I have been DMing since 1978 when the OD&D basic game came out. GMing experience includes Pathfinder RPG, Dungeons and Dragons OD&D, 1e, 2e, 3e and 3.5e, Gamma World, Paranoia (original) RPG, Pure Steam, D20 Modern, and Dead Lands Reloaded. I am a dad of three, fiancé and lover of all things geek.
What kind of homebrew campaigns have you designed for your players? Do they center in a western world city? Asia? Egyptian? How about setting? Is it modern, futuristic or fantasy? Many people center their campaigns on several of the following RPG Systems: Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder RPG, Shadowrun, Cypher System from Monte Cooke Games, Savage Worlds, Fate! RPG or others.
I discuss how to design an eastern European (which varies greatly from west) flavored campaign setting,. How is Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Czech Republic, Macedonia, etc…) different from West? What superstitions, mysticism and religion exist? I draw from references in the Underworld Movies, Rule of Fear (from Paizo Publishing), Irrisen, Dracula, Van Helsing and others to form a clear picture to help design this.
Have you thought about DMing a game of Dungeons & Dragons or of Paizo publishing Pathfinder Roleplaying Game? What has kept you from trying it? Did you like a Basic Box for either game? Book costs? Cold feat? Being overwhelmed by the thought of running a successful adventure or coming up with a campaign everyone would like?
I go into 5-6 things for both systems that if you learn, will help you to be on your way to running a fun and memorable session or campaign. I try and focus things down to help a beginner overcome the jitters or overwhelming feelings that can come with learning to be a new Dungeon/Game Master.
This GM Tips I discuss things to think about when designing a campaign setting based in a Native American/Inuit flavored area. It can be a home brew based in an alternate Earth, or in Golarion, Faerun, Greyhawk, Ghostwalk, or Shadowrun Earth, even a Cypher System or Savage World Deadlands Reloaded system. What are the peoples like? The technology? The development? What would their spirituality be? Their magic?
One of the most special campaigns I first ran in Pathfinder was Skull and Shackles. And, through it, I fell in love with water based campaigns. These campaigns bring a special flare to fantasy RPGs. Water based campaigns introduce new skill uses, professions, encounters and challenges.
Sailing from Isle to Isle or underwater adventures to lost cities (a nod to the new Pathfinder Adventure Path upcoming based on the lost Azlanti Isles), it is a rush to GM these terrains. Having your parties encounter storms, pirates, merchant ships, lost civilization ruins on remote islands, tribal encounters, dinosaurs and more.
I take time in this 24 minute GM Tips video to discuss ideas in designing a memorable sea/river/ocean campaign and considerations a GM/DM needs to ponder on. I hope you run some water campaigns upcoming and share the joy of them with all of us in the Fantasy RPG communities!
Have you ever started a new campaign as a GM and have your players shock you by having:
One or two dimensional character play
Classes that in no way will help them with the current campaign
Min/Maxing of stats and powers that drives you nuts as a GM
Frustration on your part helping game play go even near to what the party and you want
In this new GM Tips video, I discuss several points about how we as GMs can help players with the character creation. So often, we may try to help, but not provide truly effective areas that will benefit a player’s idea or concept for their character design.
How has your encounters with dark elves and dwarves been in your campaigns? Do you see these races as twisted parodies of their lighter cousins? Do they strike fear and helplessness in your players? Have their houses risen to infamy in your world setting?
The Underdark/Darklands has spawned many strange creatures in its hidden depths. However, the Drow and Duergar were more warped by the presence that spawned by it. Twisted through catastrophic events that lead to their retreat to this dark underworld. Demons, dark gods and goddesses and alien races influenced them and helped to warp them from creatures of good and light to sadistic slavers and fleshwarpers.
The progenitors of driders, dark magic and twisted demonic contracts, the drow and duergar houses rose to pinnacle murderous rulers of the underdark and darklands of many world settings. How do you portray drow and duergar in your campaigns? My current GM Tips video discusses using them in your campaign setting.
Have you utilized the Tricksters and royalty of the First World Realm in your campaigns as a GM? Do your players cringe at the madness, evasive nature and etiquette of the Fey Kingdoms? Are redcaps a creature of fear in your campaign? Are dryads the regal and artistic royalty of the wooded groves of your world? Do Pixies and Sprites spy on your parties? In this GM tips, I discuss Fey, their nature and how to effectively run them in your campaigns.
