I’ve played a lot of different games in my time. Some of them were good. Some sucked. Some were unremarkable except for a single new mechanic. A few were awesome.Probably the best Superhero game system I’ve ever encountered has to be White Wolf’s Aberrant. It’s a great dice system and the powers are list driven (as opposed to free-form or lego styles). Those of you who are familiar with White Wolf should have some idea of what their dice systems are like. All rolls are non-percentage based d10 rolls. Skills, stats and powers are on a 1-5 scale and most rolls combine a stat and a skill (and sometimes a power) to make a pool of dice you roll against a given difficulty and then count up successes. Finally you have the White Wolf patented power stat (every game has one) that is rated 1-10 and which rates your power level in the grand scheme of things and which you will never really get higher than 4 in any given game (not sure why, but this is the way White Wolf makes their games). This system is at the same time simple and very flexible and once you understand the basics, you can crank out a character in 10-15 minutes. Two things the Aberrant setting has going for it are the realism factor and the lack of comic book representation. Running a game in the DC or Marvel worlds can be interesting because of the shared understanding and love of those worlds, but it is also problematic. People who obsess about those worlds tend to be the ones who want to play in them and because of their obsession, they are also the ones who can’t take it when you modify the world. That’s a flaw in any system set in those worlds because most problems can be solved by one NPC or another in those other worlds far better and than they can be solved by the PCs. As a GM you now need to come up with some reason why these other beings are indisposed without (god forbid) killing them off. Makes for a very lame experience all around. I say the Aberrant setting has a good realism factor and what I mean by that is it really represents how I think our society would change with the introduction of super heroes. Super charismatic rock stars, super strong sports players with enormous product endorsement deals, scientists cutting up super heroes to find out what makes them super, secret government super hero groups, the old X-men stand by of “live with the humans or dominate them”, etc. There is still the problem of the world containing NPCs who are far more powerful than the PCs and so would probably be the ones to deal with the really serious problems. However, most Players won’t get nearly as bent out of shape if you decided to kill off Divis Mal as if you killed off Magnito for the sake of reducing the power level of the world in general. The lists of powers are even pretty comprehensive. I can only really think of one style of comic book hero that is difficult to make in Aberrant: Spiderman. Walking on walls, super strength, the webbing, even the “spider sense” are all doable. The problem is in the fact that Spiderman survives most things by not getting hit rather than being tough. I don’t know what to tell you, all of the White Wolf systems universally have that problem. It is always easier to build the character who can’t miss than it is to build the character who can’t be hit. Just a quirk of how the rules come together.
I’m a fan of the horror genre. Aside from the annoying trend of classifying horror as “dark fantasy” do you know what the most noticeable change in the genre has been? Cellphones. Pay attention. In movies and books the writer always has to confront the problem of cellphones at some point or their tale loses its believability. The phone must be forgotten at home or the protagonist/victim must at some point check their phone and find that they have no signal. Maybe the protagonist doesn’t like cellphones or for some reason can’t use them? Whatever the reason, a story set in our world must first address the cellphone issue before placing any character in danger or they can immediately and easily call for help.Imagine how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would have progressed if any of the people in that van had had a cellphone. Car breaks down, call for a tow truck, back on their way, roll credits. The internet is another good example of something in the modern world that can get in the way of a good story. So much information right at our fingertips. No need for even an ’80s style research montage. Just hit Wikipedia. The same problems present themselves to GMs of modern or post-modern RPGs. One of the big concerns in the last Shadowrun game I played in was the fact that absolutely every square inch of the Cyberpunk city scape is assumed to be covered by security cameras. I mean, such is almost the case in our larger cities today. We all just assume that in the future our privacy (such as it is) will all but completely evaporate. Most of the plots of good modern setting games though involve some degree of law breaking (from obstructing justice to breaking and entering). So in modern and post-modern games, just from what I’ve listed so far, our PCs are constantly connected to our global communications network, have easy access to the most comprehensive storehouse of human