Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #494
Maximize The Use Of PC Histories
This Week's Tips Summarized
Maximize The Use Of PC Histories
Game Master Tips & Tricks
- How To Create Magnetic Minis
- Pick Pocket Generator
- Cheaters Tips
1 on 1 Adventures #14 PDF Now Available!
1 on 1 Adventures #14: A Sickness in Silverton, designed
for a Druid, level 3-5, is now available in PDF and will
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folk of Silverton, and only the town drunk and a Dwarven
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A Sickness in Silverton at Your Games Now
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A Brief Word From Johnn
Gary Gygax Memorial Fund
RPT reader Dave C. sent me this email, which I thought I`d
pass along to you:
Hey! Thanks as always for the tips. I was wondering if you
knew of this link to E. Gary Gygax's memorial..
Gary Gygax Memorial Fund
There is a place for people to leave testimonials of what he
(and RPGs) have meant to them. The goal is a memorial in a
park with a gaming table to play at and show respects.
Thanks for the heads-up Dave.
iPads Experiment Went Well Last Game
One of my players, Jeff, has an iPad and we tried a little
experiment last game session. Using the free app Dropbox
that lets you share files between iPads, computers, and
other devices, I would move images as needed into a folder.
I'd let Jeff know a new image was available and he would
open it up in his iPad to show the group.
This worked a lot better for me because I use a laptop at
the table and it's a pain turning the laptop screen around
to show-and-tell my group images and handouts (is it still a
player handout when it's on a computer screen and all you're
really handing out is photons?).
With the iPad being so portable, yet with a great-sized
screen, Jeff could show others the images or just pass the
iPad around the table.
For images, I used scenery ones to set the scene for various
outdoor encounters we had, and NPC ones for critters and
NPCs met and fought. It was easy selecting the images and
them moving them to Dropbox for Jeff to display.
A neat thing Jeff did near the end of the session was leave
the iPad upright, using the easel mode of his iPad case, and
keep the picture of the dryad the PCs were parleying with up
for the whole encounter. It was a constant visual reminder
of who and what the characters were dealing with.
All in all, a great experiment that went well.
Have a great week. Please try to GM a game!
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Now in Print! The Kobold Guide to Game Design Vol. 3
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offers more than 15 essays by an all-star lineup of industry
veterans including Wolfgang Baur, Rob Heinsoo, Monte Cook
and Ed Greenwood.
The Kobold Guide to Game Design series is a great resource
for budding designers and GMs who want to take their
campaigns to the next level. Get yours today and start
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Maximize The Use Of PC Histories
Maximize The Use Of PC Histories
by Kate Manchester
PC Histories are one of the most ignored parts of a
character sheet, but for a GM, it can prove to be one of the
most vital. Here are some ways to get the most value from a
1. Require A Background
Require all characters to have a background story. It can be
long or short (preferably long) and in any format they
choose. For my own campaigns, I require players to justify
some or all of their PC's advantages or flaws in their
background. If the PC has a 3 point Enemy, I want to know
how they managed to piss someone off that badly.
If you want to give the players a questionnaire. It can
include (but shouldn't be limited to) the following:
- Character name?
- Street Name, Nickname or Alias?
- Who are their parents? Are they alive or dead? Do they
have any siblings (alive or dead)?
- Where does the PC's family currently reside?
- Where was the PC born?
- Where does the PC live? What is their place like?
- PC's quirks and habits?
* PC's short term goals? Long term?
So for example, if I were to complete the questionnaire for
my Shadowrun character:
Name: Kimiko Shinju
Street Name or Alias: Kim or Kimmie
Who are their parents? Shinju Kosaku & Shinju Myume
Are they alive or dead? Alive when she last saw them three
What do they do? Dad is a scientist working for Ares. Mom is
a traditional housewife
Do they have any siblings (alive or dead)? No.
Where does the PC's family currently reside?Ares Arcology in
Where was the PC born (if different from above)? See above.
However, if she returned, she'd be arrested.
