Fantasy Worlds GM’s Round Table

Creating Entertaining Roleplaying Events

Saturday, November 3, 2001
PentaCon Gaming Report

A Fantasyworld Guild workshop and GM’s round table for both novice and veteran gamemasters. The main topic concerned creating compelling role-play, and as host, I chaired this event for the second year in a row in the round table manner. In attendance were Joe Fisher and Brian Judt,from last years’ workshop, as well as newcomers Lindy Metzger, Robert Hensell, Brian Winrotte, Kerry Amburgy, and Brent Dickson. Matthew Mosher, content proofing manager  from Thunderhead Games was also present this year.

We began with a round where everyone introduced themselves, and described the games they hosted. I noticed a shift from last year in the type of games being played, with more Dungeons and Dragons third edition in play this year.

We covered a number of techniques for GM’s to improve role-playing. I started with examples for everyone, and then we went round the table and everyone willing provided an example from their games so we could all learn different techniques for creating interesting scenarios and play. Some of the topics we covered  included —

Using Cut Scenes to allow play to resume…
Example “A character has an Out-of-Body experience.”
Example “Players have a spycam in place to watch the villain, or another important NPC.”
Example “Players scry randomly, or scry NPC’s”
Example “A vision or dream comes to the character from the gods”
Example “NPC delivers a video to the players”

Shortcuts that allow play pace to resume.
Example: Teleportation to a “Safe House”
Example: Rescuers or reinforcements for the players appearing – LOTR Siege of Gondor
Example: Your ride is leaving – The ship is departing with… or without… the players
Example: A friendly kidnapping to save the players

Little details in the background and décor that give the game world life
Example: Present players Information  using the other senses including sound, smell, taste, and touch
Example:  Unique Plants & Animals indigent to the game world
Example: Style of vehicles in the game world
Example: Unique Weather
Example: Little events that add nothing to the game play, but that allow the players to capture the unique feeling of your roleplaying world

Other things that move besides NPC’s in your gaming world.
Objects that move in a fixed path – Comet, Train, or a trap
Objects that move at a random interval – Earthquake or landslide! The sky…
Objects that move at some predetermined Interval – Doors, Gates, time locked mechanisms.
Mysterious objects that move at a predetermined interval
Mysterious objects that move randomly – UFO’s, far away balloons, confused riders in the distance moving to and fro.
Trees in the wind
The Lighting – Sunrise, Sunset, Torches, Light generating devices and spells in the night

NPC Storytelling – Providing narrative to highlight a location, character, object, event.
Example – The dying guy on the side of the road describing the monster that waylaid him.
Example – A merchant or traveler telling a tale of his journey to a faraway place – 13th warrior

Blows taken by characters must be credible.
Example – The character is hit with a sword does he/she… does he get up, shake it off and continue combat?

Challenges and Rewards that work time and again
Example – Tournament of Arms – Making an event re-playable or re-doable for the players

Action & Narration
The balance between the players getting information, and the players taking action on that information and how to create tension in the game with this… Describe a specific instance of  when you provided narrative for an event and the players interrupted you wanting to take an action…

Having the players do and worry about more than one thing at a time.
Example Sailing & Combat, Driving a Wagon & Fighting, Flying and Fighting…

Allowing the players to continue around deadlocks…
Prepare in advance multiple paths the player may opt to follow
A chamber with a locked door, and an additional passageway leading elsewhere
Using a telephone or radio to call for help
Describing two possible ways to disarm a trap
Having an NPC intervene & “Save” the players…
Always have a “Way Out” for the players to Roleplay

Managing death realistically, managing life as well…
How monsters die… How people die… Births of important NPC’s and players…
Example: Having an NPC start a conversation with one or more of the players, get interrupted,
and die horribly and without finishing the conversation.
Example: Missing lost or dead companions.
Example: The death scene in Titanic at the end.

After that a short Intermission, then we went on to hold the Open Q&A where GM’s could ask other GM’s at the table questions on any subject to help improve creating good roleplaying events.

The question came up for how players would fit into a larger campaign, a war, or great battle, and how the DM would play that out. There were a number of good recommendations at the table including,
Having the players at a key location within the greater battle…
Having the players with a notable leader in the battle.
Providing clues so the players find  key locations during the fight…

There was also a question on how to handle mass combat, and to determine if the players would take casualties in the greater scheme of things. Recommendations to resolve this included;
Having the players do a tactical fight to see the results in the local area they are in
Rolling to see the casualty rate of the unit the players are with
Rolling randomly to determine which players were wounded or injured in the campaign

Another question came up from one of the newer GM’s on making rulings and handling difficult players that challenged the DM/GM time and again.  Suggestions ranged from
Taking the reference books away from the players and making them role play, to,
Invoking DM privilege to create house rules on the spot, to
Limiting abilities, skills, and feats on the part of the player.

This discussion briefly changed into how to deal with difficult players, and our counsel recommendations for the DM/GM was to take the player aside and speak with them privately, and if the unnacceptable conduct continued on the part of the troublesome player, to actually ask them to leave. Roleplaying requires a hefty investment of time and energy, and it’s simply not fair for the rest of the players to have their experience spoiled by one.

We finished up with well wishes for all GM’s and players alike. I resolved to continue to chair this event at PentaCon next year as it is good for all of us that puts the work in creating a good time for the players, to be able to sit down and share notes, stories, and anecdotes of our experiences. Until next year…

— May your gaming be good, Your adventurers bold, and your stories entertaining!


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