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Lifehacker: How to Level Up Your Tabletop Role-Playing Games

Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks

There is a great article over at Lifehacker on how to really enhance your experience with table-top roleplaying.

I think that one of the most important pieces of advice given is to get all of the players on the same page. Whether you use one of the worksheets provided or simply have a conversation, it’s important that everyone understand their roles in the process and the expectations that everyone has for each other. Of course, I should take my own advice for my own roleplaying group. This could be a New Year’s resolution for me as a gamemaster.

What about you? What do you think you can do to level up your game? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Hitting Record on Your Sessions

Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks

When it comes to game mastering, I am an obsessive note-taker. One reason is that I use Obsidian Portal to document my sessions and post adventure logs. I want these logs to be as accurate as possible so that my players can refer to them and see what happened each session.

Part of the drawback of this is that I get so busy taking notes that I miss out on some of the game play, some of the great back-and-forth between the players during the session. This is especially true for my Dresden Files RPG sessions, which are primarily dialog-based–I practically have to transcribe the session to get it right. There has to be a balance.

In order to achieve that balance, I’ve started recording my sessions. I bought a relatively inexpensive digital recorder, the kind college students use to record lectures with, and simply record the whole session. My note-taking is reduced to actual notes instead of attempted transcription. Later, I go back and listen to the session to compile my adventure logs.

Going back to listen to the session gives me an added benefit–I hear myself gamemastering. And what a eye-opener that was.

It’s taking me a while to get used to hearing my voice–I still wonder how people can stand to listen to me. But, more importantly, I can hear the pacing of the adventure. This has been especially useful in my Pathfinder sessions.

I have found that I must the slowest-reacting GM this side of the Mississippi. The pacing of my adventures is about as exciting as listening to paint dry. Yes, listening to paint dry. It makes me wonder how the players come back week after week.

Part of the reason why I’m so poky, I realize, is that I’m a contemplator. I like to think things out before going forward. I also like to look things up and make sure I’m going them “right” before going ahead. But all of this kills the pacing and stomps on its corpse.

So what can I do? I can try to be better prepared so I’m not looking stuff up “at table” as much. And I can try to let go a bit and just see what happens instead of trying to plan it too much. Maybe my players will get a bit more enjoyment out of a faster paced game–especially combats, which are supposed to be fast-paced and dramatic.

So anyway, even if you don’t make it a habit, I encourage to record at least one of your sessions and play it back. You might be surprised at what you hear.

Immersed in the Dresdenverse

The Dresden Files RPGI’ve found myself immersed in the Dresdenverse of late, playing a great deal of The Dresden Files RPG.

I’m running a main campaign of the game based in Portland primarily by play-by-post, as it is our “pick-up” game between sessions of Pathfinder and D&D. I’m also running two different sets of “side jobs” with my wife set in the same city. These have picked up in frequency and overtaken the main campaign in volume.

My wife and I have also joined another RPG group in Oklahoma that play the game set in Seattle. That’s been a new and interesting experience–very positive. It’s a good group. Their game master saw my website online and thought it was interesting and met with us and we met with them and voila, new experience.

So, lots of new Dresden action for us.

What’s your latest RPG obsession?

Tools of the Trade: GM Screens

Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks

One of the most basic tools of the GM’s trade is the GM (or DM) screen. I’ve used such screens for a variety of games over my twenty years of running campaigns. This article is a great summation of how to use them not only as a shield but as a tool for roleplaying.

It’s kind of interesting in that right now I’m running both a Pathfinder campaign in which I use a set of screens and a Dresden Files RPG campaign in which I do not. While I’m certainly more comfortable playing with the screen than without, there is a certain amount of freedom in rolling out in the open and letting the dice fall where they may. It also sets up an atmosphere of trust between the gamemaster and the players if everything is out in the open. I’ve found running DFRPG to be a very interesting dynamic sans screens.

What about you? Do you use screens? How do you feel about them? Dare you go screenless?

Happy GM’s Day 2015

GMs DayToday is International GM’s Day! Since 2002, this day has been set aside to commemorate the hard work that your friendly neighborhood game master puts in to make your game the excellent experience that it is week after week. It is also the anniversary of the death of E.Gary Gygax, grandfather of Game Mastering and Father of Dungeons and Dragons.

Game mastering can often be a thankless job with many long hours. Adventures are plotted. Props are made. Sessions are logged. It’s a lot of work to keep things going for a campaign.

So do a little extra for your poor, old GM. Munchkin a little less. Sharpen her pencils. Share an extra slice of pizza. Thank her for her time and herculean efforts. You’ll be glad you did.