Subscribe to the Roleplaying Tips Weekly Newsletter - game master tips

Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #430

How to Game Master at Conventions



This Week's Tips Summarized 

How to Game Master at Conventions

  1. Registering
  2. Preparing
  3. Running
  4. After It's Over

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. DMs Playing NPCs In The Party
  2. GM Exalted To Help Players Describe Better
  3. RPG Review Issue 2
  4. Dwarven And Elven Name Generator

Latest Posts @ 

  1. DM Tool: Scrabble Tiles for Your Minis & Battlemats
  2. Are Special Effects Killing Hollywood?
  3. Guilds, Organisations, and other Bad Company
  4. Moral Qualms On The Richter Scale
  5. Races Should Make a Difference

Johnn Four's GM Guide Books

Nuke-Con 2009

Mark your calendar and save the date! October 2-4, 2009 Mid- America Center, Omaha Metro Area.

If you liked Nuke-Con or its game days, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Return to Contents

A Brief Word From Johnn 

The Nap of Doom

Two sessions ago in my campaign the group had delved deep into an underground complex infested by a death cult. Numerous guards, foul creatures, and traps were overcome. The party of heroes then reached a death temple filled with blood and a powerful high priest.

A mighty battle followed that eventually resulted in a party victory, a dead death cult priest, and destruction of an evil, magical altar. But wait. What's that sound? Curious, the group peered down into the large opening where all the magic blood had flowed. They couldn't see anything but they did catch what sounded like chanting, as if another ceremony was taking place.

Exhausted and spent, the party decided to find a secure location in a room one level up and call it a night. The chanting went on....

A candle mark later, a massive quake rippled through the complex, jarring the PCs awake. After 30 seconds, the horrible shaking and pummeling stopped, but on its heels a demonic laugh washed over the group, taunting and haunting them.

Still not fully rested, the PCs resumed their slumber...only to be rudely interrupted again by a creature from beyond the grave passing through the thick stone wall and attacking.

After the battle, still not recuperated, the PCs packed up and chose to investigate the pit. They discover that undead have infested the place and a rift to the Shadowfell is churning out ancestors and past kills like a demonic popcorn maker.

The PCs flee.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how the rift to the Shadowfell was allowed to be created, dooming the land to a dark era of fear, terror, and corruption. Civilization teeters as undead claw legions of weak peasants and humanoids into their ranks.

I'm looking forward to next session. The PCs have returned to the area of the rift and are in great danger. They have tapped one contact, their employer, for help with closing the rift. Let's see if they reach out to any other factions for help.

Complimentary Ads For Conventions

Do you have a gaming convention running in your area in 2009? If so, could you ask them if they'd like to promote it to all your fellow gamers with a complimentary blurb in this e-zine? I'd love to help conventions and gamers hook up. Just have them email me. Thanks!


Johnn Four,


Return to Contents

Gamestorm 11

Oregon's premier gaming convention, held March 26 -29, 2009 at the Vancouver Hilton. This year's Guests include Rob Heinsoo and Andy Collins (designers of D & D 4th Edition) and Andy and Kristin Looney (Looney Labs).

Return to Contents

How to Game Master at Conventions  

by Kate Manchester

With the convention season fast approaching, there are many GMs thinking about running a game at one. Here are a few helpful tips to help you successfully GM at a con.

Return to Contents


Be An Early Bird

GMs registering early get their game sessions listed in the convention's program. If you're running more than one game, you may be able to leave a note for the Events Coordinator to give you the same table (or one close by). This works well if you register all your games around the same time. Scheduling early also gives you the ability to make changes later if a conflict arises. It can also help prevent conflicts, as GMs often check the current listings to verify that someone else isn't running the same game.

Games scheduled prior to the convention's start are also typically available for online registration, which allows the slots to be filled faster. But take heart if your game doesn't fill before the con. Many games might fill closer to the start of the game after other events turn players away due to not having enough spots, not having enough players to adequately run the game, or the GM's failure to show up.


Be sure to take space into account when you reserve a table. RPGs, with their myriad source books and papers, tend to require more space than a board or card game. Round tables often work far better than square or rectangular for RPGs. It's also usually much easier to move around a round table because you generally won't have other tables set so close to it you can't get in or out without making someone from a neighboring table move. Some conventions will ask you what sort of table you need for your game.


