The 10 Commandments of Good Gamemastering

June 5th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Thou shalt know the rules
Thou shalt be prepared
Thou shalt be committed to having fun
Thou shalt be fair and impartial
Thou shalt be firm in decisions
Thou shalt have patience with noobs or jerks
Thou shalt be inventive
Thou shalt be animated
Thou shall not fudge dice rolls
Thou shall not railroad
The Commandments amplified:

1. You must have an intimate knowledge of the rules of the game to be an effective gamemaster. Rules disagreements bog down the game and detract from the ambience and enjoyment.

2. Books, a prepared adventure, maps, dice, scratch paper, pencils, a gum eraser, battlemat, water-soluble pens, miniatures, whiteboard, dry erase pens, personal refreshment are all useful in staging an adventure. Some even used overhead projectors and transparencies. I bring extra paper, pencils and dice for unprepared players. Anything you can think of that will enhance your session should be considered.

3. The object of rpgs is to have fun. Don’t get into extended arguments. Don’t drone on with some endless descriptive text. Don’t insult anyone. Do make your speech lively. Do become excited. Do keep your players guessing. Do cackle (or laugh).

4. Period. There is no room in roleplaying to favor your sweetie or punishing a fellow you don’t like. The dice are the great equalizers in rpgs and don’t need any help from a mushy or vindictive gamemaster. If you can’t be fair and impartial, you will soon have no group!

5. This commandment goes hand-in-hand with the first one. You cannot be decisive in your decisions without a firm grasp of the rules. Brook no heated disagreements. A rules call may be questioned but the gamemaster is always right! Any adjustments required should be handled after the session to take effect next session.

6. There are people out there who just want to jerk your chain. There are others who have a difficult time with the concepts of roleplaying. Both require patience from the gamemaster. A newcomer should be gingerly encouraged and coached without showing favoritism. If the cretin is too obnoxious, he can always be asked not to return.

7. There are times when you are going to have to wing it. There’s an old adage that says a party never does what the GM has planned for it. Have your random encounter tables ready. Having a few NPCs on hand will help. New traps, tricks or puzzles may be necessary. Always be ready for the unexpected.

8. You don’t need to be an actor but no one wants to listen to a drone. If you’re good with voices, put some life into your NPCs. Lower your voice for dark and gloomy descriptions. If you pen your own adventures, write animated prose. You want to create moods, excitement, fear, anger, lust, and wariness, the full gamut of human (or demihuman) emotion.

9. Dice are sacrosanct. Dice rule! If rerolls are allowed, specify the circumstances (in my games, only cocked dice or rolls off the table are rerolled). Now, behind the screen, I abide by the same rules but some gamemasters have a softer heart than I. If the dice are simply unfair, some GMs will make a slight adjustment to favor the players. It is not a practice I condone but it won’t unbalance a game unduly if used sparingly.

10. There are games out there in which the gamemaster is called a “Storyteller.” If you’re running an rpg, the characters should write the story, not you. In your meticulously crafted adventure you should not have included any element that must be performed for the adventure to be successful. Now, obviously, if the adventure takes place in the city of Wolfling, the party may need to travel there. If they must rigidly perform Step A, Step B and Step C to succeed in the adventure, that is not good gamemastering. A railroad is an adventure on a straight line, linear, and that is to be avoided.