Advice for a new GM?


Advice


I'm relatively new to GMing, and I've been having some trouble with a few things. Of course, most of my players are also new to Pathfinder, but I still want to do the best I can.

Firstly, I've found that I have trouble with NPC dialogue. "Spontaneous" is not a word that I think could ever describe me, and as a result, most NPC conversations involve a lot of stammering, saying "You know" a lot, and generally having each NPC be identical in personality. Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing when your players feel less awkward in-character than the GM does out-of-character. I've tried doing NPC conversations in the third person, but it just feels impersonal, and I still have trouble figuring out what I'm going to say next. Does anyone have any advice on dealing with a lack of improvisational ability?

Secondly, I can't figure out if I'm being too easy on my players, or too hard on them. On one hand, due to my inexperience in GMing, all but the most recent sessions had me handwaving away any rules that I had trouble memorizing, like carrying capacity (where I essentially said that the players could basically carry as many objects as they wanted, within reason, as long as none of the objects was over 60 Lbs), as well as HP regained from resting (where I basically said that a full night's rest restored all HP). In addition, whenever one of my players argues that something should logically work (which is often), I generally end up agreeing with them, even if it would cause problems. On the other hand, some monsters and traps in dungeons that I "made" (AKA made in a random dungeon generator) could easily reduce a PC to half health in a single blow. All the same, though, the players always seem to be able to breeze through encounters, even those that should be above their level. How can I know if I've got the balance of difficulty right? Or the balance of traps to monsters to puzzles to NPC, for that matter?

Finally, and I save this one for last for a reason, is that one of the players annoys the heck out of me. He only ever uses cantrips, even against incredibly powerful enemies, and after I made the mistake of allowing him to make his own spell, he uses it almost exclusively. Annoyingly enough, it does more damage than any other cantrip, and apparently creates magical snow that can be eaten to regain 2 HP, but only once per day per character. He points out his 2 HP of healing incessantly, constantly argues that the cold spell should freeze or slow the enemy, and his idea of roleplaying is to talk in an awful indian accent. He has almost no interest in doing anything himself in combat, placing more focus on his monkey familiar than his character who's backstory was directly ripped from a book series that the player had talked to me about at the time. His character's name is literally "Gandalf" wit one letter changed, he refuses to use an actual paper character sheet rather than fumbling with a PDF file that takes 3 minutes to load whenever he goes from one page to another, he seems to fail to grasp the concept of "Just because this creature shares a name with a creature from Harry Potter, it does not mean that they are the same creature", and he repeats things 7 or 8 times, even after people have told him that they understand or that they heard him the first time.

So why don't I kick him out?
Well, the thing is, I honestly don't think that he does any of it deliberately. Everyone in the group, myself included, has some form of...well, let's just say "problems with socialization". So, I honestly can't be judgemental, since he's not doing these things to be a jerk, and I don't know whether he just doesn't know better, or if it's a behavioral thing. Not only that, but we barely have enough people for the group as it is, and I can't afford to lose anyone. Besides, I invited him personally, and even if I find him disruptive, I don't know if the other players feel the same. So, one way or another, I can't kick him out. I honestly like having him around in the group, but he just gets on my nerves. Does anyone have any ideas on how I could deal with this?

I'm aware of the fact that the vast majority of my posts basically boil down to "I'm a newbie GM, can you fix my problems for me?", but I just don't feel confident enough in my abilities to try to fix these kind of problems, given the possible consequences if I make the wrong move (people leave the group, my players start to resent me, etc.).

Sovereign Court

Bioboygamer wrote:
I'm relatively new to GMing, and I've been having some trouble with a few things. Of course, most of my players are also new to Pathfinder, but I still want to do the best I can.

Hi, welcome

Bioboygamer wrote:
Firstly, I've found that I have trouble with NPC dialogue. "Spontaneous" is not a word that I think could ever describe me, and as a result, most NPC conversations involve a lot of stammering, saying "You know" a lot, and generally having each NPC be identical in personality. Honestly, it's a bit embarrassing when your players feel less awkward in-character than the GM does out-of-character. I've tried doing NPC conversations in the third person, but it just feels impersonal, and I still have trouble figuring out what I'm going to say next. Does anyone have any advice on dealing with a lack of improvisational ability?

I would add this step to your GM prep homework list. Read about the NPCs and try and envision them. If you have to, use your favorite books, movies, and even video games as a reference do so. Once you have a good idea of the character in your head it will be easier to think like them when you get flustered by your players.

