Down and Dirty Helpful Hints for GMs, Particularly Those Running Organized Play


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The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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This is not a philosophical thread. This is where we share practical hints about GMing.

1) Drawing maps at the table eats time. It's almost never worth it. Pre-draw or pre-print your maps.

2) I've found that the blank or blank-ish side of flip-maps are better than either rolling flexible maps or 1-inch-square drawing paper. YMMV.

3) Don't tell players how many hit points the monsters have left , and don't let them tell each other how many hit points their PCs have during battle. That's what the deathwatch spell is for.

4) But let the players see how much damage the bad guys have taken. I use piles of poker chips: 10 pts = blue, 5 pts = red, 1 pt = white. YMMV.

5) Compliment players when they do smart things. Encourage them. I say things like: "Good! That's a smart idea!" Don't congratulate them for simply doing normal stuff, or for random dice luck.

6) Bring a low-level PC to conventions so you can sit in on tables that don't have enough players during the sessions you aren't running. Make that character a member of the Grand Lodge, so he can sit next to new players with pre-gens and help them with their faction missions.

7) Ask permission of a really good GM, and then sit at a nearby table during a session and watch him run. Pay attention to the boring stuff. How does he keep things moving? How long does he take to look things up? What is *he* paying attention to? How much of the first 30 minutes is spent just getting to know the people at the table?

8) You don't want to make players feel bad, or feel like you're out to get them. There's a whole lot of things I'd forbid at my table (hard-to-read dice, for example) but it's not worth making everybody else at the table uncomfortable.

9) If the game is turning dangerous, with people bleeding out, or a character really needing to make a cave, give the people involved all the time they need to check everything -- maybe they have forgotten a Chronicle that allows a re-roll -- and ask "Is there anything else?" That's not the time to rush anybody.

10) But once they give their final answer, nobody gets to go back and amend it. Move on.

11) Funny voices and NPC character exists to draw out players speaking in character. Get the PCs to interact with the VCs, with the bad guys, with other NPCs. Nobody wants to hear you do two minutes of "crabby old dwarf lady" improv. Your crabby old dwarf lady has to be drawing the PCs into conversation.

12) Writing up Chronicle sheets at the table eats time. Get them copied off and get all the stuff at the bottom filled in before the session. And three-hold-punch the things before you hand 'em out.


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13) At the beginning of the scenario, on whatever notepad you use (I do it with my initiative cards) collect Sense Motive and Perception modifiers, and roll those dice behind the screen on the players' behalf even when they actively roll a check. (This cuts way down on metagaming: "I rolled a 1 on Sense Motive, so I missed it - she must be lying! My character doesn't believe her story!")

14) Ask for advice on running scenarios if you know someone who already has run them. What works well, what doesn't, and what pitfalls to expect. In a similar vein, read the forum thread in the GM Discussion forum.

15) Keep combat moving. Don't be afraid to set time limits on player "thought" time in the opening rounds of combat especially, and enforce that limit when necessary.

Sovereign Court 5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

16. Listen to what the players want to do. See how much you can accomodate them even if the railroad isn't going in that direction. Let their ideas shape the scenario, they'll enjoy it much more. Besides, they won't stray too far off the railroad - they still have faction missions to complete.

17. Prep the hell out of the scenario. You should be familiar with all the mechanics and spells used and have some way of quickly referencing them. Figure out what kind of cheat sheet works for you.

18. Look on the PFS Shared Google Drive and search the GM Discussion boards for threads about your scenario. There's a lot of good resources that have already been made/questions that have been already asked. All you need to do is grab them.

19. Related to Jeff's #15 - Make the Initative order public. Especially at high levels where turns can take a while, if you can get players to think about their turn while the previous player's turn is happening, it can save a lot of time. Also, it makes it much less likely for you to accidently skip someone in initative.

5/5 5/55/55/5

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20: If you see a die roll that's higher than the monsters armor class and the character is still counting on fingers, just yell HIT and ask for damage.


21) Make a written list of your table rules, and refer to that list when you introduce yourself at the beginning of the scenario so that you don't miss anything that you do that players might not be familiar with.

OPTIONAL) This is something I've started to do to cut down on combat time, but it's not for everyone, so I didn't want to number it. Give some time for tactical discussion at the top of every round, but don't allow table talk during a player's turn. Free actions to say a few words ("Bob, flank this one!") on your own turn are fine, but no discussions on someone else's turn. This also helps manage my #15, above.

5/5 5/55/55/5

Jeff Mahood wrote:
Free actions to say a few words ("Bob, flank this one!") on your own turn are fine, but no discussions on someone else's turn. This also helps manage my #15, above.

