I think I want to give you a peak behind my screen. Get that sick thought out of your head. That’s not what I meant. Ok. Now that we’re all on the same page I’m talking about some of the things I do to make games flow better.
I got this trick from someone else but I swear by it now. I take index cards or some kind of paper and make tents out of them. I tend to rip the index cards in half to do this so they’re not quite so big. Then I ask the players to put their characters names on both sides of the tent. I hand these tents on my screen or put them in front of me if I don’t have a screen. When I ask for initiative in games with an initiative order I arrange the tents and then have a visual system both the players and I can see which helps games move quicker.
I’m a very off the cuff kind of game master. My preferred method of preparing is knowing what the bad guy wants and having him pursue that goal. So there is a series of events he’ll be trying to accomplish. It’s sort of like portents in Dungeon World. While pursuing that goal I try to give the players a reason or hook to interfere with the villain. Now we have conflicting goals while the PC’s and villains are competing and there is a track for the villain to complete his objectives.
Tangent time. I feel that Plot is a loaded word. The bad guy can have a plot he’s trying to follow and the players can have some kind of plot they think they’re following but the plot is something that happens at the table so while you might have your plot and they might have theirs don’t get to married to it because the real plot is what happened after the session is over. It’s what you created at the table, sort of like discovery writing or Improv Theater. Ideas were brought but the plot was discovered.
When I’m playing a traditional game I dig having a bunch of basic stat blocks I can throw whatever skin I want on them. By a bunch I mean four or five I can use in a variety of ways. Need a goblin archer, an ettin, and a pack of wolves. Well I have these wire frames for a brute, and a bunch of quick creatures. I throw a range attack on the quick ones for the goblins, use them as is for the wolves and give them a pack attack, and throw an extra attack on the brute for the ettin and give them a little personality. Maybe shift some defensive points here and there for variety and I’m good to go. Encounter on the fly from two level appropriate wire frames.
Now if anyone shouts about balance there is no such thing as balance in a RPG. There is only the illusion of balance which is what you provide. The trick is “don’t let them see you sweat”. You know what you’re doing but they don’t. They can’t see your notes. They aren’t in your head. They might be trying to read your face though so just roll along with it like nothing is wrong, you’re not just making stuff up, and all of this has been planed right from the beginning.
Ok. There are three tricks I use. I’ll probably be sharing some more in the future and some examples of how I use them. Let me know what you think and feel free to share some with me. I’m always trying to get better.
Chris “The Light” Sniezak