GM Pitfalls: Master of Puppets

As a Gamemaster, sometimes it’s more important to just pull the strings.

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In the right hands, an NPC can be a brilliant addition to a campaign’s narrative. Interactive, fully fleshed out and generally dynamic – NPCs represent the world the PCs are murdering their way through adventuring in and are their best method of interacting with this world in ways not provided by the set pieces and enemies they commonly experience. A good NPC can give the party a trusted ally, a daunting nemesis or even just an adorable Goblin they can claim as a mascot. Whatever the purpose or goal of the NPC, it’s important to remember that important NPCs need to feel alive. The GM needs to play the role of the NPC, not just control it. Good NPCs have no strings and are as alive and organic as the players themselves. It should feel as though a new player dropped their way into the campaign, complete with their own unique goals, talents and flaws.

However, it’s also important to remember that some NPCs are allowed to be fairly inconsequential.

Too often a GM will try to fully flesh out every. single. NPC. This is incredibly dangerous, especially in Urban campaigns where PCs may encounter a LOT of NPCs. I find this especially taxing when the party needs to interact with merchants. One member of the party needs weapons, so here comes a blacksmith. Another member needs potions, so I better come up with a potion seller. Oh hey, this guy needs some provisions, better whip up a different general merchant. Oh look, the Paladin is off to the temple…. time to slap together some monks. Oh hey, the person at the blacksmith is now asking about anyone who might know the value of stolen jewelry, better concoct myself a fence. And so on.

And so on.

AnD sO oN.
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Roll Call: Woes of Character Creation [The Backstory]

Backstory for a character is an aspect of Tabletop RPGs that is often misrepresented as one of the weirder/dorkier elements. Though it can be very detailed, it is also a staple of the game, so much so that companies have actually created full guides or generators to help players create a cohesive story.

However, many people disagree with the necessity of the backstory. They see a detailed backstory as frivolous. Essentially, many GMs don’t care where your character is from as long as they are motivated to the adventure and stick to the campaign. That’s their prerogative, so fine, let them run the game the way they want, but I personally feel this approach to a key aspect of character creation comes from a vast misunderstanding of the importance of backstory.

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Roll Call: Woes of Character Creation [Experimentation vs Repetition]

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I have played a lot of Role Playing Games. I have created and been in charge of quite a few as well. As such, I have noticed trends and common problems. I intend to discuss some of those from time to time.

Let’s face it, character creation is simultaneously one of the most entertaining and daunting aspects of picking up a new RPG. At any given time, players have a myriad of questions they need to ask themselves while diving in. Afterall, excluding any unfortunate Owlbear maulings, this will be the character you are ultimately stuck with for a majority of the campaign, if not the whole darn thing. Thus, let’s talk about some of the woes and stressors that can rear their ugly little heads during this time.

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