knowledge ever gathered in a single place, and are virtually guaranteed to be seen, recorded, and pursued should they put a toe out of line. How does one run a game under these circumstances? As I see it there are several options. First, you can do nothing. You can let your plots be easy to figure out with a little time spent on the internet, your PCs will completely avoid danger and never get lost through proper use of their cellphones, and they will be left with the choice of playing it safe or going to jail just like the real world. Your games will be boring, but on the bright side it will be easy to run because nothing will be happening. Your PCs will probably appreciate the realism even as they pull their hair out wondering what they’re doing wrong for their awesome character to have such a hum-drum life (be it picturesque or penal). I mean, all of these things in our society in the real world are there to increase the ease of living according to the rules. If you make your game too realistic, that’s what you’re going to get. There’s a reason most of us go to work every day and earn an honest living instead of living in the shadows. Second, you can ignore the problem. In the Dresden Files book series by Jim Butcher, magic fries electronics. It just does. No cellphones or internet usage or problems with CCTV for our hero. It’s kind of the blunt force approach to the problem, but Butcher does it in a very stylistic way and in his later books it becomes a plot point several times. He takes the simple way out, but I’d have to say he does it with style. This is not my preference because I kind of like the idea of magic mixing with technology. It works though and with only one catch: you have to decide to use it from the beginning. It would have seemed odd if this kind of magic/technology mutual exclusion hadn’t been mentioned by Butcher in the first page or two of the first book in this series. To use this in your game you’ll have to do much the same, otherwise introducing it later on will seem cheesy and too convenient and will break your believability for your PCs. Third, you can plan carefully to avoid the problem. We already have our three examples so I’ll keep using them. You can design your plots so that what the PCs are dealing with is so rare that it wouldn’t show up on the internet. Be careful though because if one of your players starts out as an internet specialist (a hacker of some kind) and their profession is completely useless that’s just as little fun for them as it would be for everyone else if internet mastery becomes the omni-skill making them the only character of use. Either way, computer pros will require a delicate touch because if how useful computers are now is any indication of the future, such expertise will in fact be an omni-skill to some degree or other. You can make what’s going on so personal to the PCs that they wouldn’t want to call for help. This is a very difficult option to take because it involves a great deal of thought on your part. You’ll have to understand the motivations of your PCs if you’re going to have them not use their cellphones of their own free wills. However, the books that use this tactic are always more interesting than when not calling out for help is simply the default. Think about it, are you more likely to call the cops when investigating a possibly framed or possibly guilty murder if that person is a stranger or if they’re your brother? Wouldn’t you want to get your brother’s point of view before tossing them to the justice system? Lastly, you can set up the places where law breaking will be happening to be places that aren’t under surveillance or where all of the surveillance is routed to a single, easy to find, and well labeled room so that once the PCs break in, they can eliminate the evidence of their transgressions. This too will will be difficult though because PCs are notoriously hard to predict and so you may have to think fast if they come up with something you haven’t planned for. However, if you give your PCs the benefit of your advice regularly when they come up with weird ideas (“you think that place might be under surveillance but this one camera’s red ‘record’ light is out so you think if you come at it from this angle maybe…”) you will probably be able to work things out with them. Of the three options I’ve listed here I think the last one will be the most rewarding for your game, but (if you’ve read any of my blog so far) you’ll have guessed that as my answer. I believe that designing your game around your PCs is always the better option to designing your game and then considering the PCs after the fact. The second option is a good one as well though. Just remember to be very upfront about everything. Make sure your Players understand that modern conveniences are not going to play a big role in your game and then live with that decision. Whatever you do don’t tell them that CCTV isn’t going to be a problem and then surprise them by having the cops catch them in that very manner. That’s just mean. As for the first option, I value realism as much as the next guy, but I don’t need an RPG to experience the real world. Keep that in mind. Perfectly replicating the real world is not what role-playing is about.
