GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

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GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:42 pm

GM FOR DUMMIES:

-- A reference guide for Game Masters


~Table of Contents~

1. Introduction
2. Starting Role Plays
3. Plots
4. Parameters
5. Stats for Players
6. Stats for Enemies
7. Stats for Bosses
8. Enemy Strength Curve
9. Incorporating Map Treasures/Shop Placement
10. Battlefields
11. Experience and Items from Battle
12. Side Quests and Aftermath

I am done for now. This is what I have come up with on my own. If you have a special request for a topic you would like to hear about, PM me directly and I will complete it posthaste and add it here. For others wishing to share their own knowledge or tricks of the trade or wish to cover a topic I have not yet covered, here are the rule:

Rules:

---Everyone may contribute.
---If adding a section, keep it in numerical order, give it a title, and merely post what you have to this thread. I will be sure to add it to the Table of Contents and link it.
---If you have something to add to sections already created, PM me what you wish to add and I will edit it in for you giving you due credit for your addition within the amended post.
---Avoid being redundant. For example, don't start a new section if the topic has already been covered.
---All ideas are welcome. Do not challenge another's contributions, for what works for some may not work for others.

Remember, this is an effort to bolster everyone's standings as GMs. We are a community and a family and we're all working to make the most out of statistical role plays. I appreciate everyone's ideas and contributions and I'm proud to call you all my colleagues in this endeavor. Thank you.


Last edited by Masquerade on Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:14 pm; edited 6 times in total

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:00 pm

1. Introduction

This guide was written at the request of members of the GM community, and for those that don't know, GM stands for Game Master, those that are masters of a role play, create the plot, and guide the characters down their path to the ultimate goal. However, this manual in particular will be focusing on the statistical aspect of role playing and incorporating parameters into role playing. I guess that's really all I had to say, so how about we get started?

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:00 pm

2. Starting Role Plays

Before you start your statistical role play, there are several things you'll need to keep in mind. For one, you'll need to have your plot at least somewhat planned out. As you progress through your GM journey, you'll find that allowing the characters to have maximal interaction with YOUR non-player characters and YOUR role play environment will allow for the greatest story ever told. The conclusion of your role play might be the same, but the journey is what counts and if you're too strict with freedom, you'll find people becoming a bit restless or weary of the same old, same old. Statistical role plays allow for freedom that normal video games do not, mainly because the players can interact with the 'developer' as the role play is progressing. Just take this into consideration. More on plots in a small bit.

Another thing you'll want to have pegged down is the parameters that you'll be using, for example, Attack, Magic Attack, Speed, etc. Part of it depends upon your role play setting and the history of it. Is there magic at all? If so, how is it used? How do people draw power to cast spells or use abilities to make them stronger? The point in this section is just to warn you that you'll want to have every set beforehand. More on the actual parameters you can introduce and how to issue starting parameters along with assigning parameters to monsters and bosses later.

Now, in addition to the above, you'll need...okay. Enough of that. Basically, just PLAN. There are things you need to have set before you start your role play. Otherwise, people can get disgruntled and frustrated if you have no idea what you're doing when you start the thing up, and you definitely don't want to put the role play on pause because you need to figure out what happens next. "But, but you said things might change if I let the players interact and have an impact on the story?" Yes, yes I did. There needs to be freedom, but not so much that the role play deviates from what it is truly supposed to be about. Set options for your players to choose and plan for each option. Regardless, this doesn't mean things always go as planned. As a GM, you'll need an open mind and you need to be able to improvise well if things don't go exactly so. Just keep that in mind.

So get your introduction thread posted along with your character profile thread. Make sure things the players need to see like their inventories and enemy profiles are present, along with a list of negative and positive status effects. To be honest, enemy profiles are optional, but it's really just placed to make sure that the GM, you, doesn't try to whip out anything that you hadn't planned for an enemy to have beforehand just because things change. In the end, you do have ultimate power, just don't get carried away. Enemies are meant to be defeated in most cases, so plan as though that's the truth. We'll talk about undefeatable boss stats in a different section. For now, I think you guys get the idea.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:01 pm

3. Plots

In this section, we'll discuss the plot, for that is integral to any role play, even statistical ones. As everyone knows, a plot goes from introduction to the finish which typically ends, in statistical role plays at least, with a battle against the major antagonist and final boss. Your plot should be skeletal, meaning there's plenty of leeway for taking different courses to get to the final destination. There will be certain parts of your role play that are more important plot-wise than the rest. Those are such points that you should include in your skeleton plan.