Talking is specifically the one thing you can do when its not your turn, and if anything not being able to talk increases the herd of cats phenomenon for most groups.

"Did you have to stand in my charge lane? The square to the north was just as good for you

"I didn't see you back there why didn't you say something?"

"I can't! It wasn't my turn when you stopped"

Silver Crusade

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BigNorseWolf wrote:
20: If you see a die roll that's higher than the monsters armor class and the character is still counting on fingers, just yell HIT and ask for damage.

Two things on a related note:

22. Have everyone at the table roll their "to hit" and "damage" dice at the same time, to speed things up.

23. Tell everyone not to do the math until it matters. ie Don't look through your character sheet trying to find your hit bonus, then add in the flank, Bless, Inspire Courage, etc to know you have a +9, and then roll the d20 to see if you hit. That +9 won't matter if you roll really high or really low, so don't bother figuring it out until the die and GM tell you to add it up. Just roll the d20, then let the GM decide if it's worth bothering with the exact math.


Don't want to derail the discussion, but your point, BNW, is specifically why I made my point optional. The reasoning behind my decision is that we run in 4 hours at my local, and tabletalk slows things down considerably. I give a block of time to have large discussions at the top of the round to counteract the restrictions later. Generally, the players respond positively to it, because they figure out their tactics together, all at once, before the round begins. In your example, any of the groups that have player under me would have said, "Amy, you're going to charge on your turn, right? Great idea, so Bill, please don't block her charge when you close for your attack."

In short, it works better than you might think by reading my description.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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24) I sometimes cheat, or "simplify the rules" with Initiative. For many encounters, I'll have the NPCs "take 10.5" on initiative. So all the NPCs with +2 Initiative act between the PC with 12 and the PC with 13.

If there are more than three opponents, I'll have half "take 8.5" and half "take 12.5".

This speeds up combat, and it helps make sure that PCs who invest in feats, traits, or familiars that improve initiative get the benefit of those investments.

25) If there are going to be a lot of combats, and time is of the essence (like the "Race for the Rune-carved Key" tables, where there might be 10 combats) I will place the plaers in Initiative order around the table, clockwise from fastest to slowest, and suggest that they "take 10" on Initiative.

26) There are some opponents you see a lot. Goblins. Skeletons. Ghouls. Sit down and memorize those stat blocks.

4/5

Chris Mortika wrote:

24) I sometimes cheat, or "simplify the rules" with Initiative. For many encounters, I'll have the NPCs "take 10.5" on initiative. So all the NPCs with +2 Initiative act between the PC with 12 and the PC with 13.

If there are more than three opponents, I'll have half "take 8.5" and half "take 12.5".

This speeds up combat, and it helps make sure that PCs who invest in feats, traits, or familiars that improve initiative get the benefit of those investments.

25) If there are going to be a lot of combats, and time is of the essence (like the "Race for the Rune-carved Key" tables, where there might be 10 combats) I will place the plaers in Initiative order around the table, clockwise from fastest to slowest, and suggest that they "take 10" on Initiative.

26) There are some opponents you see a lot. Goblins. Skeletons. Ghouls. Sit down and memorize those stat blocks.

If there are a lot of NPCs, I'll sometimes pre-roll initiative for them. I can even start with them laid out on my combat pad to speed things up more. I used to have similarly typed mooks go on the same initiative, but the gang-up effect can have some unintended consequences.

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/55/55/55/5 Venture-Captain, Indiana—Southern aka CanisDirus

Chris Mortika wrote:


3) Don't tell players how many hit points the monsters have left , and don't let them tell each other how many hit points their PCs have during battle. That's what the deathwatch spell is for.

I picked up a similar tip from Wes (Australian Wes) at GenCon last year. I tell players that if they announce how many hit points they have left that the monsters will hear that same information - they won't, of course, know what "hit points" are, but they'll assume that if a PC is announcing that they're low on them, that they must be an easier target for not having as many of them :)

Deathwatch and the Heal Skill do exist for a reason, indeed.

5/5

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27) Introduce your GMing style to the players explicitly. This starts everyone off knowing where they stand.

28) Ask the players what kind of game they like if you don't know them. Do they like to spend more time role-playing with NPCs, interacting with each other, getting down and dirty in tactical combat?

29) Ask the players if their PCs have any unusual abilities or things you need to know about, such as a rogue's trapspotter ability.

30) Take at least one break in the scenario. Include yourself in that break. You'll come back to the game better able to devote your full energy to it if you take a few minutes away.