Well, I’m glad to see that you all didn’t fly away aboard the good ship Rapture with “Macho Man” Randy Savage over this weekend. If you had, who would read my blog? Oooh Yeah!Anyhow on to today’s topic. First, find a group. If this is your first game, any group will do, just get started asap. As with any endeavor there is always a reason to put it off till later and the longer you wait, the less likely you will start at all. Next, you probably shouldn’t be the GM, but if your whole group is comprised of first time gamers, someone needs to start the GM rotation and it might as well be you. If you’re going to GM, don’t do it reluctantly; jump on that shit. Get jazzed about it. The GM more than any other group member has to be into it and own it. Remember, it’s your job as the GM to keep your players interested and the story moving along. If you don’t really want to be there, it will show in your game. Pick a setting. I would recommend Pathfinder (or D&D 3.5) to start with. Avoid anything modern day or science fiction (and D&D 4th Ed which is a bored game not an RPG). We all have some kind of experience with the Fantasy setting even if it is just in the form of fairy tales so it is easy to latch on to. Also, with Fantasy your options are fairly limited at every stage of the game. This is a good thing to start with and I’d even recommend a further limiting by restricting your alignments to any Lawful and any Good. Evil is best left for later games and you’re not nearly as likely to offend any of your new players and drive them away so early in the journey. Now make a character while your players are making theirs and then throw yours away. You just want to know what they went through in this section, not to take on two roles in the group. Why no modern day games? Because we all know too much about modern day. If you run in a fantasy setting you can simply declare whether or not the king is evil or which countries are backward without the need to justify your declarations politically or rationally or historically. Also, if you’re running your game for a group of geeks, some of them will be more informed on some subjects than you are. Having your computer enthusiast friend play a hacker in your game and dictate to you what they can and can’t accomplish in your world is pretty lame especially for your first or even just an early GMing experience. Go with an entirely fictional world where science takes a back seat for your first trip out. You’ll thank me later. Don’t let the Players play themselves. For some reason (and I was as guilty of this as anyone) it is attractive to new gamers to try and imagine what their personal stats (the player’s stats) would be and then to make a PC that is them in paper’n’dice form and play that. Bad idea. Very bad idea. Think about it, if one of your friends playing themselves betrays you playing yourself. What does that say about your friendship? Besides, they get to be themselves everyday. This is role-playing. Bite the bullet and be someone else for a while. When you get right down to it, that’s kind of the point of this escapist past time. Use a table and keep the game regular. I recommend reading my earlier GM Tools post on Tables. Put simply, a table keeps people focused on what is being done at that table. This is good for new gamers. Keeping the game regular (on a certain night of the week, every week, with as few exceptions as possible) does what a table does with space except a schedule does it with time. With these two things in place you have a an easy path of focus for your group to adhere and most people take the easy path when given a choice. Trust me. It will help keep your group going. Start with a mod. A mod is a game story (with encounters, NPCs, maps, dialogue, and advice) that has been pre-written for you. They sell them where ever gaming books are sold so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one. Or check the internet. I’m sure there are free mods available somewhere. I don’t use mods anymore, but I used to and when I did, they were a great help for a n00b GM. At the time I had no idea how to put together a story. With a mod it’s all right there for you. Use enough of them, and you should get the hang of what sort of developments need to happen at which points in a game. Once you have that down, you can take the mod training-wheels off your game and ride like a big boy. Till then, use them. That’s what they’re there for. Don’t fret if the PCs stray from the line-course of your mod. Actually, I’d say you should encourage this. As I mentioned earlier, I used to use mods and to my knowledge absolutely none of them ever turned out the way the writers said they ought to have. The mod is just a framework. It should only spark the creative juices. You and the players should supply the constant flow of it. If your players wander off to a section that has been left undefined by the mod’s author, make something up. It might be the wrong thing and it might not turn out well, but these are the risks GMs must take. Wing it often enough though and you’ll eventually learn to use those wings pretty well. Finally, don’t be too stingy with the xp and the gold (the advancement in other words) and keep the game moving along. An extremely easy combat during the first session is a good idea for any game regardless of the experience levels of the people involved and I’d say no more than one combat per session. If you’re finding that combat is taking up all of your game time, cut some of it out. I’ve seen 5 hours of gaming cover 5 rounds of combat (that’s 30 seconds of in game time) and that’s lame. All of the story development happens outside of combat so if you’re having too much combat, your story is going nowhere. Try and let your PCs level fairly often (once every couple of weeks) so they get an idea of how characters progress and so you can justify ending the game after 6 months to a year. You don’t want it going on longer than that. Why? So you can quickly move on to your next game and apply what you learned in your first game. If you never move on, you never get to apply what you’ve learned.
