Page 2 of 23 FirstFirst 123412 ... LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 228

Thread: GM Tips, Tricks, & General Advice

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Making Your Game: Encounters

    The basic unit of the RPG adventure is the encounter. An encounter is basically just an important "scene" or series of scenes in your adventure. It could be a role playing encounter with an important NPC, a puzzle, a key part of an investigation, or a combat.

    To be an encounter as opposed to simply a random scene an encounter must have consequences. It must matter if the PCs succeed or fail in the encounter. To succeed, they must succeed at some sort of task, such as convincing the mercenary captain to help them, solving the ancient riddle of the mountain folk, killing the black dragon, or what have you.

    Encounters, encounters, encounters. Your adventure can never have enough of them. Your adventure can't have enough different types of them. A huge problem I've seen in PbP games here on TTW is that there are not enough encounters.

    Just to drive the point home one more time: An RPG adventure is nothing more than a series of encounters with some role playing scenes to tie it all together.

    If you put work into your encounters, taking the time to plan them out, your adventure will flow and your players will be loyal and your game will be a success.

    Some things to think about when planning your encounters:

    1) Is this encounter challenging? If not, find a way to make it more so.

    2) Is this encounter TOO challenging? No one wants a TPK (total party kill) so don't be afraid to tone an encounter down a bit if it seems to lethal. Killing off your PCs is not necessarily the sign of a good GM. Anyone can throw an ancient dragon at a first level party and laugh while they die.

    3) Is this encounter interesting? Is there a way to make it different than the other encounters in the adventure? Is there a way to make it more interactive for the players? Can you add complexity to the encounter to make it so everyone has something to do? Is there a way to make it something they have never seen before?

    4) Where is the encounter set? Does it have to be another generic cave? What if you put hot lava pits scattered around, or add some innocents to the scene, or a trap? What if it was outside? What if it was in pitch darkness?

    For example: Let's take a classic combat encounter, a battle with four orcs. Now there are four PCs in the game so this wouldn't be very challenging, even at low levels. So what to do? First off, let's take it out of the caves and put it in a snow covered canyon. Let's have the PCs track the orcs there, and then once they arrive lets put two orcs behind some boulders shooting crossbows, and another two up on some high ground doing the same. Let's give them enough space that they have two rounds of solid shooting before the PCs can close to melee. Now... let's do one better and put a pit trap in the canyon, with a tough DC so the rogue has to make a good roll to spot it.

    Lastly, let's add a kidnapped woman from a local village, who is trapped in a wooden cage and screaming for help.

    Now we have a more challenging encounter, in a decent setting, with some interesting tactical problems. It's nothing earth shattering but its more memorable than orcs in a cave. The PCs will have to think and use their ability, and the caged woman raises the stakes and potentially adds a lead for further encounters during the adventure.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Encounters Continued: Challenge Rating

    Monsters in D&D and Pathfinder are assigned something called a Challenge Rating or CR. This is a rough estimate of how much of a challenge a creature or NPC will be for an adventuring party.

    A minor challenge would be anything below the PCs level. Add more creatures or various advantages for them to keep your PCs more interested. Sometimes its fun to throw in low CR combats just to make the PCs feel like badasses as they mow through bad guys.

    A standard challenge is one where the CR is equal to or maybe 1 greater than the PCs level.

    A hard challenge is between 2 and 3 levels higher than the PCs.

    Anything over that should be reserved for boss fights or for when you PCs have really blown it. Character death is likely.

    To find the CR for a given creature, check the bestiary.

    Non combat encounters can have a CR as well, though you will have to do your best to determine it. I decide on CR for non combat encounters by figuring in both the difficulty of the encounter as well as the importance of it to the game.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Making your game: Battle Maps


    Your first decision when running an encounter is whether or not you want to use battle maps. I won't lie, battle maps are a fair amount of work. You need a utility like Photoshop or GIMP to edit and update them, and you have to know enough about the programs to do that (which isn't much, but a little.)

    All that being said, if it is possible for you to use battle maps, I would do it. D&D and Pathfinder are tactical wargames at heart, and without a battle map and tokens to represent your PCs and monsters, you lose that aspect of the game.

    If it is not possible, then it is not and you can just move on without them. Not everyone uses battle maps, and some actually prefer combats based only on narrative.

    If you do use battle maps, you'll need to be aware of everyone's movement rate, and the ranges of spells and weapons. This is a big part of the tactics of the game so its important stuff to know. Don't worry, most characters move either 20 or 30 feet, so its easy to remember. Each grid square on the map is 5', so figuring out movement is very easy.