Shadow Lodge

31) Never lose site of the #1 goal* in Pathfinder Society, several hours of FUN with friends and new acquaintances alike. If you continually keep that in mind, then you can focus on destroying the hopes and dreams of the player characters and collect the tears of the players as you rip up their chronicle sheets.

*The #1 goal for us is fun, while for Paizo it's selling product. ;-)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

Note regarding #31: Everybody gets a Chronicle sheet. But when you're at the Care Baird's table, you're not guaranteed that it will have any positive numbers on it.

"If I could give you negative XP, I would. As it is, all I can do is give you -16 XP and -2500 gold. Please direct your tears into the buckets provided.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Contributor

32) Print out the scenario so you can highlight important mechanical information buried in the walls of text. Also, write extra information in the margins. The perfect things to write are poison stats, lock DCs and object breaking DCs (such as doors). Weapon hardness and hp is also useful if you have monsters that damage weapons (like oozes and Caryatid Columns). Trying to look that stuff up during a scenario grinds it to a halt.

33) Highlight the most useful information on enemy stat blocks: HP, AC, Saves, CMD/CMB, feats and items that need to be activated. If there's a feat, item, or spell you don't know 100% then take the time to look that up to and jot down the information in the margins.

34) For feats like Power Attack and Deadly Aim, write out new attack stats using those feats just to save time.

The Exchange 5/5

35) note the Perception DC for detecting the creatures appearing in the scenario - and the modifiers for detecting them (+5 for doors, +10 for walls, etc.). That way, when the PCs "listen at a door" you don't have to "wing it".

Grand Lodge 5/5 Contributor

nosig wrote:
35) note the Perception DC for detecting the creatures appearing in the scenario - and the modifiers for detecting them (+5 for doors, +10 for walls, etc.). That way, when the PCs "listen at a door" you don't have to "wing it".

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahhaaha... <wipes tear>

Shadow Lodge

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Quote:
And three-hold-punch the things before you hand 'em out.

Ugh, please don't. Not everyone uses binders, and unused punches are all too likely to read to ripping later.

3/5

36) Use props. (or Props cover a multitude of sins). It doesn't need to be Dwarven Forge, perfect miniatures, or 5' tall hand-crafted stairs. (but I'd gladly sit at your table if you have any of these.) Predrawn maps, miniatures (or pawns), Legos, spell templates, and any other creative ideas all make for a much more enjoyable game.

37) Use something to easily track Initiative. A combat pad works. I use 3 x 5 cards. I pre-print cards for all the NPCs in the adventure.

The Exchange 5/5

Andrew Hoskins wrote:
nosig wrote:
35) note the Perception DC for detecting the creatures appearing in the scenario - and the modifiers for detecting them (+5 for doors, +10 for walls, etc.). That way, when the PCs "listen at a door" you don't have to "wing it".
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahhaaha... <wipes tear>

what did I say that was funny? This is something I have recently started doing for myself...

5/5 5/55/55/5

38: Perception is largely a passive skill. Do not make everything a reactive perception check.

Eyes are always open. Ears are always open. You are semi house broken quasi professional grave robbing archeologists. Unless the party is for some reason dashing through the dungeon against the clock I assume they're looking around for traps, examining the walls for hidden doors, and alert for the inevitable thing jumping at them from out of the darkness. Just get a party formation and strategy (meat shields in front? Scouts?) and go. The amount of time this saves in a dungeon crawl is staggering.

Making the players shout out that they're looking for an ambush every time they touch their figures is something to avoid.


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Create emotional ties for the PCs. Find traits the player or his PC would appreciate/hate and give the situations those same traits.

It is much more satisfying to down the boss when you hate him too.

Shadow Lodge

BigNorseWolf wrote:
I assume they're looking around for traps, examining the walls for hidden doors

I have to disagree with these two; there's a difference between paying attention to your surroundings and looking for stuff that's hidden.

Two reasons:

1. You can't expect to find these things if you don't suspect they're there.
2. It devalues racial traits like a dwarf's stonecunning and class features like the trap spotter rogue talent, by effectively giving the same benefit to everyone.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Contributor

nosig wrote:
Andrew Hoskins wrote:
nosig wrote:
35) note the Perception DC for detecting the creatures appearing in the scenario - and the modifiers for detecting them (+5 for doors, +10 for walls, etc.). That way, when the PCs "listen at a door" you don't have to "wing it".
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahahhaaha... <wipes tear>
what did I say that was funny? This is something I have recently started doing for myself...

