The practical arts and methods applied to gamemastering.

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Calculating and balancing challenge ratings

Are there standard rules for calculating CR of groups? For example, in my Pathfinder bestiary, a single Stirge is listed as CR 1/2, and a group of 2d4 (average 5) of them is listed as an average CR 4. ...
20
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1answer
2k views

How is a play-by-email game actually played?

I'm currently interested in learning more about play-by-email RPGs. Searching the Web, I've found many forums and sites promoting PbeM campaigns (Aelyria and Blue Dwarf, for instance), but nothing ...
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3answers
3k views

How to deal with players breaking the game mood by overplaying their characters

Following this question Imagine, that you are trying to create a dark and scary situation: haunted mansion, spooky forest, ancient crypt... There is something out there that definitely is malevolent ...
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10answers
1k views

Should I call for an INT check for clever ideas?

Let's say someone is playing a character that has really low intelligence, but then the player comes up with a clever idea for a way for his dumb character to overcome some obstacle. Should I make him ...
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6answers
1k views

Bad/Rash character actions and consequences that don't kill my game

When a character (I mean the in-game character, not the player) makes bad decisions, there should definitely be in-game consequences that have an effect on the character. I'm not trying to punish the ...
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8answers
4k views

How Can I Make Supplies Matter In D&D 3.5e?

On long journeys we always forget to track supplies so I am looking for a way to make supplies actually matter in D&D 3.5.
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6answers
795 views

How do I prevent retreating to rest and heal from being tedious?

I found an answer to this question for a custom 4e campaign, but was hoping to get some more answers specific to 5e. Background: I'm running the 5e starter set campaign and my group is in the final ...
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10answers
2k views

How do I rein in a character's backstory without discouraging the player?

I'm planning to start a game of Rogue Trader with a number of new players that are new to RPGs. I've helped the players generate their characters and have given them a very very basic backstory to ...
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3answers
3k views

How do I handle a shapeshifter in disguise when the players go into “everyone's a doppelganger, let's murder everyone” mode?

I ran into issues with shapeshifters since, after the first encounter with one, the players turned into "everyone is doppleganger in disguise" mode, which makes using their trademark ability ...
19
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7answers
994 views

How to guide a new DM through his first game (as an experienced DM turned player)?

How can I guide and help a new DM through his first campaign (being an experienced DM myself) without having it look like a grab for power or that I think the new DM is incompetent?
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9answers
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How can a GM give treasure to DnD players who overcome challenges without combat?

I'm currently playing a character in a DnD 3.5 Eberron campaign. During the first few sessions, our characters overcame several obstacles without combat. Our GM complained that this made it hard for ...
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5answers
858 views

How to handle diverging expectations on “background density”?

Sorry, this is lengthy, but I want to put this into context. After many years (try 15) of not GM'ing a group of my own, I recently made an attempt to return to the head of the table and shake off ...
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8answers
722 views

Systems giving XP based on roleplay - How to avoid jealousy/party balance problem

I used to play systems where XP is usually allowed to the group and shared equally no matter how well the players roleplayed or got involved in the story. But now I started Shadowrun and karma (or XP) ...
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6answers
1k views

What to do in the first session of a campaign?

The first session of my new D&D 4e campaign is coming up pretty soon and I'm not quite sure how to go about the introduction into this new campaign. I have the geography and landmarks and things ...
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5answers
975 views

How to present players with options without railroading them?

We're playing Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. I'm a new GM, mastering a party of mostly new players. I take campaign design rather seriously, and I hate railroading. I love coming up with crafty ...
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5answers
603 views

How do I tell how long my adventure is going to be?

I'm a new DM starting a campaign I've written myself. I have a party of 4 players right now- three have been playing for years, one has never played before. My problem is I'm not sure how to tell how ...
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5answers
983 views

When planning a campaign, should I know what the ending is before we start?

I am planning the next campaign while the current one comes to a close. Our group favours sandbox play and I facilitate that with Icar's event driven system. While writing down the list of events ...
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5answers
947 views

Level of detail in description?

There's a trope or two that says you shouldn't bother describing anything unless it's relevant to the story. However, in RPG's where the participants partially shape the story with their actions, any ...
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3answers
765 views

How can I make diseases non-trivial?

As noted here, diseases in 4e seem more trivial than I think they were intended: they rarely last more than one increment! What rules can I make/break, or what actions can I take, so that contracting ...
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4answers
1k views

How to make a dense, immersive horror atmosphere?

I'm currently narrating a horror-esque campaign set in a dystopian future based on the Lovecraft Mythos. My problem is that my players break their own sense of immersion often, making the game seem ...
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11answers
1k views

How do you keep the party on the map?

I'm running a fairly sandbox game, where the party can wander around easily from place to place. When the party visits areas I've prepared something for, they generally have a good time. When they ...
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5answers
3k views

How to play boring everyday tasks

I am about to run a Traveller rpg game using the Outer Veil setting by Spice publishing. I am having the players be very much like the firefly crew, needing to work to keep their ship barely flying. ...
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9answers
1k views

How to have a realistic set of languages without making adventuring prohibitively difficult?

"Do you speak Common?" "Of course I do! Everyone speaks Common..." My group is starting a somewhat experimental campaign. We're using a setting that is neither canon (e.g. described in a book) nor ...
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8answers
498 views

Treasure that's hard to put a price on

(We've been playing D&D, but for this answer I'm looking for a system-agnostic answer that works for a premodern setting. Let's say 1500 AD or earlier.) Most of the treasure the party gets from ...
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6answers
1k views

How do I handle lengthy (days+) actions without slowing the game

I run a D&D 3.5 game, but the system itself is not critical (the examples I use are from D&D though). Some of the characters have various crafting abilities, ranging from things like Alchemy, ...
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4answers
1k views

How do I deal with high speed, blunt action declaration outside of combat?