Choosing what scenario to run is one of the most important decisions you'll make. The goal should be relatively simple and something players can complete within a 4 - 6 hour time period (the typical time slot for an RPG at a con.) You should have it fairly well planned out and know it well. If you don't plan to specify the level of player expertise, then make sure the adventure is something a beginner can understand. A linear storyline might help keep players stay on the desired course of action, but don't be surprised if they decide to latch onto something you didn't think was a terribly important detail. Another option might be to break the scenario into segments, so you can add or subtract pieces as time allows.

If you want to run more than one game at the con, you might consider running the same scenario more than once, as this helps you stay focused on it. You can also choose to run a series of linked adventures over several long sessions, but keep in mind that many attendees might not want to commit that much time to a single game, as they might want to play something else.


Some games work well with 8 - 10 players, others work best with 2 - 3. Factor this in when you consider how many players you plan to allow. You should also know your limits as to how large a group you can handle without assistance.

When registering your event, you can specify how many players you're willing to accept. During online sign ups, if those slots fill, subsequent players will be assigned as alternates. Do _not_ accept more players than you feel comfortable working with. It's better to have five really involved players than 9 who get quickly disinterested because you can't deal with them all.


If you register your game early, you'll likely get space in the convention's program. If you do, make the most of it. Try to come up with a good description of the sort of game or scenario you plan to run. Try to write something that will attract players. Don't say "A game set in Ancient Babylon for 6 - 8 daring adventurers", but say "The Hyksos and Babylonians have been at war for nearly a decade. You are part of the caravan for Hyksos ambassador, sworn to make sure the diplomat arrives safely at his destination, unlike the last four."

Be specific in your listing too. If it's a game with mature themes meant for experienced players bringing their own pre- existing characters, be sure to say so, or you may find you get unqualified (or worse, unhappy!) players, as a number of convention goers come to a convention to try out a system they've never played before. Keep in mind that while space on the program will likely be quite limited, the online registration system (which most cons offer) may give you the option to write a longer description that may show up on the sign up sheet and the convention's website listing for your game.


At a convention, timing is everything. Some games are time sensitive (Vampire and Cthulhu games are so much better when played at night). Some time slots are very popular and have lots of games scheduled, while others have very few. The popularity of slots tends to be in direct relation to attendance, as Friday to Saturday evening tends to be the best attended part of the con.

In addition, the type of adventure you run should be taken into account. A thinking scenario tends to be more enjoyable played Friday evening instead of Sunday morning when players tend to be tired. While the scheduling of your game isn't entirely within your control, you do have some say in the matter. When you register, you typically have the option of specifying times that you're not available to run games, so you can use these restrictions as a way to get a more optimal time.

Your own limits should be considered when scheduling. If you never get up before 10 am on Saturday, don't schedule a game for 8 am Saturday. If you're going to run more than one 3 -4 hour gaming session, be careful to schedule a break. It's certainly tempting to run back to back games during the Con, but when running games becomes a chore, or you're just too tired, it's not going to be fun for the players. They're paying to be there playing your game, so they deserve your full attention and energy level.

If your game causes you a time conflict, contact the convention organizers right away, as programs have printing deadlines. Last minute time changes can make it harder for your players to attend. If you're going to run more than one game, it's good to have at least a small break between them so you can have some time to sit down, eat, and get ready for your next game. If the convention staff doesn't schedule a needed break (I once found myself with three games back to back with no dinner break) don't be afraid to ask the staff to reschedule one of your games so you get one.

Also, be sure to track when you're running games. While you might have the option of printing a schedule, or you might be handed a paper schedule of what you signed up for when you check in, don't assume this will be available.

Return to Contents

2. Preparing 

Knowledge Is Power

Know the system. The better you know the rules, the less time you have to spend during the convention looking things up. You might actually try to anticipate issues prior to the game and study up on them. For example, if you know the PCs could fall from a 10 story tower, you should know the system's rules on falling damage. Also consider using marked post-it-flags to help you quickly identify rule sections you might need to reference during the game. You might also use a screen with the information you need printed on it, which has the added advantage of hiding things from your players. Many game systems sell just such an item, or you can make one yourself.

Know The Scenario

As mentioned before, you should know the scenario you're planning on running. Look through the material and try to budget how much time you will need for each encounter. Typically, a 3 - 4 hour game can be divided into 2 to 3 'acts', which is typically "Discover a problem" and "Solve it." Allow time for breaks and set-up, and make cuts if necessary. Since combat takes up the largest part of game time, you might want to limit combat to one or two major battles.

