Tag Results

Initiative: the Silent Killer

“The main thing to remember is to do everything in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. Deal with your players’ actions and reactions one by one instead of all at once, or you will never be able to keep track of what round it is, and who’s doing what when.” – Dungeon Master’s Guide, 1979 In what’s […]

Ben Robbins | August 9th, 2007 | , | 34 comments

Don’t Roll, Think

DM: “You see a few white, eyeless fish, and various stone formations in a pool of water about 4′ to 6′ deep and about 10′ long. That’s all. Do you wish to leave the place now?” Player 1: “Yes, let’s get out of here and go someplace where we can find something interesting.” Player 2: […]

Ben Robbins | July 15th, 2007 | , | 42 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

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


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

Run Club

GMs run games and players play. Some people do both, but more often than not everyone stays on their side of the screen. There are a myriad of subtle social forces that encourage things to stay this way (comfortable players, GMs threatened by others usurping their position, etc.) but we’re not going to worry about […]

Ben Robbins | October 17th, 2006 | , , | 4 comments

Play Constructively: Pass the Ball

You’re a good player. You’ve got all the basics down pat: you understand your character, when it’s your turn you make decisions (even bad ones) rather than hold up the game, and when you sit down at the table you are ready and eager to play. You’re definitely holding up your end, but as you’ve […]

Ben Robbins | September 16th, 2006 | , | 2 comments

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

Three Sins of Players

Gaming is a social contract. Everyone has agreed to show up and spend their time participating to the best of their abilities. Just as the GM has agreed to not (intentionally) create a situation which automatically wipes out the party, or precipitously violate the framework of the imaginary world by having German tanks roll out […]

Ben Robbins | May 14th, 2006 | , | 2 comments

NormalVision (part 1)

What's the difference between role-playing games and other mediums? The audience is the same as the actors. The players fill both roles. But for the players to face interesting challenges they are usually kept in the dark about more things than a passive audience needs to be. An audience at a movie can know who […]

Ben Robbins | December 25th, 2005 | , | 14 comments