I was recalling your post about how to make perception more useful, or how to avoid table variation for when super-perceptive characters "listen at a door." Though, I agree that this is something that would be very useful if the encounter calls for ambush tactics.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

40) I check Day Jobs and whether people are on normal or slow experience at the beginning of the scenario, rather than the end. PCs don't get access to the gold till the adventure is concluded, but that's two more things we don't have to deal with when everybody's packing dice away.

"What if I don't use my shirt re-roll and want to re-roll my Day Job."

Then you can re-roll your day job when the time comes.

41) Your mileage may vary on this, but I print out all the bestiary pages beforehand, both to highlight the stats that need checking, and to streamline combat. If I have to haul up the Bestiary 3 and turn to a page, that's time wasted. Other people I've seen use electronics, but mine are slow to load.

42) When people get set up, I ask spellcasters to give me their default spell loads for the day. "I know that, as clerics, you can change your spells every day. That's fine. But write down the spells that you're preparing in case you don't tell me any differently."

I find this (a) forces the players to think about that, and (b) avoids the Shroedinger's Mage phenomenon, aka "Of course I had knock prepared today."

Shadow Lodge

Chris Mortika wrote:
"Of course I had knock prepared today."

But I *did* have knock prepared!

Sovereign Court 5/5 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

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43) Face cards are your friends - they help the players visualize the NPC that they are speaking to and tend to draw the players into more conversaton.

44) Print out the day job, spellcasting cost and PP cost charts from the GTOP and tape them to your GM screen or binder.

45) Consider more than just time when deciding whether or not to include optional encounters. Some optional encounters in PFS are absolutely brutal, and even though the party may be moving quickly, they may not be up to the task. No need to make things worse than they already are.

46) If you want to predraw maps but are concerned about fog of war, draw your maps on a 1-inch graph paper pad, then cut out the segments for each room so that you can lay them down as the party explores.

47) Carry multiple sets of dice, as well as extra pregens in your GM binder.

48) When RPing as an NPC, try to end a sentence with a hook that invites further question or discussion. If you end on a declaratory statement, the PCs will often stop engaging the NPC there.

49) If the party is having too easy of a time in a particular scenario, start asking them what kind of weapons they're using. They'll start cycling through their damage types, even if the enemy doesn't have DR. It's great.

50) When preparing a scenario, don't just prepare the enemy's side of things. Ask yourself what you would do as a player in that situation. Figure out what possible responses there are to each threat and understand how those work in addition to the enemy's statblock.


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There are some great suggestions here, thanks for the thread.

51.) Mark things as the players encounter them so everybody is talking about the same thing. It's much easier to say "I'm attacking the "valeros" goblin" than "I'm attacking the third one from the left, no my left, the one everybody else attacked, right?" Or, if there are features on the map, highlight them: Put a red X on the broken column or blue dots on the square that players saw caltrops.

Iammars wrote:


17. Prep the hell out of the scenario. You should be familiar with all the mechanics and spells used and have some way of quickly referencing them. Figure out what kind of cheat sheet works for you.

Combined with Chris Mortika's #41:

Quote:


41) Your mileage may vary on this, but I print out all the bestiary pages beforehand, both to highlight the stats that need checking, and to streamline combat. If I have to haul up the Bestiary 3 and turn to a page, that's time wasted. Other people I've seen use electronics, but mine are slow to load.

The way stat blocks are printed aren't yet intuitive to me so I make a Google Doc spreadsheet cheat sheet for every encounter. It has the DC to perceive monsters (distance and doors included, either assuming they take 10 on stealth or the sum total of modifiers,) their perception, AC, attacks (and separate entries for things like Power Attack,) saves, special abilities with save and DC, and spells. I list out the monster names and HP in a separate area so I can track those on the sheet, and put additional information or adjustments in parentheses for things like Season 4 scenarios. Then I print them off, 1 encounter per page labeled with the tier and encounter in the upper corner, so I can just flip the page and know everything I need to know.

It takes some time to prepare (though that time is shorter for each scenario I run, and it's time I would be spending at the table otherwise) but it puts the information I need in a format that I can understand at a glance so that I'M not the one slowing the combat down. Also, it helps avoid things like accidentally sending a tier 6-7 encounter at a tier 3-4 table. Mistakes still happen, (I ran the 3-4 encounter for a 1-2 table on my second scenario as a GM because I second guessed my preparations) but if you give yourself a cheat sheet or organize the information in a way that YOU find intuitive, they happen a lot less often.

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka thistledown

This one merges with #50, and was somewhat sparked by one of my players.