    If you want to make your own maps, there is a cool little utility at: http://pyromancers.com/dungeon-painter-online/

    If you use PDF copies of Paizo modules, they will already include all the maps you need. Just cut and paste into your favorite image editor and have at.

    EDIT: I should include tokens! Tokens represent the players and monsters on a battle map, much an miniatures do in a table top game. You can generate custom tokens to your hearts content using token tool, available for free at http://www.rptools.net/index.php?page=tokentool you can also find a lot of premade tokens at:
    http://www.thetangledweb.net/forums/...ks.php?catid=4

    You can also opt for top down miniatures. You can find a bunch of them at: http://www.immortalnights.com/tokensite/tokenpacks.html
    Last edited by cailano; 09-22-2012 at 08:13 PM.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Encounters: Practice

    The best way to learn D&D of any edition including Pathfinder is just to jump in and try it.

    Here are three practices for you:

    First off, find two or three players that have first level characters, or better yet, help them make some. Try to get a variety of classes in there, and at least one spell caster.

    Try the following encounters.

    1) Giant Rats: Have them fight four Dire Rats. You can find dire rat stats here: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/m...html#_rat-dire

    Keep this encounter simple. Set up a large room with a few obstacles such as tables or crates. No more than 30' x 30' though. That's a pretty big room. It doesn't get more basic than Dire Rats. This will be great practice for working with melee combat.

    2) Goblin Ambush: Set up an outdoor map, maybe 50' x 60'. Use four Goblins, but they are hidden by trees 40' from the road, and all have short bows in addition to short swords. You can find Goblin stats here: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/m...n.html#_goblin

    This is also a very basic encounter, but now things like movement, cover and ranged weapons come into play.

    3) Goblin Boss: Here you have three goblins, including one archer. Put them in a 60' x 40' room, and throw in some obstacles like a big table. Now make a goblin boss. You do this by adding character levels to a basic goblin, which you can learn how to do here: http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/m...vancement.html

    In this case I want you to add three levels of wizard. When you choose spells, go for effects like fear and sleep - things that have saving throws.

    This is obviously a more complex fight, and a tougher one. You might want to have four 1st level characters for it.

    Once you've run all three of these encounters you'll be fine for starting your first adventure. You'll know what a few of the character classes can do, you'll have experience with melee and ranged combat, and with spell casters and saving throws. Believe it or not, that is the core of D&D. The rest you can learn as you go.

    Tip: Do NOT gloss over rules. If you don't know how something like cover works, look it up! If you don't know what a spell does, look it up! How many spells does a 3rd level goblin wizard get, anyway? Look it up! The GM needs to know the rules. When I started my first campaign on TTW, I didn't know the Pathfinder rules set so well, but with every encounter I got better and now, seven months or so later I'm pretty fast with it. There's no substitute for experience and taking the time to do things right.
    Last edited by cailano; 09-22-2012 at 08:12 PM.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Making Your Game: Creating the Adventure

    An adventure is nothing more than a series of encounters tied together with some sort of plot line. A campaign is nothing more than a series of adventures connected either by a plotline, or sometimes just by the fact that the same PCs tromp from one adventure to the next.

    A lot of new GMs just dive right into things with a campaign idea, but I will ask you not to do this. Try just a single adventure. Know the beginning middle and end before you start recruiting. Make sure you have encounters lined up for at least the beginning part, and that these encounters are of the appropriate CR and interesting as well.

    But what should your new adventure be about? Well we're going to keep it simple, so what I want you to do is find your boss. Go ahead and look through the Bestiary. Find a good CR 5 monster (no more than CR 5.) Alternately, you can make a 5th level character to act as the boss.

    Now... why would the PCs need to fight this monster? Think of a reason.

    But a group of 1st level PCs will probably die fighting a CR 5 boss. So we have to get them to at least level 2 before they meet your bad guy.

    Who works for the bad guy? If no one, then who is in between the bad guy and the PCs? Is it goblins? Orcs? Humans?

    How do the PCs find out about the boss in the first place? Were they hired to go kill it? Does it present a threat to them or did it harm someone they care about?

    Make your first encounters fairly easy... get things going. In the middle somewhere should be a tough encounter that will make the PCs have to rest afterward. Maybe you even have a plot twist here, like an important new NPC, or maybe the boss has a boss that the PCs can pursue in another adventure. Maybe there is something that raises the stakes, and makes the PCs need to defeat the boss even more.

    After the mid point fight, add in an environment encounter. Maybe the PCs have to negotiate a slippery ledge along a 300 foot waterfall, or maybe they have to swim through an underwater passage... give them some reason to use their skills and abilities.

