Contemplating GMing and would like feedback.


GM Discussion

Shadow Lodge

I've been PFSing as a player for over a year and for the most part really enjoyed it. I'm considering starting to make the jump into GMing scenarios (I've done it for a brief home brew campaign and thought it was fun).

If/when I make the plunge I would make the following requests at the beginning of any scenario:

1) Please know your character. Given that I am relatively new I will be ignorant to questions unless I've seen that same issue come up in prior scenarios. If you have a ? then look it up between turns if at all possible.

2) Avoid distractions (cell phones, side conversations). As a new player it is really annoying when people stop the game to go on a tangent about a different character than they are playing or about a different scenario. I understand during breaks it's fun to chat about those things, but not during combat or box text description.

3) The more the PC's metagame the more I would have the NPC's metagame.

4) Announce who's on deck in an effort to keep things moving.

5) Keep a track of what bonuses are in play right now so you avoid the whole "16 attack...miss...nope 17...still misses...wait the bard is singing, 18? Roll for damage."

6) Keep track of various special abilities that have limited uses per day (channels, rage rounds, etc) as very often it doesn't appear that the players do so.

7) If there are various checks that everyone in the part needs to make at a specific time (perception, will saves) have them roll them before the scenario even starts and then just announce if people see/hear things. I had a GM ask everyone to roll 5 perception checks and 3 will saves before we even got started. He kept track of it on a note card and then he'd describe what happened during the scenario. It was awesome and I thought really added to the experience (and prevention of metagaming).

Is this too over the top/bossy? Also, for the experienced GM's out there let me know if you have any tips/tricks which you think enhance the experience.

Dark Archive 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

First off, go for it. I enjoy running just as much as playing, sometimes more.

As far as your list, I like to play things more by ear. I think announcements at the start of a scenario tend to facilitate a more adversarial relationship. Especially if you are playing with a group of strangers, keeping things friendly and moving along and adapting to the group you have is more important than enforcing your usual table rules from a home game.

From your list, I would only address 1, 2, 3 and 5 if it becomes an issue during play. With number 6, if you notice the player in question using the ability and not writing anything down, I would just ask how many times he can use the ability per day. If that doesn't prompt him to start tracking it, then you can start tracking it yourself.

Number 4 is something that I try to do myself and sometimes succeed at.

Number 7 is an excellent idea and one that I think I will have to incorporate into my games. I use index cards anyway, so I will just have the players write those rolls on the cards when they fill them out.

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

Hey Oversized! Happy to hear your ready to start seeing how it works from the other side of the table! First off: don't worry, you're not being over the top or bossy with this list. These are things that I assume/enforce at my table, as do a lot of other GMs I know. Some folks have an opening speech that goes something like this.

"Hey everyone, I'll be your GM tonight! Before we get started, there's a few things I'd like to mention. First, if there's anything particularly janky or murky your characters do, please be ready to provide the resources/FAQ/posts to explain it to me—I have a lot of NPCs to manage, and can't spend too much time investigating your characters as well [#1]. Second, be aware of what's happening in combat—this means keeping track of party buffs, enemy descriptions, initiative order, etc. Just pay attention in general. These scenarios can run long if I have to re-describe rooms or if we have to back track to do some last minute math and determine if you hit [#4, #5]. Third, try and keep IC and OOC knowledge separate. You might know how to kill a vampire, but your character doesn't unless they make that Knowledge (religion) check [#3]."

You don't need to have one of these (I often don't when I'm GMing for regular folks), but it's good to mention some of your particular quirks that players might not know about if you have new people at your table. The last thing you want to do is surprise a player and have them resent you for it.

I consider #2 as a common courtesy, so I rarely mention it. I usually address attentiveness in character during the briefing.

Shouting as Valsin

"Excuse me Pathfinder, is this mission not exciting enough for you? Maybe I should send you back to that cave so you can redo your Confirmation? How does that sound? Since clearly you aren't ready for a real challenge yet!"

You don't have to shout at them, obviously, but I like engaging the players in character, as it causes them to respond in a similar fashion.

There are also some easy things you can do throughout the game to encourage players follow your guidelines.

For example, to help with #4 I try to always track initiative on cards. This makes #4 happen without any extra effort, as everyone can see who's up next and what order they are in initiative.

