Monday Musing: Stay on Target

Today’s Monday Muse is staying on target. One of the harder things to do these days as a gamer.I myself am not safe from the pull of distractions at the table. In the world we live in becoming distracted is not only simple, it is second nature. The irony of all of these distractions is that when most of us were kids or young adults. We played games to distract us from the real world. Now the real world far too often distracts  us from our games. Between gif’s, text’s or memes and messengers the assault comes from every angle.

No one is safe these days, with at least one mobile device attached to every human being on the planet. Each essentially with the power of  a personal computer. You are just not going to get away from the reach of the real world into your game it would seem. I am just as guilty as many others out there reading this. Add in laptops and Tablets and these days some RPG games look more like LAN parties of old than Gaming sessions in progress.

So take the time to know that the distractions are there and give yourself a leg up in the efforts to stay on target during your games. Here are a few tips.

1. Take short breaks. The irony of this is my table knows me as a guy that frowns at too many breaks during the game. But In the last few weeks, I have begun to flip on the topic. After a long combat or before one is about to start a quick breath of fresh air can help you get back into the game.

2. Turn off any unneeded electronics. Now again this one will make some of my players giggle. As I swear by my electronics. This is true, yet even as a DM I turn off my messenger and log of things like G+and Facebook before the game. In an effort to minimise the distraction potental. I also only have notifications set to on for my most important applications on my phone. That Pidgey can wait till break guys, he’ll still be there he’s a Pidgey they are everywhere.

3. Grab your snacks before the game or during breaks. This will keep your focus on the game once things start back up. There is no sense going outside to stretch your legs and then as everyone is settling back in to play the game you hop up to go get that one snack you forgot.

4. If you can bring yourself to do it.

Turn off all of your electronics.

Embrace the time in the tech free dead zone…

I can’t believe I said it. I imagine I will get called on this lol as all of these.. I am guilty of all of these things. But I am working on all of them so I thought it would be a good one to share ! Until next time gamers !

What are some tips or tricks that you have to keep on task at the game table ?

 

 

Using the News for Inspiration,sort of?

I have a fun little trick to help me come up with inspiration from time to time for my games. If I am out of ideas I will sometimes hop onto the internet and head to a few of my go-to resources for off the wall inspiration. A few minutes on these sites is usually all it takes to get my creative juices flowing.

Satire New pages & YouTube and Paranormal/Cryptozoology sites I find are often much better than any plot generator program. It is rare that I can not find in a matter of minutes something that would make side quest, plot or rumor to toss out for my players in any game session.

If you run a Monster of the week style game these resources can provide you with everything from News Clippings to Video footage that you can bring to the table depending on your games setting.

For example, I logged on over to Paranormal News  clicked the tab for Cryptozoology. And there it was.

GettyImages-182116_2865835aSightings of eight-foot werewolf known as Old Stinker spark panic across city

Residents report seeing the beast on SEVEN recent ocassions

As I mentioned earlier it is likely that I could put it in any setting or a one-shot game such as a story plot or a hook for my players. For the most part, this story can be delivered into the hands in many ways.

  • Now obviously in a modern game or a monster of the week session, I likely would just use this article as is for a jumping off point for my players.
  • In a Fantasy game, I might have a Town Cryer or a post on a job board draw attention to the story.
  • In a 1920 story, a news stand or radio broadcast would be my vehicle of choice to get the hook to my players.
  • And so on..

But is that all I could get from this ? I mean it does spark some creative ideas but maybe if I look past the headline there is more that I could mine from this. As it turns out yes there was a lot that I could make use of.

Rumors? (Tweaked for example of game notes)

  1. A centuries-old legend states that the foul-breathed creature is on the prowl.
  2. Locals claim to have spotted the creature on the loose in an abandoned (industrial area, graveyard, woods whatever suits your needs.) outside the city, which they fear has now become its habitat.
  3. One eyewitness claimed to have seen it morph from a man to a wolf as she watched from a bridge above.
  4. Locals are gearing up to go on a werewolf hunt.

Quotes? We got plenty of these as well !

“It was stood upright one moment. The next it was down on all fours running like a dog. I was terrified.

“It bounded along on all fours, then stopped and reared up onto its back legs, before running down the embankment towards the water.

“It vaulted 30ft over to the other side and vanished up the embankment and over a wall.”

In the end, this quick example turned out a cornucopia of stuff I could bring to use in any game. Granted if you are running a Fantasy game to tweak quite a bit of what you would find. But given this example, you might come to see that you really do not need to change much to use these in any setting.