52) If you are expecting a PC in the game to use a particular tactic, such as intimidate, add what you will need for that tactic to your planning beforehand.

It's his main thing, so it's good to prep for it.

And carrying #51 forward, I use legos for my minis. I make sure that groups of baddies have similar but not identical gear. So they can be identified as "helmet, blond, blue hat" instead of "mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3"

The Exchange 5/5

thistledown wrote:

This one merges with #50, and was somewhat sparked by one of my players.

52) If you are expecting a PC in the game to use a particular tactic, such as intimidate, add what you will need for that tactic to your planning beforehand.

It's his main thing, so it's good to prep for it.

And carrying #51 forward, I use legos for my minis. I make sure that groups of baddies have similar but not identical gear. So they can be identified as "helmet, blond, blue hat" instead of "mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3"

Long ago I had a large number of goblin figures (the same casting) painted identical. I painted numbers on them (01 thru 35), and several players started calling them the "goblin Bowling team" - I guess they looked like they had jerseys on or something...

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

nosig wrote:
thistledown wrote:

This one merges with #50, and was somewhat sparked by one of my players.

52) If you are expecting a PC in the game to use a particular tactic, such as intimidate, add what you will need for that tactic to your planning beforehand.

It's his main thing, so it's good to prep for it.

And carrying #51 forward, I use legos for my minis. I make sure that groups of baddies have similar but not identical gear. So they can be identified as "helmet, blond, blue hat" instead of "mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3"

Long ago I had a large number of goblin figures (the same casting) painted identical. I painted numbers on them (01 thru 35), and several players started calling them the "goblin Bowling team" - I guess they looked like they had jerseys on or something...

I actually just picked up some Stormtrooper minis to use as nameless mooks. Maybe I'll go through and number them.

The Exchange 5/5

RainyDayNinja wrote:
nosig wrote:
thistledown wrote:

This one merges with #50, and was somewhat sparked by one of my players.

52) If you are expecting a PC in the game to use a particular tactic, such as intimidate, add what you will need for that tactic to your planning beforehand.

It's his main thing, so it's good to prep for it.

And carrying #51 forward, I use legos for my minis. I make sure that groups of baddies have similar but not identical gear. So they can be identified as "helmet, blond, blue hat" instead of "mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3"

Long ago I had a large number of goblin figures (the same casting) painted identical. I painted numbers on them (01 thru 35), and several players started calling them the "goblin Bowling team" - I guess they looked like they had jerseys on or something...
I actually just picked up some Stormtrooper minis to use as nameless mooks. Maybe I'll go through and number them.

or letters on thier bases.... then you could even name them!

"Andy, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Eddie, Fred, etc." - and see how long it took for the players to figure out the names!

Shadow Lodge 4/5

I am GMing at my first con in a month and a half and I am looking at painting all the minis I need for the enemies. Problem right now is: I'm running a year 5 mod, so I haven't seen it yet. Thanks to Bones, I likely have a good chunk of what I need though. I have taken notes of things I really like that I have seen other GMs do, and I'm watching threads like this.

I have a list I pass around for each PC to fill out that includes their AC, HP, Con, and Perception. PCs should be allowed their search checks on their own, but spot or listen type things where it's a passive, I tend to roll. I feel that it is better for all that way. Which actually leads me to:

53) Use a screen and randomly look behind it and roll dice, that way the PCs are always curious as to what is about to happen, and half or more of the time, you are just throwing dice randomly.

The Exchange 5/5

Heofthehills wrote:

I am GMing at my first con in a month and a half and I am looking at painting all the minis I need for the enemies. Problem right now is: I'm running a year 5 mod, so I haven't seen it yet. Thanks to Bones, I likely have a good chunk of what I need though. I have taken notes of things I really like that I have seen other GMs do, and I'm watching threads like this.

I have a list I pass around for each PC to fill out that includes their AC, HP, Con, and Perception. PCs should be allowed their search checks on their own, but spot or listen type things where it's a passive, I tend to roll. I feel that it is better for all that way. Which actually leads me to:

53) Use a screen and randomly look behind it and roll dice, that way the PCs are always curious as to what is about to happen, and half or more of the time, you are just throwing dice randomly.

each judge is different... here's what I get from the players (on a small card).

