Techniques game masters use to prepare for a game session. (For preparing a campaign, use the [campaign-development] tag instead.)

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33
votes
2answers
534 views

How can I manage my campaign digitally, without using a screen at the table?

For big campaigns I keep my campaign information — maps, keys, session notes, reference tables, etc. — in binders and duotangs which I can reference and annotate at the table. Their content only ...
31
votes
8answers
6k views

How do I run a successful and engaging campaign without combat?

I'm thinking of starting my own campaign with a few of my friends with me as DM, primarily because I wasn't extremely impressed with the campaign my friend was DMing. When I started thinking about the ...
28
votes
9answers
2k views

How do I escape the Quicksand Box?

I have a very significant problem whenever I try GMing any given game; I try to provide a world with a lot of wiggle room for the characters as well as factions/NPCs they interact with. Oftentimes my ...
23
votes
9answers
1k views

How can I plan, prepare, and enforce an episodic structure?

I have more or less always run my campaigns as very continuous affairs, in which each game session picks up, in game, only moments or hours after the previous session ended. If the party ends play in ...
22
votes
5answers
3k views

How does wandering within a city work?

I'm new to RPGs, and I've tried to read some transcriptions or watch some podcasts, but I don't understand how the game works outside a dungeon. Does the city has to be a real city or just a group of ...
19
votes
8answers
1k views

How to Format a DM's Notebook for an Open World Game

I've been DM'ing a homebrew sandbox-style D&D 4e game for the past few months, and it's been going well so far. However, the players have finally left the "starting area" of bouncing between three ...
17
votes
7answers
2k views

Overcoming setting complexity paralysis as a GM

The problem What are the best practices to overcome that certain “complexity paralysis” that may strike a GM when trying to learn and immerse himself in a setting that has a lot of intricate ...
17
votes
9answers
339 views

How to encourage the GM-curious?

I have a couple of players who might be interested to try GMing, but have so far been reluctant to "take the plunge" and start up their own games. I think this is mostly because they're not sure that ...
16
votes
4answers
472 views

How would I quickly put together a believable map of an area?

As part of my "Closed Circle" campaign, I'm looking for ways to quickly put together a believable map of a college campus and surrounding area, complete with believable building placement. "Quickly" ...
15
votes
6answers
2k views

As a GM, how can avoid pitfalls common to Generic Point Build Systems?

I'm well aware that point-buy systems (HERO System, GURPS, Mutants & Masterminds, Wild Talents) tend to have a set of common pitfalls associated with them. Players will usually choose Combat ...
15
votes
4answers
755 views

Writing new campaign, is it fine to “make it up as we go along”?

I'm making new fantasy Dungeons and Dragons third edition game. I wrote out the entire first situation with most general situations in mind. Should I try and just "ole" the whole creative process ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Generate an engaging and “realistic” tribe of orcs (also one of ogres)

My players recently turned a slaughter of low-level orcs & ogres (separate situations) into a massive recruitment drive. Given the choice between death and lucrative mercenary work, most chose to ...
14
votes
11answers
4k views

How do I select background music for my RPG campaign?

Music is an essential component of my games. When running games set in the Star Wars universe, the music of John Williams adds a new dimension to the experience, both for me and for my players. Now ...
13
votes
5answers
3k views

How can I give strong weapons to enemies without the players looting them?

If I give an enemy NPC a Meltagun in combat, nothing prevents the players from taking the weapon after they kill him, which leads to the inevitable snowballing: they get stronger, I need stronger ...
13
votes
2answers
411 views

What essentials do I need on the site of my LARP?

I am planning on holding a 20-50 person LARP near my home in England. I would like to know other than notifying the Emergency services (police/ambulance) that I'm holding the event and where it is, ...
13
votes
4answers
263 views

Megadungeon or modules for a weekend of play?

I've been having gaming/camping weekends with some friends and we've only played Call of Cthulhu so far, using modules. This time I plan on running an OSRIC/1e game, and would like to run the ...
13
votes
9answers
524 views

Too many divergent side quests. What do I do?

