Friday, April 27, 2012


When I was a kid and running games (13-15 - brand new to it), my favorite thing was drawing maps. I’ve watched my son and he seems to have that bug too. Truth is, I think as we get older, we start shying away from all that mapping. You’ll see my previous post about leaving white spaces on the maps. While I use to think that GMing off the cuff was lazy, I’m starting to think it really is the mark of a good game master. OK, sometimes it’s lazy, but not always. I remember eons ago, I was at NIU Con. (Yes, the one and only time my university held a con, and I was still in high school, but I went anyway. Warning - Do not eat sandwiches out of the vending machines at Northern Illinois University! You will be sorry!) Anyways, they were supposed to have an event, three sessions of the same mission for up to 12 people per session. We had six guys. So the GM, OK he was a DM, decided he’d run it anyway, but since the other two guys who were ready to run the game were going to play, he had to adjust the dungeon as he went. Took him all of five minutes. In five minutes he had moved everything around including changing traps to other things and putting in a secret corridor. Oh, I’m sure he didn’t have it all set in five minutes and he was just throwing crap at us as we went, but it worked beautifully. And the prepared DMs may have known the characters that we met at the end, but they had no idea what order anything was coming in. I guess the point is, as you get older and especially if you really understand your world, you do a better job off the cuff than with a huge plan. You react better. You think of things you didn’t plan for, because you’re in the moment. Best of all, your interaction with the players is a lot more suited to what they want. You aren’t nudging them to stay in the mapped areas. One warning! At least to myself. You must preplan the characters. It is too difficult to try and make up characters on the fly. NPCs who do not fight are easy and fine to make up on the fly, but those who’s stats, spells or magic items matter - Either preplan them or write them down immediately. The number of times, I’ve allowed the NPC mage to know that one spell that the PC wanted to learn and later thought, “That doesn’t make any sense!” Well, you get the picture. Undocumented NPCs become everything needed at the moment instead of challenging you as the GM or your players to make do with what they have, not what they wish they had. Wow, that really got off topic!

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