Now, your statistical role play will be a balance of battles and cut scenes, both of which can be used for plot development, so make use of them wisely. Opening up an exploration option for your players also allows for even further development of not only the plot, but of your role play setting as well. Take advantage of all of this so that your players can get the most out of living and traveling in your world. Battles should be carried out in an orderly manner with cut scenes integrated appropriately. Those are pretty much the only guidelines for plot. Otherwise, carry out things as you see fit.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:01 pm

4. Parameters

Unique to statistical role plays, characters are assigned parameters that are used in a battle such as Hit Points (HP) and Attack (ATK). These parameters govern how much damage is taken in battle, how much damage a character deals, how much damage a character can endure before becoming incapacitated. As you can see, they define how a battle persists. They are the essence of a battle. Without them, how is it to be carried out? Through words? Bah. That's for regular role plays, not statistical. Now, you need to make sure your parameters match your world which mainly deals with magic and from where it draws its strength. In other words, how it's carried out. For example, in my own role plays, the magic source is Mana and the corresponding parameter is MP, a standard for actual video games in fact. To use Mana, people draw upon the strength of their minds to conduct it and use it to cast spells and amplify physical abilities. Resistance to Mana is determined by a person's own spirit, for spirit can resist the evils of the mind. See how it works? Hence, the Mana Points (MP), Intelligence (INT), and Spirit (SPR) parameters are created. There are usually parameters to define physical capabilities such as Attack (ATK) and the resistance of such attacks, Defense (DEF), but these can be changed out on the whim of the GM.

Extra quirks such as those to limit ultimate abilities, those that determine speed, accuracy, and evasion, those that enable movement, which is actually more of a necessity than anything, can also be incorporated and serve to make battles more realistic. If need be, play with everything you set up before starting the actual role play in practice battles played out on your own just to see how things will go. Practice makes perfect.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:02 pm

5. Stats for Players

Now, at the beginning of each role play starting stats will needed to be assigned to the players which is your responsibility. Guidelines for starting player stats are this and this alone: make sure the stats you assign a character match up with the character's profession. For example, a spellcaster does not need a ridiculous amount of physical strength and defense. These things need to make sense. For starting stats, I never assign any base stat (ATK, DEF, INT, and SPR) over 5 in the beginning. For clear cut characters like mages and warriors, they'll have a 4 for their dominant attacking stat with a 3 in the matching defensive one. The other stats can vary, but they're always less than the dominant ones. Balanced characters and evasion types usually get the 3-2-3-2 setup. I frequently compare balanced characters to jacks of all trades--good at everything, masters of nothing. Besides, this can be offset by assigning stat points successfully as the character grows. For HP and MP type stats, melee fighters typically get a great more HP than MP, and mages get the reverse. Balanced types get, of course, a balanced amount of HP and MP. Starting HP should never exceed 25 and should be never lower than 10, though I advise against 10 if your starting monsters are rather powerful...which, of course, I advise against. Details on this in the next section. MP follows the same guidelines as HP.

As a rule, you don't want to take starting weapons and accessories into consideration with your starting stat distribution, and in fact, it's rather unethical to do so, even if that makes a certain character a tad bit more powerful than you would like. So don't do that. Seriously. I'll go into starting equipment bonuses while I'm at it. All bonuses granted by starting equipment should, at the maximum be +1, save for accessories boosting HP and MP. That bonus would be +5 of course. Certain weapons bolster ATK more than INT-type stats, and vice versa, so keep that in mind. Heavy armor should greatly bolster DEF and no SPR at the beginning. Light armor could boost both. Cloth armor like robes should bolster SPR but no DEF. At least in the beginning, that is. Feel free to shake things up later on, if you so desire.