Bioboygamer wrote:
Secondly, I can't figure out if I'm being too easy on my players, or too hard on them. On one hand, due to my inexperience in GMing, all but the most recent sessions had me handwaving away any rules that I had trouble memorizing, like carrying capacity (where I essentially said that the players could basically carry as many objects as they wanted, within reason, as long as none of the objects was over 60 Lbs), as well as HP regained from resting (where I basically said that a full night's rest restored all HP). In addition, whenever one of my players argues that something should logically work (which is often), I generally end up agreeing with them, even if it would cause problems. On the other hand, some monsters and traps in dungeons that I "made" (AKA made in a random dungeon generator) could easily reduce a PC to half health in a single blow. All the same, though, the players always seem to be able to breeze through encounters, even those that should be above their level. How can I know if I've got the balance of difficulty right? Or the balance of traps to monsters to puzzles to NPC, for that matter?.

Everyone has houserules and many gamers make decisions on the fly. I'm not going to tell you to stick to RAW though I'll let someone else do that. I have over a decade of experience with 3E/PF system and I am still experimenting with it. You will always be making some adjustments. Key things to keep in mind are, being fair to the players and having fun. If your houserules or snap judgments don't keep the game fun for you or the players you need to reconsider them.

When it comes to making the game more of a challenge I recommend visiting the forums often for advice. Keep in mind some folks here absolutely hate PF and will try and convince you its broken and unfun. This can get disheartening but don't let it get you down. Learning to play TTRPGs is an adventure all its own and every table/GM will need to take their own journey.

Sovereign Court

Bioboygamer wrote:

Finally, and I save this one for last for a reason, is that one of the players annoys the heck out of me. He only ever uses cantrips, even against incredibly powerful enemies, and after I made the mistake of allowing him to make his own spell, he uses it almost exclusively. Annoyingly enough, it does more damage than any other cantrip, and apparently creates magical snow that can be eaten to regain 2 HP, but only once per day per character. He points out his 2 HP of healing incessantly, constantly argues that the cold spell should freeze or slow the enemy, and his idea of roleplaying is to talk in an awful indian accent. He has almost no interest in doing anything himself in combat, placing more focus on his monkey familiar than his character who's backstory was directly ripped from a book series that the player had talked to me about at the time. His character's name is literally "Gandalf" wit one letter changed, he refuses to use an actual paper character sheet rather than fumbling with a PDF file that takes 3 minutes to load whenever he goes from one page to another, he seems to fail to grasp the concept of "Just because this creature shares a name with a creature from Harry Potter, it does not mean that they are the same creature", and he repeats things 7 or 8 times, even after people have told him that they understand or that they heard him the first time.

So why don't I kick him out?
Well, the thing is, I honestly don't think that he does any of it deliberately. Everyone in the group, myself included, has some form of...well, let's just say "problems with socialization". So, I honestly can't be judgemental, since he's not doing these things to be a jerk, and I don't know whether he just doesn't know better, or if it's a behavioral thing. Not only that, but we barely have enough people for the group as it is, and I can't afford to lose anyone. Besides, I invited him personally, and even if I find him disruptive, I don't know if the other players feel the same. So, one way or another, I can't kick him out. I honestly like having him around in the group, but he just gets on my nerves. Does anyone have any ideas on how I could deal with this?

Try to focus on the best parts of the game as you can. If you come across sore points in your sessions try and avoid them or limit them to maximize your fun and avoid unfun pitfalls. You may have to go through some growing pains to figure out how to do this. Keep in mind that you want to make things better so focus on that and don't let the bad drag you down.

Sometimes we love our friends as much for their faults as we do their strengths. Since y'all are new to this I think you need to give him a chance. I would recommend discussing things in as positive a way as possible. I would be sure to tell him that his slow loading PDF is lagging the game and ask him to print a copy. Also, I recommend thinking of positive ways to mention to him that repeating himself over and over is not necessary.

Now the bad news, there may reach a point he bothers everyone to the point there is no changing the behavior. That means there is no fun for the rest of you. Sometimes your best friends make the worst gamers. There may be a point you just have to ask him to leave for sake of everyone else or yourself. I hope you can work things out though and it doesn't come to this.


Unfortunately as GM you have a responsibility to take control to an extent. In your case that means:

1) Learn the rules. Keep it core rules only until you feel confident, then add stuff as and when you are ready.
1a) Talk to your players. explain you are new and that where you don't know a rule you might hand wave it for that session only. Then go and look up the rule, write a few crib notes if required and implement it the next session.

(for what it's worth I and many GMs I know hand wave encumbrance right up to the point where the players take the mickey. Our players know this and generally don't)

2)Stand up to your players more. You, and only you, are the final arbiter of the rules for your game. During the game you are in charge.
2a) Talk to your players about disagreements after the game.

3)keep it core (Did i say that already, doesn't matter it's that important) even the most experienced DMs can get custom items/spells wrong. Don't allow any custom items/spells in the game until you feel confident you know how it's likely to interact with the rules, and how balanced it is against other spells of a similar level.

4) Talk to your players, don't be afraid to admit you have got something wrong and change it. It's better to take decisive action to fix a problem now than to let that problem snowball out of control.

5) Talk to your players, find out what they enjoyed, what they didn't. learn and grow but most of all enjoy. If you're not having fun neither will your players.

