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MoonHunter Sayeth 20170614

MoonHunter

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As a GM, do you try to up your game?

When I commit to a game, I try to meet that commitment for as long as I am able. I have suffered through some truly terrible GMs/ DMs because of this. Since I started GMing (in 79), I have always tried to be the best GM I could be. I was a narrative/ story GM back in the day where everything was tokens on a dungeons map or Missions from Patrons.

I am in the Bruce Lee/ JKD approach to gaming. As GMs, we need to find all the tools we can, refine them the best we can, then utilize the ones that work best for us and for the people we are playing with. Actual practice is involved in this. Remember, it is not only what we can add, but what we can eliminated (thus techniques we are doing, that are not serving a good purpose, should be eliminated).

To be a better GM, I am constantly looking at "root sources", that is to say... things from other disciplines that either were a source for gaming or that do the same thing.

1) I look at writing.
Fantasy and Sci-Fi novels helped to inspire gaming in the begining. (I tended towards Moorcock, McCaffery, Norton, and ERB, rather than Tolkien). I hang out on author boards and hit writing websites. From those I learn a bits about world building, setting scenes, creating story arcs, describing characters, locations, things, and a host of other things.

2) I look at film/video and film/video writing
This is fairly new in my process, as my process is evolving. It comes from the idea that gaming is a story over time, rather than a story over chapter/arc. Gaming/ GMing has more to do with film that writing. I read McKee's Story and a few other pieces. Study of the way movies work improves my pacing, my framing of scenes and action, and my story arcs. I realized that players love good action movies/ tv series, so I try to make my game as much like those as possible (except comic book styled campaigns, those are modeled after comic books - and comic books are a hybrid of film and novel).

3) I practice story telling
Storytelling.... you know.. the kind with a book or an actual story... where you sit in front of a group of kids/ people. Sometimes I practice doing it in front of a mirror (riffing, sort of). Doing this helps hone my various voices, my delivery, my special effects, and I learn to watch my audience and respond to them. (This is a key point. Pay attention to how your players are reacting, and plan your actions around that).

4) I practice public speaking.
I don't do this very often any more, but if you are beginning to GM or upping your game, do it. The best advice I can give any younger gamer, go join Toastmasters International. In addition to being a great networking location in case you need a career (not a job, a career), it teaches you how to speak in public, how to prep, how to practice, and confidence in your presentation. The Confidence in your presentation is the greatest GMing Tool you can have in your bag of trick.

5) Books on GMing and Gaming
These days there are a lot of quality sources of information on gaming. I detailed some great books to read in my blog post HERE. Read those various sections in the Game Rules. Look at what others are saying about various things. See what else works for you.

6) I always keep working on my GM Toolkit.
While I have tools that work well for me, I try stuff out from time to time. That is why I am still using a paper pad and converting things to digital form after, rather than going straight to digital (the reformatting and copying helps cement what I did in my mind). I have my story arc scene lists to check off what to do. I use cue cards (a big boon). Cue Cards force brevity and allow you to store creativity.

7) Story Arcs
This is the best tool I have found for planning chronicles/ campaigns and sessions.

Everything in my chronicles are planned in terms of a story arc. I try to make sure that anything I improv fits into these arcs ... thus has a real purpose in the chronicle.

Every chronicle has one main story arc (and some supporting ones). This is "the big thing" that is going on right now... either the players are deep in it, or it will impact what they are doing (a major war between two countries perhaps). Actually I have one and a third big arcs (that way I can have a lead in to the next arc going and the last trailing bits of the previous story arc in play).

Every character has three arcs attached to them. 1) There personal attachement to the main story arc. The other two are storylines based on the character's history, the characters goal, the character's relationships, or just something cool about the character. The player and I choose these at the begining of the campaign and pick new ones after one of them has been completed.

Major NPCs (including villains) and some locations have story arcs attached to them. A few floating story arcs are out there to be grabbed as appropriate.

Every Story Arc is a string of scenes. Each Arc has key scenes - things that must happen to move the story along. There will be scenes that should happen along the way (in between the key scenes), lesser action scenes that give you leads/ clues and transition scenes that get you from this action scene to the next. Some of these scenes are slightly important and a few are just required for logic's sake. (Okay, a few are just padding scenes to move that story arc along but not really being resolved.. sometimes you are not ready for important or slightly important scenes).

My games sessions are set up by picking either a dramatic or transitional scene related to the main arc, their personal arcs, and any random arcs - to ensure the arcs move foreward and there is something for every player to do. I grab the scene cards (if any are there), make up some if needed, look up various notes, and my prep for a given game session is under 15 minutes. (Because I have already done the heavy lifting earlier).
8) Riffing
I am constantly riffing on my games. I work on NPCs. I work on scenes. I work on locations. I just let my mind wander and look for a good way to put things. Doing this in a mirror helps me figure out what is working and what is not.

9) Narration
Perhaps it is my mispent childhood infront of educational TV shows about The Ocean or Africa, but I have a narrator voice that runs in the bak of my head. You can use that that voice. Never be afraid to narrate to make things informative or interesting. I use it to set the scenes... perhaps describing a cinematic view of the vista or locations... or to start the action. You can use it in all sorts of time. Onne point I have to make: Never be afraid to narrate through the boring parts. You are making an exciting adventure story with the characters, not a documentry of their every move. So instead of playing out uneventful days travelling... narrate the red line on the map. Instead of going through the hundreds of boxes in a warehouse, cut to the time they open the one box with something special.

10) Talk with your Troupe
The players in your group will always have opinions on what will make your game better. So talk with them. Ask them questions about how things have gone. Ask them questions about what you can do to make it better. Ask them about the direction the chronicle is going and how they like it (or how we should change it). Your players are your primary audience, if they are happy then you are probably doing something right. If they can be happier, then try to make that happen.
 

Gwydion

I am #426
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I do, though not quite in the same ways. I spend time thinking about the art and how to improve it. I do read up on ideas when they come to my attention, but I've found books on GMing to be thin on the ground and of mixed quality (but go read Robin's Laws). Mostly I've been focusing on doing a better job of prepping. I'm pretty good at improvising, but that can be a curse as much as a blessing. I'm just good enough that I can mostly get away with winging it, but I'm clearly better when I prep. I've also been trying to spend a bit more time with things like handouts and other things to pass out to the players. I ran a UA New Inquisition game where I had mission dossiers complete with redacted parts. It was a lot of fun and really help flesh out the feel of things.

Things like having business cards to hand out (even if they aren't on card stock) can really make an NPC more memorable.
 

Veracusse

Linguistics 5
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Riffing. I do this all the time. I used to commute long hours for work. Riffing I found was a great way to pass the time for an hour while driving.
 

MoonHunter

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Veracusse;bt243 said:
Riffing. I do this all the time. I used to commute long hours for work. Riffing I found was a great way to pass the time for an hour while driving.

I have a significant section of a blog post on riffing. It will not win a Pulitzer, but it is a good start.
 
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