PC name, Player Name
Faction
4 Init rolls and Init bonus
Sense Motive bonus
Perception bonus
6 random d20 rolls (for the SM or Perc. checks they'll need, but I don't want to tell them they are taking) - this way they roll the hidden rolls.
a blank for notes for things they think I need, or something in the scenario I might need (like languages).

and that's it. I don't need thier AC, HP, Con, I figure they can keep better track of that then I can. I'll say I what AC I hit, they tell me if I hit, and I tell them damage. That way, if the AC changes, they track it, I don't need to.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

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55) An advanced map technique, if there are areas you don't want players to see. Get black construction paper, and make 200 circles, from 1" to 2.5" in diameter. Sprinkle them onto the map sheet. Brush them away from the areas when players move. As a bonus: you can reveal only a portion of a really big room. As another bonus, you can close up the area behind the party as their light source leaves an area.

56) For new players, don't give them a set of monochromatic dice. "Roll the d20" is not an easy command to follow for people unaccustomed to polyhedral dice. At the very least, make the d20 a distinct color. Ideally, make each die type a different color.

57) While prepping, find out if any other scenarios have the same monsters as the one you're going to run. Look through the PCs' Chronicles, looking specifically for those other adventures. When the party encounters, say, a babao demon or a couple of harpies, turn to that player and refer to that previous encounter, and let the player describe the bad guys to the rest of the party.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

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the biggest two things I find are great to remember when prepping a scenario:

58) Read for Flow: Basically know how the scenario is supposed to flow. Is it supposed to be fast and hectic, slow and plodding, or somewhere between? Know what's coming next as you are finishing the last encounter. Start preparing the intro for it as you move on.

59) Read for Transition: Know how one encounter is supposed to transition into the next encounter. If you know the transitions down pat, you can present them in a method that keeps immersion for the players between encounters.

If you know how to read for those two things above, it will immensely help your overall GM performance I believe.


Chris Mortika wrote:


56) For new players, don't give them a set of monochromatic dice. "Roll the d20" is not an easy command to follow for people unaccustomed to polyhedral dice. At the very least, make the d20 a distinct color. Ideally, make each die type a different color.

Usually people have their own dice. I tell them to roll the almost round one.

When I buy people dice I buy them cheap dice, because thats what I would buy for myself.

5/5 5/55/55/5

SCPRedMage wrote:


1. You can't expect to find these things if you don't suspect they're there.

On the road, in the woods i would agree. In the dungeon though why on earth wouldn't you expect it? You've found a trap or hidden door in half the dungeons you've been in, at what point does it occur to you to start looking for them?

The perception rules are not running on the old search skill. Players don't need to point out every square that they're searching. Its a mere move action to attempt to look, and nothing prevents the players from taking one every 6 seconds.

Quote:
2. It devalues racial traits like a dwarf's stonecunning and class features like the trap spotter rogue talent, by effectively giving the same benefit to everyone.

They're still useful for moving at full speed or spotting traps in combat, which are really their only mechanical uses for the character. Everything else is just a convinience for the player.

Scarab Sages 4/5

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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

(60, right?) Faction missions: I print out 3 copies each (work printer). I list all factions present on a 3x5 notecard (my "end of round" Init card). I keep that notecard in front of me during non-combat encounters as it reminds me to prod players when they are standing in front of their faction mission(s) and need to do something. You should also read the faction mission hand-outs when possible, as what the players see is often confusing when compared to what the adventure tells the DM.

(61) For initiative, I use 3x5 cards, white ones for mooks, green for PCs, red for important villains. I also have a yellow "end of round" card that I use to both remind players the round is over (in case anyone missed something that round) -and as a way to track the # of rounds. "Long" combats are often not that long (3-4 rounds), they only feel that way because they take 90 minutes. Players and DMs are often incorrect on guessing what round they're in (for durations and such), so it's important to keep track.

(62) If the mission briefing (or heck, just your read of the adventure) suggests a few simple item purchases would be SUPER USEFUL, suggest it to the players (especially novice players). Not everyone understands the rules as well as you do.

PFS 4-11 the disappeared:

1:

Because of the RP nature of this one, our DM reminded everyone to take off heavy armor and purchase light armor (with low armor check penalties) prior to going in. Was very useful.

PFS 2-25 you only die twice:
2:

I ran this the other day with five PCs : four positive channelers. They thought "undead" in the blurb meant they would rock the scenario, not be the source of their own doom. I suggested they buy scrolls/potions of Eagle's Splendor (as the temporary bump would allow them to Selective Channel +2 allies from their own channels). This proved super effective and fun was had by all. The channelers were very happy with their purchases and there were many high-fives...

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/55/5 Venture-Lieutenant, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East aka thistledown

I like the end of round card idea.

5/5 5/55/55/5

I print out the scenarios

Single sided and double sided prints cost the same, so i get single sided. this gives me the entire back of page 14 to write notes from page 15 on.