6) Problem player is tough. A quiet non-confrontationalchat might solve some of your problems - it might not, but it's a place to start.

I've waffled - hopefully more good than bad advice in there.


I think that for new GMs it's a lot easier to work with APs than it is with your own homebrew worlds. The APs get a lot of the "homework" done for you, and usually you can show up, skim through the next few pages of adventures for 15 minutes before the game, and more or less plug and play the game. This lets you as the GM spend your time learning the various rules of the game, polish up your roleplaying, and the like. APs are designed to be a fair challenge for a party of four using standard point-buy, and if you search the boards, many modifications can be found for larger parties, etc.

Players arguing about what is or isn't logical, allowed, or realistic in a game can really bring everything to a crashing halt. One way to stop this kind of thing is to make a rule that there's no rules arguing mid-game. Tell your players to write down any challenges you have, and then address them either after the game or before the next game. Tell them they have to roll with your decisions for now, for the sake of keeping the game flowing, and that you'll be happy to address any concerns pre or post-game.

As for your problem player...

I really recommend not allowing players to custom make spells. It's incredibly hard to balance, and besides that, with the umpteen dozen books out there already, there's enough spells to do more or less whatever you want already.

As far as your problems with his roleplaying and ripping off characters from other stories, etc. Ugh. I HATE that as a player. It's lazy, it's derivative, and annoying IMO. But there's not much you can do about it. Some people just have little imagination for character background.

If he only ever uses cantrips against baddies, don't pull your punches on him, and he'll learn one way or another. Don't purposefully gun for him only, but when it makes sense for an enemy to target him, do it, and don't fudge the dice or use sub-par tactics against him. If he dies, he either learns or repeats it. Oh well.

Honestly, if you don't want to flat-out kick him out, just learn to use the word "NO" liberally. He can point out slowing enemies or whatever all he wants, and when he does, say "No. It doesn't do that." If he whines, add "I'm making a GM call here. If you don't like it, there's the door." (I know I'm a little cold when it comes to putting up with player whining. Maybe it's cause where I live there's an abundance of players compared to GMs.)

The majority of the issues you have with this player SHOULD be able to be addressed via person to person, simple communication. Just tell him what gets on your nerves, why it does, and explain that yes, the game is for the players to have fun, but it's for you to have fun too, and his issues are really hurting your fun. You don't want to kick him out, but you really don't want to continue things the way they are.

If you're short on players, try Meetup or the boards here at Paizo, or your local FLGS, or whatnot. There's many options to find players. You shouldn't put up with someone being annoying as all get out just because he's all you have.

If you can get everyone to be cool with starting over, I again strongly recommend trying an AP. Not only will it give you the benefits I mentioned above, but you can start over from square one with new characters and this time don't allow the problem stuff you allowed before.

Silver Crusade

Storytelling...
There are 2 types of "perspectives" you need to know...1st person and 3rd person.

1st person is what we as humans do every day. It's writing/storytelling from our own point of view.
Ex..."Hi, Ralph", I said to my shady co-worker. He doesn't seem happy today, I thought to myself.

3rd person moves the point of view outside of our own body to something wider. It allows for broader but less personal approach.
Ex...Sam just said hello to his shady co-worker named Ralph. Sam could tell that Ralph didn't seem happy today.

If 1st person doesn't feel comfortable to you, there's no shame in using (and hopefully mastering) 3rd person.


I understand some of the things your having a problem with, I myself am a new gm-er and struggle sometimes to roleplay a npc for my players, the best I can say to you is just have fun, give 'em small bits of personality as though it was one of your own characters (especially if thier in the plot alot). As far as your unexperienced problems, I kinda have to say do read through the main core book to get your mind around the key things of your games. Your item burden is ok in balance honestly, since most things still require your characters to spend money and time to get them. Resting to gain full is ok, though if your running a campain which their just running through, this may be one of your issues (honestly you only recover 1hp/lvl/day, even with the heal skill it becomes 2hp). While your running dont be afraid to pull out the core book to see how things would work or even use the PRD, this only helps you learn as a gm. As far as difficulty patrhfinder has a rather extensive section in the core book under gm-ing on encounter level building, and by chance your players walk through it becase their overready is fine. The main thing I will have to say is, DONT let your player come up with custom items/spells/ect. it is rarely ever beneficial for a game. My suggestion talk to him about his custom spell being overpowered for what it is and ask him to just stick to the main spells, at least until you get more experince on how things work. As far as him personally ask the other people in your group if they are enjoying your game and if they have any problems with your gameplay or any suggestions (belive me this helps a gm learn how to make the game much more enjoyable for everyone). Lastly just talk to him 1 on 1 to see if he'll work with you or if he rather be a problem, if it's the latter and others are having a problem with it I would suggest asking him to leave.
Well I hope this helps or at least gives you ideas on how to handle your games, and don't worry if you dont personaly 100% agree with some of the things I mentioned most of these are just suggestions for you, I hope you enjoy your games, and create a fun atmosphere for your gamers as well.