Where does the PC live? What is their place like? She has a
'hidey hole' in Yakuza territory and a nice apartment in the
former SoDo district of Seattle.
PC's quirks/habits? She hates to eat dinner alone.
PC's short term goals? Build her list of contacts and get
the next job.
Long term? Make enough money to retire before shadowrunning
2. Review And Look For Inconsistencies
Once you have the PC's history, look it over. If there are
inconsistencies between your campaign world and the PC's
history, either gently inform the player of this (most
players won't be too broken up if you ask them change the
name of a person or place) or make changes to your campaign
Feel free to make friendly suggestions about their history
to help enhance your campaign, enhance the character, or add
connections to the other characters in the game.
3. Mine The History
Now that you've gotten a history and possibly a
questionnaire about your campaign's PCs, how do you go
about using this information? Here are a few ways:
Getting the party together for the first time
This is one of the most difficult parts of starting any
campaign. How exactly do you get a group of PCs working
together for a common goal? One way is through connections.
For example, in Shadowrun, Contacts are a vital part of any
character's arsenal. One contact shared by all the members
of the party could well be the impetus to bring a team
together. Another way is through common threads in the PCs'
histories (either coincidental or planned by you).
Bringing in a new PC
One of the biggest hurdles in introducing a new PC into an
existing campaign is why the PC came to this place and
joined up with the party. As the Storyteller of a Play by
Post game, probably the most frequent question I get is "how
do I bring my PC into the game?"
Part of my solution is that I require my players to submit a
history along with their character sheet. Once I look it
over, I usually can come up with some suggestions for their
opening post (who they're going to see, where the character
is going, etc.) and chat with them over IM about it.
Using the history to find commonalities and links between
PCs helps develop more realistic reasons for a new PC to
join a party than simply, "Joe is playing John Doe, so we're
going to invite John Doe to join the group."
Enhancing player investment in a character
Ever play an RPG at a convention with pregenerated
characters and have one of your fellow players decide to do
something stupid, like picking a fight with a beholder or
blowing up the ship?
This often happens because the player hasn't invested any
time and effort into the character. They have no stake in
the character's survival, so why not let them get killed?
When you make a player write up a background for their
character, they are investing time, effort and possibly even
emotion into this character. This investment decreases the
likelihood they won't care if something bad happens to the
character and can reduce the likelihood the PC will do
something stupid and potentially lethal.
By studying the back stories of the PCs, you get an idea of
where the players want to take their characters. Knowing the
PCs' goals also helps you better tailor adventures to the
Back stories also help you achieve your own campaign goals.
By knowing where the players want to go, you can decide what
direction you want to take your campaign and what you (and
your players) want to achieve during the course of the
A character's back story can reveal friends, relatives and
enemies. Use these ideas to flesh out the character's
hometown, create a recurring villain, or an old high school
buddy with access to the evidence locker at the local police
But a history isn't just about who the character knew. It's
also about where they're from. If you're running short on
place names, feel free to mine character histories for
For example, after not getting the name of the closest city
that I needed to finish my character's history, I simply
came up with the names myself. To my surprise, the party
actually had to head back to the very city I'd created.
Similarly, if a character's history mentions an ancestral
home, sword, etc., feel free to make it part of your
campaign. It'll save you work, and your players will
appreciate having contributed to your campaign even if it's
in some small way.
Adventures and plot hooks
PC backgrounds are a gold mine of plot hooks. As an added
bonus, when you use pieces of a PC's history, it helps
encourage that player's involvement in the game. After all,
players don't typically throw boring things into their
history; they usually include them in hopes the GM might see
fit to use them.
For example, a party contains Lodar, a fighter who is really
the son of a deposed (and despised) king travelling in
disguise. The party may soon find itself the target of
attacks. It can also make for some interesting drama and
conflict when this fact is revealed.
You can go home again
Have the PCs travel to a character's hometown. The other PCs
can meet his parents (who will likely have embarrassing
pictures or stories to tell), his old friends (who might buy
the PC drinks and talk about old times), and his enemies
(who might well try to kill them).
