Sandbox GMing

The time has come for the third and last of my GMing style posts, and this one’s a doozy. the first thing that I have to admit is that I’m a sandbox cheerleader. I like it, I like what it tries to do, and I think it does a pretty good job. However, I’m not going to let that distract me from the challenges that it presents to a GM who wants to pursue that style. I designed a sandbox setting about a year ago, and run two separate games in it at the moment, and have been for about eight months now. I’ve had to adjust some of the ways I think about the game and the players, and it’s been an interesting experience to do so. That said, this is definitely the style I have the least experience with. This isn’t a post about how to design a sandbox setting, just an analysis of the the strengths and weaknesses of the style. So, sandbox! Read more

Semi-Linear GMing

Last week I took on linear GMing, which is a bit of a touchy topic for me, but this week I want to explore semi-linear GMing, which is a style I have a lot of experience with. I’ve run a number of semi-linear games over the past decade, though I’m finally making a try at turning that setting into a sandbox (and at developing a wiki, the results of which can be seen here). In general, I find that semi-linear is usually a good starting point, because it accords people more freedom than a linear style while maintaining a balanced workload for the GM. Read more

Linear GMing

Something I’ve wanted to do for a while is explore the benefits and challenges of the three essential styles of GMing. Linear, semi-linear, and sandbox. To make my biases clear, I think sandbox is definitely the best, but each style certainly has its strengths and weaknesses. So here we go with linear GMing. Read more

The Ideal GM: System Mastery

It’s a bit of a loaded term, but one of the qualities of the ideal GM is complete knowledge of the rules of whatever game she happens to be running. Obviously, the best we, as mere mortals can hope for is an extensive knowledge of the rules, but it’s still worthwhile for a number of reasons. Knowledge of the rules helps us design adventures and settings which are consistent with the ruleset, and the more we know the faster and more efficiently we can do it. This consistency can be one of the cornerstones of our credibility, which allows us to act in secret without the worry that we’re not playing the same game as everyone else in the group. However, what’s interesting about the ideal GM on this subject is that she goes above and beyond this, using her system mastery in other ways in order to make the game more fun.

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