Now, limits on ultimate abilities like gauges or drives will have to be of your own creation. Make it as hard or as easy as you wish to have them unleash such power or offer extra effects such as stat boosts from your system. Get creative. For evasion, mages have either a little or medium amount typically. Those wearing heavy armor suffer evasion penalties. Fighters and soldiers will have more maneuverability than paladins. Thieves and assassins will have the most along with archers and other evasion classes. Basically, it all depends on the class. Use common sense. Or if your world dictates otherwise, change it up. Incorporate it the way you see fit, just don't go overboard or you'll wind up with a mess.

In this section, I'll also discuss MP costs since they're a rather important part of the statistical role plays and they'll haunt you for as long as players can have new abilities. Now, there is no set way to do MP costs for abilities, and even my own formula is...a mess. In essence, it's best to come up with something for yourself only because perspectives are different and you might not agree with my bases and standards. What you want to keep in mind is that the more powerful a skill is, the more MP it should cost. Powerful abilities shouldn't be able to be cast or used constantly in a single battle unless the player gets creative and finds a way to bypass this. Remember, when creating MP costs, you can't take those kind of things into consideration. If a player makes a supporting ability that halves MP costs, don't cost abilities because of that. They earned respectable half MP costs at the sacrifice of a supporting ability slot. Those are the guidelines, anyway. I won't share my own formula, but I can discuss certain theories surrounding it.

For one, I start with a base. 4 MP is mine. No ability will cost less than this value unless there are special circumstances applied. The next thing I take into consideration is damage. If it does greater than 100% of an attacking stat, the MP cost increases by 1 for each increment of 10% it goes over. Elements gain automatic 2 MP. Negative status effect increases depend on severity of the negative status effect. Multiple hits garner greater MP if there are a lot of hits. The increase isn't as severe if there are only a couple. Special effects such as creating new cells or bestowing a unique status effect have MP increases that vary depending on the strength of these things. There are certain bases I have such as the Gravity base and the Esuna base. Gravity base is an automatic 10 MP and relates to moves that do damage equal to a percentage of the target's maximum HP. Esuna base applies to moves that remove status effects. Automatically 8 MP. Also, none of this is set in stone, so you see the importance of creating your own system. I think that's enough for now.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:02 pm

6. Stats for Enemies

Now, we shall discuss stats for your starting enemies. The strength or growth curve will be discussed shortly. The one thing you want to keep in mind is that your starting enemies are STARTING ENEMIES. If you make them too difficult, not only is the first battle going to be ridiculously long, but it's going to be boring as well. If you make them too strong, the party'll be wiped out in the first battle...and that's not helping your cause AT ALL. There's really no excuse for that. Don't do it. Depending on how many enemies you have your players facing off against, HP should range from about 10 to 20 at most, only higher than 20 if there are one or two foes. Keep ATK/INT stats decent, not too high, and DEF/SPR stats low. Just for the beginning, okay? I guess that's enough for now. Tips for keeping your enemies challenging with appropriate parameters will be found in the associated section.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:03 pm

7. Stats for Bosses

Bosses in a statistical role play are supposed to possess strength and abilities much greater than that of normal monsters. As such, their stats should reflect that, but there are only certain things that should be different. For one, the HP should be much, much greater than that of normal monsters. Once again, to accommodate this massive gain in HP, their defenses should not be so high that characters can't deal damage to them effectively with just basic attacks. Likewise, they should be able to deal damage to players effectively using basic attacks as well, so adjust their attack stats to make that so, however, their basic attacks shouldn't take out like a quarter of a character's HP. Make it reasonable. I give all my bosses ultimate abilities that use the same limitations that I impose on the players. I typically don't give normal enemies ultimate abilities. As for their normal abilities, just make them challenging and impeding, but not ridiculous. Overpowered bosses are the same as overpowered monsters--it makes the battle impossible.

