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MoonHunter Sayeth 20170602


Game Guru-Thread Shepherd
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Core Things to know

1) Cue Cards
2) Riffing
3) Magic Boards
4) Chronicle Packet (aka world pack/ packet, aka Campaign Packet, aka Setting Book)
5) GM Journal (aka GM Pad, GM Notebook, etc)


Riff is letting your mind wander on a topic. I also include more than that, I tend to speak it out loud and practice table presentation.

Riffing is most often done with NPCs. Riff on important or notable non player characters when you have free time. When you're in the car or shopping or in the shower (or any place your mind can safely waunder), think of situations your NPC might be in, and how they'd react. Think about the dialog, the feelings, the actions, and the responses of others in that situation. These riffs will help you better define the NPC and give you "prepared" responses. Write down any important bits you discover on a cue card.

Now I tend to do my riffing infront of the mirror (yes, often in the bathroom). It allows me to practice my presentation. When the NPC appears in the game, I will be very prepared for it.

I also riff on possible combat actions. I see a cool martial manuver in a movie or read slashing fight scene in a book, these things see with me. If I riff on a fight scene, I can write what I see in my mind the character (or type of character/ monster) doing. It is sort of a mini-movie of an action scene. I adapt what I see into a brief bit of description, and write down the appropriate mechanics. If it is for a specific character, I actually write down the numbers to roll against. (I have a dozen or so cards for Zombies shuffling, lunging, lurching, grasping with cold, claylike hands... etc)

Scene Riffs are very possible. Locations are characters that don't have arms, legs, and mouths. Think about various areas of your chronicle/ campaign setting when you have free time, such as when you're in the car or shopping or in the shower. There are various ways to describe any place, each one conveying a different feeling or view of the world. (Hmm is this a normal alley, a dark and evil alley, a place where the homeless go, or what?) These places will be with you when you need to describe a place while playing.

Note: Credit goes to Jonathan Winters, who created this tip of riffing or working things out ahead of time for improvisational comedians. You work it out ahead of time so they will be there when the comedian needs them. (Or gives you a foundation to work from.)

These two tools (Cue Cards and Riffing) will increase your descriptive powers. They discipline you to work on them. They help you hone your craft and increase your arsenal of descriptive tools. These are not just "an idea to try out", but solid tools that are useful.

Magic Boards
This was the radically innovative tool when I first started doing in the early 80s. It is still one of the best tools I use; as it is cheap (18 cents), easy, and fast to use. It dispersed to general gaming community in the Bay Area for a time (and has been replaced by small whiteboards, tablets, and so on).

The Magic Board is a gamer concept comes and goes in gamer culture. It is an inexpensive and fast way to solve a lot of problems with note taking, damage tracking, and mapping. It starts with a clear plastic sheet divider (or comic sized mylar bag). Insert one piece of thin but rigid cardboard and two pieces of white paper on each side. This gives you a basic magic board. One can use appropriate markers [water based markers, some dry erase markers, and grease pens if you are old school] on the magic board.

Gamers can use this as is to sketch rough maps, take notes, or keep track of combat. However, that is just with basic paper. The advantage of the magic board is that other things (on paper) can be slipped into between the plastic and the card board (instead of the white sheets):

Underlays, hex or square grids: This makes scaling and sketching maps for tactical and non tactical situations easier.

Combat Tracking Sheet: This means the GM only has to make and print one combat tracking sheet for their chronicle. They can re-use it over and over again.

Character sheets: This is the classic, as character sheets are the “control board” for the game. With a T-Track on the character sheet, it makes tracking tactical trauma (and others) easier.

Mook/ ship/ monster control sheet:

Other Help Sheets: Any additional sheet that might need notes or tracks on it can be used.
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