Many of the problems you have boil do to a lack of preparation and as a new GM I would really suggest buying an Adventure Path to get familiar with the system.

Adventure Paths have about 80% of what you need and lay it out pretty well. So you have reasonably balanced encounters, characters with backgrounds and a nice framework to build upon. With an Adventure Path you reduce the amount of work you have dramatically, which frees you up to spend time on more time on the actual playing.

I personally would suggest buying an AP and rebooting the campaign and doing everything more structured from the start. Once you are more comfortable, start adding your own content in and then when you get really good, start building your own chapters.

As the GM you are the person everyone else looks to for the rules. By knowing the rules it's super easy to on the spot go "yes you can do that" or conversely "no, the rules don't allow that", it speeds up your games, balances your players and will let you make good decisions. Really spend some time reading the core rule book because that book contains the very basics of GMing, nobody wants to learn to drive from a bad driver.

I like to be rules savvy because I can shut down exploits, while being as fair as possible to my players. It's very hard to argue with a rule if you can point to a line in the rule book.

Every group will have a problem player, which is why GMs need to be able to say no, you don't fix problems by ignoring them.


Bioboygamer wrote:


Secondly, I can't figure out if I'm being too easy on my players, or too hard on them. On one hand, due to my inexperience in GMing, all but the most recent sessions had me handwaving away any rules that I had trouble memorizing, like carrying capacity (where I essentially said that the players could basically carry as many objects as they wanted, within reason, as long as none of the objects was over 60 Lbs), as well as HP regained from resting (where I basically said that a full night's rest restored all HP). In addition, whenever one of my players argues that something should logically work (which is often), I generally end up agreeing with them, even if it would cause problems. On the other hand, some monsters and traps in dungeons that I "made" (AKA made in a random dungeon generator) could easily reduce a PC to half health in a single blow. All the same, though, the players always seem to be able to breeze through encounters, even those that should be above their level. How can I know if I've got the balance of difficulty right? Or the balance of traps to monsters to puzzles to NPC, for that matter?

If the encounters are easy, and everyone is having fun.. go with it..

You can try to make the encounter a little more difficult and see what the players reaction is.. Did they have fun when it was truly a challenge?

The NPC role play will come easier as you are more comfortable in the GM chair. Until you, and the rest of the group really understands all the rules.. Let them try anything that sound reasonable, give them a DC that seems appropriate and see what happens.

Some of the best moments in my gaming life have been things we tried and succeeded ( or failed at) when a closer look at the rules would have prevented the try.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that EVERYONE is having fun.. ( You included !)

Good Luck to you and happy gaming!


Bioboygamer wrote:
Finally, and I save this one for last for a reason, is that one of the players annoys the heck out of me. He only ever uses cantrips, even against incredibly powerful enemies, and after I made the mistake of allowing him to make his own spell, he uses it almost exclusively. Annoyingly enough, it does more damage than any other cantrip, and apparently creates magical snow that can be eaten to regain 2 HP, but only once per day per character. He points out his 2 HP of healing incessantly, constantly argues that the cold spell should freeze or slow the enemy, and his idea of roleplaying is to talk in an awful indian accent. He has almost no interest in doing anything himself in combat, placing more focus on his monkey familiar than his character who's backstory was directly ripped from a book series that the player had talked to me about at the time. His character's name is literally "Gandalf" wit one letter changed, he refuses to use an actual paper character sheet rather than fumbling with a PDF file that takes 3 minutes to load whenever he goes from one page to another, he seems to fail to grasp the concept of "Just because this creature shares a name with a creature from Harry Potter, it does not mean that they are the same creature", and he repeats things 7 or 8 times, even after people have told him that they understand or that they heard him the first time.

At least one part of this is where knowing the rules will help you out. Checkout Metamagic - Rime. It's an ability that will let his cold magic do what he wants freeze and entangle.

Other than that - if he is having fun go with it... Does it matter if the Harry potter creature is the same one from the book? Probably not.
My first PC was named Frodo and I carried a ring of invisibility..I remember playing him like it was yesterday and that PC was played in 1976...

Remember this is a fantasy game where you get to pretend you are someone else and he is trying to have fun being his favorite wizard... Let him! Embrace it and watch how much more fun he has, and how much more fun you have as well..

If his spell is to powerful, talk to him and bump it out of a cantrip into a leveled spell where he has fewer uses of them per day.

"Hey, now that I am getting a better grasp of the game I realized I made a mistake with the spell.. You can still have it, but I need to bump it to a "x" level spell to keep it in line with everyone elses ability."

You can always give him a paper copy and ask him to refer to that when the PDF is slow. But if his thing is using the PDF, you may just have to deal with that.. some people love their technology.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When you are wondering if something is balanced, volunteer to have the NPCs try it out against the group. If the characters immediately back-pedal, that is a good indication it probably isn't balanced.