If the PCs have something in common with each other or with
the NPCs, it can often enhance those relationships. For
example, I had a PC come to Portland from New Orleans. I
decided that he and the current Toreador Primogen made the
trip to Portland together and were allies.
4. Make Histories Dynamic
Realize that a character's history is dynamic. It can evolve
and become more fleshed out over time as the player spends
more time with the PC.
For example, I've had a character history that started out
with the vague reasoning of her transfer away from her
native Chicago due to a family dispute. I elaborated on it
by deciding the dispute was with her mother and sisters over
breaking her engagement (she and her fiancee had different
ideas about her working outside the home).
In addition, as the campaign progresses, the characters
develop a shared history. As GM, you should keep track of
this as part of your notes. You want to give your PCs a
'blast from the past' by sending them back to a town or
bringing back an NPC.
Keep in mind, though, that as the campaign progresses and
characters leave or die, the blast from the past will have
less relevance and impact on the PCs, and your players may
well have forgotten too.
* * *
A character's history is a gold mine of information. It may
take a little work to mine the nuggets, but the rewards are
For further information on this subject, check out the
following Roleplayingtips.com articles:
How To Work With Crummy Character Backgrounds
6/666 Tips For GMing An Evil Group
Lessons from the LARP
Creating Basic Character Personalities
Character Questionnaires Tips & Techniques, Part I
Character Questionnaires Tips & Techniques, Part II
Roleplaying Tips Weekly Supplemental #5 "The Character Questionnaire" [TXT]
Players, Meet Your Characters
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Hear No Evil
By Tyco Kaine
Every adventure has to have a bad guy. Usually you're going
to have more than one. A whole bunch of bad guys, crooks,
thugs and traitors all ready to shiv your heroes up proper
good at the slightest provocation. However, there's no need
to have evil characters.
There is a tendency, particularly in fantasy settings, to
lean strongly towards the Evil Overlord of Doom archetype
when creating villains. Much like in Lord of the Rings or
Harry Potter, the enemy is a dark lord of vast power who
lives in a tower and commands armies of doom. They have an
alignment that says Evil on it. They are evil for the sake
of being evil. They probably have "I'm Evil and I'm good at
it" sewn into their socks.
In many cases the Evil Overlord, let's call him Boris, is
left just like that. He's just a big puddle of unspecified
evil with a pile of powerful abilities and a vague hatred of
anything living. While this does provide a campaign with a
fixed target for the heroes to battle towards, it also makes
a static, uninteresting target. Boris is powerful but
There are ways to make Boris more interesting and more
rounded. Provide him with history. Where did he come from?
How did he get his power? Why does he need to kill every
living thing in the known universe? What's the point?
Next, ask "Why?"
"So, you want to kill all living things? Why?"
"Because I'm an Evil Overlord and that's what Evil Overlords
"Because they're Evil!"
When you start to dig you'll find the reasons don't stack up
in a meaningful way. As it stands, the only thing that
compels Boris to ransack the world and kill everything is
the motto on his socks. He's doing it because he's Evil.
Well, that's not good enough. That's no reason to do
anything. Seriously, taking over the world and killing
everyone is a lot of effort, you're going to need a good
Yet, Boris must want to do something terrible to the world.
The plot demands it! If Boris isn't doing something terrible
then what are the heroes going to do? Sit and chew on their
toenails? Learn Cribbage?
Since it turns out that arbitrarily wanting to destroy the
whole world is silly, let's get focused. For the heroes to
want to stop him, Boris only has to threaten their part of
the world, not all of it. This gives the possibility of a
more human enemy, like Ulric and his Naidir warriors in
So Boris is a foreigner, a lord and hero to his people. It
just so happens he wants to take over the kingdom where the
heroes live. Now that Boris is a conqueror rather than a
demon lord he has motivations of a more understandable
nature. Conquest, riches and the pride of his people; these
drive him onward. He also has weaknesses of a human nature
too. He needs an heir to his throne and he must keep his
people happy. Also, if you took another page out of legend,
he could have a traitorous brother trying to make himself
king back home.