To help make #5 a reality, I employ a buff deck. This makes it easy to point to the cards and have the players tally their bonuses. If you don't have a set (or don't want to get one), just have a player write down the current party buffs on the combat map with a dry erase, and constantly refer to it until your players start to remember their buffs. Even us experienced folks forget every now and then, so a constant reminder of some kind is welcome.

I've never done #6 or #7, but I've been with GMs that have and as long as they announce it up front at the start of the game, no one has any problems with it.

Sczarni

Another idea for initiative is to get everyone's initiative modifier at the start of the encounter. Doesn't save that much on time but will keep you from always having to ask when multiple people roll the same outcome.

Be prepared for each encounter you gm. You don't need to memorize what each NPC says but read through a handful of times so you know what comes next. If you have the ability to do so, making a copy of each bad guy from the beastieries can save time in not having to flip through multiple books.

Realize that you will probably make some mistakes the first set of times you gm. It happens to most of us, if not all. Taking the time to prep will help you get info on all the spells, get used to the bad guys the PCS will face and develop tactics not listed in the moral on what a bad guy will do.

Most importantly, avoid being a richard. You are there to have fun but it is also important for the players to have fun as well. Hope you enjoy it.

Silver Crusade

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When I pass out my sign-in sheet I also pass out an index card that has asks for the following:
Name, AC, Initiative Modifier, Perception Bonus, 6 d20 rolls

Example
Hey You / 0 (4 w/ mage armor)/ -2 / -3 / 1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 1

This is what I do so I don't have to repeatedly ask what's your name? What's your AC again? ok everyone got an 8 initiative, what's your init mod? and yours? you there with the funny mustache yours?...sorry ma'am....The last two are to try to prevent everyone walking blindly into the pit trap that drops you into a 70' pit filled with exploding skeletons, since the rogue is not saying "I check for traps."

In my experience they are either saying "I check for traps" for every square or they never say it.


Also, don't over obsess. Have fun. Accept that you're gonna occasionally miss things, and move on. For example, I usually play melee characters, so I'll miss a great spell sometimes running an NPC caster. I have a bad habit of saying to myself ten minutes after the fight is over, "man, wind wall would've been a way better spell... Why didn't I do that?" It's okay, just remember for next time. If you're having fun, usually your players will sense that and respond to it.


Rule 3 seems wrong to me.

Because the platers cheat does not mean you should. Ultimately you can veto a players action if they are metagaming. Plus if you metagame you may push players that are playing fairly. IE. That metagaming monk has a crazy high AC go after the cleric instead.

I see it as two wrongs do not make a right.

Shadow Lodge

Finlanderboy wrote:

Rule 3 seems wrong to me.

Because the platers cheat does not mean you should. Ultimately you can veto a players action if they are metagaming. Plus if you metagame you may push players that are playing fairly. IE. That metagaming monk has a crazy high AC go after the cleric instead.

I see it as two wrongs do not make a right.

Good point.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

None of these are necessary a bad idea , the delivery might not need to be so direct.

1) Please know your character. Given that I am relatively new I will be ignorant to questions unless I've seen that same issue come up in prior scenarios. If you have a ? then look it up between turns if at all possible.

This is usually easier to do as it comes up, after someone does it.

3) The more the PC's metagame the more I would have the NPC's metagame.

Usually easier to misdirect the players to make them warry of metagaming.

4) Announce who's on deck in an effort to keep things moving.

Someone had an idea for this that i want to try: you get a kush ball or a stress ball or one of those really big d20's and have the players pass it around to be the one "on deck"

5) Keep a track of what bonuses are in play right now so you avoid the whole "16 attack...miss...nope 17...still misses...wait the bard is singing, 18? Roll for damage."

I like adding in the bard seperately. It makes them feel their contributions to the combat.

7) If there are various checks that everyone in the part needs to make at a specific time (perception, will saves) have them roll them before the scenario even starts and then just announce if people see/hear things.

That can be hard to keep track of. With perception/sense motive checks i can see doing this, I can't see the rationale for doing it with will saves.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Agent, Australia—QLD—Brisbane aka YogoZuno

Rule 7 can be problematic - it takes away the player's ability to apply situational modifiers, or use re-rolls. For instance, if I roll Will Saves ahead of time, and am playing an Elven Fighter, I will have a different situational bonus on Fear effects, enchantment effects, and a combination of the two. Do I write all of those possible modifiers on the card as well, just in case? How about a Dwarf Rogue's perception checks - one modifier for 'normal' rolls, one for unusual stonework, one for traps, and a fourth one for traps involving unusual stonework?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I offer just one bit of advice.