There is no perfect balance, there will be certain encounters where one character does better than others. What you should pay attention to is how often a character is in 'the spotlight' -- able to show off what they can do. Try to make it so each character there contributes to the story.

I will agree that as a beginner you would be better off taking an adventure path that looks like fun to you. Several of them have free downloadable Player Guides that you could read through, decide which looks most fun.

Keep the number of resources used down at the beginning. You may want to restrict it to just Core Rule Book or Core Rule Book + Players Guide to begin with. This will reduce the number of variables you have to deal with and allow you to concentrate on the rules that are being used by the characters you have.

Saying "No" is a big part of GMing. So is not looking up every little rule each time. If it is vital to the encounter, you can give them a couple of minutes to look something up and show it to you. Make a decision and move on. Do not get into long rules arguments.

Allow people to approach you after the game or between sessions for more rules discussion. Even if they don't, make a note of the rules you didn't look up during the session and look them up before the next session. That is a good way to improve your understanding of the rules.

I generally like to start a session with announcements and then have someone recap what happened last session. Announcements would include when the next session will be, any rules that were done incorrectly and I'm now fixing, etc.

Last of all, have fun. You are setting up a situation to see how the player's characters will react. It isn't an adversarial relationship -- the challenge is in creating a good story as a group.


When it comes to the problem player and his spell, I would suggest giving that spell to a few of the NPCs the player is facing and have them use it on him. If he's going to have the spell, there's no reason someone else might not have it too.

(Also, Gandalf is from Lord of the Rings not Harry Potter. :) It's a common mistake.)

Silver Crusade

There are spell creation rules in Ultimate Magic (I think). Instead of "targeting" the player's spell, I would suggest a read through of the those rules by both of you, and retcon a solution.

it does more damage than any other cantrip, and apparently creates magical snow that can be eaten to regain 2 HP, but only once per day per character.

This appears to be a cantrip that is equal to a combination of about a 1st and 2nd level spell. If he can't understand the need to tone it down, then have some secret arcane government ministry come find him to "interrogate" him for his secrets.


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Bioboygamer wrote:
I'm relatively new to GMing, and I've been having some trouble with a few things. Of course, most of my players are also new to Pathfinder, but I still want to do the best I can. ...

Welcome and I hope you have a blast! Rarely is the situation as dire as we think it is.

Bioboygamer wrote:

...

Firstly, I've found that I have trouble with NPC dialogue. "Spontaneous" ... Does anyone have any advice on dealing with a lack of improvisational ability? ...

I'm not great at that either. A few things can help.

1) Use some PFS scenarios or other published materials. Either for the adventure or for ideas. I will occasionally pull an NPC and his dialogue straight out of some other published material.
2) Prep for it. If I have a significant NPC the players are probably going to converse with. I will try to imagine the conversation going in 3 different ways. Then figure out what he will say in each of those 3 ways. Usually what the players actually do is close enough to 1 of my 3 ways that I can use that prepared dialogue.
3) If it is a really minor NPC, who cares? Don't put in any significant effort and don't worry about it being 2D.

Bioboygamer wrote:

...

Secondly, I can't figure out if I'm being too easy on my players, or too hard on them. ...

This is actually the easiest. Ask.

"Hey guys, I thought the last 2 sessions most of the combats seemed to go pretty easy for you guys. Do you want more or less of a challenge or is it good like this?"

Bioboygamer wrote:
... and after I made the mistake of allowing him to make his own spell, he uses it almost exclusively. Annoyingly enough, it does more damage than any other cantrip, and apparently creates magical snow that can be eaten to regain 2 HP, but only once per day per character. He points out his 2 HP of healing incessantly, constantly argues that the cold spell should freeze or slow the enemy, ...

I rarely let players make new spells, weapon, magic items, etc... There are so many in all the published and online material that there is really no need. I would certainly never let a new player make something like that.

In this case...
"JimmyJoeBob, sorry I was wrong. That spell is horrifically overpowered for a cantrip. We're either gonna have to get rid of it completely or make it a 2nd level spell."

Bioboygamer wrote:
... constantly argues that the cold spell should freeze or slow the enemy ...

Nope. Spells that slow are specifically stated to do that. This is not a realistic simulation. This is an abstract approximation that is playable. Besides do you want every ray of frost, snowball, ice dagger, alchemical liquid ice, or cold thing that hits one of you to cause slow?

Bioboygamer wrote:

... Finally, and I save this one for last for a reason, is that one of the players annoys the heck out of me. He only ever uses cantrips, even against incredibly powerful enemies ... and his idea of roleplaying is to talk in an awful indian accent. He has almost no interest in doing anything himself in combat, placing more focus on his monkey familiar than his character who's backstory was directly ripped from a book series that the player had talked to me about at the time. His character's name is literally "Gandalf" wit one letter changed, he refuses to use an actual paper character sheet rather than fumbling with a PDF file that takes 3 minutes to load whenever he goes from one page to another, he seems to fail to grasp the concept of "Just because this creature shares a name with a creature from Harry Potter, it does not mean that they are the same creature", and he repeats things 7 or 8 times, even after people have told him that they understand or that they heard him the first time.