Are Lycans/Lycanthropes feared in your game? Are they the powerful creature of legend and ferociousness that they should be? Are they power packs that drive the party to be on the run as the hunted versus the hunter? Or are they more a creature that silver harms? Lycanthropes, Skin Walkers and true Were creatures are to be feared. They are the hunters and shadows of legend. GM Tips takes a deep dive into making your campaign Lycan Scary.
How do you handle downtime in your campaign? Do you just try to speed through it to get to the next set of quests? Or do you encourage your players to do downtime activities and make these into who campaign experiences? I talk on ways to use down with your players to build new and constructive experience. I also talk about specific ways to use downtime to benefit their characters and the campaign overall.
I discuss the merits of this in more detail if you want to tune in: https://youtu.be/g0SHg7qDv7I
Variety is the spice of expanding your roleplay. Players and GMs, try new races, classes and playing the opposite sex if you haven’t before. It will expand your Roleplaying experience and add to your skills. GMs,including a variety of NPCs for the players to interact with of different races and classes will make a location more exotic.
i often use different accents, voice tones, expanded masculinity or femininity in my voice to help distinguish each NPC and monster as unique. The players enjoy it, laugh and try it with their characters as well.
Its variety in roleplay that can keep a game system fresh.
Use of theism, anti-theism, agnosticism and atheism in a campaign can create great fun and challenges for the pcs. Get to know each and use it to spark deeper character development, roleplay and obstacles.
AntiTheist characters or NPCs see religion and gods/goddesses as meddlesome trouble to be removed from their lives. Agnostic characters see not enough proof to believe in the pantheons. Athiestic pcs or NPCs deny the existence of the pantheons. Each has unique roleplay and challenges for a campaign.
As GMs and DMs, we put in lots of hours creating fun campaigns, adventures and story arcs. Fun locations, jaw dropping challenges and Titan like clashes fill our mind’s eye….until our players take a detour we didn’t plan for or expect. They took a hard left when we planned for straight.
So what does a GM/DM do? Railroad them back onto the path we had planned, right? They aren’t going to go somewhere we aren’t ready. And there-in lies the wrong choice. Railroading a party is forcing them onto a path we want them to take. Be dinged freedom of choice. And the fun for the party becomes fleeting at best.
Instead of railroading, we as GMs/DMs should consider:
1. Allowing the party to turn left. Adapt to the moment. Improvise. And then over time, gently guide them back to the goal.
2. Plan ahead for this. It will, ALWAYS occur at some point of a campaign. So plan for the possibilities. Have NPCs and story lines ready to insert for these occasions.
3. Don’t panic or get angry. Remember, the players write the story. It’s our role to provide the framework and background locations and people. Let them have some creative license in where they take a story.
Player personalities can range from very helpful, animated, bored, sarcastic and conflictive. How does a GM handle the more troublesome ones? Here are some thoughts:
1. Write material in your campaign that will engage their personality.
2. Help the rules oriented experts in the group to be a vital part of making play more cohesive with rules. Ask them to help with clarifications, help settle questions and arguments between players and praise their contribution.
3. Ask the sarcastic and conflict oriented ones how you can improve the sessions to make it more exciting for them.
4. Use the background stories they come up with and include parts of the session to engage them on this.
5. Use humor, cheering and animated dialogue to make the players feel epic and heroic/villainous.
Dont get upset with those more challenging players. Instead, get creative!
So often, as creatives, we GMs and DMs move from idea to idea and try to make them into reality. Using tools, such as template forms like:
Country Template Sheets
Magic Item Sheets
Army Sheets. Use of these kinds of sheets is a vital asset to overlook. It can sometimes feel like we are writing essays filling in the blank, but, it captures the key ideas of ours in an organized fashion. We can then go back and easily review these when experiencing idea lock or even burn-out. Use forms and keep them in a binder with sections for easy access.
A character’s background enriches campaign play. Often, tying subplots into these backgrounds leads to players being more invested in the campaign. Don’t just make them come up with a great background and fail to utilize it. Allow it to help write an epic adventure!