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36

Make the players invested in the history of the world. This depends on the system you're using. However, generally, you want the players to come up with a backstory, yes? Well, nudge them to tie their character's backstory in with the rest of the world. That way, when something happens in the world, they'll be emotionally invested in its outcome. Hence, ...


31

You can have several tricks to get around this, I've used similar methods with fantasy and cyberpunk games. Security Weapons are keycoded, or Palmprinting - this stops anyone but a certain person using it. Yes you can bypass it, but it's either difficult or very pricey. Limited uses Yes, you've got a melta gun - but getting ammo/powerpacks for it is ...


28

It's up to you. One of the joys of roleplaying games is that as the GM you have a large degree of flexibility in what you do. Flexibility versus Preparation If you prepare a city with a lot of diagrams and an actual map, that's great. You'll be able to come up with stuff without even having to stop and think about it because you've already charted it out ...


25

Communicate. Let the players know what kind of campaign you're running. How relevant is combat? Will there be social encounters at all? Will they be frequent? Even better, listen to the players to find out what kind of game they would like to play. They want a game of brutal dungeons and challenging combat to gain ever more powerful items? Then they ...


25

Same Page Tool There is such a thing. It's called the Same Page Tool. It does require you to talk to the players, but gives you a structured set of questions to work from that can guide that conversation. There's really no way to do this that doesn't involve talking to them in some way, short of running campaigns and watching what they react to & what ...


19

Siloing "Siloing" is a design term for sectioning off powers or points to be used for a subset of things - thereby limiting how much min-maxing can happen. Usually in point build games, the problem is that people pour ALL of their points into combat and ignore everything else. The simple house rule is to silo the points: "You can spend 100 pts on ...


17

Focus on the interesting bits Think of your game like a movie... if the trip from the tavern to the market is important to the story, then make the trip a "scene" of its own. If it isn't (you have no ambush or "chance" meeting planned), then skip straight to the scene at the market. Background-wise, when creating a location like a city, you only need to ...


17

First off, since the question is tagged rogue-trader, I'll reiterate that the PCs are already able to get their hands on the best gear out there anyhow. "You're the owners and command staff of a 5km warpship with access to resources in excess of some worlds' annual gross planetary production" will get you pretty far. As in, if you want to buy a melta gun, ...


15

without which material your game won't feel authentic, just a bad copy, an alternate universe of an alternate universe. I started writing an answer about how to narrow down and use a small, immediate bit of setting to get a small, immediate situation, and I came back and read this part again. That's your problem. You have a strong commitment to ...


14

Sandbox - to - Railroad is a spectrum, not either or. Games are not either sandbox or railroaded, rather they exist on a spectrum between heavily railroaded where players mostly handle tactics and the GM handles the story over to wide open sandboxes where players drive most of the story and (especially in narrativists games) perhaps even create large ...


14

Figure out how relations are between the orcs and the ogres in the camp. Give these two groups tribal names, flags, distinctive armor, etc. Are there members of more than one clan within either tribe? If so, give each clan a name and a flag, and figure out the relations between the clans. Is there tension there? History? Pride? Think about how labor is ...


13

Either they simply don't like sandboxes, or they have trained themselves to wait for GM Plot to railroad them. Consequently, you either give up on playing sandboxes with this group, or (in the case they do like sandboxes) you help them by training them out of their inertia. Giving up is easy, but sad-making. Training is harder, but provides the hope it'll ...


13

Not Very The cold truth of planning is that you will plan things that don't get used. That's just how it goes. How much of your planning goes to waste depends on how far out you try to plan. The trick I use is to divide my planning up into higher level ideas, and low level details (like stats). High Level - Far Out If your campaign has an overarching ...


13

Short answer is start from the bottom and advance upward. That is instead of jumping into a massive open sandbox campaign from the start you set the game in a very small and narrow sub setting. Now I don't know Shadowrun but if I'm allowed to use Forgotten Realms as an example that too is a huge and massive world with lots of information. However, if you ...