...

Careful. You are associating very different issues as one issue. If it really is that bad that everything adds up to an intolerable "YOU ANNOY ME" you just have to kick him from the group.

If it is not to that level and you want to try and improve things you have to separate the issues.

I've had people try to relate everything to Tolkien, never Harry Potter. But I'd handle it the same way. After about the second or third time they start to say "But orcs act like..." I interrupt with, "Sorry different legend..."

Many, many people have a hard time with any backstory or naming. I am often one of them. Deal with it. I don't know why so many people thinks it harms their game that my characters personality, backstory, name, or whatever came from a novel or movie. I'm not an author. So what. Most GM's and players are going to ignore (or possibly use just the tiniest bit of) my backstory, name, and personality anyway. I just can't see how it hurts anyone else's gaming experience. [/mini rant]

complete aside:
I usually find that almost everyone does this at least in part. Parts of their name, backstory, or personality are from a book or movie. Sometimes several. They may not realize it until you talk about it for a while, but usually the idea for their PC came from someplace. Sometimes I'm just more obvious about it.

Roleplaying is a greatly variable topic. There are groups that approach everything like a broadway musical. There are groups that sit around and mumble, while rolling a handful of dice, listening to screech metal, and smoking pot. (I didn't stay at either of those groups for even an hour.) Most are somewhere in between.
Most people will slowly learn by example and adjust. If you and the other players are descriptive on what your characters are doing and saying. He is likely to eventually migrate in that direction.
Personally, I won't try to speak in voices or invented accents. However, I know a lot of people love it.
I would give this significantly more time to see if he can adjust to where the group likes the game on the role playing spectrum.

Some of the personality issues may or may not be improvable. It could be his is just a bit nervous and acting out because of it. As he gets more comfortable that might ease up.
Or maybe not. That just may be the way he is. Give it a while and then decide if you can live with it.
We have a guy that we have to keep reminding to "use you inside voice" because he just gets louder as he talks.

Bioboygamer wrote:
... I'm aware of the fact that the vast majority of my posts basically boil down to "I'm a newbie GM, can you fix my problems for me?", but I just don't feel confident enough in my abilities to try to fix these kind of problems, given the possible consequences if I make the wrong move (people leave the group, my players start to resent me, etc.).

No problem. We've all been there. Even if it was bloody decades ago.

Several Paizo published adventures are free for download. That is a great place to start. HERE are several of them. They are pretty durn great learning tools for GM's and players.
I usually recommend brand new GM's use published material for a while before trying to build their own world.


It might sound silly (in multiple ways), but you could practice your NPC dialogue by literally talking to yourself, and holding a conversation between different NPCs.

When you're thinking about the upcoming session, imagine a reason that two NPCs would have to talk with each other, and literally have the discussion, playing both parts. It may sound silly, and anyone around you might think you're crazy, but it will give you good practice in a lot of ways - getting in character, playing multiple parts, finding the unique voice of the various characters, and it will help you generate dialogue that you may be able to use with the PCs if a similar situation comes up.

You can even do dialogue between an NPC and a PC in the same way. Use one of the NPCs that you expect the players to talk to, and hold the conversation, out loud, playing both parts.

Will it make you sound silly? Yes. But will it improve your NPC dialogue skills? Also yes!


I suppose I will be the contrarian in this thread. Heh.

I agree with a lot of what I've read. However, I recommend you continue to make your own material and adventures. Struggle with what works and what doesn't. I believe your players will forgive you for missteps. Mine always did with me. Intersperse some prewritten work, but don't lean on it too heavily. I use APs now, I admit. But I'm old (read: lazy and have no time). If you lean too heavily on prewritten material, you're education in what works and what doesn't will be delayed. You'll still learn, of course, but it will be slower.

As for playing characters: This is where I agree with others the most. I would add to their advice by saying: time and practice are what make you good at something. There will be precious few pieces of advice that will strike an epiphany in your brain to change things- mostly it will be time and practice that make the change.

As for whether you are being too hard or too easy: more important as a GM is- are you being consistent? And this applies to more than just the difficulty of encounters, but also how you judge rules. Consistency is key. Consistency allows you to say yes I AM being too hard or too easy on my players because I've TPK'd them three times or they are never cowed by any enemy I put in front of them. Because of your consistency, you can say "Hey guys, I notice that things are too easy, so here's a change I'm going to make." and your players will trust you. If you're consistently too hard, your players will complain (or maybe they'll really like the challenge?). When you're consistent in how you act upon the rules and/or waive them. You're players will know what to expect at your table. When they know what to expect, they feel more comfortable and either have more fun, or know what type of fun is being aimed for and can decide if that's fun for them.

