effects, but one thing is missing: music. I was gaming at a friend's last week, as a trial foray into his new Shadowrun campaign, and I flogged him for the lack of atmosphere that he created in his gaming space.

Sometimes when designing a campaign world, after I've setup the regions that inspired the new world to begin with, I find myself out of ideas for peripheral kingdoms. I don't have ideas for them so I steer the party away or I make them so generic that they're replicas of one another rather than truly unique places. When I find myself in this situation, I employ what I call the Principle of Extrapolation, which is exactly what its name implies: if A, then B. In this way you can build something special without even trying. It won't replace the lands you were inspired to create, but if your players decide to wander into that Big Empire to the South, they will find something worth seeing.

I once had a good friend who used to tease me about my role-playing habit. It was in the late eighties, and many people were still convinced the devil himself created D&D. My friend and I had many things in common; we were both into football, AC/DC, and blondes, but he simply refused to enter my world of magic. Finally he had enough of me and told me, quite frankly, that there was no need for fantasy when the world was weird enough. He had a good point.

Most people seem to agree a good Gamemaster's job is to run a memorable campaign the players enjoy. This entails a good mix of suspense, humor, intrigue, preparation, improvisation, and a little acting. What many GMs mistakenly leave out is Trauma. Not blunt force trauma like hitting someone in the head with a lead pipe. No, Trauma with a capital T. Trauma is, in a nutshell, doing something so horrible to someone's character that they start laughing. Until they realize you are serious.

Let me preface this rant with one generalization: I hate generators. I feel they completely take away any creativity and planning from the GM, and quickly become a crutch to all who use them. This being said, there are a few out there that are better than others, and depending on what they are used for (and how much they are used), they can possibly help either a GM who is just getting his/her feet wet or a GM who simply has writer's block.

Letter to Amy O., Initiate Referee. Last missive oh so long ago you hit me up for advice on running a game. I stalled on it for the main reason that I took so much advice. Back in the day I read books, went to seminars, critically observed games at cons and did anything I could to try and learn what the other side of the table is supposed to be doing. Because I feel like I've stolen my ideas from so many other places, because I spent so long being pedantic about the praxis, I have never felt comfortable doing it, expecting the role to be better filled by some mythical game-mavens out there. But if there's a debt, which there is, I am willing to fill it, so I will.

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