Plan mini-cliff hangers into the game that allow you to take a brief break. Be careful to add preparation time and breaks into the scenario, and plan on having less time than you're scheduled for. You might also key your final event to real time so you have enough time to finish.

If you have time, gather up a few friends and run the adventure prior to the con so you can work out possible bugs and make alterations if it runs over your allotted session time. Running the game ahead of time may also give you an idea of some of the ideas the players may come up with to foil your evil plans. ;)


If you don't have all your spots filled, you might consider advertising your game. Some game masters actually print up flyers to advertise their game during the con. This isn't a bad idea, but make sure that you check with the convention or building staff before you start taping flyers to the walls. If you can't use the walls, there are usually tables available for gaming literature where you could leave your flyers. If the convention offers a hospitality room, you can certainly leave flyers on the tables there (as long as they're not being utilized by the hospitality staff).

Pregenerated Characters

If you're running a system where it takes a lot of time to build characters, then make several characters up in advance with allowance for tweaking. This will save precious session time and give characters suitable and useful for the adventure you're running. I highly recommend making more than one copy of each sheet so you can have a copy of the sheet for yourself for future reference. Character generator software comes in handy for this task. Pregenerated characters should have an equipment list, description, and a brief history so they aren't just numbers on a page.


Handouts are always helpful. In addition to the character sheet, these can include: a brief history and culture of your setting, maps, pictures of the PCs, scrap paper for writing notes, name tags with the character's names, character goals, and any house rules you might have.

If the PCs have spells or other special abilities, you might consider writing up the description and mechanics involved. For example, if you're running Vampire the Masquerade, you might write the following: Aura Perception: Allows you to 'see' into another's soul. Roll Perception + Empathy at difficulty 8.

A spell list might include the following: A missile of magical energy darts forth and unerringly strikes its target inflicting 1d4+1 force damage. For every 2 caster levels beyond first you gain an additional missile.


Print your handouts/notes/character sheets/etc. at least a week before the convention (printers often pick inconvenient times to run out of ink). Pack your things no later than the night before the convention. Make lists of the supplies you're going to need, and keep everything in one place. Putting the scenario(s) in binders of different colors isn't a bad idea, as it allows you to organize the materials you need and makes it visible enough to remind you to look for it later. In addition to your scenario, have one (or more) copies of the source materials available for the players as well as some extra dice. You'd be surprised how many people come to a convention without any dice!

Return to Contents

3. Running 


While you don't have to wear a suit, you should wear clothes in relatively good condition (unless you choose to dress like one of your NPCs), and not smell like an unwashed human. I don't know about your preferences, but I don't like spending 4 - 6 hours with someone I can smell from across the table.


Arrive at least 10 - 15 minutes early for the session. It gives you time to find your table, unpack, and prepare your materials. It also allows the early birds to get settled and reassures players that yes, you are there and ready to run your game. It also helps remind the person running a game before yours they need to wrap things up and vacate the location soon. If you're running more than one game, I highly recommend you scout out the locations of the tables assigned to you as soon as you have the schedule in your hand. This can help you avoid the embarrassment of getting lost on the way to the next game, and it allows you to factor travel time into your schedule.

If for some reason you're going to be late, try to recruit someone to send a message to the table of waiting players that you're running late. Players will only wait so long, and GMs that flake out or cancel their games won't be considered favorably by the convention staff, and some potential players have long memories. (There's one GM that runs really fun games at the local con, but his abrasive personality generally makes me think twice before I sign up.)


There are lots of tables in a typical gaming room, and making your location easy to find helps cut down on stragglers. This can be accomplished by a sign posted on the wall (if possible) or set on the tabletop. (I'd recommend a three-dimensional or vertical sign as opposed to sticking one directly onto the table.) You might also want to have the sign say that you're accepting players (this can be removed later). At the convention I attend, the organizers came up with a cone system for attracting players. When placed on the table, the orange cone signals that a game is still accepting players. Once removed, then only observers are allowed.

Visual aids are also helpful. A grid map, markers and miniatures make it easier for players to visualize the PCs' surroundings and locations, eliminating a lot of conflict over things like where the door was located, or who opened it....