Faction missions get a quickie note as a heads up that its there.

Monsters get a quickie AC HP Attack damage saves line. It annoys the hell out of me when a monsters stat block is spread out over 2 pages.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I always:
==================
Read the module before it's time to run.
Pre-draw all maps.
Have a notepad/tablet with statblocks and notes on mobs such as special attack forms/abilities and combat tactics.-It's remarkable to me how many monsters are from Bestiary 3, with templates...and all they have are hps and two book/page references for a stat block.
Roll attacks with damage dice.
Emphasize we're here for fun.
Bring pregens.
Bring a sheet of new PFS#

I sometimes:
============
Advise group if it is a long mod and while I certainly don't mind any cross-talk or sidebars, it will eat into their completion time.
Recommend that everyone spend their time planning what to do before their turn.
Do not allow character creation during game time. Yes I have played scenarios where the first two hours were spent by the GM creating a character with a player. Ironically the character ended up being identical to a pregen.
Once the AC is passed skip the math.
Skip the math on high die rolls.
Run simulated combats with pregens to get a better sense of the encounter if it seems complex.

The Exchange

Rerednaw wrote:
Skip the math on high die rolls.

That's a good point. A lot of time at the table is wasted by players or GMs looking up a DC target before the roll is made. JUST ROLL THE DIE. Even if all the modifiers aren't known yet, it's a fair bet at Tier 3-4 that a 4 on the d20 is a failed Will save for a fighter, while an 18 on the die is going to succeed. If there's still a question/quibble, THEN they can look it up. Keep the game moving.


Doug Miles wrote:
Rerednaw wrote:
Skip the math on high die rolls.
That's a good point. A lot of time at the table is wasted by players or GMs looking up a DC target before the roll is made. JUST ROLL THE DIE. Even if all the modifiers aren't known yet, it's a fair bet at Tier 3-4 that a 4 on the d20 is a failed Will save for a fighter, while an 18 on the die is going to succeed. If there's still a question/quibble, THEN they can look it up. Keep the game moving.

Yeah, what he said. Except at high tiers. Nothing more priceless than a competent fighter type rolling a 19, claim it's a crit threat, start rolling again to confirm, and then I stop them and say, "well what's the total on the attack roll?"

Scarab Sages

So, I'm just gonna put this out there.

I had the privilege to play at one of Chris Mortika's tables at Origins this year. I haven't gamed for over 10 years, but gamed for just over 10 years previous to that (I was gaming since the womb >.>')

ANYWHO,

I have to say, he is a most excellent GM! I sat down and before I even introduced myself, I saw him with his cookbook holder, poker chips, friendly demeanor and said "THAT'S IT, I QUIT! YOU'RE WAY TO ORGANIZED FOR A GM!" a couple of other people echoed the heartfelt sentiment and we all threw up our hands and play stalked away.

I just wanted you to know, you're one of the main inspirations that have me GMing for the first time! I will be incorporating the healing wands schtick and the quotes sheets!

Also, GM's who I repeatedly play under randomly see the "Because I'm BATMAN Damnit!!!" and completely agree with you X3

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Illinois—Chicago aka thunderspirit

This is a great thread.

nosig wrote:
RainyDayNinja wrote:
nosig wrote:
thistledown wrote:

This one merges with #50, and was somewhat sparked by one of my players.

52) If you are expecting a PC in the game to use a particular tactic, such as intimidate, add what you will need for that tactic to your planning beforehand.

It's his main thing, so it's good to prep for it.

And carrying #51 forward, I use legos for my minis. I make sure that groups of baddies have similar but not identical gear. So they can be identified as "helmet, blond, blue hat" instead of "mook 1, mook 2, and mook 3"

Long ago I had a large number of goblin figures (the same casting) painted identical. I painted numbers on them (01 thru 35), and several players started calling them the "goblin Bowling team" - I guess they looked like they had jerseys on or something...
I actually just picked up some Stormtrooper minis to use as nameless mooks. Maybe I'll go through and number them.

or letters on thier bases.... then you could even name them!

"Andy, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Eddie, Fred, etc." - and see how long it took for the players to figure out the names!

For multiple foes, I use some of the white-out correct ribbon on the mini base and give each one a colored dot. Very easy to identify: red goblin, blue skeleton, green zombie...

Scarab Sages 5/5 5/5 Venture-Captain, Washington—Spokane

This is a great and helpful thead. My thanks to you Chris for starting this thread and I will add something to it:

Be ready to think on your feet and think quickly (or take a break if need be). I have had player throw some really off the wall actions at me during combat.