Learn to embrace your failures. They will be the foundation of your learning, wisdom, and growth.


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Honestly I try to emulate the experience I would want as a player. General guide lines are great to have, nut fidn the things yo enjoy a DM does best, steal them, and apply them to your games.

I also find Gms that just want to have fun and enjoy the experience are the best. Havign a positive fun experience rubs on others the same a negative attitude has.

Liberty's Edge

Advice: Check out the Plethora of similar (and strangely recent) forum threads about people wanting to try out gming. There are little bits of information in all of them worth exploring and trying out.

Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Ocala aka Zantumal

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I haven't GM'd a lot of PFS official games but I have GM'd over the last 7 years - perhaps more. I'd have to sit down and think how old my oldest campaign is. But, I am up to 5 official tables so far.

My 2 cents,
PFS CONVENTION gaming is going to be different than PFS Game shop is going to be different than PFS Home Game. Tailor your GM style to your players and the environment the game is at. I'll get back to that but I'll go through your list first.

Re: 1) - Being a GM, you aren't expected to know everything or be an encyclopedia. Unless it is a mechanics on the game questions, the player is going to be the expert on their character anyway. So being a GM, your job is to ONE - make sure everyone is having fun within the rules and TWO - make judgement calls that are fair to all involved. It is acceptable to ask to see documentation (and have the player spend the time to get it for you) on something you aren't familiar with and a good thing to do before the game starts so you know what kind of characters you will be GM'g for so you as the GM aren't surprised.

Re: 2) - As another has said, that is common courtesy. There are side conversations and then their are non-constructive side conversations. My general reaction is to just stop talking and look at the individual until they put the phone away or stop the non-constructive side conversation (if it were a home game). That gets the point across that also, as the GM, I'm in charge of the situation. This is where your environment can come into play. If you are at a convention, it is noisy already with limited time - I would move on because the time constraint is a bigger issue than the rudeness.

Re: 3)- Meh, that is a slippery slope. Because that demands that everyone RP on the same level. Some people don't RP a different character and play the game as if they were the character (an avatar). You're essentially saying to those people, they are playing the game wrong and diminishing their enjoyment. Now, there is metagaming and then there is METAGAMING. Again, this is a situation where the GM has to play to the audience he/she has. Be mindful of other peoples enjoyments. This mentality of the GM using the level of metagaming against the level of a player using metagaming can also promote the "GM" vs "Players" game. No, just no - and it happens a lot at conventions where the GM tries to play against PC's in the attempt to kill them. That isn't the spirit of the game.

Re: 4) - This job (I feel) can't be offloaded to the players. Yes, they should be aware but it is still the GM's job to keep the pace and flow of the combat. Here is a tip to help you that I saw at last years PiazoCon. Get little index cards and cut them into strips about an inch wide and maybe about two inches long or more. Fold them in half length wise so it becomes a 1 inch wide tent. Have each player write their character name on both sides. Hang them in combat order on your GM screen so both you and the players can see the combat order (including ones for monsters/npc's). As combat progresses move the tent card from front to back. This lets the players visually know who is coming up next so they can preplan their initiative actions.

Re: 5) - We're human. It happens. But it isn't the GM's responsibility to manage characters' bonuses. They give you a number, if they miss a bonus, I may or may not remind them depending on circumstances and how battle is going. I see lots of people pull out tablets and load HeroLab character sheets to help keep track of the additional bonus by turning things on and off. It helps.

Re: 6) - See answer 5.

Re: 7) - I'm not really seeing how having predetermined rolls aids in prevention of metagaming. (For perception) You still describe what the character or characters see (or dont describe on a fail) based upon a roll either predetermined or at the moment. Now I can see where it could speed up game play in general by knowing ahead of time what to tell the players and transition into combat (get predetermined initiative orders for the combats) - but that is work you are putting on yourself to keep track of.

So tailoring your GM style to the players and the environment, is going to depend on if you've played with these people before, where it is happening, are their predetermined expectations etc. For game shop and con, having a "speech" before the game is great but I wouldn't so much proclaim them as such edicts or laws. My suggestion to you is to do some more home game GM'ing (which you can still do as PFS scenarios) to get being the GM under your belt. Have the safety net of familiarity of player expectations with people you know first as a GM, and then progress (if you like and want more challenges) to game shop with unknown quantity players and then convention.