Expect The Unexpected

GMing at a convention is nothing like running a weekly game. In the former, you know the people you're gaming with and you have an idea what to expect. On the subject of players, convention gamers are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get, and you won't know until about 5 minutes (or less) before you start. Be prepared for younger players, folks with a handicap, and adults who are totally neophytes to gaming. Many gamers bring their kids and the kids want to play. Keep the rules simple for them using just what's needed to have fun.

Unless you're a long-time veteran of the con, or you know lots of gamers, you probably aren't going to know some or all of the people that show up for your game, which means you won't know anything about their gaming style. It's not uncommon for players to come up with an unexpected angle you didn't anticipate.

Another thing is that players often have a lack of commitment to the character. When you're dealing with a one shot game with pre-generated characters, the players don't have as much emotionally invested in it, and may consider suicide or killing off other party members as a potential option.


Running a game at a convention is nothing like running one at your house. One room typically has several separate games all running at once. Volume levels in a room can swing wildly. If you're soft spoken, make sure your players can hear you so they don't miss important information. Conversely, if you're a loud talker, be aware of your surroundings. If the other tables have gone quiet, you might want to ratchet down the volume. If the tables are noisy, either talk a bit louder than normal, start writing things down, or try asking them to be quieter (especially if they appear to be off the gaming tangent). You might consider standing up, as this will allow your voice to carry so you can be heard a little more readily. (And it's a lot easier to dodge thrown objects.)


Distractions happen at a con. Most people can't go 4 to 6 hours without taking a 'bio-break' or getting up to get a glass of water. Planning breaks into the scenario can help eliminate this. Otherwise, try to encourage your players to do this when you're taking yours, but if they can't, wait for the player to get back or ask them before they leave what their plans are. On the other hand, if a player wants to 'talk to a friend for a quick minute', it is perfectly acceptable to totally skip their turn(s) until they return (assuming they return).

Players are also a major form of distraction. Many RPGers waste HUGE amounts of time with cross-talk, trivia, 'war stories' and interruptions that have nothing to do with the game. If you allow it, you probably won't finish the game. If you don't want to tolerate it, announce at the beginning that you won't tolerate out of game distractions and be prepared to steer the players back to the task at hand. You can also enact the 'if you say it, the PC does it' rule.


Things happen. More players might show up than you expected, your table might be taken, there might not be enough chairs, or worst of all, no one shows up. If something unexpected happens, try to deal with it yourself before having the overworked convention staff step in. An unscheduled group can be asked (politely) to leave; a game that runs over might get the hint when there are several people standing around waiting for the table, or you can attempt to move yourself and your players to a nearby table that has nothing scheduled for the time slot.

If need be, play fast and loose with the rules. Always looking things up robs the game of precious time and valuable energy. If you don't know or can't readily find an answer, feel free to fudge the rules a little in the players' favor (unless they've done something stupid). Do not allow the players to spend time arguing over your rulings. It's your game, you make the rules.

Go where the players take you. Sure, you know your scenario up, down and sideways, but if your players aren't having fun, it's better to go in a different direction than to press on.

Set Limits

If you're not going to use pregenerated characters, be sure to have clear limitations on the sorts of characters and equipment you'll allow. You can either use guidelines in a rule book and let the players choose their starting equipment, or write a list of helpful equipment they have to divide amongst themselves.

On the subject of rules, make it clear to your players you will NOT tolerate arguing over the rules. These arguments sap valuable time and energy, and should be avoided at all costs! Only look a rule up if you don't know the answer and the PC has something invested in the consequence, like if they can successfully swing on a monofilament rope or if magic missiles can fly around corners.


Always try to keep the game moving. Stay on task and in character. If the characters stall or dither, be sure that the action comes to find them. Don't sweat the small stuff. If it's not important to the plot, let them succeed in their attempt to listen at the door. If part of the party wants to scout ahead, be sure the ones left behind have something to do as well. There are few things worse than spending HOURS of game time having your character do nothing. Consider establishing a rule that if the player says it, then the character does it.


A convention is not a time to be subtle, as the players might not pick up on it. You might need to spell things out for them. If you want your players to realize they're dealing with a fake security guard, make it more clear than simply 'he's wearing a gold, star-shaped badge.' Instead say, 'he's wearing a gold star-shaped badge and is travelling alone. And you just walked past a pair of guards wearing silver badges.'