    One or two more encounters should bring them to 2nd level. If you've done your job the encounters will flow logically and be different from one another. not all of them will have been combat, but a lot of them probably will be. Remember, D&D is a tactical war game at heart.

    Finally, your boss fight. By now you probably have a plan to make it dynamic and epic. Go for it. This is what the players signed up for.

    Now that you have all those encounters in place, all you have to do is get your PCs together. Maybe you go with a classic and they meet in a tavern. Maybe they have all been wronged by your boss or one of his underlings in some way. Maybe they are hired by a local lord.

    Whatever you do, do NOT start them as captives. Players hate being captured. They like choices. Help them choose to follow your adventure, but don't force them. Motivate them.

    If you can get just this far: a series of strong encounters with a boss fight and some pay off at the end, you will have done better than a very large percentage of would be PbP game masters.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by cailano; 09-23-2012 at 05:11 AM.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    The Campaign

    A campaign is just a series of adventures, usually tied together by plot. They are huge undertakings. Even a short campaign might take 6 months to play out in PbP. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when creating a campaign:

    1) Make it big. That final objective needs to have a good payoff. A dragon that has ransacked every village for 100 miles, leaving nothing but smoke and ruins. A vampire who has toppled the local baron and usurped his throne and turned his soldiers into slaves. A witch who lives in a swamp none have ever returned from, and who holds all the children of a local village hostage for some evil purpose.

    2) Divide it into clear acts, each different from the other. 1) The PCs go to slay the dragon, but must first cross orc country, where they find a local village who begs their help to find the body of their high priestess, killed by the orcs. 2) Having done that, the PCs must venture high into the dragon's mountain lair, where an ogre lord leads an army of goblin wolf riders against them. Can the PCs convince a local barbarian tribe to help them defeat the ogre lord? 3) Inside the mountain, the PCs must descend into lava filled caverns, battling the fire elementals of a mad goblin wizard who dreams of becoming a dragon himself 5) the dragon's lair. That's just an example of course, and not very original, but very playable if the encounters are made interesting.

    3) Let the PCs run the show. Do not put your own PC in there. NPCs are not "your" characters and you shouldn't become attached to them. If your PCs want to go about things in a way you didn't anticipate, improvise but do not act to stop them. Try to appreciate their cleverness.

    4) Don't forget some great NPCs. Take the rather generic campaign example above. Now mix in a beautiful baroness, her lover, and her jealous husband. Also The King of Bandits, a two headed giant, a corrupt cleric, an obsessed ranger and an incompetent would be dragon-slayer. Once you've worked those NPCs into the mix, your campaign won't seem as generic, I promise. Great NPCs make great campaigns.

    5) Keep raising the stakes. Things might start out bad, but they can always get worse. Give the PCs more to lose, make the bad guys badder, make the PCs put everything on the line.

    That's about it for campaigns. Remember, it is all about the encounters. If they are good, you will have a good adventure, and if you have a good adventure the campaign idea will suggest itself.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Play By Post - Pacing

    I started running my Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign around seven months ago here on TTW. I looked for a long time to find the right PbP site and settled here because of the built in dice roller, the ability to easily post attachments (I badly wanted to use battle maps) and the large base of players. I just jumped right in. I posted my recruitment ad about a week after I joined. I knew I wanted to use Pathfinder but had never played it. I thought my players were going to jump ship then and there when I asked them how to use the dice roller. Ah, memories...

    As of this writing CotCT is one of the busiest games on the site, with over 7000 total posts. My players ( Ra-Thalun, Garrett Bishop, Emperor Z, Blue Tempest and Yudis) have helped create an epic story in there and I encourage anyone who wants to see a fun PbP game in action to follow the link on my sig and do a little reading. We have a great time.

    Along the way I've tried playing in a few PbP games, and lurking in others (lurking is reading without playing and is a great way to pick up tricks.) There are good campaigns and bad ones. A lot start off thinking they are going to be the most epic adventure every recorded and they die before they reach 200 posts. There are a lot of elements that go into a successful game, but here I will deal with what I think is the most important one: pacing.

    Pacing. The GM defines the pace of the campaign. You need to post on your game at least four to five times a day, and you don't want the PCs stuck on a single task for more than a couple of days unless its a boss fight or something. Keep the game moving or your players will lose interest. I try to shoot for ten posts a day myself, and often get fifteen or more. It doesn't really take that much time. I also work and go to school full time, serve in the National Guard, exercise about an hour a day, maintain a relationship with my girl and watch 49ers games every week during football season. It's not so hard.