Now, for undefeatable bosses, if they're truly undefeatable, make their stats ridiculous or 'question mark' them so the players don't even know what they are. If you want to give them some sort of chance, set the notch of a normal boss and raise it a bit. That's the ONLY time a boss fight should be ridiculously difficult, and I place great emphasis on ridiculously. There's a definite difference between ridiculous and challenging. Just make sure you make it clear whether or not it's definitely an undefeatable boss, one that you 'might' have a chance at it, or if it's just a normal boss.

For monster bosses, I don't give them equipment unless they're actually using swords and stuff. Giant wolves are feral and don't use weapons and you can use fangs and such as weapons, but I avoid that. Human bosses are typically harder than monsters just because they're capable of the sort of things your players are capable of. For bosses and even normal monsters that don't have equipment, be sure to give them extra stat distributions to offset. For ones that do have equipment, make sure their stat distributions match this fact so that you don't overpower things. I think that covers it. Let us move on to how your monsters should grow as things progress.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:03 pm

8. Enemy Strength Curve

This section isn't going to be as complicated as one would think and it'll most likely be rather short. As the story progresses use your guidelines for enemy stat distribution discussed in the Stats for Enemies section, only have the HP get higher and higher. As they grow, make sure their HP and attacking stats stay rather high while their defenses stay paltry DEPENDING ON what kind of enemy you're having your players face. For example, if you're having your players fight against a giant tortoise, it would MAKE SENSE for it to have a high physical defensive stats. Just remember to keep things in perspective but not impossible. The more you practice, the more you'll get the hang of accomplishing this somewhat difficult task.

That pretty much covers the stats. As for abilities, keep in mind that your enemies don't need to use every Skill Point they get or any other means of 'purchasing' abilities. Normal enemies that are non-human should probably be restricted in such ways. If you want to give them a variety of abilities to shake things up, knock yourself out, but I think more expansive spans of abilities are better off being a privilege of bosses. I think that covers guidelines on this topic. What was it I said? Keep things in perspective but not impossible? I think that sums it up perfectly.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:02 pm

9. Incorporating Map Treasures/Shop Placement

The reason I'm including a section is that both of these things play significant parts in the growth of the players. For treasures to be obtained during battle, consumables like Potions and Ethers and such are more common and placed into bags that are easily opened. Equipment is a bit more rare and I like to lock those suckers into chests, but you can do whatever you wish for them. Just make the difficulty in getting to the item match up with how rare it is. That's a good guideline for it. You don't have to put anything at all. It's up to you. As for shops, that's somewhat of a necessity unless you place a ton of chests on a single map. The party's equipment needs to be updated at decent intervals. I tend to keep my shops placed in-between dungeon explorations if possible. Plot precedes the need for the shop. If anything, put a traveling merchant somewhere. If you've ever played a game in the Shadow Hearts series, you'll know putting a vendor anywhere is possible if you have the right reason for it. You don't always have to have equipment, but make sure consumables such as HP and MP restoring items are available. Keep your consumables up to date as well. For example, if your party has characters with over 100 HP, giving them HP restoring items that only recover 10 HP probably isn't very viable. From my experience, players won't use items unless they absolutely have to anyway. Regardless of that fact, items should be readily available for them.

For equipment, I'd say the most important thing to keep in mind is to not make the weapons and armor overpowered; keep their bonuses in check and in equilibrium with where the party is in the story compared to the strength of the monsters they are fighting. Also keep added effects to a minimum, at least in the beginning, or if you do incorporate them, keep them dampened down. I guess that's about everything I have to say considering items and shop placement.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:37 pm

10. Battlefields

The first thing I want to get out there is that if you are randomly generating these things, tell me so I can slap you silly. The ONLY rule that should really go for battlefields is that it should mirror the immediate setting. If your players are fighting in a forest, make it look like a forest. If they're fighting in a castle, make it look like they're fighting in a castle. You know, stone walls, columns, doorways, staircases. The works. The battlefields can be interactive, such as providing Trigger Commands to give your players a chance of doing something unique with their surroundings. Once again, it's really defining the realistic nature of the battle, not to mention it makes things more interesting. Place bags, chests, ways to uncover new areas, and more. Set traps and dangers to keep your party on their toes. There's so much you can do, so I suggest get creative here. The sky truly is the limit. If you ever question your own stuff, test it out in a scenario battle on your own before setting up the real thing. Also, one last thing: if something happens during the battle plot-wise that changes the battlefield, be sure to reflect that because if the players must continue to fight, then the change will certainly affect them.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:38 pm