If you’ve been gaming as long as I have you’re sure to have encountered one or more of the following player types.1. The Bearer of the Perfect Character
This is the guy who comes to your game with a character whose history and experience is detailed and extravagant. At first you’re amazed at how much thought obviously went into this C-gen. Then you hear the seven words which make your heart fall “The last game I played him in…” Now you understand that the history of this particular character is so detailed because this player has been playing this same character since it was a zygote. Beware this guy. He may be willing to tone down the accumulated power of his character or change the name, but in his head the character will have reasons for this (in hiding, power drained by a big baddie, amnesia, etc), but he will always want you to allow certain things based on the precedents set by his old GMs. He will also only be able to hold on to his thin veneer of newness for just so long. Eventually he will want his character of many faces and many names to be revealed for the well traveled, knowledgeable, and powerful juggernaut he truly is. Don’t fall for it. Tell them they have to make a new (brand new and unrelated to any old PCs) character or take their business elsewhere. Trust me. You’ll be happier for it. 2. Curly
This is the guy who comes to your game, often as someone’s friend who wants to learn to game, and can’t take the game seriously. They have their character say or do things that are amusing to them Out Of Character and make no sense In Character. Usually these outbursts are followed by phrases like “C’mon. It’s just a game.” or “I’m just having fun.” or “What’s the big deal?” Dump ’em. I know that sounds harsh, but unless you’re playing something comedic like Paranoia all they can do is detract from your game and they won’t ever understand your reasons for not liking this. Getting into character and taking the game seriously are necessary parts of this past time. This person will pull the other Players out of their characters and out of the setting. Think of it like you’re directing a play. If one of your actors constantly shows up not knowing their lines or can’t get through a single scene without breaking character, your production would be better off with someone (anyone, even an NPC drone) in their place. They may be the blood brother of one of your players, but that doesn’t give them the right to ruin your game. Give them one chance to shape up and then politely ask them to go to a bar somewhere and play the class clown instead of doing it in your game. 3. Perry Mason
Also known as The Rules-Lawyer. This is the player who knows the book rules of whatever game you’re running inside and out; probably better than you do. They have all the books and have been playing in this setting for years and can guess what monster is lurking in the shadows from the first three words you speak about it like they were playing Name That Tune. How lame is that? Perry is a hard player to deal with. First of all, he wouldn’t know this much about the rules if he didn’t have a section of his heart hollowed out specifically so he’d have a place to carry the rules around with him where ever he went. He loves the rules. It is the first part of his joy from gaming. He like maps and minis and pouring over indexes. Most of all he loves being right. My primary advice is to run using a setting Perry is inexperienced with. Believe me, it won’t take him long to become experienced with it (see the above paragraph on loving the rules), but it will at least give you time to learn it along with him so you don’t have to constantly be interrupted by this guy telling you that you’re wrong. Further, you should state at the beginning of your game that you reserve the right to modify or flat out junk any rules you see fit with no warning. All modern games come published with this advisement printed somewhere in them, but it usually helps to be up-front about it. Finally, you should encourage them to give logical reasons why something should or shouldn’t happen rather than rules based reasons. “The car shouldn’t blow up because gasoline isn’t flammable in that fashion” as opposed to “The rules say that a car needs to take 30 points of structural damage before blowing up and it can’t have taken more than 25 because of X, Y, and Z.” Reward one and shrug off the other. If you’re consistent, Perry will learn this rule as well. 4. Samson
A hair cut? Really? That’s it? This is the Player that takes flaws which are extremely crippling, simple to exploit, and a little silly because they believe that if they throw themselves upon the mercy of the GM, they’ll get the extra build points and never have to deal with the flaw being used against them. Paraplegic hackers who never leave their homes, blind monks who “see” with other senses, modern day characters with phobias of elephants or polar bears, etc.Deal with this guy by being blunt as well. State at C-gen that all (not some, but all) flaws will come into play in your game and that the intensity with which they will do so will be based on the number of bonus points they granted the Player in question. The paraplegic hacker’s home will be assaulted early and often. The blind monk will have to cut the red wire. Afraid