    Pacing is also achieved by players. If you find you have players you are constantly waiting on or who detract from the game, deal with them. Write them a PM and ask them if they really want to be there. If not, don't take it personally, just replace them. I've actually been replaced as a player before, and by a guy that was a player in my own game. I didn't take it personally, I was holding the group back. I just went and concentrated more on my own campaign.

    Lastly, pacing is about knowing when to move on in the game. Players stuck? Move on. Players don't know what to do? Give them a hint in game. Players getting bored? Time to advance the plot, have a fight or introduce new NPCs. Try to advance the plot as your first option. Remember, as the GM you control time itself. You can always just type "After meeting that night, you all decide that your best course of action seems to be to go to point x. At point x you see this next really big plot point. If you have anything quick you needed to do before that, post it in OOC and we'll deal with it there."

    Viola. Now your game is moving again.

    Pacing is one of the key reasons - in fact THE key reason - that you need to know where your adventure is going. Unless you are an improvisational genius like Ra-Thalun you need to know where to advance to if your players get bogged down. Don't let them languish in an inn or by a camp fire for days at a time or they will find other things to do. Keep things interesting and keep them moving.
    Last edited by cailano; 09-23-2012 at 05:15 AM.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    PbP - Description

    So you want to write good descriptions but you're not an experienced writer? Never fear, here are some good tips to make your paragraphs pop.

    ( Disclaimer: I'm aware that these GM tips don't follow some of what I'm about to describe. I'm posting fast and I've already requested some editing help that will hopefully eliminate this problem. For now, do as I say, not as I do. )

    1) Find the right word: The rogue doesn't run fast, he sprints. The dragon doesn't fly from here to there, he soars. The barbarian doesn't scream wildly, he roars.

    Finding the proper word for things really makes descriptions more vivid. Stretch that vocabulary, but avoid ten cent words if you can. You don't need to be Richard Dawkins to write a good scene. In fact, you can't be. Not unless you're writing for people with master's degrees in English.

    2) Avoid adjectives, and REALLY avoid adverbs

    A common writing mistake is to pile on adjectives, and to use adverbs to try to make actions more dramatic, but look at what that does to a description.

    Too much:

    The massively muscled barbarian draws his thirty six inch blade, forged of pure Valarian steel and notched from a thousand battles. He grins wickedly, showing yellowed, broken teeth and his eyes hold an evil, insane glint. He takes a menacing step forward and yells in a rough, commanding voice "Kill them all!"


    Now lets see what happens when we eliminate all of the adjectives and adverbs.

    The barbarian draws his sword and grins. He takes a step forward and yells, "Kill them all!"

    Does it really lose anything? Not too much, right? Your mind fills in the details anyway, doesn't it? Look how much easier that is to read.

    At most, choose one adjective and eliminate all adverbs unless they are absolutely necessary to the reader's understanding of what you mean. While you're at it, take away exclamation marks too. Less is more.

    3) Show don't tell

    If possible, don't make statements about NPC feelings unless you just really want to save time. Use description and let the players decide what it means.

    Bad: You give the letter to the watch captain, and she doesn't like what it says.

    Good: You give the letter to the watch captain and she crumbles it up and kicks her desk.

    Right? Show don't tell.

    These rules apply to any sort of fiction writing. Break them at your own peril, but don't say I didn't warn you.
    Last edited by cailano; 09-22-2012 at 08:48 PM.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    California
    Posts
    438

    Default

    Any Questions???

    Not much in the way of replies on this thread. Does anyone have any questions? Please someone post something I feel like I'm talking to myself.
    Want to be a Game Master? Training and Tips at The D Academy

    In retrospect, Marcy probably did the right thing. After all, she did let Black Leaf die.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto, Portugal
    Posts
    7

    Default

    I've been following this thread and I realy like it, a lot of good tips for GM.

    I have a question, though: if, for instance, a GM is using the Forgotten Realms lore and locations, is it ok for him to "make up" places that are not mentioned in said maps or any other book related to Forgotten Realm? And how about the lore itself, can the GM alter it for the purpose of the campaing he's playing? Like, for instance, in a certain campaign the GM is creating, the adventurers are told about a great war between 2 powerfull cities that happend centuries before their time, cities that, in the context of the campaign are real and the players visit it, but in the Forgotten Realms maps their's no mention of them nor in the lore about the great war.

    I hope you understand my question
    Yentil Shadowfeet, lv1 Halfling rogue

Page 2 of 23 FirstFirst 123412 ... LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •