Category Archives: Advice

Ask this question to create ideas and mysteries that grab players’ attention

I like to generate ideas by taking two notions that strike my interest, but that seem impossible together, and then inventing ways to put the two notions together logically. Angry GM calls this game How Can this be True? Like … Continue reading

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Number your monsters to stop wasting time finding them on the battle map

Many game masters boast an ability that I can’t match. I can’t stick to a character accent, but not that ability. During combat encounters, many GM’s remember which monster corresponds to which damage total on a sheet of paper. I … Continue reading

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The surprising benefits of giving an adventuring party a guide

When I started gaming, people tended to play Dungeons & Dragons with larger parties than now. When game session fell short of 8 or more players, dungeon masters often added their own character to fill the group. To me, the practice … Continue reading

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What game masters (and their monsters) should say during a combat encounter

During a combat encounters, I focus on keeping play moving. A faster tempo means players spend less time waiting between turns. Waiting never adds fun. Despite my focus on tempo, I do more than count initiative and tell players when … Continue reading

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Never split the party—except when it adds fun

Everyone who plays role-playing games learns the Dungeons & Dragons adage never split the party. In the hobby’s early days, when dungeon masters were referees and players chose difficulty by dungeon level, never splitting the party always made good strategy. … Continue reading

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Confidence game: Why faking confidence makes you a better game master

Some game masters boast unshakable confidence in their skill, even though their games only attract players because no one else wants the DM’s chair. Confidence leaves these GMs blind to their flaws. I should know. As a GM, I have … Continue reading

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How to end combat encounters before they become a grind

Every Dungeons & Dragons player experiences a battle that drags near the end, when the monsters have spent their best attacks and lack the numbers to threaten the PCs. As a dungeon master, I want to cut to the next … Continue reading

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Create better encounters by considering what your monsters want

Sometimes Dungeons & Dragons worlds seem split in two. In the towns and hamlets, players exercise charm and guile. In dungeons and lairs, every creature attacks on sight and battles continue to the death. When TSR printed Dungeon magazine, the … Continue reading

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Preparing to run an adventure as a dungeon master at a convention

In 1984 at Gen Con, I first served as an official dungeon master for a table full of strangers. I ran the adventure that would become I11 Needle. As I explained in “Running I11 Needle at Gen Con in 1984,” … Continue reading

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Illusionism: if player choices seem to matter, does it matter if they don’t?

Eventually, every game master winds up guilty of illusionism: You offer the players a choice that seems to matter, and then rearrange the game world so all the options lead to the same outcome. An illusionist GM prepares an encounter … Continue reading

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