of elephants? Well the big baddie wants to meet under a flag of truce… at the zoo. Make sure this is understood at the beginning and then take a player who still tries this aside and make sure they are fine with a game populated by polar bears before beginning. Tell them that if they wanted something like this to be more flavor than substance, then they should take it for no points and you won’t worry about making sure it comes up. Then create a check list of your Players’ flaws that gave points and make sure each of them gets kicked at least once a month in a real and hindering sort of way. If you do this and follow through on it, these guys will eventually learn to take flaws based on a character idea rather than just for points. Remember to not be vindictive though. Be sure that you use your imagination and incorporate these flaws into the game in a believable fashion. There are more of these, but this post is getting a little long. I guess we’ll add to it later.
So how many people here have been associated with a game set in a borrowed universe? By that I mean any game where the contents of a story book (not a gaming book), a movie, or a television show were considered to be cannon and necessary knowledge to get by in the game? How dreadful was that? In my experience, pretty dreadful.We all love Doctor Who. However, who wants to be the local yokels staring on in wonder while the Doctor solves all the problems? I’ll tell you who: no one. We want to be the Doctor or at least one of the Doctor’s companions. However, as a GM you can’t really allow a player to be the Doctor. Too powerful, too long a history all of which happened off camera, and he’s the linchpin of his universe. The character is so central the universe (Hello? It’s named after him?) that even his secondary cast is off limits just from being so near him. Story universes like this are a bad idea because of what I like to call The Dune Effect. I’ve played a Dune RPG. It was awful. Then again, I’m not sure what I expected. If you’ve read the books you know that it is set in the future where there are three very powerful factions who control the universe. These factions have an iron grip on all that happens and no one is ever allowed to accomplish anything without their superior immediately taking the spoils of that success for their own which their superior takes from them and so on. The reason the books are neat is because they are the story of the Messiah coming to deliver humanity out of this centuries old, bureaucratic system of slavery. Without the Messiah, the universe is horrible and unpleasant unless you’re at the top. So do you edit out the Messiah and play in a universe where no advancement is possible? Do you let one of your PCs be the Messiah and edit out that central character from the story line? If so,which Player gets that PC? What about the others? Or you could try the alternative of letting the PCs be peons observing the universe changing from afar while the Messiah works his mojo. They can’t really be central to the story or the story changes because those are as set in stone as things can be (read the books and you’ll understand), but they can spend one night a week listening to you talk through the events in a book series they do have the option of simply reading on their own. Do you see where this bus is going? Same place the Doctor Who bus was heading: Lamesville. I fundamentally disagree with any game that is not drawn from a book so much as it is a carbon copy of that book. Any game of urban fantasy where you could go and meet Harry Dresden is a bad idea. Any game of high fantasy where you could find Gandelf or Frodo is a bad idea. Any science fiction game where you could go and clash with Luke or Vader is a bad idea. Period. I know we love these stories, but come on people! Do we not have better imaginations than this? Now I’m not saying that all reuse of things we’ve read is a bad thing. On the contrary, if you chose to run your game in a world that was similar to one you read about, but in which your group of PCs is the universe’s linchpin instead of the characters that were in the book, I say go for it. You just have to be careful not to reuse any important characters or plot from the book world you’re thinking of. Use the setting only. How do you tell which characters were important, you ask? Easy. Did they have any lines or walk on stage at any time? Them’s the ones. They shouldn’t even be mentioned as living in another town or something. They should be gone from the universe. Not dead, never existed. The distinction is important. What if one of the characters in the book/movie/show/whatever is a required figure for the universe to have any appeal (see Doctor Who)? Then you’re picking the wrong universe. Sorry to be so blunt, but these are the facts, people. Time to grow up a bit, flex those big imagination muscles most gamers possess in at least some amount, and think of something on your own. Oh and all of this is doubly true for D&D novels. Screw Drizzt. I mean it. Screw him till he dies from it. I hate that guy. I have never even read a book with him in it. Yet I have heard enough about him from losers mooning over evil (but not really) elves with scimitars that I can recognize Drizzt art at any con I go to for what it is. Jeez.
