The Golden Rule Part 3 – Rule in the Players’ Favor

In the era that the Thirdwallers affectionately refer to as the Gygax Era, Dungeons and Dragons games were brutal.  A look at any of the old modules will show that these games were kill or be killed.  This idea has changed a bit – evolving into a better player experience for the most part.  There are still hold-outs to its teachings that demand respect.  Anyone that can enjoy a game geared so obviously against the player must have jewels the size of Roc eggs.

One lingering effect of this brutal era is a sense of “Us vs. Them” that seems to hang over every gaming session – the idea that the players are at odds against the game master.  In my own gaming sessions I’ve had players deliberately hide their plans from me until the last second, for fear that I would re-arrange my game to better oppose them and make a daring plan fall flat!  This mentality of hostility must be overcome for a successful game on both sides.  The first step toward that elimination is for game masters to rule in the player’s favor when rules disputes could go either way.

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Arts and Crafts – Miniatures Edition

Here at Thirdwalling, we are researching for a whole series on using miniatures and maps.  About two years ago I finally made the jump to using miniatures (watch for a future post on what that entailed) and I’ve been conducting an experiment to escalate that into a more immersive experience.

theDMsCraft – DM Scotty loves him some Hot Glue.  Seriously, buy stock in 3M’s Hot Glue Division.
TheDMGinfo – He uses DM Scotty’s 2.5D system to put together some great tutorials on practical and modular dungeons.

In some upcoming Thirdwalling series, it should be easy to see the influence these two have had on my miniatures mindset.  I’m still working out the kinks to make it more seamless – but I wanted to give a web shout-out to two of the craziest miniature ninjas I’ve stumbled across in my search.  Their 2.5D system pushes right up against the Thirdwall philosophy and the Thirdwalling crew is all captivated by their creativity, ingenuity and dedication.

The Golden Rule Part 2 – The Game Comes First

When a prominent aspect or focus of the game master’s story conflicts (directly or indirectly) with the core rules of the game trouble is on the horizon.  But what is a game master to do when they find their masterpiece at odds with the rules?

There are two schools of thought – and they are as polarized and hotly debated as everything else in our great hobby:

Some will say the rules trump the story and for the beginner game master, that is certainly a safe path to follow.  By shielding themselves behind the rules, an inexperienced game master can prevent a lengthy debate or hard feelings associated with perceived “favoritism” and get an early start on circumventing the “Us vs. GM” mentality in their players.  But it raises concerns of unnecessary “rules lawyering” stealing from the spirit of the story – and opens the door for heated debates over rules minutia.

There are others that say that the story trumps the system – a strategy that certainly appeals to the game master that’s spent months working on their campaign.  But this path is full of pitfalls – if the players don’t know what to expect from the system they will feel cheated and ill-prepared for your encounters.

The truth is, the real key to a happy campaign is not the system or the story – it’s the game!

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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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