As for your trouble player: this is always tough. Especially at a distance for others when chiming in. Acknowledge that part of the problem is that you have an opinion on what good roleplay and gaming is, and you are not accepting that his opinion is different. Acknowledge that he is a new player or am I just assuming he's new because he's new to Pathfinder? I'll drop that. It sounds very much like you both have different ways of having fun, which is unfortunate, because 99% of the time it results in you not gaming with each other down the line. But as you feel you cannot kick him, a compromise seems in order, and it looks to be that you have been the only one giving. Have you approached him in a tit-for-tat fashion? i.e. "So you wanted this spell and I gave it to you, how about you do something for me, like print out your character sheet?" That's an option. Another is to think about what all your players will/would do should their characters die. What if this player's concept of the character is the problem? what if he had to roleplay another? Would it be a carbon copy? Would it be different skin, but still be annoying (not fight, not be productive, etc). I have been known to tell my players that the campaign they're going on is particularly deadly, and ask them to have at least one back-up character ready should they die mid-game. As others have pointed out- you don't have to pull punches with your players, unless having them run the same character forever is fun for both you and them.

And that's what my advice all boils down to:
Practice practice practice your craft
Be consistent
You are the caretaker of fun for your table, including your own.

Good luck, and welcome to being a GM!


It sounds like the player made spell is too powerful and needs to be notched back a step or made a 1st level spell or whatever. Cantrips are unlimited cause they are not really powerful.

As for the spontaneous issue or convincing NPCs. First if talking in 3rd person communicates better than in character that is not the end of the world. Start in character with a strong intro or greeting and if used as way of communicating details your performance can't achieve then no harm done.

Pick someone in a movie or show or whatever that is easy for you to emulate. Talk like that mimic that personality. You don't have to do impersonations you need to just present a personality and information. Remember first impressions will make a bigger impact than consistent portrayal.

Body language and ticks communicate a lot. This guy is a face toucher, picks his teeth while he's talking, he's twitchy, strokes his chin, he is fidling with something in his hand and so on. Acting these things out give you a much more in depth feel. If you have access to a tablet or a picture hold it up so they can see the person you are speaking for. If you know you will need time pick a unique thing for each NPC and use it as your stalling tactic.

For expample the PCs find a seedy tavern and are trying to gather information you want to introduce a streetwise informant NPC to give them the news. One of the PCs asks a question and you are not right away sure how to respond no worries. This guy sniffles like he has a coke problem or a runny nose. Rather than get nervous sniff like you have a cold, rub your nose and then continue once you have your know your response. Give the answer you need. If all else fails just hold up a finger and say "hold that though." Look up what you need to and when your ready just say, "had to check something, so the seedy bar keep looks at you sniffs strongly and says . . . whatever." There are plenty of times I say to the gang hey guys now is a good point to grab a drink or chips I am going to be a sec. When I am ready I recap where we were and hit the ground running.

Manage time that you are serving as an NPC. Chances are any NPC you have has a point after they share that information. The players will run down a list of other rumors or follow up questions. Once the important information has been shared. Make an exit, "hey look I am busy if my boss sees me not making my rounds, I'll get the axe." Or, "What is this 20 questions if ya'll ain't gonna buy nothin you need to beat feet." Or, "Look I have told you all that I know, I have other matters to attend, I serve the abbot and our goddess please stay as long as you like, good day."

Have an opening. This does not need to be a big thing but have something to engage the players on. "You find the shop you were looking for a gruff middle aged man stands behind some bars partially obscured by the no refunds sign. He looks at the group." Now single out the hafling look that player in the eye and say, "You there, shorty, keep your hands where i can see'em." Look up at one of the other characters, "frickin halfling vagrants steal ya blind if you let'em." Perhaps one of your characters dresses uniquely or has something odd about them have your players take notice and comment. I once had players searching around the sewers they got out and immediately went looking for someone to talk to about some information. I mentioned people starring at them, avoiding them nothing. When they found who they were looking for they had a lot to say about the stench. By the time the party was ready to deal with the plot reason they wanted to talk to the person. They were already established and memorable.

Think about movies. A lot of movies have a start off with a character introduction that defines them in some way. Middle school Kirk joy riding in his uncles 150 year old camaro at the start of the Star Trek reboot. What is your NPC going to say or act like to introduce him to your PCs and etch him or her their minds. Is the old lady gonna hit on the paladin? Is the guard captain going to demand they give up their weapons before coming into meet the mayor. He secretly hopes they resist and will back down when they show some backbone but if they do hand over weapons he will deride them and state plainly to the mayor they are not the people he is looking for.


My only advice really boils down to one word: Relax.

