Friday, October 18, 2013

30 Days of Game Mastering Part 2

In stead of a daily dose of GMing wisdom from this month's 30 day blog meme, I've broke this into three parts.  Part 1 can be read here.

PART II: AT THE TABLE
1. House rules: what are your favorite hacks, mods, and shortcuts?
My house rules mostly consisted of additional character classes ported into my campaign.  One house rule I do enjoy is Wisdom as sanity from Akratic Wizardry.
2. Table rules: how do you keep players focused on the game?
I let table talk go on just a bit if it's a non-session topic, after all, we're here as friends and we gotta chat sometime.  But I'll bring it back by just interrupting the conversation and bringing it back to the game.  Just cut them off.  Everyone's usually fine with that.  If table conversation is session based or game based I let that go on as long as needed.
3. Rise to the challenge: how do you balance encounters in your system?
Balance encounters?  Never!  It's up to the players to avoid taking that 'wrong' turn.  Also, the party consists of PCs levels 2 through 7.  Good luck balancing encounters for that. 
4. How do you facilitate combat? Any tips, tools, or cheats?
Pretty straight from the rules (Swords & Wizardry Complete).  I discarded descending AC day 1. AAC makes things much easier and faster.
5. Memorable villains: how do you introduce and weave the antagonist/s into the ongoing narrative?
I think I always try to keep the major NPCs floating in the background via rumors or chats with other NPC's or just in the session backgrounds.  I also try to keep them alive if encountered so that they can harass the players in the future – not always easy to do so it's best to just keep mentioning the baddies until they come face to face.  Build up that 'legend'.
6. Investigation and mysteries: how do you use foreshadowing, red herrings, and keep the tension rising?
Again, I use rumors via NPCs to keep things in the player's conscientiousness.  Keep the stories floating around the campaign even when the PCs are out on a totally separate adventure.  I've tossed red herrings but with gaps between sessions and the slow pace of campaigns in general, those usually get lost.  The red herrings I tend to keep tighter to the narrative of the current session or the next.  Any more than that too much time goes by and you loose the edge of a false rumor.
7. Structure and time: how do you use flashbacks, cut scenes, and parallel narratives in your games?
I don't use flashbacks or cut scenes in a game.  They don't work.  For me, the campaign in a linear path of the players experiences.  The stories and campaign goes on before the character is born and after he/she dies.  It's up to the players to make their backstory elements of the game and me to enact them but I don't go 'back in time' to 'set the story'.  By parallel narratives, I assume that this is only cut scenes between a split party.  I usually run those for about 10 minutes (hmm, the time of a game turn) before cutting back to the other players. 
8. How do you handle rewards, be they XP, magic items, or gold?
I started the campaign with a standard monster xp split among the players and gold totals split as xp among the players.  Magic items are a value in and of itself and receive NO experience point value.  But since our sessions meet twice a month (when we're on a roll) and not everyone shows up, leveling PCs was pretty slow  It took a couple of years to get to level three or four.  I've since moved to full monster experience rewarded to EACH  PC present for that session.  Monster experience is NOT split.  Treasure value is still split equally as experience though.  But players HAVE  to be present during the session to receive the rewards.  A little more bookkeeping on my end but it seems to be working pretty well.  The pace of character advancement seems to fit well with our play schedule. Also, I don't actually reward them the experience until the return to home base.  Though I record the experience each PC receives they don't get it until they head home. 
9. What was your worst session and why?
The only bad session(s) I had was when I felt my head wasn't really in the game. Note, however, that the players still all had a great time.  It's all relative so someone always has a great time.
10. What was your best session and why?
Sessions where I am fully present and 'participating' in the game as much as the players are.  Not sitting back coasting on the contents of an adventure module.  Those always tend to be the best.  When everyone's involved and we're playing off each other.  But it's all relative anyway.

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