Grand Lodge

63) In high level play, if a spell is active on a PC, write it on a small piece of paper and have it in front of the player where the table tent usually sits. If you are covered in fiery armour, the GM and NPCs should be aware of it. This streamlines high level combat and stops forgetful mistakes (such as magic missile working on someone with shield cast earlier).

Silver Crusade

I think this one would help both GMs and Players.

Phrased for GMs: Before the session begins, explicitly ask if any player uses unusual mechanics that don't often come up. This could include things like their character being Sunder focused, or using a Master of Many Styles in ways that create unusual rules situations, and so on. This way it can be gone over quickly before the first fight. "Okay Steve... you said Urglok the Half-Troll Barbarian is also an Arcane Healer archetype Bard specializing in Bull Rush and using a Racial ability to modify that? Give me a quick reminder of how Bull Rushing works, how this race ability makes it different, and what an Arcane Healer does? Just so I'm not thrown for a loop when we start chucking dice. ...Okay, sounds good. Thanks for clearing it up!"

Phrased for Players: If you know your character does odd things, briefly explain this to the GM beforehand and ask if they want to see the relevant rules ahead of time. Something like "So you know, my character simultaneously threatens out to both 5 feet and 10 feet with different attack methods, due to them using a Reach weapon and a Bite. They'll get Attacks Of Opportunity in situations you wouldn't normally expect," or even "My character uses a lot of Deflection mechanics. Here's a little bullet-point list showing exactly what happens to a Deflected attack, since they're handled a little differently from a Miss."

Put more plainly, GMs understandably tend to get cranky when you spring things on them unannounced that turn out to severely change how the game flows. Even ones who are rules-heavy and focused on tactical detail can feel this way if your character works far outside normal combat behavior. A very quick check by both sides of the table to ensure anything unusual is explained beforehand can avoid a lot of tension and wasted time.

Shadow Lodge 5/5 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Northwest aka WalterGM

2 people marked this as a favorite.

64) Draw people in during the first few minutes of the game.

Every player in PFS is in love with their character. It's a fact. So have them give you a quick blurb about their PCs. As they talk, engage with them. As ask some questions and try to find out more about their characters. Not about the builds per say, but also about their backstory. Why did they choose that faction? Where did their character get that eyepatch? Identify something unique about each PC then during the introduction, use what they have given you to bring them in.

For example, if your game starts in Osirion, use the Osirion pathfinder as your starting point. To that character: "you are doing X, Y, and Z, as is normal for your character, when you receive a missive from the Society. It instructs you to find PCs 1, 2, and 3 and meet up at the local lodge for your mission." I pulled this one a couple weeks ago and got to sit back for five minutes while my players talked about how they met each other before the meeting.

65) After you have their attention, don't give it back.

Remember each persons PC in deeper detail than a name or class, and come back to those things you learned in character introductions throughout the game. It will keep them engaged. If you have a goblin PC that wants to be a king, play off that when they find a crown, scepter, and throne throughout your game. Make them want that throne.

If they are talking through your mission briefing, they aren't paying attention to the story or to you. Get them to pay attention. For example, when I give a briefing, I try to be in character for it. If Ambrus Valsin sees the pathfinders gathered before him squabbling over what scrolls to bring while he's in the middle of speaking, you can bet he starts yelling at them to pay attention! Sometimes I scare the occasional player when I yell at them in my deepest voice that being burned to death by goblins is no joke. Depending on how much you commit to the RP, you may need to clarify shortly afterwards that you were speaking in character, and have no problem with any given player at the table.

Also, throughout the game when you get to usual "drag spots" -- long combats, successive skill checks, etc -- try to keep the game as fast paced and exciting as possible. This means helping out with math, maybe counting squares for a far seated player, or even having your players get their actions ready before their turns come around. Use tons of description for combat, so that even something mundane as hitting something with your sword becomes an event that makes your players cheer.

66) Make everyone feel special.

Not everyone is the super-twinked barb/monk/cleric/alch large-sized falcata flurrying menace. Some people are just fighters. Or bards. Make combat fun for them too, even if they are just missing over and over again. Give less-combat oriented PCs a perceived antagonist during the fight. "The goblin dives away from your axe and sneers at you. You get the feeling that he's mocking you, daring you to hit him." That way, when they drop that goblin there will be a sense of accomplishment. If they are continuing a bardic performance, make them sing or orate lines of encouragement to their allies. If they are nervous, start singing for them to get them engaged in the game. Show your players that they don't need to be playing whatever multiclassed monster I mentioned above to be having a good time at your table.

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