GM Tips: Preparing for a Campaign Part 2 – Scheduling Prep

Scheduling your prep

I generally try to be organised when it comes to getting my prep done for a campaign, some people prefer a more seat-of-their-pants approach but I like to know what I have left to do and organise it into managable pieces, it helps me get the prep done and also helps relax me at the start of a game session. If I know that I have the necessary prep done I can go into a session confident that I am prepared and ready for whatever the players throw at me.

When I say ready for whatever the players throw at me, I don’t mean that I’ve scripted everything down to nth degree, that would make for a not very entertaining game, I mean that I have enough of my world and campaign prepared so that I feel comfortably able to create consistent details if my players do something unexpected. Continue reading

GM Tips: Preparing for a Campaign Part 1

A while back on a YouTube video I did about preparing for a Star Wars game Fábio Fontes requested some more advice on prepping for a more long-term campaign; I’ve been thinking for a while about how best to do this, and I think that doing it as a video probably isn’t the best way since the videos would end up being massive, so I’ve decided to write it in my blog instead. The topic is an extensive one, I’m not going to create an exhaustive treatise on it, but in the interests of avoiding a huge wall of text and of splitting my workload–I discuss this later in this series–I’m going to break the advice down into a series of blog posts. Continue reading

GM Tips: Questions to ask about Settlements

village-1043623_960_720GM Tips articles offer advice and ideas for gamesmasters to help hone their techniques and run their games, these lists are not exhaustive but provide some tips to point a GM in the right direction.

One of the most important things a GM can do when designing a campaign is to ask themselves questions, by doing so you ensure consistency and might also through up some important elements of your setting that can be woven into compelling stories. Continue reading

GM Tips: Nothing is universally right

After I posted my GM Tips: 5 Tips to Help Describe a Scene article a few days ago I was sent some feedback (I love constructive feedback) from Dave Sherohman via Google+, I was pleased to hear that David agreed with some of my offerings, however he did take issue (as I suspected a number of people might) with tip #4:

Original article:

When you’re describing a scene, if possible ask the players some questions to have them fill in some of the finer details, this can take a bit of getting used to if you are accustomed to a more GM-heavy style of game, but it not only saves you some work, it also gets the players more invested in the scene. That said, if the player seems to be struggling for an idea, don’t hold up the game waiting for them, tell them not to worry about it and move on, either throwing it open to the group or making up a detail for yourself.

David’s response was:


I was right there with you up until #4.  While asking players to fill in details may increase investment for some players, there are those of us who will be violently torn out of the game by it.  “What does the sign say?  Why are you asking me?  My character didn’t put the sign there and has absolutely no control over what it says.”  Asking me to help you create the game world during play destroys any sense that the world already existed before I got there.

I’m not saying that technique is universally wrong, but it is not universally right, either.

This isn’t an article to get at David, like I say I love feedback and his point was very well made, but rather to point out that he was absolutely right to bring this very valid point up, something I agree with wholeheartedly.

There is no absolutely right way to GM

There I said it, what may work for one people may be no good for others, and what doesn’t work for someone else might be just the thing that your own game needs, you may hear some people on the internet bang on about secret-techniques of GM-ing or running games the right way, and TBH I think that’s absolutely rubbish.

My GM Tips articles are not designed to provide you with a 100% foolproof way of GM-ing your games, how on earth could I do that? I have no insider information on how your games run or what works for you in particular?

So you might ask yourself why I make GM Tips videos or blog posts if this is the case? Well it’s because over my years of GM-ing I’ve picked up a lot of techniques and tricks that I find work for me in my games, and I’m picking up new ones all the time from talking to other GMs, getting feedback from players, trying out new systems, running one-shots and campaigns, etc. All I can do is tell you what works for me, in my games, and hope that some of the techniques will maybe work for you or at least inspire you to think slightly differently about your own games; if one of my tips isn’t working for you then feel free to discard it, it’s not like I’m hiding in the bushes waiting to whack your hand with the back of a ruler.

That said I will be altering the intro to my GM Tips videos to make it clearer that I’m presenting you with techniques that work for me, experiment with them, test them out, if they work great, if not then either change them to work with your game or discard them.

Thanks again for bringing up a very valid point David 🙂

Picture is part of a Doré wood engraving illustration from The Divine Comedy labeled for reuse on Google Image Search, the original image can be found here.

GM Tips: Use Pinterest for RPGs

I’m sure most of you are already aware of Pinterest, effectively an online corkboard where you can post links to any images, web pages or articles that take your interest; this is made even easier by a variety of add-ons and extensions for most popular browsers, allowing you to right click on images and such-like in order to quickly add them to your account. Pinterest also allows you to create different boards so you can group your pins by certain themes, for example, I have the following boards on my account:

  • Interesting RP articles
  • RPG Imagery – Fantasy
  • RPG Imagery – Horror
  • RPG Imagery – Science Fiction
  • Fiction
  • LARP kit inspiration pics
  • RPG apps
  • Fantasy airships/tech
  • Fantastic landscapes
  • Spaceships
  • Weapons/equipment

Pinterest works great for quickly saving those images that you see on the net now and again but can’t think of a way to use them in your game immediately, don’t risk losing them, just a couple of clicks can add them to your board and in future, when you need some inspiration, you can look through the images and see if anything strikes your fancy.

If you want to have a look at my own Pinterest boards you can find them here:

Picture is part of a Doré wood engraving illustration from The Divine Comedy labeled for reuse on Google Image Search, the original image can be found here.