11. Experience and Items from Battle

Let us talk about experience first since it is a major aspect to player growth and how well they can fend off enemies. The typical system is to keep reaching the next level indefinitely more difficult than achieving the last. My own system that makes the level up requirements the same for a period of three levels was actually an idea I borrowed from the video game Rogue Galaxy which did something very similar if not the exact same thing. I thought the simplicity would be good for just starting out as a GM. Set up your experience requirements for leveling up based on how often you want your players to level and how much experience you reward them for slaying monsters or completing special objectives during battle. If you want to present a challenge to them, set the bar a bit high. If you want it to be easy, make it easy. However, the best system I've found is to start off with an easy leveling and have it gradually grow to become greatly more difficult to do so. My own curve is in need of a bit of adjustment, I believe, but I've set the max level for my statistical role plays to 200, so I don't think it's much of a problem. As I have, so too should you set a maximum level so you know how long your players will have a chance to grow and gain or modify abilities.

When setting how much experience your monsters will give from being defeated. This should be based upon how difficult they are and what level they are (which in turn affects how difficult they are.) That's about the only guideline in that accord. Bosses, obviously, should net a great deal more experience than normal monsters.

Most times, you'll want your monsters to drop items which can range from consumables to materials (if you enact a synthesis system) to even equipment like weapons and armor. It is all up to you. If you want a monster to drop something extremely useful and valuable, adjust the rarity so that it doesn't drop very often. It's the exact same thing actual video game designers do. I'm sure you all know what I mean, trying to complete some sort of item log and having to search out rare items. A pain in the ass. So, I invite you all to have fun on this one. The one thing I advise against doing is...well, I'd best give an example. Your party is all lv 5. You have them fight a monster their level that can drop a weapon that boosts all stats by 99 and give it a 1% chance to drop. DO NOT DO THIS. BY THE GODS, NO. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. IF YOU DO THIS, I WILL FIND YOU AND SLAP YOU WITH A CODFISH. It will be just your luck that the RNG rolls 1 and boom, you've ruined all battles for your entire role play. I know players are more sensible than to equip such a thing, but still. You never know. So do not do this. You have been warned. I speak from experience, though the 1% chance refers to something else. So, while I'm on the subject, IF YOU DO NOT WANT SOMETHING TO HAPPEN, GIVE IT A 0% CHANCE TO HAPPEN AND NOT A 1% CHANCE.

The author lets out a sigh. That's the end of this section.

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Re: GM for Dummies: A Reference Guide for Game Masters

Post by Masquerade on Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:09 pm

12. Side Quests and Aftermath

Now, though not necessary, side quests offer chances at more experience, branched plots that could possibly affect the main one, and a chance at getting rare items and exploring more of the land. They're a fun distraction and the rewards are usually great. My advice on this topic is to make sure you get the integrating right. Basically, it all depends on timing. When are the side quests are available? For how long are they available? Is it a one time deal or will their be more quests branching from a given side quest? What are the rewards for completing a line of side quests? These are things that are better off planned ahead of time, but you can make them up on the spot as well. Not like instantly on the spot. Do plan at least a little bit ahead of time. You can wait until the last minute to plan, but at least plan. At least. If not, you're likely to get things all tangled up and you'll screw up the side quests and maybe even the main plot. Keep your roads straight.

The last bit I have advice on is the aftermath of your role play. Decide if you're done after the final boss or if you're going to add some extra gameplay after the end. It doesn't have to follow a particular plot, but just figure out what you're going to do and make sure you go through with it, especially if you told your players that you would. Any additional content would really be about exploration and character/extra plot development or circle around how things are after the final boss has been defeated. Ultimate weapons and such should be available prior to the final boss if you're adding such things. So that's about it. This guide may be far from finished, but for now, I shall cease speaking and hope that all of this helped my fellow Game Masters out a bit. Thank you.

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