Are you a game moderator or dungeon master? Already in a tabletop roleplaying game as a player?
Regardless, add these 10 GM / DM rules to your play immediately for a way better time at table!
My One-Pager of 10
The bread-and-butter of my own GM work. Worth a read before every game.
- Rule of Ask – You ask players what they do in the game. You let players take action and make decisions for Beings players control. If you need clarification, ask. Encourage players to ask you to clarify. “What are you doing?”
- Rule of Boundaries – You keep and respect boundaries set by you and other players. You ensure other players respect boundaries. New content or fictional decisions may make players uncomfortable and the game not fun. Abstain from content that makes the game not fun.
- Rule of Consistency – You are consistent with rule arbitration and player moderation. You use the rules the same way between all players and aim to keep conflict and negativity between only the fictional Beings in the fictional game story. You are fair.
- Rule of Cool – You summarize less cool game content to proceed to cooler game content. This may include travel or the passage of time spent on the same action. Awe is a greater experience than living through drivel, no matter how probable.
- Rule of Fun – You have fun and encourage the players to have fun. No fun comes at the expense of another player’s fun, which includes your fun. These rules help you and the players have fun.
- Rule of Know – You know the game rules, the players, and what may come next. If you do not know, either ask or prepare to improvise.
- Rule of Now – You respect a player Being’s current action if the action is possible and keeps the game fun. You do not suggest actions without solicitation or force the players to take action, known as “railroading.” Past actions may guide a player’s Being, but they are not a restriction to actions here and now.
- Rule of Reveal – You reveal information completely but slowly. Keep secrets about the future of the game content and story. When you reveal information, it is given clearly, completely, and with vivid description. Abstain from vagueness.
- Rule of Trust – You keep the players’ trust. You keep trust when you play the game with these rules and to the best of your imaginative ability.
- Rule of Yes – You say “yes” to surprises in the game from player actions, tests (i.e. rolling dice), and player ideas for fun action. These actions do not use tests. Otherwise, you give a test when the outcome of an action is uncertain, has consequences for failure, is possible, and keeps the game fun.
Other Tips and Advice
From around the internet and from my own KISS process, you cannot go wrong adding these tips to your games.
- Guidelines – There are no formal rules, only approximate guidelines and tools to have fast fun with friends. Guides are trusted counselors, not dictators. Be consistent, be fair, and be a fan of the players. Make it work, have fun (you are playing a g-dang game!).
- Easy Medium Hard – You can improvise any roll so long as you approximate what difficulty a roll of the dice would be – that means you only need to remember three numbers to roll for.
- Add EXPLOSIONS! – When the game needs more excitement or the players need incentive to act, add trials and escalate with fire and debris. Escalate!
- Imply loss – Hint to but do not tell players that a conflict may be unwinnable, especially if they are likely to die.
- Keep notes – Player actions, names, quirks of characters, and places visited are all useful content to remember.
- Keep threats – If you make them, fulfill them.
- Roll for involvement – If a player loses attention away from the game, have them roll dice. Any reason to roll works. The roll does not need to matter to the fiction.
- Scarcity – Keep both benefits and hindrances in the game scarce. This includes equipment for purchase, more challenging opponents, traps, and rewards. The rarer a thing is, the more memorable and valuable it is.
- Senses – Include as many of the five senses when you describe actions, characters, and environments.
- Session 0 – This is a big suggestion. Plan ahead for the game with a meeting of players to get to know each other, set boundaries, facility escape clauses (like an “X” card for inappropriate situations), create game expectations, and create the characters to play as. Declare any rule changes you will use as a GM and discuss ideas for game content. Prompt players for what they are excited to try and what they have found boring in games.
Use this time to ask the players what their characters are proud of, ashamed of, how each player’s character knows at least one other players, and why all players are adventuring together.
- Steal – Cool content from your favorite media, real world history, and player creativity can be reused. No need to reinvent the wheel!
- Talk it out – Regularly discuss player perception, reception, and feelings of the game while adventuring.
- Think what is next – And only what is next. Rarely think farther ahead.
- Vulgarity – You ought to know it when you see it as will the other players. Get consent beforehand for the inclusion of sensitive topics, but regardless PAY ATTENTION to the responses of the players. Unexclusive list of consent topics that may otherwise become vulgar: children, drug use, enslavement, genocide, gore, sex, and torture.
Add these GM / DM rules to your games and you will have all my secrets of having a fun, enjoyable time for everyone at table 🙂 Cheers to your gaming!