See also: No Battlemap
Greg Christopher says that he’d like to see more GM Style Manuals. An intriguing thought. This would be something that is different from the mechanics, it would be an instruction manual on how to to run the games the way you do. I guess it will relate to your preferred campaign style or a simple Know Your DM flyer, but it would go beyond it: it would tell you and teach you how to achieve the desired outcome.
I wonder if I could write something like that. Others have, too.
Let me try. What would I tell a beginning referee if they ask for my advice?
I should find a catchy name for it! This is the… uh… the Swiss Referee Style Manual! I’m not Swiss, but I live here. Think of the Alps, the forests, the rivers, the valleys, the ruined castles, the army bunkers, the halberds and mercenary traditions, and… I dunno! It makes no sense! But it sure beats Running A Campaign According To Alex. (Does it?)
Anyway, I’d love to keep it short but it ended up being a massive wall of text. Sorry about that! At least it’s less than 300 pages.
Check it out → Swiss Referee Style Manual!
(I’ve continued working on this style manual and decided to move it to a separate page.)
In the comments, he also talkes about note taking. I wanted to say something about taking notes after the game; I had also heard something like that on Fear the Boot. I googled for the opposite of preparation and guessed that somebody must have used postparation. And indeed, somebody has:
Taking shorthand notes during the game, and making them readable after the game are mandatory for my games. Otherwise I’d forget. Since everything new happens at the gaming table, I can just add these little notes to our Campaign Wiki after the game. If the players have met ogres once or twice, the ogre page on the wiki may be very short:
It’s great. It works.
It’s not “prep” but it’s still a little bit of work. But since it comes after the fact it doesn’t railroad anybody.
I just read the pages three to six of Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering by Robin D. Laws. It talks about Player Types and lists them:
I think I qualify for Storyteller. When I prepare sessions that I’ve written myself, I usually plan to do plot development via roleplay at the beginning, leading up to a fight or two. I try to balance these two elements over two or three session arcs at the most. Thus, if a session was almost all about an intrigue, then then there will be a big fight and some form of resolution the next session, or the session after that.
Within a story arc of three or four sessions, there will be a number of hooks that offer players an in-game choice of how to continue the game. (I’d love to play much longer mini-campaigns and adventure paths in the future.) As an example: The players fought the orcs at Eralion’s castle in CrucibleOfFreya. The orc leader escaped and was not tracked. Random encounters alerted the players to the fact that there were gnolls in the area and they expressed interest in pursuing this. So instead of leading them to Tomb of Abysthor and more orcs and evil clerics, I’m leading them against the gnolls in TheDistraction. This allows players to determine the future of the campaign in-character.
I took Law’s Game Style quiz, and it confirmed my Storyteller type. This also effects my DM style: I don’t mind meta-gaming at all, if it makes for a better story! Conversely, I have to work on better tactics of my minions, and how to provide my method acting players with more opportunity for internal turmoil.
Looking at Georgios’ GM Types (the original in German: Georgios Spielleiter-Typen), I guess I’m “Director” first and “Provider” second. I do like the occasional “Plotmeister” session. I used to be a “World Builder”.
Update: The only quantitative analysis ever, apparently: Breakdown of RPG Players.
I like categorizing players by asking them to rank combat, interaction, and riddles. Personally, I hate riddles. They break the flow, and to be honest, I don’t get to see many riddles in real life, so riddles protecting things are not very believable.
Some players do enjoy riddles, however. What are good riddles to use?