I'm running a D&D 4e campaign taking place in Forgotten Realms (in 3e timeframe as I'm more familiar with it). My plan for the campaign was for the group of PCs to arrive in Waterdeep, where, as ...
12
votes
5answers
893 views

Differences Between Freeform and Rules-heavy Roleplay

I am a relatively new DM...okay I actually haven't ever RUN a campaign. The closest I have come to was running a short, 2-encounter dungeon against Manticores and a Raksasha that summoned a Grey ...
12
votes
5answers
564 views

How do I keep track of “hidden” in game variables without getting bogged down?

I'm currently designing a campaign that has a monumental amount of in-game variables to keep track of, which I'll need to check every time a certain kind of event happens. Reducing the number of ...
12
votes
2answers
306 views

Could a mouse kill a bear?

I'm planning for a Mouse Guard game that will culminate in the players facing down a bear! The rules cover this far too briefly, only stating that you need 20,000 mice to do so (via the War skill). ...
12
votes
3answers
486 views

Single player games suitable for session preparation

I found a demo version of How to Host a Dungeon, and somehow the idea really grew on me. Not just creating dungeons, but actually having methods of making gm prep work into a game. I haven't seen ...
11
votes
4answers
996 views

How to get to know my players' expectations?

I am soon starting a new game with a bunch of new people that I have never played with - and some of them I barely spoken to. I am going to be the GM and will introduce them into the setting that they ...
11
votes
3answers
780 views

Shapeshifter Villain travelling with Party

Where to start? First of all, I'm planning on running a Homebrew Pathfinder campaign of my own. I've already got the plot laid out and ideas for various NPCs. The problem is I'm running into an issue ...
11
votes
3answers
267 views

Where can I find an authentic mine layout for use in a historical campaign?

Abandoned Mines have become a staple of Dungeon-crawling over the years, but despite how many times I’ve cleared out monsters from them, I know very little about mining myself. Now I’m in the GM ...
11
votes
8answers
380 views

Using Boardgames or Card Games to improve GMing or Playing [closed]

Do you know of any cases of successfully using props or cards from board games/card games (all kinds) to run a campaign, ease preparing for a session or the playing itself? I am interested both in ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

DM organization ideas for Sandbox campaign

I have over the past couple months been putting together Ideas on how I would run an All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign. How do other DMs organize their Bads or Locations that the PC's might wish to ...
10
votes
4answers
843 views

Is it a good idea to give our GM ideas/puzzles/riddles for his campaign?

Is it a good idea to give our GM ideas/puzzles/riddles for his campaign? If it is, how do I bring up my idea without offending our GM? I don't want him to think that I don't like his campaign or ...
10
votes
2answers
634 views

What should be considered when deciding if and how to use props?

GMs and players who have experience with props in their games, what do you think about when considering props to use and how to use them? How might props be used to further the game, instead of ...
10
votes
2answers
252 views

How to develop effective storylines to ease adding another player to the game?

I just ran my first two sessions as GM and we are probably going to be adding a 4th player to the group soon (making 5 of us total). I'm trying to think of a good premise for the party to meet the new ...
10
votes
4answers
5k views

Is there a Masterplan-like tool for 3.5?

I'm looking for a tool like Masterplan or something near, but for a 3.5 / Pathfinder d20 game. I don't mind if you know of something better ;)
10
votes
3answers
251 views

How should I properly lay out the expectations of my players for the campaign, and how do I support these expectations?

I've been planning on running my 1000 point Wild Talents campaign for some time now, and I think it diverges significantly in how it will be played from campaigns we've run in the past. My group has ...
10
votes
3answers
5k views

What is a good starting point for GMing Pathfinder Society Games?

I am considering GMing a few Pathfinder Society (PFS) modules (probably home games at first), and I was wondering where a good place to start would be. I am not new to GMing in general, just to ...
10
votes
3answers
9k views

How do I upgrade older D&D adventures to 5th edition?

Before I get into the details I just want to mention that I'm working in a remote area right now and don't have access to the 5e Starter Set, just the downloadable PDFs. I'm looking for advice on how ...
10
votes
1answer
322 views

How can I balance loot distribution for my players?