But, for all his humanity, Boris is still the bad guy. So
let's fix that too. The kingdom he seeks to invade, the
place where your heroes are living, has a part to play in
this as well. The King, let's call him John, has been less
that perfect himself.
Unbeknownst to the heroes, or even to the Council of Lords,
King John has been a naughty boy. John was worried that
Boris' armies were getting restless and that soon he would
march them over the pass and attack the kingdom. Although
the kingdom is far stronger than Boris' horde of savages,
John could not afford a drawn out war. After all, he is
trying to broker an allegiance with Prince Markus against
the Danes and all that beer doesn't come cheap.
Obviously, he didn't know that there was civil war afoot
between Boris and his brother Klaus or he would have just
left them to it. However, he did discover that Boris'
beautiful young wife, Larissa, was travelling by ship from
her homeland in the west to join her husband and, in a fit
of stupidity unmatched since the attack on Peal Harbour, he
decided to capture the young queen to use as a defence
against Boris' perceived aggression. Sadly for John, and the
heroes, Boris found this version of "best defence is a
strong offence" as slightly too offensive. Boris, despite
being a war mongering savage, is deeply in love with
This presents Boris with a problem. He cannot enter the
kingdom of John to get his bride back without falling prey
to John's men. He cannot invade the kingdom with his
restless armies while Klaus is sharpening his knife ready to
stab him in the back the moment he turns. So what does he
do? What can he do? Well, he goes to the Witch of the North
and asks for her help. He asks her to help him save his
love. The Witch of the North is a kindly old biddy who sees
that Boris has been wronged, so she grants him a boon.
"Should any man stand between you and your love and be cut
down, he shall join you and fight, beyond death, until you
and your love are reunited."
So, now any man Boris must kill in his quest to save Queen
Larissa will rise as undead and join his quest. Boris thinks
this is both terrible and unnatural, but it is the favour of
the Witch; he cannot turn down her offer. He knows without
it he will not rescue his bride. He agrees. At that moment,
your bad guy is born.
The thing to notice is that Boris has his reasons. He is not
completely evil. It would be easy enough to write the
history in such a way that he was seen as the good guy(1).
However, from the perspective of the heroes, he will seem
the evil overlord just the same.
Marching across the mountain pass, raising the dead as he
comes, he will be the evil they are ready to fight. The
difference? Boris has a clear goal, and when the truth comes
out regarding what happened, there will be questions to ask
and things to consider.
Will King John, in a follow-up to his previous stupidity,
kill poor Larissa and doom the kingdom to undead servitude
forever(2)? Will they discover that returning Larissa to her
husband will destroy the army? If they discover the truth,
will they have mercy for Boris once his army is defeated?
And what of King John? Is he not the real villain of the
piece? What happens when people find out this was all his
There's a good chance, about three quarters through the
campaign, the heroes can be convinced to join Boris and take
on King John to save the Kingdom and the Bride(3).
I like to think that truly evil characters are rare. As a
GM, the best bad guys you can play are those you can
identify with. You need to be able to act on their behalf to
make sure they behave in a meaningful and considered way.
They don't kill and eat people for no reason(4).
To identify with your bad guy you must turn the tables and
make a good guy out of them. Tell their story and find out
why they want to cause your heroes trouble. All the quirks
you discover while making a bad guy into a good guy serve to
populate the story with twists, hooks and details that would
otherwise be hard to invent.
If your players are anything like mine, they want to defeat
the enemy through intelligence, cunning and good play, as
well as through rolling dice and smashing heads. The act of
personalizing your enemies makes them possible to figure
When the players find out why the bad guy does what he does
they can better plot their own counters. They can decide how
they might defeat or divert their enemy. They can take the
lead and carve their own plot. They will think of things you
didn't and follow them to places you'd not considered. But,
because you know the motivations, desires and constraints of
their enemy, you are in a strong position to react to their
plans in an honest, believable way.
The joy of this approach is that if Boris looks like he is
being defeated too easily, rather than just making him
tougher in some arbitrary way to create a challenge you can
expand your reach and explore the other characters that
populate the bad guy's version of the story.
Boris, for example, has a beautiful young wife, Larissa.
What's her story? Where is her family? Maybe they are a
bigger threat? And speaking of family, what of Klaus? What
is he doing while all the zombie nonsense is going on? And
the Witch of the North? She helped Boris out of a sense of
Justice, but what else is she up to? When Boris is defeated,
will they go looking for her to prevent this happening
again? How does the crotchety old biddy react to being hunted
down by righteous heroes?
On the other hand, the players may never discover the truth
behind all the motivations of your bad guys - but that
doesn't matter. You don't need to crowbar these people into
the game if they are not needed. They serve to colour the
judgement of your bad guy, even if they are never mentioned
they can do that just as well.
(1) In Sláine - The Horned God, the good guys have The
Cauldron of Blood that brings dead warriors back to fight
the sea demons. If you wrote that from the other side, it'd
look pretty evil.
(2) If this happens you still have a get-out clause. You can
send the heroes to negotiate with the Witch of the North to
end the curse. Of course, by "negotiate with", the heroes
will undoubtedly mean "murder." But that's ok, she's a
(3) Or more devious still, one of the heroes could fall in
love with Queen Larissa and seek to protect her from the
'Evil' overlord. There's a bunch of interesting options
there, no? Although, to be fair, most players don't allow
their heroes to do soppy things like falling in love. Either
because they're afraid the GM will take advantage (which, as
a GM, I can't see why(5)) or because the character is little
more than a collection of numbers that desires only XP and
Gold. Ahhh...XP...my precious...
(4) That's not to say they don't kill and eat people. But
you must know why. It's the why that makes the character
interesting. If they just kill and eat people because you
wanted them to do something shocking and evil, it demeans
that character. It makes them less accountable. They are not
evil. They are just insane. That's fine in bit part
characters that exist only to be killed, but it makes for a
(5) Mwhahahahahahhahahaha! Ahem. Right. I think I've found
the evil overlord you were looking for....
* * *
Tyco Kaine is an artist, musician, astronaut, writer, ninja,
pirate and World Champion Games Master. He invented the
Sending of Eight role playing system and the colour blue and
has been carefully refining them both ever since. His blog,
Way of the Fluid GM, can be found here:
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Game Master Tips & Tricks
Have some GM advice you'd like to share? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org - thanks!
1. How To Create Magnetic Minis
From Sean Hexed
Another good magnet trick for figure bases is to use little
neodymium disc magnets. (Those super strong silver colored
ones.) I super glue them in the hollow bottoms of plastic
figure bases and then fill in the rest of the space with 5
Most craft stores have them, but may not have the tiny size.
I get them on ebay, but www.kjmagnetics.com has a
great selection on their site. They came recommended from a
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2. Pick Pocket Generator
From Jenny Trawick
One of my players was a rogue who wanted to pick somebody's
pocket every time I turned around. It was getting nerve
wracking to improvise something interesting for him every
I believe it was your newsletter that was pimping the
Abulafia Random Generator at http://www.random-generator.com
around that time - or perhaps I learned of it elsewhere? At
any rate, to keep this pickpocket thing interesting, I used
that engine to create some random people and line their
pockets with interesting things.
It proved to be hugely useful in my game. The random people
generated weren't even necessarily pick pocket targets, by
the end of it. They were individuals to flesh out a crowd,
with items in their pockets giving me springboards to
improvise their stories from. The streets of the urban
setting were crowded with citizens the characters could
interact with - and all of my players, by then, were paying
attention to the crowd! A lot of these NPCs became important
to the plot.
There have been a few changes to the generator made by other
people participating in the wiki, but by and large, the
generator is pretty much as I originally made it.
Here's the direct link:
Pick Pocket Generator
And here's a random sampling of what it produces:
You see 5 possible marks:
- You may be able to make off with a foreign-looking pouch
from a simple-minded exterminator. (It contains a legal
document entitling the bearer to a sum of money to be
collected from Gifted Assassin of the Duchal Chalice, a ring
with 1 brass key(s), and several rough drafts of a love
- You may be able to nab a new purse from a public-spirited
merchant. (It contains a small bag of gold dust, a silver
key, and several vials of rare poison.)
- You may be able to purloin a calico pouch from a shrewish
visitor. (It contains an enchanted diamond, a cloth cap, and
a book (The Lexicon of Cults ).)
- You may be able to swipe a silk-lined backpack from a
sneezing spy. (It contains 14 coins of a foreign
denomination, 2 freshwater pearls, a small box of breath
mints, and an amulet indicating membership in an
organization or society (Cursed Alliance of Exalted Deans).)
- You may be able to seize a backpack from a competent
miracle worker. (It contains 17 gold coins, a bag of
almonds, and a charm against thieves.)
(Hmm...if that merchant is so public-spirited, what *does*
he have planned for that poison...?)
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3. Cheaters Tips
From: Loz Newman
I've had cheaters amongst my players before. The easiest
solutions I've ever found:
- You suspect "fudged" rolls, and dubious rules-following?
Recruit some help.
Before the game, in private, give the Rules Lawyer(s)
instructions to surveil the cheater's actions. This helps
keep the Rules Lawyers occupied, too.
- Closely study the cheater's PC stats and powers. Know his
powers and skills at least as well as him.
- Put him next to the player who is the closest thing you
have to a Rules Lawyer. Preferably between *two* Rules
I used this once on a player suspected of cheating who was
just having the most incredible lucky streak I've ever seen.
Every scenario for two months, he averaged five critical
hits per eight rolls. Plus the odd critical failure, too.
- You suspect loaded dice?
Swap your dice for theirs.
- You suspect "forgetting" to cross off used spells/items?
Use spell/potion-chits, in your handwriting, that have to be
handed in and destroyed by the GM to take effect.
Don't let cheaters ever have "tap-backs", "do-overs", "Oops,
I forget to mention..." "Didn't you hear me say that...?"
"But my character would NEVER forget to...." or other means
of escaping the consequences of their acts or rewriting
history. They'll try to snarl up things into a confused ball
of maybes, no-we-didn'ts, I/he-didn't-say-thats, so they can
exploit. Avoid this.
And if you get 50% of the group cheating and mutually
reinforcing? Shut the campaign down and wait for them to go
away. Invite the honest players to continue the campaign
with other honest players replacing the unregretted departed
Above all: Stay calm. Don't let cheaters spoil *anything*.
From Jonas Dorn
"The last thing a game master desires is to directly confront
the player and outright say, I know you're cheating."
This is the big problem. Yes, it is absolutely necessary to
publicly explain the rules of the GM at some point,
preferably in the beginning. But after that, the GM has to
be a leader and talk to the cheater about cheating. In
private and in person. It is difficult and it is
uncomfortable, but these experiences are why GMing can help
make you a better team leader at work.
When the GM confronts the player, there are a few rules that
should be observed:
- Always be polite and factual. "You are a ...." has never
ever led to a better dialogue.
- Be able to back up your claims. Sadly, not all cheaters
will be contrite when you confront them.
- Try to leave the player a way out. Say: "I noticed that
you have problems with keeping track of your
spells/potions/bonuses. For the game experience, it is
important that you get these things right. Is there a way I,
or another player, can help you with that?".
This allows the cheater to change their behavior while
saving face. If you start with "You cheat! You have used
your supposedly 10 spells on your wand at least 15 times!",
the cheater will feel cornered and instinctively start
denying. Also notice that the good sentences do not start
- Say only as little as necessary. You are uncomfortable,
but if you start rambling, it makes it likely that you say
things you'll regret. Also, don't apologize. There's no need
to apologize for wanting fairness and justice.
- Be prepared to pull the plug. If the cheater blatantly
lies in your face, or threatens you, or calls you names, it
is better to continue playing without the cheater. The
reason you worked up your courage to confront the player was
that you wanted the cheating to stop. If it doesn't look
like the cheating will stop, it doesn't look like you'll
keep having fun playing with the player.