Time is a luxury at a convention and going over your allotted time is not an option. Give the players about 15 minutes to sit down and get settled before starting your adventure. Keep control of the group and out of game chatter to a minimum. Give your players a very limited amount of time to respond when you pose them a question or ask them what they're doing.

Streamline dice rolls. Have your players roll several initiatives in advance, and roll initiatives for your NPCs before the convention. Roll attack and damage die at the same time. If your PCs are going to use spells, disciplines, gifts or other special effects, be sure they have the description at hand. (Having lists made up for the players can aid this.)

Lastly, keep a watch, cell phone or other time keeping device handy, as the convention site might not have a clock within the gaming area.


As a GM, you'll do a lot of talking. Be sure to drink lots of water. Avoid drinking soda or energy drinks because they don't do as a good a job of keeping you hydrated and all the caffeine in them will keep you running for the bathroom. If the convention has water stations available in or near the gaming rooms, be sure to make use of it.

As for having food and beverages at the table, many sites have strict rules about outside food and beverages (i.e. food and drink not provided/sold by the venue) in the gaming rooms, so be sure to abide by them. If you're going to bring food, bring items that aren't terribly messy, require no refrigeration, and travel well in a gaming bag. Beverage and food spills happen (I once had a GM spill water on me and my dice bag), so try to avoid bringing truly valuable items that could potentially get ruined or put them in a very safe place.

Return to Contents

4. After It's Over 


Ask your players for input about the game. What did they feel went right, and what went wrong? Did they enjoy the game? You might also want to give a small award for role- playing, heroism or having a good idea. Again, getting feedback from the players can aid you in this task.

Follow Up

Most cons provide sign up sheets for the games. Be sure to collect the form(s) from their posted location (it's not typically on the table you're using). Have your attendees write down their names and/or badge numbers, then turn the forms into the office. Cons use these forms to gauge interest in games (though this is a thing that can greatly vary from year to year), and sometimes you might get rewarded (my local con generally has more than enough swag available for the participating GMs).

Enjoy the Con

This sort of event typically happens only once a year. Don't spend all your time running games. Try expanding your horizons by playing other games or attending a panel discussion. You might even consider volunteering some of your time to help the convention staff. (They nearly always are in need of volunteers.)

Next Year

(Assuming of course, you enjoyed your attempt at running a game at a con.) If the convention offers the option of paying for next year's membership at this year's convention, I strongly urge you to take advantage of the offer, as you can usually get a substantial discount. Some conventions also offer discounts for GMing during the con, and sometimes even offer complimentary memberships to GMs that run a lot of games.

Good luck and happy gaming!

* * *

Thanks for the wonderful tips Kate! GMs questing for more gaming convention advice should check out these tips at "Running Games At Conventions" [TXT.]

Return to Contents

D&D 4E: Adventurer's Vault

In my 4E campaign, peasants and low level PCs and NPCs are called grogs. Grogs need to find an employer, patron, guild, or some group to claim them in exchange for protection and enough wages to afford food and a bit of shelter.

Last session, the PC grogs were about to travel to a dangerous region where a rift to the Shadowfell was open and disgorging undead. The PCs' employer, Falroth, didn't want his newest grogs - who seemed to be slightly more capable than his other grogs - to die just yet. He needed them for his grand plan.

So Falroth offered each character two healing potions and one consumable magic item or potion of their choice from his stockpile.

Out of character, I handed the group my copy of the Adventurer's Vault and said they could pick any potions or consumables up to 500 gp value from their Player's Handbook or the Adventurer's Vault.

One crafty player roleplayed himself into rental of a suit of dwarven armour instead. And another PC landed a half dozen magic arrows. My excuse is I was weak from low blood sugar. :)

After the game a player mentioned how much they liked the Adventurer's Vault, having just flipped through it for the first time. Maybe the book would be useful for your game too?

Check out reviews and whatnot at Amazon.

And RPG Shop.

Return to Contents

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

Have some GM advice you'd like to share? E-mail it to - thanks!

1. DMs Playing NPCs In The Party 

via Roleplaying Tips Facebook discussion

Johnn says:

A reader asks: "I am running a DnD 4e game with 2-3 players. Would it be right for me as the DM to play a character to expand out the party or not?"