11

The most important aspect of an NPC is presenting a persona that the players can interact with realistically and consistently. Stats will not do that - they'll help and give you guideance on what a character can and can't do, and for some GMs (and possibly systems, but that's debatable) that is essential - but it's not required. Believe me, I generated ...


11

What level PCs can manage a horde of 300+ orcs & ogres!? Challenge I think their biggest problem will be the infighting/challenges for leadership from their followers! Other civilized cities & adventurers attacking your horde (even if you've been friendly, I'd take you out before you become a threat) Engaging I think you'd only need a few ...


11

If you are fine with an online solution, Obsidian Portal is one I could recommend. Some people have had bad experiences with the interface being clunky, but I think the site looks quite fresh and responsive (I think they have had a design overhaul in late 2013). Some key selling points: Wiki pages, which you can interlink quite easily, allowing you to ...


11

Enter the cranium rat swarm (the linked monster is on Wizards’ website, but I don’t know how official it is; there are official printings of it in Fiend Folio). You’ll note it’s got a base CR of ⅛ per rat. In a swarm. The swarm gets smarter and more magical the more rats are present, and they swiftly become very dangerous, ...


10

I use graph theory. All you need to do is to have NPCs (and/or places) as nodes and plots as arcs. You can even use something like GraphViz to visualise the graph you created. In general, the more complex the graph, the more potentially complex the plot. Each link could have a cost associated with it that depends on how hard whatever the arc represent is ...


9

You can do it either way: there's no right way to do this, just like there's no right way for the author of a book to move around in their story. The general GM skill involved in choosing how to move the game along is called "pacing", and it's one of the harder skills to "level up" but also one of the most powerful skills you have as a GM. (That you're ...


9

I am going to guess that you are running a more-or-less sandbox game. Sandbox games are great at giving the players the ability to write their own future, but are lousy since whenever they decide to go on a tangent, it's almost impossible to get them off of the tangents. I have found that using seed-sprout-bloom-fruit plot lines makes running sandbox games ...


9

Google has a collection of images under "map of mine" that could help.


9

Personally, as I a DM I would love this kind of interaction with my players. That being said, I do think it is a great idea to suggest things that you, and maybe the other players, would find fun and engaging. Make sure to not belittle anything they have done in the past, as then they will think that you have just been gritting your teeth to get through ...


9

Use a dynamic amount of content. You can't know how long that 3 page long dungeon will take to play. Instead prep the games in small chunks. Add more chunks as necessary during the game session. When you're approaching the end point, run the final segment of the game. As requested, here are some examples. I held off from posting them when I first ...


9

Yes, you can. But that doesn't mean you should. I'm not aware of any mechanic in Pathfinder by which a shifter can change classes when they change form, and I'd be very surprised if there was one - it defeats the purpose of a class-based system. However, you're the GM. Your primary responsibility is to make a game that's fun for everyone. You can ...


9

You've said it yourself: Go with the fiction If they decide they need to camp for a night then sure, ask them to mark off rations and decide their watch order. If they're spending the night in an inn and pay for food and lodgings (or earn them through heroic deeds), why would they consume rations or have to take watch? If they're in a situation where ...


8

Think of it as a movie! If you were watching a movie about the adventures of your party, then would the movement through the city be shown on-screen (given your situation and style of play) or happen during a scene change? If the shopping is important, or the city particularly interesting, then it would deserve 'screentime', if it's refreshing supplies in ...


8

Confirm Characters Can Perform Tasks Beyond Murder The primary issue in a point-based game is not that players make characters that are combat monsters but that players can't make characters that are anything but combat monsters. Champions is a great, highly detailed cinematic combat system. GURPS is a great, highly detailed mostly realistic combat system. ...


8

First of all, you need to choose a game that allows you to do that, which comes with the usual implications of making your group buy in. If you already play one of those, no problem. If you don't and your group still wants to use that system, then maybe someone else will write an answer about how to shorten combat encounters and create short missions. This ...



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