From Mike Glanville
The way I handle cheaters in my game group is to first lay
down some standards at the table.
Now, this is just what I do and is not meant to convey what
I think others should do, but this has worked well for me.
- All die rolls must be made in a designated area where
everyone can see them, including the GM's rolls. Let the
Dice Fall Where They May.
This one has been controversial among my fellow GMs because
they think some rolls ought to be done behind the screen.
However, I suggest doing this because one of the reasons
people cheat is because they don't have any confidence in
the impartiality of the GM himself, even if he fudges a die
roll in the favor of the players.
However, players like something concrete they can count on,
and one of those things is the sanctity of die rolls. By
playing by the same rules that the players must abide by,
you establish that sanctity and create an example for the
other players to follow.
All dice are rolled in an area near the center of the table,
and the player to the left of you (or right, whoever is
closer) has to read off the result.
- All dice must be approved for use by the GM.
My rule of thumb is simple; if I can't read it from anywhere
on the table, it's not allowed for use. Dice must be clearly
marked and legible, preferably in English (I've known people
to bring Japanese dice to the table).
Also, they can't be so big that they don't roll well, or be
made of a material that might damage the table. All dice
also have to have the correct shape. For example, d4s have
to be shaped like a pyramid, d6s have to be shaped as cubes,
and so on.
This was a tough one to swallow for my players, as their
dice can be rather personal to them. However, I pointed out
that the USGA and the PGA have standards for golf clubs,
balls, shoes and apparel, so why shouldn't a GM set down
standards on what dice are approved for play at the table
for his game?
- The GM reserves the right to invalidate any die roll for
This is the corollary of the rule that the GM is always
right. If a player rolls a die in such a way that the result
is in dispute, I have him roll it again. If, for some
reason, the die result is still in dispute, then I
invalidate the whole roll and rule it a failure, or at the
minimums if it is damage.
I once had a player who just couldn't keep his dice on the
table when he rolled, hoping in his own way to roll them off
the table and read the results on the floor as he picked
them up. I have a rather draconian rule that states if the
dice are ever rolled off the table, they do not count and
the whole roll is ruled a failure or the minimums of damage.
By imposing some standards to start with, and enforcing
them, you will seriously curtail cheating by demonstrating
that you consider die results to be sacred and you're not
going to tolerate any chicanery from the players.
I've still had players cheat and I have caught them.
Invariably, their characters end up dying because of the
automatic failures and minimum damages I apply. And then
afterward I have a talk with them. But usually the loss of a
character is all that is needed to rein them in.
There are other forms of cheating than mere dice fudging,
though. Sometimes, in an effort to cover the bases, a player
will have his character do odd things just in case something
bad were to happen.
I've had players swallow magical rings each and every day in
the event they might get captured and have to use their ring
A player in a Traveller game was so neurotic that his
character would wear his environment suit even on a world
with a perfectly breathable and temperate atmosphere for not
only the protective benefits but also because he could
conceal more weapons on his person.
Such things are examples of bad role-playing, and the best
thing to do is to use the world against them. The GM who ran
the Traveller game would detain the neurotic player and have
him strip-searched on account of his obviously suspicious
behavior of wearing a spacesuit on a perfectly habitable
I would often give my ring-swallowing players a case of
dysentery and blood in their stools (-2 HP/Day, and -1 to
Poison Saves) from the havoc of swallowing magical jewelry.
Character creation is another matter. I'm sure many GMs have
had munchkins hand in characters with no ability score lower
than 15, claiming it's all legitimate. or this, I do take
pains to carefully monitor character creation, and I also
monitor character advancement by photocopying character
It helps to also have other players who won't tolerate
cheating. Again, if you enforce the rules of the table as
you've set down, there shouldn't be too many problems.
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Johnn Four's GM Guide Books
In addition to writing and publishing this e-zine, I have
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How to design, map, and GM fresh encounters for RPG's most
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Advice and tips for designing compelling holidays that not
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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.
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