Johnn says:

Yes, it would be ok to play a character in that situation. However, it is tempting to give that character special favours and attention - because he is yours - and that bothers players a lot. Your best bet is to treat the character as an NPC and not to put much at stake with him. If he dies, doesn't get the best loot, and gets the worst jobs, so be it. Another approach is to give the PCs a shared NPC to manage.

Here are a couple of ideas I've used successfully that might be of interest:

  • The DM's character is working for the villain. He helps the PCs until the end, at which time he betrays the party. Remember to remain impartial during the betrayal encounter.
  • The DM's character is dumb and mute, but wicked with a two-handed sword. This means you don't have to spend many GMing cycles running the NPC, but he's there to lend a hand in battle.
  • The DM's character is a spy. He reports back to some other agency, evil or not, through magical or mundane means.
  • The DM's character is the PCs' employer. However, he's a bit weak and he gets the PCs into lots of roleplaying-type trouble.

Joel Fox says:

I actually end up having to do this quite a bit, as my current play group only consists of two people besides myself. Something I've definitely encountered as a problem is when the DM's PC is the 'brains/eyes/mouth' of the party (the other characters have lower Int, Wis, or Cha, respectively), then the role-playing dynamics and plot pacing can vary drastically.

The least intrusive of these is probably the Wis-based (N)PC, but in any case you might find yourself doing a lot of the footwork yourself (which is the exact opposite of what you should be doing as DM). The solution so far as I have found is a careful manipulation of your character's mannerisms to make them more of a mechanic, rather than a character trait. This way the (N)PC is more a hireling or even a piece of equipment rather than a party member.

For example, the brainy (N)PC finds his companions brutish, so he often keeps his ideas to himself or uses his intellect to manipulate the party into benefiting him. Upon encountering a riddle that party cannot solve, he makes a deal that he gets a larger share of the treasure for solving it.

While this may seem to de-emphasize the importance of your (N)PC, it can be a great role-playing exercise: as you know all in the world, the ability to 'double-think' without using meta-game information can make for a unique character.

Not only that, but it will also enhance your role as DM: while playing as a PC, you become acutely aware of gaps in your descriptions and information doled out as DM. If the amazing riddle you put in the party's path is impossible based on the information given, you'll recognize it right away when you try to solve it as a PC and come up short.

All in all though, the deaf-mute idea seems best and I laughed when I saw it, thinking how much easier it would be. The only trouble is that the other two guys I play with often play that kind of character; whenever I'm just a regular PC, I usually end up in the brains/eyes/mouth role anyway. Next time though, I think I'll just play Brainless Jr. and make one of them to do the thinking for a change!

I do like the idea of the shared NPC though. Might have to try that one again (it's been a while and I kind of forgot about it).

David Astley says:

Many aeons ago, my 3 PC party met a random encounter - an NPC party. Next session I had the NPC cleric ask the PCs to rescue her suddenly captured companions. The PC fighter fell for her, and when the mission was accomplished all 3 NPCs were asked to join the party!

Thus was added a fighter, mage and cleric, all of which I was expected to run. The NPC fighter was very chatty, forthright and active - I killed him first. :-)

This caused a fair degree of horror among the PCs who had quite grown to like him over several sessions. After his death, the PCs were very protective of the remaining two NPCs.

The cleric was mostly quiet, timidly gave suggestions when asked, and often sided with the PC fighter she was falling in love with. As the healing machine, she made some combat contributions, but mostly patched up the PCs after each combat and got an equal share of the treasure.

The mage was the perfect NPC. Sneering, contemptuous and arrogant, the PCs quickly learned not to talk to him, and they only asked for his advice or help in the direst of circumstances. Thus was an NPC I needed to only put minimal work into. He avoided participating in combat, so at the end he was always there on full health with the right spell to save the party but only if they were about to lose. He got a reputation as being quite powerful, despite the fact he was a level below the PCs. The rest of the time, he did nothing and got an equal share of the treasure too.

Ultimately, why are you adding an NPC? Mine got dragged in by the story, and because of that they provided a few plot hooks and story elements and I tried to keep them away from the combat.

If your PCs just need more strength, try making the combats easier - fewer minions, dumber monsters, more story and investigation based encounters.

If it's impractical to make combats easier due to module, common sense, settings, or whatever, maybe the PCs can hire a mercenary or the like.

My original experience has taught me do not play a PC NPCs if you can help it, unless you're prepared to put in a lot of work. If you do put in that work, they can be very rewarding for both you and the party. But really, that's what the other PCs are for.