Just remember that this is all for fun. If you make a mistake, you dont need to really worry about it. Your NPC's dont all have to be different. For now, just reply as though you were replying. As you get comfortable with that, you can start inventing characters, quirks and what not for them. You're just starting out and you gotta learn to walk before you can run.

Being too hard or easy on your players is... kind of a choice. You need to find your style, but no matter what the style is (hard or easy) you need to remember that your players need to be having fun. One of my games, we barely use the rules at all, and favor reason over rules. One game I play in is strict and by the book. You should check out some of the Pathfinder AP's to give examples and learn from them as to what the difficulty of encounters should be, and how to approach them. I've played 20 years and I still like to read through adventures and AP's to get ideas.

As for your trouble character... let him play what he wants (within the rules and reason)? What does it matter to you? Is he having fun? Yes? Great! Accents are a great tool to differentiating the voice of certain characters btw. Dont let him make new spells... for now. You guys are too new to understand some of the basics (such as carrying capacity) and making new spells is gonna wreak havoc due to imbalances and this is a concept that you're already suffering. Later... down the road you can make big changes. Just hold off on it for now.

Advice forum is for advice.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Looks like most anything I would say has already been said.

I'm quite bad at being spontaneous. I attempt to compensate for that with preparation. It doesn't always work perfectly, but it helps. Plan out the NPC's voice, and it will be easier.

Never be afraid to ask the players for a short break to work something out, especially if they've thrown you for a loop. I mean, try not to take a 5 minute break every 6 minutes, but if you need to pause, then do it.

I'd definitely suggest getting some of the adventure modules or paths; I'm running an AP with the intent of having that chassis in place to build upon, to get experience modifying encounters to suit my party before I try building all my encounters from scratch. I feel like this is a good way to build my own confidence. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

Work with your players to decide which aspects of the game you want to focus on, and which you want to de-emphasize. Perhaps nobody really cares about tracking carrying capacity in your game. Then just don't worry about it unless they're doing something ludicrous.


Your first question: Being a great GM is a multi-faceted symphony of behaviors. Acting is one part of this. You get to be (have to be!) every single person in the world... except for the players. Its a big job, and daunting for new GMs.
Skill in acting, like most things in life, is a combination of talent and practice. If you don't feel particularly talented at this, you can still do a decent job with some practice.
One thing I always do is try to get into the head of the NPC. Try to picture being that blacksmith, that town guard, that barkeep. What things do they see? How do they treat people? Your imagination is like a muscle. Stretch it and work with it, and it will get stronger.

Your second question: Proficiency with the rules comes with time. Its ok to handwave some things here and there, especially in the name of keeping the game moving. If you read up after game and learn a new rule, when your next game starts explain to your players how you erred last session, and explain how the rule works so that everyone is on the same page. That way there are no surprises. "Hey no fair, last week when I tried to X, it worked like Y, but now you're saying it is Z!"
I don't recommend you allow new players to make up spells. It is a recipe for problems. You and they are not aware enough of the system to make it balanced. The spell your friend is casting is way too powerful. A cantrip that does damage, does healing, AND he wants it to have a slowing/freezing effect? That sounds like 3 different spells to me, none of which would be 0 level.

Third question: All of us have goofy friends. Some of them will be better roleplayers than others. Some will come up with nifty names, thorough backstories, and always make prudent decisions in-game. Others will make clunky decisions in-game, take names from movies and comic books, and have little-to-no creativity.
In Pathfinder, there is room for both of them, and everyone in between. You and they are new to the game, so your skills with roleplaying are still new and growing. Give it time. After a while you will learn who you really enjoying gaming with and who you refuse to have at your table.


Bioboygamer wrote:
Firstly, I've found that I have trouble with NPC dialogue.

If I put it like this: Some "professional" actors do some poor delivery in movies.

They have one character to play. They have a script, that someone else wrote for them, to play by. And they have multiple re-shoots to make their delivery as good as possible.
I know some actors have speciall ways to get into character, they prepare for hours, days or weeks. Sir Ian imagines how it would be like to be a wizard, then tries to behave and pretends like he really was a wizard. Viggo Mortensen didn't shower for weeks to get the right feeling of his character, being a medieval warrior and all.
This is their full-time job, they don't do anything else and it still isn't very good at all times (this criticism is not aimed towards any of the above mentioned actors).

As a DM, you need to play lots of characters (last session I had to be about 15 different people), sometimes more than one at once. And you need to improvise, you can't even prepare a script your self. And you only have one chance to deliver.
You're doing all this, as a hobby. It doesn't have to be remotely good. Just well enough to get the right point across.

Though, general tip to make this as good as possible: Contemplate about who the NPCs are.
To narrow that down: What's their motivation being around the PCs?
You don't need a straight answer for this question, just enough for you to "know" the feel of the NPC.

And don't forget that it's 100% okay to play a stereotype. You don't need to make "new" takes on an old concept. It's easier for you and your players if you play by everyone's expectations.

And after that, trial and error. After a while you will find the way you like to play.

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