The 10 Commandments of Game Master

Posted on November 7, 2006

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I am thinking on working on a rather simplistic guide to game mastering. I see people repeating very simple mistakes that reduce the enjoyment of the game and participating in it. I recognize the paternalistic attitude inherent in this endeavour, but I feel that it can still be useful.

The first rule I can come with (and what I have in mind when I start this project) is:

1) Never use an abstract when you can be concrete.

This, paradoxically, is not very concrete so I will try to fix that. Most of the guidelines given to game masters are not very concrete in what they mean, and I have always found that to be funny. How is a new game master going to follow the rule if he can’t understand it, or see what it means in practice? This particular rule is perhaps most easily demonstrated with an example.

Not: “There is a storm”,
but: “You hear thunder and there are dark clouds overhead”. The latter isn’t that much longer than the former, and it makes the same point. It is also much more interesting.

Another example:
Not: “The man looks rugged”,
but: “The man has a ugly scar over his eye.” I am sure the players would not remember yet another police officer who looked rugged, but the scar might help. Adding little detail to every important(!) character will make them more memorable.

The point I am making is very simple from my point of view; but I am probably unable to judge this. Comment if you disagree or have something to add.

Edit: This idea was very clearly dead at it’s time of conception: there are more than plenty of guides to gamesmastering and if somebody wishes to learn, he/she can simply read them. This post was a knee-jerk reaction when after a less-than-optimal gaming session I offered some advice to a less experienced gamemaster and was completely ignored. Go figure.

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Posted in: role-playing, theory