Im having a bit of trouble getting a general sense of what amount of loot my players should receive during their sessions. They are started as 3rd level, mostly new players to the DnD universe. I ...
9
votes
3answers
509 views

Should I give skills and full stats to NPCs?

Some friends have asked me to master a game for the first time. We are going to play All Flesh Must Be Eaten (It's fun, easy and rules are not as important as actual roleplaying). I have created the ...
9
votes
1answer
164 views

Do I need both DMG1 and 2 to create adventures?

I'm working on my first custom campaign for my players and I am wondering if I should read both DMG1 and 2 or if it's possible to just use DMG2 as a guideline. I have previously run modules out of ...
9
votes
1answer
217 views

Transitioning from a long running successful campaign to a new game with the same group of players

I have recently completed running an extremely successful, long running campaign that lasted over two and a half years. All the players absolutely loved it, and by the end they were each deeply ...
9
votes
2answers
297 views

Methods for round-robin style DM'ing in AD&D?

Round-robin storytelling has been around for a while, and something I have always been interested in experimenting in AD&D with a variation of GM'ing where players take turns becoming the GM in ...
8
votes
3answers
774 views

When designing a campaign plot, how can I test it for complexity?

I am creating plot threads for my ongoing science fiction campaign. I know my players pretty well and they do like a well interwoven set of plots. I want to make sure that the plot threads I am ...
8
votes
2answers
317 views

Hidden Moves in Dungeon World

In an upcoming conflict (partly being a battle, but there shall be more than fighting, the time horizon will be not more than a few day in-game time) between two religions, I expect one of my PCs will ...
8
votes
5answers
224 views

How do you keep the book keeping/game management work balanced between players?

For most games, the work required in running a game is, by default, distributed unevenly between a "master" and the "player characters". In our group, many/most of the group members have had ...
8
votes
1answer
148 views

Does the “Primordial Soup Kitchen” Campaign from Andy Hopp's “Low Life” need much updating for Savage Worlds Deluxe rules?

I'm planning to introduce my players to the Low Life setting, and I'd really like to go through the "Primordial Soup Kitchen" campaign that is in the back of the old setting book. Since that book came ...
8
votes
2answers
454 views

How much, and what kind of, advance planning is appropriate for a sandbox campaign?

New GM attemping to get ideas for a campaign down something similar to a tabletop fallout game. How much info is too much info for general prep? Can there ever be too much? Or is there a general ...
8
votes
4answers
440 views

How best to progressively reveal the layout of a location to players?

I have been gamemastering tabletop RPGs for years now, but I'm still wondering what is the best way to deal with this. Specifically: how to graphically describe to your players their surroundings ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Structure for a political sandbox game

I am looking for a fairly structured approach to creating, preparing for, and running a political game. To be more precise, I am looking for the following: A structured approach or even a game ...
8
votes
0answers
163 views

How can I distill “Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” down to the best 7 or 8 encounters to fit inside one hour? [closed]

On Friday I'll be doing a role play demo for 13 Montessori students between 12 and 14 years old. It's a one hour deal, and this is my second time to do it. Since it is such a short time frame, and ...
7
votes
8answers
868 views

How can I organize my counter collection?

I have just gotten a large collection of monster counters and am wondering how can I store them neatly and in an organized manner after I have punched them out? I am also thinking of ways to easily ...
7
votes
2answers
313 views

How to run short sessions?

I am currently DMing for a group of people whom I only recently met. We've been playing for some time, but we have a bit of trouble getting together regularly, but since everyone seems to enjoy that, ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

How to adjust Hoard of the Dragon Queen for more players?

I (newbie GM) will be running the 1st episode of HotDQ for a party of 6. While the intro states that the difficulty of the encounters can be adjusted for parties != 4, it offers no guidelines to do so ...
7
votes
3answers
216 views

Limiting player freedom in introductory scenarios

As discussed in Would GURPS be a good choice for a non-magic, 19th century tech level, roleplay focused campaign?, I am planning to introduce a couple of friends to pen & paper tabletop RPGs. I am ...