I'd also recommend looking at the information listed in the GM101 and GM201 documents on Paizo's website. If you have the opportunity to go to a seminar for GM101/201 at PiazoCon or other convention I highly recommend them. It is interactive with round table timed situations to help GM's be better GM's and deal with things the best way possible with constructive feedback from a panel as well as the audience.

Liberty's Edge

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PFS Convention gming would Im guessing be the hardest experience a PFS GM will ever encounter.

Firstly you are going to get players with probably vastly different levels of games and world knowledge. You will likely get people who do not play well with others ( or variations on the theme)

You will likely have an artificial time restraint

Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Ocala aka Zantumal

Matthew Pittard wrote:
PFS Convention gming would Im guessing be the hardest experience a PFS GM will ever encounter.

Yes, I would agree. While I have yet to do so, (GM at a convention) I do mentally audit the GM as he is doing his stuff when I play. I can't help it. If the GM does something I like, I want to emulate it myself. If the GM does something I don't like, I remember it to not repeat it on others. When you've been on the other side of the screen, you can tell when a GM is under prepared. I then try and help the GM out as best as I can to help him/her have a good GMing experience. GM'ing other players helps being a better player in return to GM's.

Matthew Pittard wrote:
Firstly you are going to get players with probably vastly different levels of games and world knowledge.

That isn't exclusive to Convention play, you can find that at Game Shop and Home Play just as much. It just seems a higher concentration or a higher probability because there is more players at the convention.

Matthew Pittard wrote:
You will likely get people who do not play well with others (or variations on the theme)

Uh, this is a double edged sword. Again, you may see this and feel it is the norm for Convention play because... as previously stated there is a higher concentration of overall players. If they don't play well with others, it is a result that they may be at the convention, because they don't play well with others as they can't have a consistent home game experience, resulting from not being able to play well with others. The vicious cycle. My experience with Convention play, kind and courteous players eager to enjoy the game.

4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Seattle aka Gwen Smith

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One thing that helps me is asking the players before the game "Does anyone have any special abilities or unusual features I should know about?"

That way, I get the necessary breakdown for that 32 CMD on a 4th level Halfling before we start, and we don't have to stop the game to walk through it. It also lets me review any areas where there's a lot of table variation and make any rulings in advance, so both the player and I know what to expect during the game.

In a perfect world, players will be aware that this is an issue and volunteer this information, including details and sources. When I hit a tire-screeching moment in the game, I'll gently remind the player that this is the kind of unusual feature they should mention to the GM in advance.

Shadow Lodge

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One thing on avoiding mobile phones - I don't know what people in your areas are like, but I have never seen anyone checking Facebook in the middle of a game.

I use my mobile phone quite regularly during games, but that's when I'm looking up rules in the Masterwork Tools app, or my PDFs, or my digital character sheets.

My point is just don't be automatically annoyed when you see a phone come out as a "distraction", because they might still be playing the game. Be sure that they're distracted before you let the annoyance set in.


Avatar-1 wrote:

One thing on avoiding mobile phones - I don't know what people in your areas are like, but I have never seen anyone checking Facebook in the middle of a game.

I use my mobile phone quite regularly during games, but that's when I'm looking up rules in the Masterwork Tools app, or my PDFs, or my digital character sheets.

My point is just don't be automatically annoyed when you see a phone come out as a "distraction", because they might still be playing the game. Be sure that they're distracted before you let the annoyance set in.

At gencon, I watched people play video games on 3 of tables I sat at with either tablets or their phone.

When I GM and someone makes me repeat things because they were playing on their phone/tablet. I give them a hard time for not paying attention. If they can dink around and not make me repeat myself or distract others I could careless.

Shadow Lodge

If they're playing games on their phones/tablets, that's outrageous - but not what I'm referring to.

My point is, be sure they're actually misbehaving instead of just assuming they're misbehaving just because a phone/tablet is in their hand.


Avatar-1 wrote:

If they're playing games on their phones/tablets, that's outrageous - but not what I'm referring to.

My point is, be sure they're actually misbehaving instead of just assuming they're misbehaving just because a phone/tablet is in their hand.

Thats what I figured you meant. You made a point that seemed like you never noticed anyone in your area be a jerk with their mobile device during a game. Before I went to cons I would agree completely, and so i pointed out the contradiction.

I also agree you should not assume when people pull out these devices, but there are people that abuse them

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