Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #1
MAPPING DILEMMA: HOW TO STOP YOUR PLAYERS FROM YAWNING
I hate to admit it, but I game mastered a "yawner" last
night. My number one goal for each and every session is to
entertain and players yawning is a sure sign I've missed my
mark. While every game master has their off session now and
then, I can pinpoint several issues which would have made my
game session an exciting success. I'll share these with you
in upcoming editions so that you can learn from my mistakes,
but today I'm going to focus on the biggest cause of last
night's downfall: mapping.
If you're playing a story that involves mapping, here are
three tips to ensure that your players don't start to yawn
by the end of the first corridor.
- Put your own expectations and wants aside and walk a
hundred miles in your players' shoes.
I thought it would be very exciting to have the players map
their own way, possibly become lost and then desperately
rifle through their self-made maps to find the solution.
Some good old puzzle solving.
The reality was, one player struggled to make a map based on
my verbal directions while the rest of the party sat there
and grew bored. That was not fair to the other players and
it wasn't fair to the player who had the responsibility of
Next session I'm going to draw the map for the party. Sure,
I feel there's some potential excitement lost in my accurate
rendering of the exploration map, but it sure beats tired
- Establish a decision maker so that the "between time"
between encounters passes as quickly as possible.
Last night, the party would approach an intersection and I
would address all the players with the question "left or
right?" This caused delays and confusion while they
considered the decision.
Next session, I'm going to have the party decide on one
person to give directions. If the party feels like going in
a different direction, I'll let them interrupt. This will
greatly speed up play so we can focus on the meaty stuff.
- If the decision of left or right becomes important to
the story, give extra information so that the party has
something on which to deliberate.
Because I did not provide any information, every decision of
"left or right" became an irritating stoppage in play and
every intersection became a bland choice.
Next time, I'm going to look ahead and see if I can provide
some juicy information so that the choice is made more
important and the play becomes more enjoyable for all.
For example, "to the left is pitch black silence that goes
beyond the light of your lantern--although you feel a slight
breeze that carries a scent of rot. To the right you can
hear a dull clanging sound from far, far away."
Now, at least, there's something worthwhile deliberating--
especially if there's a clue in there (i.e. the party is
looking for a magic hammer).
The big lesson you can learn from my mistake here is to put
aside your own feelings, take a pulse check during the game,
and don't be afraid to change things so that the players can
have more fun.
How do you handle mapping in your games? I would be pleased
to pass on your tips and techniques in future issues. Email me your ideas.
Have more fun at every game!