Reply here.

Return to Contents

2. GM Exalted To Help Players Describe Better 

From: keeponwalkin via Goggle Talk chat

Keeponwalkin: plans for the weekend?

Johnn: busy. Board games today. Also meeting up with a fellow rpg blogger who lives in town. You?

Keeponwalkin: me too get to play in an exalted campaign.

Johnn: nice. More daclave!

Keeponwalkin: :) I'm a politician though eclipse. We are setting up traps for the db.

I get to disgrace and anger some meddling db nobles until they decide to go all out. Then my buddies come in and clean up house while we keep all the local support :).

Johnn: nice! What does db stand for?

Keeponwalkin: dragon blooded. You played it before?

Johnn: no.

Keeponwalkin: I love how the system promotes description in its core mechanics using stunts.

keeponwalkin: I was never really able to get my players to fully describe in a powerful fashion.

Johnn: the game helped them?

Keeponwalkin: with Exalted it becomes natural. Players feel compelled to get the most out of it by describing (you get bonuses based on detail and coolness factor).

Keeponwalkin: it is very cinematic.

Keeponwalkin: I'm using it now to promote it for other systems. Hope it will be as effective.

Keeponwalkin: the main thing is you can stunt (what it is called in the system) anything. So players begin looking for ways to make any action seem and feel cool so they can get a bonus.

Return to Contents

3. RPG Review Issue 2 

From: Lev Lafayette

RPG Review Issue #2 [PDF] has just been put up on the website.

It has a review of Pathfinder Beta Edition, Fantasy Australia, an interview with James Flowers of Redbrick, three Middle Earth articles including Warhammer FPG linked scenarios in The Shire, Rolemaster PBeMs, three Dragon Warriors articles, a review of Grey Ranks, computer utility programs, a review of Hellboy II, Christmas advice from Orcus, and a Sacred Time song.

Return to Contents

4. Dwarven And Elven Name Generator 

From: Olan Suddeth

One of the biggest challenges to creating a non-human character is in coming up with a decent name. We've created a couple of excellent (if I do say so myself) generators at the Red Dragon Inn to help address this issue.

They are:

Return to Contents

Latest Posts @ 

Campaign Mastery is the official blog of the Roleplaying Tips E-zine. It's a great way to get more GMing advice and to chat with me and other readers about GMing. Here is a quick summary of what's new.

1. DM Tool: Scrabble Tiles for Your Minis & Battlemats 

Of all the board games I could raid for props and DM tools, Scrabble tops my list, especially for D&D 4E. Enhance battlemats, track minis, and make combat easier with those crazy, square lettered tiles....

Return to Contents

2. Are Special Effects Killing Hollywood? 

Special effects these days can sell just about anything, in the context of making it look real, and do it for less money than was dreamed possible only a few decades ago. I find myself considering whether or not this new-found facility with the art of illusion is killing Hollywood and taking gaming along with it....

Return to Contents

3. Guilds, Organisations, and other Bad Company 

The DMG II for D&D 3.5 defines Prestige Classes as representing organisations. Taking a prestige class is synonymous with joining the organisation that the Prestige Class represents. At least, that was the original theory. It was only ever partially true in D&D 3.5, and D&D 4 has a completely different paradigm in place....

Return to Contents

4. Moral Qualms On The Richter Scale - the need for cooperative subject limits 

A couple of years ago, I was approached by a player who was considering getting back into roleplaying after an extended hiatus from the activity. He had dropped out because he found himself objecting to the concept of magic on religious grounds. He didn't give any details about the incident, just its effects on him....

Return to Contents

5. Races Should Make a Difference 

How does each race in your game make a difference? Put another way, if any of race disappeared, how would the setting be different? How would gameplay be different?

* * *

Be sure to subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates sent to you:

Return to Contents

Johnn Four's GM Guide Books 

In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have written several GM tips and advice books to inspire your games and to make GMing easier and fun:

Inns, Taverns, and Restaurants - new

How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most popular locales. Includes campaign and NPC advice as well, plus several generators and tables

Adventure Essentials: Holidays

Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not only expand your game world but provide endless natural encounter, adventure, and campaign hooks.

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials

Critically acclaimed and multiple award-winning guide to crafting, roleplaying, and GMing three dimensional NPCs for any game system and genre. This book will make a difference to your GMing.

Return to Contents