GM Advice

Inspiration in the SEA OF DEATH

I recently finished a fantasy novel set in the Greyhawk universe, written by none other than Gary Gygax. It’s “The Sea of Death,” starring his character Gord the Rogue. First off: It’s a rollicking D&D-esque adventure and a fun diversion. However, it also contains a number of insights about how Gary expected D&D adventures to … Continue reading »

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Running a D&D Game with 1 Player

Sometimes, you only have one player available to play. Sometimes, one player in your campaign wants to split off and pursue his or her own goals for a while. Can you run a D&D game for one player? Sure. Do you have to do it differently? Yes. However, here’s the good news: it’s 95% the same as … Continue reading »

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You cannot build a perfectly challenging puzzle for D&D

In most traditional RPG campaigns, PCs face broadly three kinds of challenges: physical combat, social conflict, and intellectual puzzles. The rules of the game usually cover physical combat in plenty of depth, and most groups can navigate difficult conversations without complex rule systems. Puzzles, meanwhile, beguile us. We imagine an ingeniously interconnected set of traps … Continue reading »

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Star Wars Risus Post-Mortem

This week, only 2 of my players showed up, so we ran a Star Wars one-shot using the Risus rules. We had a blast, and these are a few recommendations if you want to do something similar. (For those not familiar with Risus, in brief: your character is made up of a few short, descriptive phrases called … Continue reading »

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Where is the Story Load in your game mechanic?

You roll dice to find out what happens, right? OK, how do you determine the parameters for “what happens?” When you roll dice in a tabletop RPG, you’re generally comparing the roll to one of three things: A target difficulty number that varies according to either the rules or the GM’s decision during play (as in D&D, where the … Continue reading »

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Dungeon World-style Fronts for other Fantasy RPGs

Dungeon World includes a wonderful mechanic called fronts, which describe larger-scale threats that the PCs may face: a cult, a horde of orcs, a powerful wizard, a natural disaster, etc. Fronts have quite a few moving parts, though: Scale (campaign-level or adventure-level) Dangers (people, monsters, traps, unstable artifacts, etc.) An impending doom for each danger … Continue reading »

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When to use a “DM PC”

Let me introduce you to Dale. Dale’s a new Dungeon Master, six sessions into running his first Dungeons & Dragons campaign. He’s a nice guy, who wants his players to have fun. Dale has a problem. He needs to introduce an non-player character (NPC) who will stick with the party for a while. However, he’s … Continue reading »

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Hit Points Don’t Represent Physical Wounds (Necessarily)

What does a loss of Hit Points mean? Some of you already “know” the answer to this, but it bears repeating, and there’s a hidden message. As the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook puts it: Hit Points measure your ability to stand up to punishment, turn deadly strikes into glancing blows, and stay on your … Continue reading »

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How to Run Practically Any RPG Concept with Risus

Ben has a concept he wants to run as a tabletop RPG, but it doesn’t fit any system he knows. It’s a weird mashup of genres. Ben decides to go for it anyway. Because the players won’t have crystal clear ideas for their characters, Ben ideally wants to create characters during play. He’d prefer to start with … Continue reading »

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I Ran Tomb of Horrors, and It Was Awesome. Here’s How.

Recently, I ran the Tomb of Horrors for a handful of friends. They had a blast, and repeatedly said so. For what it’s worth, Tales from the Yawning Portal hadn’t come out yet, so I used a 5th Edition conversion I found online, combined with the original module. In pitching the Tomb to the players, I explained … Continue reading »

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