Tag Archives: GMing

Pacing Problems

How fast do you burn through a storyline? If you’re like me, sometimes that core conflict is approaching a climax halfway through what you thought was your campaign. Or, if you’re like me at a different point in time, you find your players have cracked the advancement mechanics on the cool new system you wanted to try and now the power curve is shooting upwards, taking the storyline in places you weren’t ready for it to go. Whether it’s from game mechanics or your own writing, it’s easy for a GM to find themselves with a pacing problem.

There are a few issues with figuring out how to pace a role-playing campaign that don’t appear in other media. The first one is simply that other media have it way easier. It might be challenging to write a novel or direct a movie, but that author or director has complete control over how fast or slow events progress. When you’re GMing a game, with players staring back at you and wondering what’s going to happen next, that control is illusory. The second is that many of the tricks we’re taught in interactive media, like video games, either don’t translate or translate poorly back to the tabletop. Once again, a lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s more than one person playing and setting the clock.

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Cannibal Halfling Radio Episode 17: Looking For Players

Aaron, Geni, and Seamus take on the task of getting new players into the hobby – recruitment methods, mechanical choices, potential pitfalls, and what actually makes someone stick around in the first place.

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The Curse of the Wandering Eyes

It’s happened to all of us. You spend weeks, maybe even months, convincing your friends to try a new game that you’ve discovered. It takes some effort, but eventually everyone buys in and you start a new campaign. Things are going well, people are getting into it! And then…Another new game is in your sights. All of a sudden, the thing you were most excited about for weeks and weeks is now a frustrating roadblock. You are a victim of the Curse of the Wandering Eyes.

While the Curse of the Wandering Eyes can strike any gamer, it’s the GMs of the world who are most acutely afflicted, and for whom the affliction can have the most dire consequences. It’s not only the GMs who actually drop games at the blink of an eye who can create group discord, any GM who looks longingly at a game other than the one they’re playing can often let those thoughts and frustrations seep into their current game, making it less fun and possibly cutting it short. What’s worse, though, is that although the grass often looks greener on the other side, when this frustrated GM starts up their next game, often it isn’t any better, and the process repeats anew.

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Cannibal Halfling Radio Episode 15: Beginning Basics

Seamus and Aaron talk about getting your tabletop roleplaying game started – how to gather up a group of eager players, how to set things up,  and how to kick them off, followed by a trip to the local starting tavern to see what all the fuss is about.

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Changing It Up Through System Jumping

A good RPG campaign usually takes on a life of its own. The longer you play, the more the characters, the places, and the events of a game overshadow the rules which you use for the game. Ironically, it’s this shift in importance away from mechanics which can sometimes reveal that the mechanics you’ve been using aren’t going to work for an important part of your ongoing game. In another situation, your campaign has taken a dramatic, albeit temporary, turn. Your grizzled heroes find themselves masquerading as schoolteachers, or your starship crew finds a rip in the space-time continuum, or your cyberpunks have to chase a villain into a virtual reality game. Whether it’s a mid-story diversion or a permanent change, sometimes you’re going to want to jump systems.

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Cannibal Halfling Radio Episode 3 – Thankfully Winging It

In this episode of CHR our gamemasters ask one another “How Do You apply the experiences you’ve had toward being better at improvising at the table?”, and then reflect upon what in our gaming groups we’ve found ourselves thankful for.

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Meet the Campaign: Straight Paranoia

Paranoia, West End Games’s RPG of comic dystopia, has become a meme in gaming circles, one of the few games with as strong a play identity as D&D itself. Shouts of ‘treason’ and ludicrous extensions of the color-based ranking system help evoke the feel of a Paranoia session, which tends to consist of different uses of the Alpha Complex backdrop as excuses for players to find more and more inventive ways to accuse each other of treason and/or being a communist or mutant, and then kill each other. Neither West End Games nor Mongoose Publishing, the publishers of the most recent edition of Paranoia, ever did anything to dissuade this. That said, the game has been designed to allow for something a tad more sophisticated.

It should go without saying that all text from this point hence is of ULTRAVIOLET clearance! Do not read, under pain of disintegration (or if you want hidden parts of the game to stay a surprise)!

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Level One Wonk: Powered by the Apocalypse 201

Way back when, at the genesis of this site, I wrote a “Novice’s Guide to Powered by the Apocalypse”, a Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) 101, if you will. This article covered the basic mechanics and underlying assumptions of games written with the PbtA framework, and covered a few of the more popular games that were out at the time. Now, nearly two years later, PbtA is still growing, and has attracted many players to its fiction-forward, high-stakes style of gameplay. I’ve also run and played more PbtA games myself, and have noticed some really interesting elements that people have trouble engaging, take for granted, or even fight against. This 201 course to PbtA games should provide advice and information about getting the most out of the full range of PbtA games and campaigns.

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Messing With Your Players: Troublesome NPCs

It was a normal enough day for the crew of the Citadel-class transport called the Black Rose, currently berthed in a space station dock in orbit around Nar Shaddaa. Drake the Bothan Entrepreneur was trying to balance the crew’s budget after they sold their last ship, the Red Empress. Aralai the Twi’lek Pilot could be heard grumbling in the cockpit about how she had run out of booze the night before. Zeb the Human Mechanic was tinkering with the ship’s modifications, and his younger sister Morgan was putting together a particularly malicious slicing program on her datapad. Patches the B-1 Doctor, Bulldawg the Klatooinian Heavy, and the sundry other members of the crew were keeping to themselves . . . when a loud banging sound echoed on the main hatch. Instead of the usual bounty hunters, when they opened the hatch they found the furious owner of the space dock, screaming about how one of his two shuttles had just been stolen. Drake immediately turned to Zeb and Morgan and asked the dreaded question: “Where’s Barry?”

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