Gamemaster F.A.C.T.S

A few weeks ago I wrote up a blog about Player F.A.C.T.S. It was an inspired acronym to help players new and old. These were 5 simple rules that I found essential to having an enjoyable time at the table as a player. So I am proud to present here my F.A.C.T.S for Gamemasters. I hope they will be received as well as the Players F.A.C.T.S

So why would Gamemasters have any use for F.A.C.T.S like I came up with for players?  Where player F.A.C.T.S are intended to be used as a primer to help understand playing in RPG and your role in it. I would like to think that for a Gamemaster these F.A.C.T.S might serve as a  mantra if you will, that we can use to remind yourself to stay on course. Or part of your mental checklist before a game begins.

GM F.A.C.T.S

Fun 
If your not having fun at the table no one is.

Active

You set the tempo of your story

Choices
Always allow  your players choices.

Tact
As a Gamemaster, you must be Tactful and considerate to the desires of your players.

System

At least, have a passing knowledge of the system you intend to run…  Commit to being prepared. Do your homework and learn it or as much as you can before game time!

 

Taking a deeper look…

Fun

Simply put you have to have fun at your game. If you’re not enjoying it you players will know. When the Gamemaster lacks enthusiasm he might be able to conceal it for a few sessions, but it makes every aspect of running the game that much harder. You may think that you can convince everyone that you’re having a good time when you’re not. Inevitably it will seep into the game in one way or another. When it does it will likely sour your players overall experience.

Don’t force yourself run something week after week if you don’t have any enthusiasm about what you’re going to be running. With everything else in life that we have to do that is no fun, there is no reason to run a game you do not want too.Run what you want and your enthusiasm will be infectious to your players at the table. If your players are using the F.A.C.T.S of my other blog they know what you are going to be running and they should be as equally as eager to play as you are to run.  So sit back relax and have a good time !

 

Active

Activity is immensely important at the table. As a GM you have to be the conductor of the orchestra, you are in charge of your games tempo. In an age where distractions are at our fingertips, you have to have your finger pulse of the group more so than ever. Your level of activity in the story can have a direct impact on your players enthusiasm. If you let the tempo slow to a crawl you will quickly see smartphone open and other distractions begin to take over your table further pulling your players interest from the game.

Knowing when to step in as a game master and keep things moving is something you also have to be  keenly aware of. Sometimes the players will have roleplay moments amongst themselves. It is times like this that you have to remember just because you’re not taking an active part of the discussion there is still activity going on at the table. Take this time and use it wisely.  There are still several things you should be doing as a Gamemaster. Take a few minutes and think about what’s going to be happening next in your story. Pay attention to what is being discussed in the group but at the same time don’t get overly caught up in what’s going on or insert yourself into the conversation where you are not needed. As a GM, you must judge  when the talking dies down or the players begin to talk in circles if it is now time to step in and move the story along once more.

Be ready to improvise, If your players are growing frustrated because they can not find a clue or solve a puzzle. Have an alternative solution become available. Do not be afraid to take actions to get the story moving again. With a subtle push in the right direction or a random encounter you often can save your game from dragging and keep the tempo and interest levels high at the table.

 

Choices

Choices to the DM is the only differences compared to the Players F.A.C.T.S list. My reason for that is simple. Allowing your players freedom of choice is the sole difference between running an RPG game or telling your players a Story. As a Gamemaster, you want to be someone that encourages a mentality of “Yes and…?”or any other thinking that progresses the story. Try not to be a Gamemaster that says “No” or “Yes but…” thus opening your games up to whatever choices that your players come up with. This can be scary to some Gamemasters

This can be scary proposition for some Gamemasters at first. Yet once you become accustomed to it, is very liberating in action. The key reason for this is entirely about your a game preparation. As much as you might like to think that you are prepared for anything your players will throw at you. I can promise you that you are not. More often than not  you will have a table of four or more like-minded gamers playing across from you. They  are all going to be thinking outside the box in an effort to creatively overcome any obstacles in front of them. One of the worst things you can do in this situation is to stifle that creativity instead encouraging that behavior.

You must be willing and prepared to go off script whenever you run a game. Give yourself a few options for any scene, yet be willing to be flexible and change things on the fly . This will usually serve you far better than scripted encounters or storylines that you had written down. As a GM, you must be the ultimate impromptu actor and director because you can’t call for a cut and a reshoot of a scene

 

Tact

Tact is simple and nearly the exactly the same as it is for the players. Be mindful of who is that your table the feelings and opinions they bring to the game. Consider the things that you say and how it might affect them. Do your best not to offend anyone and speak with anyone before or after game if you have concerns that you may have offended them.

If you have concerns that the Theme of your game might have an aspect that someone may be offended by it be tactful and bring it up before the game let people know that this might be an R-rated or an off-color topic. Make sure all of your players are comfortable as well as willing to go down that route. It is  no fun and rather awkward to have to try and sit through a game with people you may have seriously offended because you were not Tactful.

 

System

When it comes to a system as a GM for the love of all that is holy please take the time to prepare, prepare, prepare. Read your system rule book and know your system! Not everyone starts gaming knowing the system that they’re going to be running. It helps if maybe one of the other players as a GM of that system we could sit near you and help you with the rules. Otherwise, make sure you run primers or quick shots.

