To this point, we’ve gone over planning a game and building a game. But what about when game day actually arrives? This article will be a little bit different than the others because of the insane amount of moving parts that goes into actually making a game happen. I’ll be dropping a lot of advice in this article, but all of it will be hypothetical. I’ll give you insight into some of my habits and thoughts that come out during the time between the start and end of the game. So, without any further ado, let’s get started
Part 3: Running the Game
This section of your game is easily the most complicated. You’re throwing a mix of (usually) 4-6 more personalities and opinions into this world of yours for the very first time. All of your preparation, at some point in the first game, will probably feel pointless! For example, the first game I ever ran was supposed to have a very strong escort take the party far away from their objective, until eventually a group of rebels freed them. The party decided that they wanted to take on these guards themselves anyways, so it forced me to send the rebels in early so the party didn’t die. Then, so the game didn’t drag on from dialogue and travel, I had to shorten the time table on all of the major events in the game. By the end I honestly thought it would have been better not to plan anything and just make it up on the fly. Looking back though, the planning was the only thing that made that game continue. I worked with what I had, and if I didn’t have anything I couldn’t have made it work. So for those of you about to run your first campaign, don’t be discouraged by something going off the rails. But all of that is player-driven stuff (which I would love to give you advice about, but we’d be here for the rest of our lives covering every situation), and we need to talk about how the game master can run the game. First off, know the rules. Not word for word, but have a general understanding of the common stuff that comes up. What can a player do on their turn? How much movement does the player have? How does being knocked prone affect combat? Questions like that you should be able to answer pretty quickly.
First off, know the rules. Not word for word, but have a general understanding of the common stuff that comes up. What can a player do on their turn? How much movement does the player have? How does being knocked prone affect combat? Questions like that you should be able to answer pretty quickly.
If someone asks you, “if I do a double back handspring, then a diving front flip, and then roundhouse kick my enemy will I do extra damage” the answer should be pretty obvious. No. By the rules damage is in no way affected by movement in any RPG I’ve ever played or seen played. But what if you say yes? See, while the GM should have a good understanding of the rules and know the “correct” way to answer this question, you don’t have to answer it correctly. It’s your world. The handbook for any RPG is a group of guidelines mostly, and while a lot of those should be followed (status affects, spells, hp and death) there is always room for variation. Maybe if you allow some wacky acrobatics into the combat you’ll find the game becomes that much more fun! Don’t be afraid to try new things just because the book says no.
Now onto some physical advice. Make sure you’re in a central place at the table (usually the head) so that you can see everything well. You should be able to see your players dice (maybe not read them based on size of table and number of players) and character sheets. If you’re using maps and minis, you should be able to see those as well. This gives you the ability to assess all of the information at your disposal more quickly and accurately. If there is some sort of issue with how a player rolled or moved, it can be brought up right away rather than hidden from you.
When it comes to naming NPCs, don’t worry too much about having each person named before the game starts. You have no idea who the party will want to talk to, so it’s a potentially huge waste of time and effort to do that. Instead, find or come up with some names for both genders and write them down in a list. Usually ten names total will be enough. If the players want to talk to an unnamed NPC, just choose a name off of the list and jot down a note of what they are just in case the party comes back to them.
Finally, and probably the most important bit of advice I can give, is to have extra dice for whatever game you play. There is always someone that either doesn’t own any dice or forgot theirs. This is fine, it happens, but you need dice to play most RPGs. It doesn’t have to be a nice set (my first set were one color plastics that my roommate got in a set of eight off of Amazon), but something functional to get them by. And who knows, to a newer player it may spark a desire to play even more!
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