Tuesday, April 3, 2018

GM Toolbox: Things to Do from January 24, 2005

Shortly before I was going to run my first game back in the early months of 2005 I was sitting in the Den working on a list of things that I felt like I had to master before actually running my first session. Thought I'd share those with all of you real quick.

  1. Know all the rules
  2. Internalize everything about the world of El Fantasma del Sur (a homemade world I was using at the time)
  3. Plot out the path of the campaign for the first six months.
  4. Create an award system to encourage the players to role-play correctly!

Not a long list but full of bullshit that cripples a game at the outset. 

Know all the rules

This is the trap that a lot of players fall into when they first start talking about running a game as a Game Master for their friends. They convince themselves that the only way to do so is to know everything about the game - to achieve mastery over it - and as a result they never actually get around to playing the game. I was in that very stage of fucking off when my brother pushed me into running because he understood what I didn't at the time: that if I didn't actually run the game I would never get around to it on my own because the game isn't something that you can know perfectly. There are too many rules that are either conflicting with other rules, poorly worded, or vague enough that it's left up to the individual Game Master to come up with an understanding of how the rule is used with their group. 

When it comes to running a role-playing game knowing the rules perfectly isn't the most important thing. Getting your players to become immersed in the game, to push their own creativity, and to challenge your conceptions of what the game could be is what's most important. The rules are a framework to build your home game around. They are there for you, and your group of players, to build a game that all of you can play in together and that will allow for an experience that kicks all of your tails!

Internalize everything about the world of El Fantasma del Sur

Fucking A. This is the one that would have hung me up forever if I had really stuck to my guns on it. A game world is supposed to this organic experience where you and your players discover it piece by piece until you've built up this wholly unique thing. Whether you're in a homebrew world like El Fantasma del Sur or in a published setting like the World of Greyhawk the story that you all craft together creates a unique experience. Those settings are your own. Let them live.

Plot out the path of the campaign for the first six months.


God, I was so fucking dumb. 

Create an award system to encourage the players to role-play correctly!


I once created a split in a dungeon. Down one path I hadn't figured out what I wanted to do on it so I made it supper fucking scary with spider webs, screams, and a troll dragging a crying drow. On the other hall I had path out the dungeon and some smoking hot elven women looking down to them. They took troll road and would every time because, as my wife later told me; "When ever something seems like it's going to be okay we get nervous. If you give us two paths and one has certain death while the other has hot chicks and hard dicks we're going to take certain death every time. We can beat that. We have before. But hard dicks and hot chicks brings on mystical chlamydia, jealous ex-lovers who will kill us in our sleep, and six months of demons, devils, and dragons trying to use us as biological weapons. Fuck that."


  1. I don't think I know all the rules of any game I run. Including the ones I wrote.

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