Running a game that is Player/Character oriented rather than plot oriented means that you as the GM need to cultivate within yourself a different set of skills than are otherwise needed. In a rule-playing game, all that’s really needed when there’s trouble is a rule book and your interpretation of those rules. Easy. However, disagreements that don’t stem from rules require you to look at the game and make decisions based on what’s best for the game while trying to keep all of your players happy. This is about the most difficult hurdle to get over for a role-playing GM.First and foremost you’ll need to be a decent judge of character. That’s character, not Character. What I mean is you need to know what kind of people your Players are, not who their PCs are (although you need to know that as well). There are lots of different kinds of gamers and lots of different ways you can define them. For example, every game has doers and followers. That is to say, Players whose Characters go out and make things happen and Players whose Characters primarily react to things that happen around them. In my opinion both types are necessary for a game, but a group with more than one doer is bound to involve an argument at one time or another. This is because doers decide where they want the game to go and are the sort of people to get upset when the game doesn’t go that way. There are gamers who only ever seem comfortable playing evil characters and those who always take the moral high road. There are power gamers who plan out Character builds to get the maximum bang for their XP buck and gamers who intentionally build their characters to be less powerful than they could be out of a desire for realism. There are Players who come up with plan after plan after plan and then there are Players who come up with no plans, but only contribute by shooting down other people’s plans. These sorts of differences are difficult to overcome because of the fundamentally disparate points of view from which each of these styles arise. If your plan as a GM is to focus on the role-playing though, it’s something you’ll eventually have to deal with. As Benjamin “The Man” Franklin once said though, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Judging who your Players are and what sorts of play styles they tend toward early on in your game should help you come up with ways of heading arguments off before they happen. For instance, having separated paths for Players to run on individually will help when your one power-gamer is able to single-handedly defeat an army of bad guys while the rest of your team is comprised of mere mortals who would get smeared by what would challenge the power-gamer. Send the power-gamer off into another part of the game to make use of their finely crafted abilities while the other Players run their characters in less dangerous (but no less important) environments toward the same goal. Think about the Jedi separating from everyone else in the Star Wars movies. Similarly, give your Players of evil PCs incentives to hide their evil natures while around the good PCs and opportunities to exercise their evilness away from the group so they can still get what they want out of the game without causing huge problems. Single out your doers and try to get their PC’s pointed in the same direction. If you can do this, you’re a good GM. If you can do this while making each doer feel that they, specifically, are the one in charge whose vision is being played out, then you’re a Mastermind and should really pat yourself on the back. Single out your followers and be sure to set aside Face Time for them so you can weedle Character goals from them while the doer isn’t looking over their shoulder to make sure all the goals are in line with The One True Doer Vision. Everyone has goals. Some people just need some help defining them and it’s best if that help comes from an unbiased source like the GM rather than from a fellow player. If your players are having trouble coming up with a plan they can all agree on, help them out with hints and suggestions. There’s nothing that says the PCs have to figure everything out for themselves. Just make sure that the decisions are all made by the PCs. Once you’re pretty sure of what they want, facilitating the movement in that direction is just fine as long as you limit yourself to making your PCs jobs easier; not taking their jobs from them. Suggest skills or possessions that would be useful. Point out clues they’ve missed or forgotten. Question