Peeking over the screen.

The Communication Barrier a.k.a The Game Master’s Screen

If they are used properly, storyteller’s screens are a valuable tool in running and managing your game.  Used improperly, these paper walls can be an imposing barrier between the players and the storyteller, a physical manifestation of the subconscious castle that inexperienced (or just plain bad) game masters take shelter behind to avoid player conflict.  By reducing the height of this castle wall and placing it strategically on the table we can transform it from a castle wall to a stage curtain that empowers the game master in productive ways.

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Game Master Quick Tip: Dungeon Map Resources

With the right map, an encounter goes from “killing a hagmother” to “hunting a hagmother through her subterranean warren, finally cornering her in her hidden back room for her final showdown.”  Before each major encounter at the game table, I spend hours scouring the ‘net trying to find just the right map to enhance the evening’s events.  Once I’ve found it, I’ll use graph paper or software to add features and aspects to make it uniquely mine.  In all that searching, I’ve amassed a small stockpile of “go to” map sites and I’ll share the ones I use most here with you; Map-a-Week Archive – This is my go-to for castles and cities.  They’re clean and make good props when printed on linen paper.  There’s some good single rooms in there, too.  Good for random encounter rooms in a bigger dungeon you’re building. B&W Dungeon Maps – These are just good solid dungeon maps.  And the best part is they’re creative commons!  They translate well to graph paper when I’m looking to make changes, and most of the dungeon maps from The Trials of Everrun came from their black and white inspiration.  I keep a few of these in the back of my campaign folder all the time, just in case I need to improv something! Random Dungeon Maps, Random Cave Maps, and Random Wilderness Maps – These are great, quick tools.  Lots of good customization in how you want it.  Especially when I’m drawing my own maps, I’ll use random dungeon or cave as the starting point and build my own from that structure.  They have a great Gallery, which makes for good leisurely browsing when you’re looking for something special to add to an existing map.  A random map from combined with some of the special rooms from Wizards Map-a-Week Archive (above) makes for some good encounters! Dungeon Generator for D&D – A lot like Gozzys but it generates the whole dungeon, including monsters and traps.  I have not yet had the chance to use it, but the traps feature has me intrigued.  I always struggle with where to put traps, so this makes it easier!

There are a lot of great resources out there for maps, but those are my “go to” sites when I’m planning a campaign or building an encounter.  I should also include a shout out to the “Micro Maps” and “map-Making in Games” communities on Google Plus.  There are some really talented map artists over there and I’ve learned a lot just admiring their work.  They really inspired me to take maps out of my head and put them onto graph paper!

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Have a question for the staff?  Want to share your own map resources?  Put it in the comments!

Game Master Tip #6 – Choosing a Space

Nearly as important as what you play is where you play.  As the gaming community has matured, it has left behind the days of attracting players to mom’s basement or the picnic table at the park.  Instead, the modern player wants to be comfortable and have all the amenities of home, like power outlets for their electronics, snacks and comfortable furnature.   It seems like every day technology is holding a stronger presence on the game table, making these comforts of home even more important.  So what should game masters consider when they’re choosing a space to host their game?

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Player Technology Part 4 – Making Minis

Like bringing your own dice (which you should always do), bringing your own miniature is a great way for players to get into the spirit of the game.  It gets players thinking about what their character looks like, gets them in the mindset of (literally) bringing something to the table and out of the mindset of expecting the game master to provide their fun.  But any player involved in several games – or not sure about a game – may not want to invest the bucks to buy expensive plastic miniatures.  What other options are there?  Make your own!

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Game Master Tip #5 – Getting them in the door!

Some severe health concerns and the arrival of my niece have delayed the Player Series yet again.  Please accept as tribute Game Master Tip #5 – Getting them in the door!

Any Game Master who’s ever experienced it – from a LARP to a MMO Raiding Group and every brand of tabletop in between – nothing kills a game faster than bickering and arguing between players.  But if you want to see a game die a slow, painful death?  Apathy is the way to do it. When the players (or even worse, the game master!) disengages from the game itself the sessions start a slow downward spiral until, if you’re lucky, it dies.  If you’re not lucky? Well, then it really takes a turn for the worse. What can a good Game Master do to keep his players engaged and his story engaging?  I was given a tip by a fellow Game Master several years back that I have always followed.  He said (and I’m paraphrasing): “First, you’ve got to get them in the door every week.”

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Player Technology Part 3 – Dice Rollers

A decision needed to be made here, and I had a lot of trouble with it.  Comparing disparate dice rollers (a Fudge Dice roller for FATE core vs. a D20 set for Pathfinder) would have very little actual value for the community – but picking a single system to test dice for was nerve wracking.  So, at the end of the day I decided to pick the system less traveled – the one that’s newer (to us, at least) and seemed to be the most different;  FATE Core.

Looking around online, Fudge dice ranged pretty wildly in price.  Drip Dry was kind enough to buy a GM dice set and shares them with the team every week – and for most of the sets that I would want to purchase as an upgrade, the cost was around $10 for a set of 4.  But could a software dice roller really replace that?

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