The Golden Rule Part 1 – Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

This post is automated – Thirdwaller is taking some time away for a family emergency!

Disputes at the table can be intimidating to a game masters – rookies and veterans alike.  Many is the failed campaign that can attest that disputes can be treacherous ground – capable of tearing an entire gaming group apart.  In fact, a particular rules dispute in Thirdwaller’s very first attempt at running a Star Wars campaign in 9th grade has forever tainted the opinion of one player such that he will not game with Thirdwaller as a game master anymore.

But what is a game master to do when the rules don’t cover a topic – or a player more versed in the rules (looking at you, The Fez) has a different interpretation of the rules?  How the game master handles the interaction is almost as important as the ruling made.  Handling a dispute correctly will show the players that the game master wants and respect their feedback, that they’re open to the player’s opinions and that the game master is not “out to get” the players.  In other words, how you react to your players’ questions, problems or disputes will tell them you aren’t a d!ck game master.

In the first part of our multi-part series on The Golden Rule we’ll discuss a dispute handling philosophy we call “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick“.

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Game Master Tip Series #1 – The Golden Rule

In every discussion I read pertaining to Role Playing Game tips and rules, regardless of system, publisher or genre, there is a variation of the same rule that pops up again and again.  This recurring theme even shows itself in the core rules of role playing books like Vampire: the Masquerade where it is called things like the Golden Rule or Rule Zero.  Whatever the name or system, the theme is always the same;

The Game Master Is Always Right. 

Wow, no pressure, right?  In this multi-part series Thirdwalling will discuss this premise and equip game masters to navigate the treacherous waters of the Golden Rule.

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Player Tip #4 – Keep Organized

Nothing is more frustrating than waiting for a disorganized player to find their dice or figure out a skill roll.

Arriving at a game session with the necessary equipment is important, but being prepared to actually use it is equally important.  As with most other aspects of life, organization is the key to a smooth gaming experience.  So let’s take a quick moment to go over some things that you can do, as a player, to be more organized at the game table.

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Game Master Tip #4 – Give it a Name

We interrupt our scheduled discussion on the Golden Rule to bring you this quick tip instead:

It is a peaceful day in Townsville, the birds are chirping and the trees are green.  You wake and dress, kiss your wife/husband/Dead God goodbye and set out to work at THE SHOP.  After polishing the counter and arranging your merchandise the bell over the door chimes to let you know you have your first customers!  There are four of them and their armor and gear is impressive to behold (even if their swords are suspiciously blood-soaked and you’re pretty sure the one in the leather just stole your “OPEN” sign).

They approach, and their leader proclaims, “Merry met, shopkeep.  We are the Long Shots, on a sacred mission of impressiveness from the King himself.  What do you call yourself?”

A bit audacious, but you’re glad for the money.  So you reply, “Why thank you, sir!  I am…” but before you can answer, a voice interrupts, “Oh, crap.  I don’t have a name for him, man.  He’s not important.  He’s just a shop keep.  What do you want to buy?”

Wait… what?  Who said that?  Was that… was that God?  Are you there, God?  It’s me, the shopkeeper.  Please give me a name!

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Player Tip #3 – Take Notes

In the very first tip on Thirdwalling, we covered arriving prepared.  While this tip was for both Players and Game Masters, the post went into detail on what you should bring to the game as a player.  Every piece of that equipment was important – or I wouldn’t have included it on the list – but if you can bring absolutely nothing else to the game, make it a pad of paper and a pen.

Many people call the game we play “pen and paper gaming” – and there’s a reason for that.  As gaming moves into the age of Google, the media may change – but the premise is the same.  Bring a pen and paper (real or digital) and take notes!

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Game Master Tip#3 – Death Options

Dying in the big boss battle is heroic – sacrificing your character to save the rest of the party from a worse fate is downright epic in its scope.  That is the type of death that the party will talk about for years (RIP Corporal Declan).  But nobody wants to die to the easy mobs leading up to the big battle – sacrifice a well-thought-out character to the random encounter or the inept gate guard (a combination we call “crunchies”).

But sometimes, the dice just are not in your favor – and the inept guard gets a lucky shot in.  Fear not, Intrepid Game Master, for killing off a player character here is not the only (or really the best) option you have!

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