As part of the promotions for the Upwind Kickstarter I made a Twitter account for Biohazard and dove in head firs...well...more like waded in cautiously - and then only up to my knees. I did begin however, to follow and read some cool folks, which in turn made me want to contribute more to the Twitterverse than just promotional spam.
Convergently, I’d long had the idea to write some gaming advice - article, column, book or whatever - but for various reasons I’d yet to take on such a project...
• I am crap at non-fiction
• I have a lot of other game stuff I should be writing instead
• I’m not sure I have much of value to actually say
So, deciding to kill two game-related intents with one series of Tweets, I offered what I did have to say in a non-committal, take-it-or-leave-it form via Twitter. Several thousand “impressions” later, I figure someone likes them, so, for the time being anyway, I will continue Tweeting - compiling the list here so I don’t start to repeat myself.
Tenet 1 - If everyone's having fun, you're playing it right.
Tenet 2 - Always try to have something specific and cool for each of the characters around the table to keep their players hooked.
Tenet 3 - As the GM, your energy is the players' energy - always be up and engaged.
Tenet 4 - GMs should always try to say "yes...and..."
Tenet 5 - Frontload the player experience. One cool map, prop or encounter they see is worth 10k words of background details they don't.
Tenet 6 - Implying there are plot secrets is as good as actually having plot secrets.
Tenet 7 - Always give even the least NPC a name, adjective and noun and your players will believe your world is alive.
Tenet 8 - Keep digression, dithering and delays out of the game by keeping the action going. Engaged characters equals engaged players.
Tenet 9 - Never look up a rule if it interrupts the game's flow. Make a call or have a non-active player check. Either way, keep moving!
Tenet 10 - Though their characters may be otherwise, if the goal is to tell good stories, players and GMs should never be adversaries.
Tenet 11 - Always use character rather than player names in-game. It's an easy and effective way to increase immersion.
Tenet 12 - Most "realistic" NPC's would flee/surrender rather than die. This outcome shortens combat and creates roleplaying opportunities.
Tenet 13 - Written session intros: set stage, tone, focus, foreshadow, remind, evoke, log the game and make GMs look super-prepared.
Tenet 14 - Stand while you run games - you will be more energetic and engaging, and you will better hold your players' attention.
Tenet 15 - Digression kills the game. Stop it by describing next encounter, calling for initiative rolls, or continuing narrative. Just go.
Tenet 16 - Speaking in character keeps the players in character and engaged in the game
Tenet 17 - Laughter is the often unacknowledged yet primary source of fun around a RPG table - even when the game and humor are dark.
Tenet 18 - Try to end each session with a reveal, surprise, compelling question or other cliffhanger. Always leave the players wanting more.
Tenet 19 - Ask for rolls only if the consequences of failure would be interesting, then provide interesting consequences when failure occurs.
Tenet 20 - Use narrative techniques - flashbacks, shared thoughts, dramatic cuts, triggered memories, etc - to enhance structure and story.
Tenet 21 - Use recurring NPCs, allies, villains, and locations. They ground stories and create essential verisimilitude for the game.
Tenet 22 - If the goal is immersion and focus - ask your players to keep phones, tablets, laptops and even books off the table.
Tenet 23 - Short description w/ leading questions creates suspense - You step forward. Do you draw your gun? The door creaks. Do you shoot?
Tenet 24 - String together montage-like series of short encounters to create a sense of change, scale, travel or the passage of game time.
Tenet 25 - All games with structured plot railroad. Camouflage the fact with lots of character choices that all lead to same plot points.
Tenet 26 - If the players suggest through action/question, try to make them clever - Yes, there is a trip wire! Yes, phone records prove that!