Thursday, August 25, 2011

My GM Merit Badges

I didn't take up the Better GM Challenge posted at the Hill Cantons blog, mostly because I'm still trying to figure it out some best practices for myself. Every campaign I run could be considered an experiment in technique, trying to build on past successes to run the best game possible.

On the other hand, the excellent set of GM merit badges that Stuart at Strange Magic made are great shorthand symbols, and I think I can easily put together a set that represents my own GMing style -- or at least what I aspire to when I run.

  • My games will tell an interesting Story. It may not be the story I intend to tell, but it's the one I hope the players want to be in.
  • My games will be Scary -- or at least I try. I usually sneak in Lovecraftian things-man-was-not-meant-to-know whenever I can, even outside of Call of Cthulhu games.
  • My games focus on Exploration & Mystery. I enjoy setting up places for the PCs to explore and mysteries for them to solve.
  • I will Mirror back player ideas I think are interesting in the game. I am very open to player input, and I try my best to encourage players to add to the narrative, whether that means describing attacks in detail, monologuing, embellishing the current scene or adding NPCs and places to the world.
  • The GM is In Charge and "Rule Zero" is in effect. For this, what I mean is that I reserve the right to ignore the rules as written, but only if it's for the overall fun of the group. If it seems like a rule will prevent a PC from doing something awesome, that rule is getting in the way of the fun. I also hope that I have the trust of the players to know that I make decisions as fairly as possible -- most of the time in their favor.
  • My games use a pre-made Map and pre-scripted content. I like to have locations and scenes planned in advance like movie set-pieces whenever possible, and plan and follow a loose flowchart for the overall campaign storyline. These could be invented or from published material. Which leads into the seemingly contradictory badge...
  • My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than pre-scripted content. I like to throw out several plot threads and let the players pull on whichever ones they like. Because of this, I'm trying to plan more loosely and take a more improvisational approach to let them roam where they wish.
  • My games focus on interesting Characters and Drama. I try to populate the game world with NPCs that will be interesting for the PCs to meet, ally with, plan against, fight, and sometimes exist just for background and local color. I hope that these interactions create strong connections that will then lead to conflict and drama.
I wouldn't say that this is locked in, and would vary depending on the system, the setting and the group's own play style. If I am running Call of Cthulhu or a distinctly horror-related setting, I'd add the Run! badge.

Thanks to Stuart for a cool idea!

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