Here's an example from a one-on-one playtest I've had, to better illustrate my question: My rogue player got a minor quest from a blacksmith to retreve an item. He instructs her that the road to ...
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10answers
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Can I roll for a PC in secret?

As a GM, can I roll in secret so my players don't even know I rolled? For example, a PC walks past a secret door; if I ask the player to roll perception he may suspect there is something. Can I roll ...
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8answers
932 views

My necromancer keeps dying (and can't raise himself)!

Sometimes in the course of running an adventure you will run into an encounter that calls for a summoner to bring on a horde of undead (often minions). I have a simple problem: My summoners die in ...
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8answers
1k views

How valid is lying to players about the rolls they are making in The Dresden Files?

In last weeks Dresden Files game, the players followed the bad guy using a tracking spell, and found him in the projects at an apartment that they knew little about. Seeing his car, they decided to ...
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9answers
2k views

How to approach sexual violence so that it adds to the narrative?

The popularity of this question has left me a bit confused as how exactly a GM can include sexual violence in their game. Let's assume that you have a mix of male and female players and characters and ...
18
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6answers
662 views

How to implicate the players in the horror?

Good horror implicates the watcher/reader, at least in drama. There is always moment when the audience should cry out, "no, stop, don't!" but of course we don't because we're a well-behaved audience, ...
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7answers
656 views

Fantasy and magic in a primarily realistic setting

I'm running a game that's best described as "medieval fantasy," in the sense that we're actually trying to have the lives of people in the setting strongly resemble the historical Middle Ages. There ...
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8answers
721 views

What happens in adventure locations between adventures?

I'm running a sandbox with several adventure locations that have been visited, but not entirely cleared, and ones that have been left open for new residents to arrive. I'm looking for a method for ...
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8answers
455 views

What are some proven methods of generating attachment to locations/objects in a campaign?

It is a truism that a GM can never really be sure what a group of players will do, or which NPCs they are going to grow fond of. Places and objects, however... are they the same? In games like Star ...
18
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8answers
457 views

Practices to mitigate player characters' conflicting agendas

You have a campaign that provides, by design, a high level of freedom for the players to pick the story threads, sides and whatnot for themselves. In the long run, a conflict arises: some player ...
18
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9answers
746 views

How to help players settle down and focus?

We have a weekly game in the evenings; however, we often don't start playing for a few hours after we get together, if at all. This has been exacerbated recently by other events with the same people ...
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5answers
327 views

How to fight the unseen, and still keep things interesting?

In a horror themed campaign with a lovecraftian feeling, a big part of the game is to be in a constant feeling of being threatened, but without any visual stimuli other than glimpses, or sounds ...
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6answers
1k views

What are possible ways to deal with a player who frequently switches characters?

I have had problems in the past with players who are serial character creators. What I'm referring to are the players who cannot seem to stick with a character more than two sessions at a time without ...
18
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7answers
359 views

How do you maintain a balance between mystery and offering clues?

Giving good clues that offer just enough information can be difficult. I think I tend to not give the players enough information and then to overcompensate with a reveal that comes too easily. ...
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3answers
1k views

Playing Fate with competitive players

I've just finished reading the Fate Core book, and I'm really surprised how well this system presents itself. But inevitably, I've started thinking about what-ifs - and one of them is playing with ...
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3answers
708 views

Do you have to reveal your NPC's aspects?

Important NPCs may have hidden aspects that PCs are supposed to assess somehow before using them: can such a NPC invoke one of his hidden aspects without the GM revealing it to the players? Example: ...
18
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4answers
1k views

Should I use a GMPC to help a small party?

I am starting a Pathfinder game. It will be my first time DM'ing, though I have played 3.x and Pathfinder for a few years. The party will consist of my girlfriend, my best friend, and his girlfriend. ...
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5answers
736 views

Good techniques for getting player-character backgrounds integrated into the game?

So I'm starting a new campaign for an existing gaming group soon, and I'd like to actually incorporate character backgrounds that the players will be creating (eventually). These aren't epic-novels or ...
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4answers
1k views

How can I recognise when a Scene should be skipped?

There is a mode of thought that says RPGs should be like a movie or a TV show. We don't give screen time to the boring stuff. I had a scene play out where the players had to let a NPC know they were ...
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4answers
1k views

Designing puzzle-based mysteries

I'm currently watching the BBC series Sherlock. In this episode, the central mystery is fascinating: first, there are symbols scrawled on the wall; next, these turn out to be a cipher; then, the ...
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5answers
554 views

What techniques can I use to improve flavor text?

I've been improving my GM skills lately, but there is one area in which my skills are very weak, and that is flavor text. For example, if my players go into the woods, I tend to say something stupid ...
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2answers
731 views

How to make your players hate your villain, but not your game

How does one build the character of a villain such that the players (playing heroic characters) hate the villain as much as possible without detracting too much from the quality of the game? What ...
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3answers
535 views

What are the main factors to consider when a PC gains a major airport in V:tM?

Depending on the type of Vampire: the Masquerade campaign, PC's may experience unusual growth in resources. This should generally come with a (potentially complicated) system of pros and cons as well ...
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2answers
505 views

Apocalypse World without Fronts: Are we missing out?

I've been playing Apocalypse World in a few different groups, both as a GM and a normal player. While I love the game, I found defining Fronts a pain and therefore decided to only introduce them in ...
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4answers
1k views

Please stop giving the town sheriff a noogie!

Related to this question but more closely related to this question. How can I get my PCs to not cause a single or small handful of characters to become the butt of a joke when that humor could easily ...