Posts in this Category

Character Monologue: Tell Us What It’s Like To Be You

Our heroes have just come back to town after exploring the wastelands, and the GM asks Fred what his character, Skark the scavenger, is doing. “He’s looking around to see if he can buy some more shotgun shells, then he’ll check in at the weather tower to see if they picked up any new radio […]

Ben Robbins | October 13th, 2009 | , | 20 comments

Keeping the Peace: Applying Social Sanctions

There are a lot of things a GM does to run a great game: straight man, creative enabler, spinner of fantastic yarns, tactical challenger, person who makes all the funny voices… But there’s one job that I see GMs forget to do more than any other, and that’s keeping players in line. Oooh, shades of […]

Ben Robbins | April 30th, 2008 | | 5 comments

Be Interested

When you look out from behind your GM screen at all those beaming faces, there is a natural human tendency to focus on what is interesting. Chuck is doing cool stuff, so you pay attention to Chuck. You react to what he’s doing, which means the game world does too. The other players aren’t doing […]

Ben Robbins | February 27th, 2008 | , , | 5 comments

Learn to Explain Failure

If you want to be a good GM, one of the most important things you can do is learn to explain failure. Player characters fail all the time. They try to leap onto moving horses (whoops, trampled), talk obstinate shopkeeps into extending small loans (taciturn glare, veiled threats to call the city watch), or bulls-eye […]

Ben Robbins | May 11th, 2007 | , | 13 comments

Give Them Details (part 2), Gratuitous Details

Details are good, and can make the game feel more real to the players. But there's a flip side, which is that gratuitous details can alienate your players. It's about suspension of disbelief: if the players perceive the details as a natural part of the game world, the details will improve their game experience. If […]

Ben Robbins | August 1st, 2006 |

Give Them Details

A good action scene paints with a broad brush, but then zooms in and focuses on select specifics. Details make the scene feel real to the players. Landmarks, place names, and even military unit designations lend reality to the situation, not to mention keeping one fight from being just the same as the next. Saying […]

Ben Robbins | July 29th, 2006 | ,

Ask Questions

A good GM asks questions. A good GM doesn't say “this is what happens” unless they follow it up with “what do you do?” A good player asks questions. A good player asks how high is the wall, how far is it to the shore, does the innkeeper seem irritated or just busy? A GM […]

Ben Robbins | June 18th, 2006 | , , | 1 comment