Posts in this Category

Crisscrossing Players and Plots and Not Losing Your Mind

After West Marches I ran a long-term superhero game, New Century City. Unlike West Marches it followed the more traditional “the GM creates a situation and the players have fun with it” model, which was fitting because superhero games are one of the most reactive genres you can play: villains hatch schemes, heroes react to […]

Ben Robbins | March 22nd, 2010 | , , | 19 comments

Treasure Tells A Story

If you’ve played in any of the basic dungeon crawling analogs, you’ve experienced that magical post-combat moment: treasure anticipation. There’s loot — you know there’s loot — but you don’t know what it is yet. Your brain is awash with the endless possibilities, visions of the shiny wonders that could be stashed in the ogre’s […]

Ben Robbins | June 26th, 2008 | , | 23 comments

Backdrop Plots: May You Live In Interesting Times

Detectives investigate a string of grisly murders around the city. That’s a fine plot for a game. It covers the basics by providing a clear problem, a potential for action, and a motivation for the players to get involved (they could be the detectives, the vengeful bereaved, or someone who may be next on the […]

Ben Robbins | September 25th, 2007 | | 12 comments

Plot vs Premise: Running Crime Games

Crimes are a villain staple. Bank robbery, arson, kidnapping, and the ever-popular holding the city for ransom – it’s what villains do. But in games there are really only two kinds of crimes: those where the specific crime matters (plot), and those where the crime is just a setting for the action (premise). A classic […]

Ben Robbins | June 6th, 2007 | | 4 comments

Situations not Plots

A sorcerer-wight has awakened in his barrow after his ancestral necklace was filched by a hobbit thief, and he has sent undead minions forth to sack the countryside and find it. That’s a plot. You (the GM) know it’s a cool idea, but the players aren’t going to see that until they put all the […]

Ben Robbins | December 24th, 2006 | , | 11 comments

Anatomy of an Action Scene

As we’ve already confessed, you are not going to remember GM tips at the table, in the heat of the moment. Things happen fast during a game, and it will come down to your personality and instincts (your GM reflexes) not pages of advice you read somewhere. Designing the game is another matter entirely. There […]

Ben Robbins | December 22nd, 2006 | , | 1 comment


Normal weapons can’t kill the zombies. MicroMan doesn’t trust Captain Fury. The lake monster is really Old Man Wiggins in a rubber mask. These are Revelations. They are things you want the players to find out so that they can make good choices or just understand what is going on in the game. Revelations advance […]

Ben Robbins | October 25th, 2006 | , , | 3 comments

Question Your Assumptions

When you’re writing your game, there’s a tendency toward tunnel vision, to assume players will do what you expect. Take a step back and think about what assumptions you’re making: gentleman’s agreement – You expect the players will do something based on the type of game you are playing. If you all agree to play […]

Ben Robbins | December 6th, 2005 | | 4 comments