flawed assumptions that they’re making and points of worry they shouldn’t be spending so much time on. Having all the facts really helps in making good plans that everyone can agree on. Anyway, to run a good role-playing game rather than a rule-playing game you as the GM will have to be the judge and jury on many points. However, making these judgments to yourself, and then helping the PCs come to those decisions each in their own ways is far better than making decrees. GMing requires being imaginative, but someone who is less imaginative and a fantastic people-person will make a far better role-playing GM than an imaginative troll. You’re still the judge, but an ordered plan doesn’t help at all when herding cats. A pocket full of catnip on the other hand…
Who cares? You’re the GM, you don’t need to be fair. Your job is to keep the game interesting (ie, something which holds the interest of your players) and enjoyable (ie, something that your players look forward to participating in every week), not to run a fair game. Fairness is useful and for the most part the rules should be used, but in no way are they a necessary part of a good story. Was it fair when Frodo got stuck with that damn ring? Was it fair when Harry first had his parents killed and then got to be plagued by the most evil wizard of all time for 7 straight years? Was it fair when Aurthur’s house got bulldozed out from under him to make room for a new bypass? Not remotely. All of those things were interesting though and produced enjoyable results.Here are the tricks to being enjoyably and interestingly unfair: 1. Be on the PCs side. See things from their point of view rather than placing yourself in opposition to them. That way, when you decide to be unfair about something you’ll be doing it in their best interest. This is probably the most important trick so I’d advise you to read it through a second time and keep it firmly in your head. You and the PCs are on the same side. You should be succeeding vicariously through them. You’re the GM, if you’re in opposition to them, you can win any time you want to. Uh… duh… You control the rules. Being on their side though means that when they win, you all win together. It’s a better rule of thumb to follow. 2. Don’t roll for things that make sense when you should just give them to your PCs. There was a horrible murder and eventually the PCs would have made their way to the graveyard anyway because they already know that’s where the creature’s been hiding out. So don’t make them roll a perception to see the terrifyingly misshapen, bloody footprints heading in that direction. Just pick the person with the highest score or with the most interesting way of relating info to the rest of the group or who has some kind of special ability in this direction (getting mileage out of abilities which cost XP is always a good thing) and just give them the news. Honestly. I’ve never heard of a rulebook objecting to this before. 3. If you’re going to be unfair in a way that will disappoint your PCs, compensate them. The evil genius got away in his teleporter, but on the bench next to it they see an odd device… almost like a portable readout for a tracking device… and it’s beeping… If a disappointment is immediately replaced with new hope, the comparison immediately reduces the disappointment factor and increases the hope factor. I didn’t even have to say what the device was tracking and I’m sure each of you who read that line had your brain light up with possibilities. That’s just how people work. 4. Let the PCs win more often than they lose. This may seem like a repeat of #1 but it isn’t. This a conscious recording of your PCs’ wins and losses and keeping the count solidly (but not solely) in their favor. Doing this should communicate to your Players in a tangible way that you are employing trick #1 and believe me, Players feel you’re on their side will give you the benefit of the doubt even when things seem to not be fair in their favor. Sure you may have to cheat an NPC or two out of a victory once in a while (they dropped a clue here, no roll, they just did it) but much like in #2, I’ve never heard of an NPC complaining about this sort of treatment. That’s because they’re not real people. Your Players are the real people here. Keep that in mind. Now I’m not advocating Monty Hall GMing (the giving out far too much XP, money, success, or any other kind of gain), but I honestly feel that’s a topic for another day. Short post today folks. Have a good weekend 🙂