Be prepared to study if you don’t know the system. If you have the intention to run it for any period of time then you better become knowledge of it. Nothing sucks more in a game then having to pause and  flip through books to look up rules. It grinds the game to a halt and bores your players to death.

 

Player F.A.C.T.S

Recently I have been wanting to write a blog about player tips. A guide to help new and even old players at the table. As I began to pour my ideas on to paper I noticed a trend in my writing. I had many tips and suggestions but more and more of them were falling into several common categories. So I began narrowing in on a few common rules to live by of sorts. That is when I found inspiration, there are 5 simple rules that I find are essential to having an enjoyable time at the table as a player. Five Facts if you will. So I present to you the players F.A.C.T.S. From now on when someone asks me what rules or tips I have for players I will tell them that the way I remember it is the FACTS.

Fun.Active.Character.Tact.System

Fun: We play games to have fun. This has to be our number one goal as a player.

Active: Take part in the story and be involved with the people at the table and the Gamemaster.

Character: Make a well-rounded character you are excited to play that will fit the story being run.

Tact: Be tactful and understanding of the people around you at the table as well as those around your table.

System: Have a passing knowledge of the system or, at least, the willingness to learn it.

 

A deeper look at F.A.C.T.S ?

 

Fun

No matter your play style or reason for being at the table. Your core reason for playing an RPG is for fun. In this regard, we have to be greedy in the games we pick. You can be bored and play games on  your phone and check your social media anywhere. Why feel the need to do this at the game table?

If you have no desire to play in a game let your fellow players and Gamemaster know well ahead of time.With most groups your Gamemaster and the group will make an effort to make sure everyone is playing something they want to play. If you just can not come to a solution consider bowing out of the game in advance and wait for another opportunity that will interest you more. It is honestly better to sit a game out then to drag a game down.If you are not having fun it will show. When this becomes apparent to the other players at the table and the Gamemaster will notice. This can be distracting from the game and lower everyone’s overall enjoyment because you are just not into it.

Sit down to play in games that you are excited about, and above all have some fun!

 

Active 

Tak an active role in the games you chose to play in. More often than not you will find that any game you are active in will be far more interesting and fun if you are actively taking part in the game. It is hard to be bored when  you are participating in the of the story.

Remember this is a group activity! Even if you are not the Gamemaster engage players that might seem bored or uninvolved. You will be shocked how often simple things like this draws a distracted mind back to the table.

Listen to what is being said by everyone at the table. Being an active listener is just as good a quality at the table as playing an active role in the game. Feel free to take notes, likely there will be a test at the end. Recalling the sage informing you that the strange creature turns anyone that gazes upon it to stone may save your life later on.

 

Character 

tabletopCreate a character that you are interested in and want to play. Make your character with a good list of generalized skill sets. If you make a one-trick pony you have subconsciously written yourself out of a large portion of the story. With it the opportunity to be active in a large portion of the game that will be played. If you play something boring …you are going to be bored.

Embrace the Story and all that it has to offer. Find a place to carve your niche in the world. Feel free to ask questions and learn the environment that your character is in. Act and react to the world and the environment around your character. Get into it, immerse yourself and enjoy it.

Most importantly never forget you are not your character! Not only can you do things that you might never be able to do or possess skills that you do not have. Your character as well is just as likely to not know things that you yourself would know. Now most people get this.

On the other hand, many players have a hard time with the deeper thinking of you as not being your character. Do not be angry if something bad happens to your character. It is not a personal attack against you as a person. If your half-elf is being slighted by the town folk in the game this is not a slight against you. Do not take it personally unless you can tell it is a personal attack. YOU ARE NOT YOUR CHARACTER!

 

Tact

howtonotbeadickBe aware of your fellow players and your actions. What you say and do may have an effect on them. Try treating your game like a movie that you have paid to go see. Silence your phone or turn it off. If you must take a call, politely get up and excuse yourself from the table to minimize the distraction this may cause.


Try to have a
sense of what is fitting and considerate when dealing with others. Do not offend one player to win the good will of the rest of the table. Use judgment in handling difficult or delicate situations. Treat your fellow players and Gamemaster as you would wish them to treat you.

And in the words of Wil Wheaton ” DONT BE A DICK”

 

 

 

System

Make an effort to know the system you are going to play or make plans to become knowledgeable of the system. Let your Gamemaster know ahead of time if you are unfamiliar with the rules or dice system of the game you are going to play.

Hopefully, the Gamemaster will be able to take some time and walk you through the basics before your game starts. Or  in some cases maybe give you a cheat sheet of sorts to help get you up to speed. Often the Gamemaster might suggest that you sit near a player that knows the system well for the first few games to help you out.

If your players and Gamemaster are going out of their way to help teach you the system. Be open to learning, or learn the basics on your own.